Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy

24/9/2004

Web gets even better for family history

Family history will become even easier to do from home thanks to a new project by The National Archives. Information on over 55,000 people who became naturalised British citizens between 1844 and 1930 is now available free in the Catalogue.

How to search for naturalised British citizens in the Catalogue
Some of our most famous and successful immigrants covered in the project include American-born writers, T.S. Eliot and Henry James. Sir Henry Stanley, immortalised by his introduction “Dr Livingstone, I presume”, was born in Wales, became American and then finally British again.

Michael Marks, co-founder of British institution Marks and Spencer, asked Thomas Spencer to be his referee on his application for citizenship. Others were not so lucky. Karl Marx, who wrote his communist ideology, Das Kapital, while living in London, had his application turned down in 1874.

James de Rothschild, who became a trustee of the Wallace Collection and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply in WW2, naturalised in 1920 after coming to Britain from France. Chaim Weizmann, the first president of Israel, and Henry Wellcome, who founded the Wellcome Trust, both naturalised in 1910.

Roger Kershaw, historian at The National Archives, explains what this project means for people interested in doing their family history:

“If your family naturalised between 1844 and 1930, you can type their name into the Catalogue on our website and find out their previous nationality, the town they came from and when they naturalised. These are useful clues if you are being a family history detective.

If you have found your ancestor in the catalogue you can visit The National Archives in Kew and find out more information in their file. You can learn where they lived in the UK for five years, the names of their referees, their motivation for naturalising and see a police report and often more details about the person.

Previously you had to follow quite a complicated set of procedures to even find out if your ancestor had successfully naturalised. Now it only takes a few minutes and is much easier for everyone. This new initiative from The National Archives really is a feast for family historians.”

James Strachan, Head of Online Services at The National Archives, said:

“More people than ever are doing their family history – and they want to start on the Internet. We are working hard to make it even easier for them. We have put over a million wills online. And by making our online catalogue more detailed we have made it easier than ever for people to find out what records we have on their ancestors that they might want to come and look at.

This National Archives project is also of great use to social and local historians, enabling researchers to map groups of immigrant communities across the UK.”

The project will be completed in March 2005 when 7000 naturalisations from 1931 to 1935, already available at the public research rooms in Kew, will go online.

How to search for naturalised British citizens in the Catalogue
Restrict your search to HO (Home Office) and type in your ancestor’s surname. You can type in both surname and forename as long as you separate the words by AND. The full cataloguing of aliases means that it is much easier to track people who anglicised or changed their names. You can then click on the correct entry to see the details.

Source-National Archives

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