England Naturalization, Denization, Maps, Local Histories, and Theses that Include Nonconformists (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Non-Anglican Church Records  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Naturalization and Denization[edit | edit source]

Naturalization[edit | edit source]

Aliens could become naturalized British subjects only by Act of Parliament before 1844, and after this by a certificate from the Home Secretary. This allowed them all the privileges of someone born in Britain but was costly and time-consuming so usually only achieved by those higher up the social and business scale. Others chose to get denization, but the vast majority did not bother taking out papers at all because they couldn’t afford to. Upon marriage to an Englishwoman their children born in Britain automatically acquired British nationality. Naturalization papers can be most informative, giving:

  • Exact places of birth.
  • Dates and places of marriage.
  • Spouse’s name and birth details.
  • Length of time in Britain.
  • Details of guarantors.
  • Number of children, but usually not their names.

The original naturalization records are in PRO series HO 1, 2, 3 and 5. Chancery documents in C 65-67, and C 54 also contain many Acts of Naturalization from the 15th century until 1873. Most of these classes have indexes, for example FHL film 0824514-5 and FHL film 0917035 contain indexes to naturalizations in the Patent Rolls in C 66 from 1801-1924, see example in chart below.

Chart: Index to Certificates of Naturalization 1801-1900
FHL film 0917035

A 7-column chart giving Name, Country, Date of Certificate, Place of Residence, Number of Certificate, Number of Home Office Paper, Remarks
BUHL, Christian Friedrich
BURNBLUM, James, Constantinople, 16 Jan 1847, (no residence), 522, (no H.O. paper or remarks)
BURROUGHS, Silas Maineville, United States of America, 10 May 1890, Dartford, A 6391, B7130
BUSCH, Edmund Hermann, Germany, 28 Feb 1884, Cheltenham, A 4062, A 34440
BUSCH, Otto, Hanover, 28 Feb 1866, (no residence), 4975, (no H.O. paper or remarks)

The full transcripts have been published for those up to 1800. If an ancestor took British nationality more than 100 years ago the original Papers can be obtained from the PRO using the detailed instructions in Kershall and Pearsall (Immigrants and Aliens. A Guide to Sources on UK immigration and citizenship. PRO Publications., 2000).

Original records are subject to the 100-year closure rule, but there are indexes at the PRO up to 1935 and if a name is found in these then the relevant edition of the London Gazette where the event should be listed can be consulted.

Denization[edit | edit source]

This is the considerably easier process of granting to an alien by letters patent some of the privileges of naturalization, for example allowing the buying and devising (bequeathing in a will) of land, which aliens could not do. However, a denizen could not inherit land, nor could any of his children born before denization. Neither could he hold any office of trust or receive grants of land from the crown. The original records are at the PRO from about 1400 to 1844 in series C 66 and 67. The indexes to the records of these two processes have been published by the Huguenot Society (Page, and Shaw) and are on microfilm:

  • Volume 8 covering 1509-1603 and volume 18 covering 1603-1700 on FHL film 0824513.
  • Volume 27 covering 1701-1800, and volume 35 which is a supplement to volumes 18 and 27, on FHL film 0824514.

The index gives the:

  • Name.
  • Country they came from.
  • Date of certificate.
  • Place of residence in British Isles.
  • Number of certificate.
  • PRO reference number to the Home Office Paper.
  • Any remarks.

Chart 15: Index to Denizations 1801-1873 — FHL film 0917035

A 5-column chart giving Name, Place of origin, Rights conferred, Date of Letters Patent, and Home Office number
BUISSON, Charles, France, To be a free Denizen and he and his heirs to have all rights, etc., to free Denizens belonging, 11 Oct 1826, (no #)
CANSTATT, Jacob, Manheim (sic), To be a free Denizen and to have all rights, etc., to free Denizens belonging, 14 Jul 1801, (no #)
CANTER, James, Denmark, To be a free Denizen and liege subject, 30 Dec 1841, O.S. 8942
CAPRON, Henry Joseph Achilles, Flanders, He and his heirs to be liege subjects, 23 May 1842, O.S. 8943.

The extensive publications of the Huguenot Society of London concern mainly the 16th—early 18th century and are not solely about Huguenots but include many aliens. Various papers connected with the immigration of foreigners, often as refugees from religious persecution, still survive at the PRO, for example:

  • Aliens Entry Books 1794-1921 (HO 5).
  • Certificates of Aliens from 1836-1852 (HO 2).
  • Returns and papers 1836-1869 (HO 3).
  • Aliens Act Entry Books 1905-1921 (HO 162).

Maps, Local Histories and Theses[edit | edit source]

There is a binder at the FHL called Nonconformist Maps (942 E7ncm) which has not been filmed. It consists of county maps with the sites of the different Non-conformist chapels entered by hand and colour-coded. One could compose a similar map from the data in the appropriate county volume of the National Index of Parish Registers (Webb).

Local record offices or archives will have many local histories virtually unknown outside their area. They will also have copies of university theses on local themes for which their archives have been a major source. These can be gold mines for the family historian so should be actively sought out.


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course English: Non-Anglican Church Records offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.