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England Naturalization and Citizenship
Naturalization is the process of granting a foreign resident the rights, protections, privileges, and responsibilities of a British citizen (i.e. a citizen of the United Kingdom). An alternative to naturalization was denization, the process of granting a foreign resident a subject’s rights except the rights to inherit property or to hold public office. In general, denization or naturalization was granted only to adult males.
Most foreign immigrants settling in Britain did not go through the legal formalities and do not appear in naturalization records. From 1708 to 1711, standards relaxed and allowed ‘oaths of denization’ to be taken at quarter session courts. Here the immigrant took an oath of allegiance and agreed to attend the sacrament of a Protestant church (except for the Society of Friends or Jewish services). Quarter session court records contain denization records from this time period.
Record content varies greatly by court and by time period. Some records give only names, but others give birthplace or place of origin, length of residence in Britain, occupation, employees, age, parish of residence, and wife’s name.
Boroughs (towns or cities possessing special privileges conferred by royal charter) granted privileges similar to naturalization by admitting a man to the "freedom of the city". He was then referred to as a "freeman". The Family History Library has a few freemen records. These are listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
- ENGLAND, [COUNTY], [CITY] - OCCUPATIONS
- SCOTLAND, [COUNTY], [CITY] - OCCUPATIONS
- WALES, [COUNTY], [CITY] - OCCUPATIONS
Until 1844 British naturalization required an Act of Parliament, which limited naturalization to the wealthy. These records are in the patent rolls. From 1844 to 1878, the secretary of state’s acts of "making aliens English" are recorded in the Chancery Court records.
Acts of Parliament were published in the London Gazette
The original records are at the Public Record Office and Libraries except for the "oaths of denization" which are part of the quarter session court records.
The Family History Library filmed the Public Record Office’s records of denization from 1835 to 1924 (film 824515) and the index (film 824514 item 3). Indexed lists of naturalizations and denizations from 1509 to 1835 are in:
Shaw, William. Letters of Denization and Acts of Naturalization for Aliens in England. Lymington, England: Huguenot Society of London, 1893–1932. (Family History Library book 942.1/L1 B4h vols. 8, 18, 27, and 35; films 824513 items 1–2 and 824514 item 1.)
The Kew Lists contain an index to all letters and acts of naturalization (including denied petitions) between 1509 and 1935, except quarter session "oaths of denization". Only the Middlesex (outer London) quarter session "oath rolls" are included in the index. The Public Record Office number is "HO 1/INDEX" which is contained on fiche numbers 1882 to 1938 in the Kew List.
Records of denization or naturalization at the Family History Library are listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
- ENGLAND - NATURALIZATION AND CITIZENSHIP
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