The records of thousands of 19th century immigrants to Britain are now available to search and download online. The collection, which covers the period 1801 to 1871, includes records relating to more than 7,000 people who applied to become British citizens under the 1844 Naturalisation Act, as well as a small number of papers relating to denization, a form of British citizenship that conferred some but not all the rights of a British subject.
Applicants were required under the act to present a memorial to the Secretary
of State at the Home Office stating their age, trade and duration of
residence. These papers are now available
online for the first time.
They include a rich mix of individuals from across the world, including a
large number of immigrants from French and German states, as well as Belgium,
Holland, Switzerland, Spain, Russia, Poland, Sweden and the Italian states.
The majority settled in London, establishing immigrant communities, such as
'Little Italy' in Clerkenwell, which still exist today. Many Italian immigrants
were ice cream makers, plasterers, confectioners, restaurateurs, and shop
keepers, while many German immigrants settled in the East End of London working
in the sugar refineries and in the meat and baking trades.