Though the laws made colonial citizenship confusing, I hope to clarify where you may find records of your ancestors. Depending on the record sought will dictate what repository that will have to be searched. There have been several books, articles, and indexes published throughout the centuries on this subject.
The easiest way to break down where to find the records in Britain is to look at it by the different types of citizenship available to a colonist. We already know that there were Collective Naturalizations, Oaths of Allegiance, Letters Patent of Denization, and Naturalizations by Act of Parliament. Collective Naturalizations left few to no records. There may be Oaths of Loyalty that would be included with other oaths.
Letters Patent of Denization: This type of citizenship was on its way out by the time Britain began populating the American Colonies. These records contain both men and women. Between 1645 and 1660 there are only six patent rolls. There are numerous rolls outside of those dates. The rolls dealing with the colonies are located at The National Archives (TNA) in Kew, according to their website and Paul Blake of TNA;
- Reference: C66 Title: Chancery and Supreme Court of Judicature: Patent Rolls dates: 1201-2012, 5790 rolls and volumes.[i]
- Reference C67 Title: Chancery: Supplementary Patent Rolls dates: 1275-1749, 93 rolls.[ii]
Finding Aids for these records are contained in the following published works. Though there are contemporary indices, they may not be complete, so it may be necessary to consult the original indices that were created at or near the time of the original records;
- The original indexes are at TNA, according to their website;
- Reference: C274 Title: Chancery: Petty Bag Office: Original Calendars and Indexes to the Patent Rolls, Dates: c1509-1946, 58 volumes.[iii]
- William A Shaw’s two-volume set with a supplement written for the Huguenot’s Society, are considered a comprehensive work on Denizations, Naturalizations, and Oaths. They are not all-inclusive indexes.
- Letter’s of Denization and Acts of Naturalizations for Aliens in England and Ireland, 1603-1700 published 1911.[iv]
- Letter’s of Denization and Acts of Naturalizations for Aliens in England and Ireland, 1701-1800 published 1923[v].
- The A Supplement to Dr. W.A. Shaw’s Letter of Denization and Acts of Naturalizations, published 1932.
- Montague Giuseppi’s book includes naturalizations not included in Shaw’s series. Specific to the the records of the Naturalization Act of 1740 (13 George II, C.7).
- Naturalizations of foreign Protestants in the American and West Indian Colonies: (pursuant to statute 13 George II. c. 7), published 1921[vi].
Oaths of Allegiance: In the days of the colonies, an oath was taken very seriously by society. A person’s word was their bond. These records contain both men and women, sometimes it can contain people who refused to take an oath.
Oaths Taken Abroad (These collections include more than just the American Colonies, but the following references deal specifically with some of the colonies in America.)
- Reference: C 213/468, Title: Burgesses assembled at St James’ City in Virginia, Date: 1696.[vii]
- Reference: C 213/469, Title: Governor and Council of New York Province, Date: 1696.[viii]
- Reference: C 213/470, Title: Mayor, Recorder, and Commonalty of New York City, Date: 1696.[ix]
Sacrament Certificates (There were laws that allowed Protestants of other countries to gain citizenship. They needed to show they were members in good standing of theirchurch.)
- Reference: E 169/86, Title: Oath roll for naturalization of Protestant refugees, taken under 7 Anne, , Date: 1709-1711.[x]
Between 1708 and 1711, foreign Protestants could become naturalized by taking the oaths of allegiance and supremacy in court and producing a sacrament certificate. These records are indexed in Shaw’s books.
- Reference: KB 24, Title: Court of King’s Bench, and Supreme Court of Judicature, High Court of Justice: Oath Rolls and Files, Description: Rolls and (after 1837) files of signed oaths acknowledging the supremacy of or allegiance to the crown, or of abjuration to deny any rights of the exiled Jacobite pretenders to the throne, under the Test Act of 1672, the Security of the Succession Act of 1701, and the Security of King and Government Act 1695, all of which specified that the oaths could be taken in, among other places, the court. Among notable signatories were Christopher Wren, Horace Walpole and David Garrick, William Blackstone and other notable judges. Women appear only rarely. One roll contains oaths of allegiance and supremacy being taken by alien refugee Protestants becoming naturalized under statute 7 Anne c 5. There is also a stray attorneys’ oath roll of the mid-eighteenth Legislation of the nineteenth century gradually eroded the need for the oaths to be taken, but the latter part of the series includes 8 volumes recording the judicial oaths of judges, magistrates and recorders during the twentieth century, with indexes. The later 19th century records clearly indicate, as earlier ones do not, the office for which the oaths were administered., Date: 25 Charles II – 1987.[xi]
Naturalizations by Act of Parliament Up until 1844 aliens could become British subjects by private acts of Parliament. Naturalization gave the applicant all of the right and privileges of a person born in Britain. It was an expensive prospect. The original Acts of Parliament are house at the Parliament Archives (www.parliament.uk/archives). To search these bills, the archives has an online catalog called Portcullis (http://www.portcullis.parliament.uk/). These too are covered in Shaw.
Lloyd deWitt Bockstruck’s book Denizations and Naturalizations in the British Colonies in America, 1607-1775, Genealogical Publishing Co., 2010, is a great book that combines many published work into one title. It includes Shaw’s and Giuseppi’s books as well as others that are specific to individual colonies in the Americas. This book is available online through an Ancestry.com subscription. It can be searched individually through Ancestry.com search function or better yet browse by individual pages that are alphabetized.
I would like to thank Paul Blake from TNA for the awesome example that he provided.
Lets look at the example of Jacob Mansboil who is list among others. Below is the record from The National Archive in Kew England series CO 5, Board of Trade and Secretaries of State: America and West Indies, Original Correspondence 1606-1822. These records were transcribed into an Entry Book by a clerk after receiving the record from the colonies.
Jacob Mansboil CO 5 link to the entire record.
This record is indexed in both Giuseppi and Bockstruck. Note the differences.
Giuseppi’s entry in the index looks like this.
“Manspile, Jacob. He was naturalized in Orange County, Virginia 24 Feb. 1742/3. He also appeared as Jacob Mansboil. He was born in Wurttemberg. He had lived in the colony seven years. He was naturalized by the General Court of the colony 15 Oct 1745.”
This is a great example that shows Bockstruck draws from several different sources. There are a lot of different indexes available, though Bockstruck is probably the most comprehensive, there are gaps in its coverage. Next post we will look at records of individual colonies.