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|Acts of Parliament and Migration Records - the 1800s|
The wartime regulations regarding aliens were repealed at the peace of 1814, but were renewed with modifications later in the same year, and in 1815 when war broke out again. In 1816 an Act was passed (Regulations of Aliens Act 1816). This required masters of ships to declare in writing to the Inspector of Aliens or Officer of the Customs, the number of foreigners on board with their names and descriptions. Each individual was to be issued on arrival with a certificate, showing the ship's name, and his or her own name, description, place of departure, destination and profession, with space for references and remarks. Unless he or she was a servant, each person was to produce the certificate within one week to a magistrate or a justice of the peace, and copies of the entries on the certificates were to be sent both by the port and by the magistrate or justice to the Secretary of State in London. The Act applied to everyone except seamen, ambassadors and their domestic servants, and children under 14. Most of these provisions had previously been included in the 1793 Act but the 1816 Act made the first provision for any central system of registration. It was, however, confined to those arriving in the country from abroad and did not apply to those already here. No certificates of arrival of aliens survive for this period.
The Act was continued until 1826, when a new Act for the Registration of Aliens (Registration of Aliens Act 1826) was passed. Migrants were required to send to the Secretary of State, or to the Chief Secretary for Ireland, a declaration of their place of residence every six months, and the clerk at the Aliens Office was to send in return a certificate similar to that described in the 1816 Act. Migrants were no longer required to produce their certificates to a magistrate or justice of the peace but they were to produce them at the Aliens Office if residing within five miles of the City of Westminster, or to make a declaration in writing if they were not. They were also required to make a declaration before leaving the country and, for the first time, they were required to produce police registration certificates. Like the 1816 Act, this Act did not apply to seamen, ambassadors and their domestic servants, or children under 14, and a new provision was included to the effect that an alien should also be exempt if they had been continually residing in the country for at least seven years, provided they held a certificate to this effect from the Aliens Office.
A new Act (Registration of Aliens Act 1836) was passed in 1836 and repealed the Act of 1826. It introduced some relaxation but continued the requirement that masters of ships and migrants should make a declaration on arrival. Migrants were still given a certificate, and copies of the certificates were sent to the Secretary of State in London. They were also still required to produce a police registration certificate but it was no longer necessary for them to visit or send a written declaration to the Aliens Office, and the declaration they made on leaving the country was in future to be made at the Customs Office at the port of departure. A migrant living in this country no longer had to report his address every six months, and he was in future to become exempt from the provisions of the Act after three years instead of seven.
The vast majority of certificates issued under the Aliens Act 1826 were destroyed when the Aliens Office was absorbed in to the Home Office in 1836, but there is an index of certificates from 1826 to 1849 at The National Archives in series HO 5/25-32, and CUST 102/393-396 contains certificates of arrival for the Port of London from July to November 1826, and for the port of Gravesend from October 1826 to August 1837. HO 2 contains original certificates of arrival of individuals arranged under ports of arrival for the period 1836-1852. Each certificate gives the person's name, nationality, profession, date of arrival and last country visited, together with their signature, and sometimes other details. However, no certificates survive after 1852. An alphabetical index of alien certificates of some arrivals from Germany, Poland and Prussia between 1847-1852, is available in The National Archives research enquiries room. HO 3 consists of returns of alien passengers made by masters of ships under section 2 of the 1836 Act. The lists survive for the period July 1836 to December 1869 but no lists survive for the period January 1861 to December 1866. After 1869 the Home Office kept the lists for only five years after which they were destroyed. The lists are arranged chronologically and there are four lists per year. There are no name indexes, although the Anglo-German Family History Society www.art-science.com/agfhs have extracted some 36,000 names from the period 1853-69.
The provisions of the 1816, 1826 and 1836 Acts were directed mainly against foreign 'criminal and hostile persons' and they were concerned with maintaining a check on people entering or already in the country rather than with excluding them at the ports.
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