Searching through immigration records
Jan 22 2010 By Paul Wilkins
Family historian Paul Wilkins looks at how to search through immigration records.
For hundreds of years people have been arriving in the UK from across the world.
When we were taught history at school we know of the Saxons, Vikings and Normans but more recently people from all over the world have been coming to these shores.
Our history is closely linked to immigration and so using immigration records to search for ancestors is very useful.
Before 1844 people coming to these shores could become naturalised or acquire the rights of citizenship in two different ways, firstly through Denization, which was granted by the sovereign and gave the right to live in Britain and secondly, they could be naturalised through a private act of Parliament.
After 1844, the process was simplified with the granting of certificates, which were issued if people satisfied certain criteria such as, length of stay, other family member living in the UK or having performed some sort of service to the nation such as military service. Both sets of records can be consulted at the National Archives.
Lists of passengers coming here from outside Europe survive only from 1878 to 1888 and 1890 to 1960.
This record can be accessed on the website Ancestry.com, which is available for you to look at free of charge at all Birmingham libraries.
These lists are prepared by the ships’ masters and are legally required – they note a passenger’s name, age, occupation, date of entry and proposed place of residence, they are also arranged by port, year and ship. The keeping of passenger lists was discontinued in 1960.
The two world wars created a number of refugees who were welcomed into Britain. Records for the Second World War include cards for the 8,000 people interned, including those who had fled Nazi persecution in Germany.
These cards and photographs can be found in the National Archives in Kew.
* Paul Wilkins is a family historian and founder of Family History Detectives. E-mail him your queries at email@example.com
Read Paul’s columns online at www.birminghampost.net/tags/paul-wilkins