How to look for records of... Naturalised Britons
How can I view the records covered in this guide?
This is a brief guide to finding records of a naturalised Briton. It is intended to help you find information about somebody who came to Britain in the past.
For information on how to obtain a copy of a certificate of British nationality between 1 January 1949 and 30 September 1986 or a naturalisation issued between 1 January 1981 and 1 January 1986, please read Certificates of British citizenship instead.
What do I need to know before I start?
If immigrants came to Britain from Ireland or the British colonies they were called Britons. If they came from elsewhere (including Scotland before 1707) they were called aliens.
Foreigners wishing to become English (or later, British) could either apply for denization (which made them almost equivalent to native-born Britons and granted them most of a free subject’s rights and the protection of the law) or naturalisation (which granted them all the rights and made them a subject of the Crown). However, most foreign settlers did not bother to go through these formalities and so do not appear in these records.
Before the mid-20th century Britons from across the world were British citizens. After the British Nationality Act 1948, colonial Britons had to register British citizenship.
There is more information in the background papers to the applications than on the certificates themselves. Many are name searchable in our catalogue.