Naturalization & citizenship guide

Naturalization records are a good source of information for tracing details of an immigrant's arrival and native place.

The records in our collection cover 1834 to 1903.

Naturalization was the responsibility of each colony until the end of 1903. From 1 January 1904, under the Naturalization Act No 11 1903, the Commonwealth then assumed sole responsibility for naturalization. Records from this date are held by the National Archives of Australia.

What is naturalization?

Naturalization is the means by which aliens (non-British subjects) gain the privileges and rights of citizenship held by British subjects or people born in New South Wales.

There was no law covering naturalization before 1849. Prior to that year, the process of naturalization was known as denization and could only be performed through an Act of Parliament. Denization gave an alien the right to own land. The Act to Amend the Laws relating to Aliens, 1849 (No 11 Vic No 39) established the system of naturalization, which gave much broader rights and made denization obsolete.

Who needed to become naturalized?

  • Any person born outside the British Empire and who wished to vote or own land needed to become naturalized.
    • This means that you will find people from European countries as well as from countries such as China, the United States of America and South America.
    • You will not find people from Canada or Ireland as both of these countries were part of the British Empire.
  • One of the conditions of naturalization was a five year period of residency in New South Wales.

Given the make-up of society in the 19th century when women had few legal rights and little social standing, researchers will also mainly find men in the naturalization records.

Historical background

Prior to 1849 there was no general statute providing for the naturalization of aliens in Great Britain or in New South Wales. The only way in which an alien could be naturalized was by means of a special Act of Parliament. In New South Wales two such Acts were passed, 6 Geo. IV No. 13 and 6 Geo. IV No. 17, naturalizing Timothy Goodwin Pitman and Prosper de Mestre respectively.

However, there was another process, that of denization, by which an alien could acquire some of the rights of a natural born subject.

Why use naturalization records?

Naturalization records generally provide:

  • full name
  • native place
  • occupation
  • age, and
  • date and ship of arrival.

Applications up to 1903

Application papers for naturalization often contain more information than the naturalization certificates. The applications can be found by searching under the name of the person naturalized in the Indexes and Registers to the Main Series of Letters Received of the Colonial Secretary's Correspondence.

Indexes and Registers are available on microfilm in the reading room. The applications are part of the original (uncopied) Colonial Secretary's Correspondence. Check with Reading Room staff for the location of the original correspondence.

Tip for researchers

The main difficulty with using naturalization records relates to the accuracy of the records. Information concerning each individual was dependent on the information being provided by them and was therefore dependent on their own knowledge and memory. It is not unusual, for example, for date of arrival or name of vessel to be incorrect or unknown.

Search the index

Naturalization index 1834-1903

Non British subjects who wished to vote or own land needed to be naturalized. Search c10,000 entries in the index

Records we hold

NRS-1038 Letters of Denization, 1834-1847

Under the terms of Act 9 Geo. IV No. 6 it was required that the

'Chief Justice or other Judge ... shall cause such Letters of Denization and the certificate so to be endorsed thereon to be recorded in the Supreme Court of the said Colony and a certificate of such record shall be deemed and taken in every Court within the said Colony and its Dependencies to be a sufficient proof of the person to whom such Letters of Denization shall have been granted as aforesaid being a denizen subject of Great Britain to all intents and purposes whatsoever'.

Item List

Name & Number
Year
Reel
Item
Edward Austin; 47/1
1847
128A
[4/1172]
Francois Chretien; 42/2
1842
128A
[4/1172]
Burchard Frericks; 42/4
1842
128A
[4/1172]
John Christian Simon Handt; 44/4
1844
128A
[4/1172]
Nicholas Hyeronimus; 43/2
1843
128A
[4/1172]
Henry Isler; 43/1
1843
128A
[4/1172]
Nathan Mandelson; 44/5
1844
128A
[4/1172]
Henry Ludwig Miller; 34/1
1834
128A
[4/1172]
Jean Meillon; 42/3
1842
128A
[4/1172]
Henry Albert Meinertzhagen; 44/3
1844
128A
[4/1172]
Frederick Peterson; 44/2
1844
128A
[4/1172]
Josephine Bridget Coymanc Rens; 36/1
1836
128A
[4/1172]
Charles William Roemer; 37/1
1837
128A
[4/1172]
Francis Nicholas Rossi; 44/6
1844
128A
[4/1172]
Severin Kanute Salting; 44/1
1844
128A
[4/1172]
George Starbuck; 42/1
1842
128A
[4/1172]

NRS-1039 Certificates of Naturalization, 1849-1876

Reels 2688-2699

NRS-1040 Registers of Certificates of Naturalization, 1849-59, 1876-1903

Item List

Dates of Certificates
Numbers
Vol.
Reel
Item
26 Jul 1849-22 Jul 1851
1-330
1
128
[4/1200]
22 Jul 1851-20 May 1857
330-846
1
129
[4/1200]
3 Jun 1857-9 Mar 1859
1-601
2
129
[4/1201]
24 Jul 1876-19 Sep 1878
1-250
5
130
[4/1204]
30 Sep 1878-5 Mar 1879
251-295
6
130
[4/1205]
5 Mar 1879-11 Apr 1881
295-899
6
131
[4/1205]
19 Apr 1881-23 Jan 1883
1-247
7
131
[4/1206]
23 Jan 1883-14 Mar 1883
1-64
8
131
[4/1207]
14 Mar 1883-17 Feb 1884
64-450
8
132
[4/1207]
17 Feb 1884-25 Mar 1886
1-470
9
133
[4/1208]
27 Mar 1886-18 Jun 1890
1-502
10
134
[4/1209]
26 Jun 1890-19 Sep 1890
1-20
11
134
[4/1210]
25 Sep 1890-22 Jul 1893
21-496
11
135
[4/1210]
22 Jul 1893-4 Dec 1893
1-75
12
135
[4/1211]
4 Dec 1893-13 Dec 1895
75-501
12
136
[4/1211]
13 Dec 1895-20 Aug 1896
1-113
13
136
[4/1212]
20 Aug 1896-8 Jun 1898
113-501
13
137
[4/1212]
8 Jun 1898-16 Dec 1898
1-157
14
137
[4/1213]
16 Dec 1898-27 Aug 1900
158-498
14
138
[4/1213]
25 Aug 1900 - 19 Feb 1901
1-201
15
138
[4/1214]
19 Feb 1901 - 31 Jul 1901
202-500
15
139
[4/1214]
31 Jul 1901 - 22 Mar 1902
1-262
16
140
[4/1215 ]
10 Oct 1902 - 25 Aug 1903
1-299
17
140
[4/1216]
25 Aug 1903 - 31 Dec 1903
300-468
17
141
[4/1216]

NRS-1041 Lists of Aliens to whom Certificates of Naturalization have been issued, 1859-1876

Item List

Dates of Certificates
Numbers
Vol.
Reel
Item
18 Mar 1859-17 Mar 1875
1859/40-1875/76
3
130
[4/1202]
25 Mar 1875-6 Mar 1876
1875/77-1876/41
4
130
[4/1203]

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