1. The Jewish community in England and Wales
A good place to start is with the state papers up to 1782, followed by the Home Office papers, in particular: correspondence, George III-Victoria (HO 42, HO 43); out-letters, 1782-1921 (HO 43, HO 136, HO 152); registered files (from 1841) (HO 45); and registered files, supplementary (HO 144: closed for 100 years).
2. Colonial Jewish communities
The state papers, domestic, also contain numerous references to colonial Jews and similar material may be found in Colonial Office records relating to the American and West Indies colonies, including:
- Colonial Papers, General Series (CO 1) 1574-1757
- America and West Indies, original correspondence (CO 5) 1606-1807
- British North America, original correspondence (CO 6) 1816-1868
- Emigration registers (CO 327) 1850-1863
- Canada, original correspondence (CO 42) 1700-1922
- West Indies, original correspondence (CO 318) 1624-1949.
There are also similar series for particular West Indies colonies. Selected papers have been published in the Calendars of State Papers, Colonial (to 1738). Try also the Privy Council, unbound papers (PC 1) 1481-1946; Privy Council registers (PC 2) 1540-1966; and the plantation books (PC 5) 1678-1806.
3. Foreign Jewish communities
You may occasionally find material on the condition of Jews in foreign countries in the various series of state papers, foreign, which are arranged by country. These are continued after 1782 in Foreign Office series.
From 1905 such material is found in the series of general correspondence: political (FO 371), though the parallel series for commercial (FO 368), consular (FO 369), news (FO 395) and prisoners (FO 383) correspondence may also be useful.
The state papers and the Colonial Office and Foreign Office series already referred to above also contain material relating to trade between England or Britain and the colonies and foreign countries, in which Jewish merchants may have been involved. In the West Indies colonies this was certainly the case. In addition to the series of original correspondence for each colony, there are also copies of Acts and Sessional papers of colonial executive councils and legislatures, government gazettes, shipping returns, trade statistics and newspapers.
Board of Trade records relating to the colonies include original correspondence (CO 388) 1654-1792, minutes (CO 391) 1675-1782 and miscellanea (CO 390). Among the state papers, foreign, the following are likely to be useful: state papers, France (SP 78); Holland (SP 84); Germany (Empire) (SP 80); Portugal (SP 89); and Hamburg and Hanse towns (SP 82). Further material on colonial and foreign trade will be found in the Treasury Board papers (T 1) 1557-1920, but these are notoriously difficult to use owing to their complicated means of reference. The port books (E 190) 1565-1798 survive for the outports, but not for London, but there are many complementary classes among the records of the Board of Customs which are split between the Public Record Office and the Customs House Library at King's Beam House.
Records on this subject abound: see the guide on immigration for further information. For Jewish immigration generally the following series are of use: state papers, domestic, George III (SP 37) for material on Jewish immigration in the 1770s; Home Office: registered files (HO 45) for material on immigration of German, Polish and Russian Jews, 1887-1905, and for material on immigration of Jews from central Europe into the United Kingdom and Palestine, 1930s. AST 1 contains details on assistance to Jewish refugees in the 1930s. The correspondence and papers of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police (MEPO 2) contains material on landing of Jewish immigrants, work of Jewish charities and settlement of immigrant Jews in the East End of London, 1887-1905. Foreign Office series contain material on the conditions of Jews in Europe and sailings of immigrant ships from the German ports in late 19th century.
6. Aliens and naturalisation
Aliens certificates under the 1793 Act were destroyed before 1836, but those under the 1836 Act survive in the following series: The certificates of aliens in HO 2 and returns and papers in HO 3. These are available to download and can be searched by name of alien, date and port of arrival and country/place of origin on Ancestry.co.uk (£), along with lists of aliens arriving at English ports August 1810-May 1811 in FO 83/21-22 and accounts of aliens arriving at London (July-November 1826) and Gravesend (October 1826-August 1837) in CUST 102/393-396.
Aliens correspondence generally will be found in HO 1 or in domestic correspondence (HO 42, HO 44, HO 45); out-letters on aliens matter generally in aliens entry books (HO 5) 1794-1921 and on the working of the Aliens Act 1905 in aliens restriction: entry books (HO 162) 1905-1921. The entry books in HO 5 are available to download and browse on the Ancestry.co.uk (£).
For denization and naturalization, look at the indexes filed before the HO 1 list, and at the guide on Naturalisation and British Citizenship for further information. For changes of name see our guide on Changes of name.
Surviving aliens' registration cards for the London area for the period 1918-1957 can also be downloaded from our website. These cards were drawn from the MEPO 35 series.
Some information of the pattern of Jewish settlement in modern times can be gleaned from the Home Office and Metropolitan Police records referred to above. The census returns of 1841 to 1911 provide the most complete demographic and residential data for the Jewish community as well as making possible analysis of the density of settlement in particular districts-once identification of Jewish families has been made.
8. Economic life
Evidence on the distribution of trades among the Jewish community in London and the provinces in the 18th and early 19th century might be gleaned from the Apprenticeship Books (IR 1) which are searchable by name on Ancestry.co.uk (£) .
Prerogative Court of Canterbury wills 1384-1858 include wills of many prominent Jewish families, which can be downloaded from our website (£).
Further information about the estates of leading Jews may be found in the 18th and 19th century Estate Duty Office Registers (IR 26) which cover local as well as central probates.
Files of Jewish companies occur among the various series of Companies Files of the Board of Trade Companies Office (BT 41, BT 31, BT 34). Rules and activities of Jewish Friendly Societies, Benefit Societies and Loan Societies are reflected in several series of records of the Registrar of Friendly Societies (FS 1, FS 3, FS 9, FS 15).
Another rich source of Jewish economic and financial activities would be on the records of various royal courts of law. Not only the records of the common law courts, but more particularly the Chancery Court which dealt with equity cases and mercantile cases and the High Court of Admiralty dealing with maritime and trading disputes. Detailed records of some Jewish businesses from the 17th to 19th centuries may be found as exhibits in Chancery, in C 103-114. Search Discovery, our catalogue for exhibits held in C 103-114.
9. Social life
Sources here are too numerous to cover adequately. But, as examples, the following may serve. Poor Law Board and Local Government Board correspondence with local poor law authorities in areas of Jewish settlement may be expected to yield information on local conditions. Indeed the Clerk to the Whitechapel Guardians was in the late 1880's the chief source of such information for both the Home Office and the Metropolitan Police.
The records of the Department of Education and its predecessors are likely to throw light upon Jewish schools and Jewish educational problems. Home Office and Prison Commission files reveal the special arrangements made in HM Prisons for the conscientious requirements of Jewish prisoners. Finally, the records of the Jewish Tribunal under the Shops Act 1936 and the Shops Act 1950 which deals with the licensing of Sunday trading by Jewish traders with conscientious objections to trading on the Jewish Sabbath are in HO 239.