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Immigrants' registration cards go online

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Immigrants' registration cards go online

16 November 2006

The registration cards, held by The National Archives in Kew, of more than 1,000 foreign nationals who came to the London area between 1914 and 1991 have now gone online at www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline/aliens.asp.

The surviving cards contain the details of over 1,000 'Alien Registration Cards' ('alien' was formerly the legal term for a British immigrant). The legislation required individuals to register their details with the police and to pay a registration fee.

The registration cards - catalogued in The National Archives' MEPO 35 series - provide a wealth of personal information on the individual, giving their full name, date of birth, date of arrival into the UK, marital status, details of any children, address, employment history and, if applicable, the date of naturalisation. Interestingly, most cards also include at least one 'head and shoulders' photograph of the individual named.

Although the collection is small, this surviving sample of cards contain some notable cases including bookmaker Joe Coral, pioneer in Hebrew journalism Nahum Sokolow, architect Ernst Freud and American soprano Louise Trenton. They also demonstrate concentrated periods of immigration from certain countries. For instance there are a large number of cases in the late 1930s as Germans and east Europeans fled Nazi persecution, and cards featuring Polish migrants after the Second World War and Hungarian refugees entering Britain after the uprising in 1956.

Roger Kershaw, head of operations and immigration specialist at The National Archives, said:

"These files give individuals a fascinating insight into the people who settled in London over the past 100 years. Not only do you learn valuable information about a family's history, but you can also start to identify with the individuals from their portraits and the circumstances with which they fled to the UK.

"By putting the surviving cards online, The National Archives hopes that the information will be a valuable source for people investigating their personal family history as well as for individuals interested in immigration trends, social and political history."

You can search the Alien Registration Cards free of charge by name, date of birth or nationality, and for £3.50 you can download a registration card. To view the unique set of surviving Alien Registration Cards online, visit: www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline/aliens.asp

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