How to look for records of... Internees

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

View online

How many are online?

  • None
  • Some
  • All

Order copies

We can either copy our records onto paper or deliver them to you digitally

Pay for research

Use our paid search service or find an independent researcher

Visit us

Visit us in Kew to see original documents or view online records for free

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This is a guide to help you find records of an internee. Information on individual internees is held in different record series and is not always easy to find. Very few records of individual internees survive for the First World War and The National Archives has no registers of all internees. Some records can be searched online using the name of the internee, but the chances of finding any one person are not high.

1. What do I need to know before I start?

Try to find out:

  • the name and nationality of the internee
  • the date of their internment
  • where they were interned

2. What records can I see online?

Internees index (1939-1947)

Browse the indexes in HO 396 for people interned or considered for internment in the Second World War. These can be downloaded as digital microfilm.

They are arranged alphabetically and give personal details and occasionally details of the individual’s case. Individual internees may have more than one card.

Records of enemy aliens interned overseas (1939-1942)

Search and download lists of passengers leaving from UK and Irish ports and travelling to places such as America, Canada, India, New Zealand and Australia, including deported internees, on the findmypast.co.uk (£) website.

3. What records can I find at The National Archives at Kew?

Prisoners of War and Aliens Department: general correspondence (1915-1919)

Search Discovery, our catalogue, by name in FO 383 for correspondence about British subjects resident overseas and interned during the First World War.

Narrow your search by using double quotation marks to find a person’s full name, such as “Henry Keates”.

Personal files of internees (1940-1949)

Search the very small sample of case files in HO 214 by name.

Registered files of the Prisoners of War Department (1939-1948)

Browse our catalogue in FO 916 for Foreign Office files of prisoners of war and internees, including lists of alien internees.

First World War internment lists (1915)

Browse the lists of aliens exempted from internment in 1915.

These lists are in HO 144/11720 which is available as hard copy and on microfilm in the reading rooms at Kew. The entries are arranged by category of alien and alphabetically by surname.

Register of aliens in United Kingdom (1915-1924)

Search the register in HO 45/11522/287235 for details of some 2,000 enemy aliens interned during the First World War in England and Wales.

To access these records you will either need to visit us, pay for research (£) or, where you can identify a specific record reference, order a copy (£).

4. What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

International Committee of the Red Cross

Contact the International Committee of the Red Cross, which keeps information on all known prisoners of war and internees of all nationalities affected by conflicts during the 20th century. In general, searches are only made in response to written enquiries and an hourly fee is charged. However some of their First World War records are available to view online free of charge.

5. What other resources will help me find information?

Websites

Visit the website describing the work of the Emergency Committee for the Assistance of Germans, Austrians and Hungarians in Distress to find out more about internees in the First World War.

Books

Search The National Archives’ bookshop to see whether any of the publications below may be available to buy. Alternatively, look in The National Archives’ library catalogue to see what is available to consult at Kew.

Roger Kershaw, Migration Records (The National Archives, 2009)

6. Did you know?

During the First and Second World Wars both sides set up internment camps to hold enemy aliens – civilians who were believed to be a potential threat and have sympathy with the enemy’s war objectives. Internees were treated differently to prisoners of war and were given more privileges.

For the first two years of the Second World War about 8,000 enemy aliens were temporarily interned in British camps prior to being deported to the colonies and the dominions.

Many ships carrying internees were lost at sea by enemy torpedoes and these losses resulted in the end of the policy of deporting internees. It is worth searching outgoing passengers lists for these deportees.