Talk: Tracing your alien ancestors

Talk: Tracing your alien ancestors


Do you have family stories, myths or legends about ancestors arriving from elsewhere hundreds of years ago?

Does your skin, hair, eye colour lead you to believe your ancestors weren’t originally British?

Do you have a more recent experiences of foreign blood and lineage in your Family History?

If so this talk can help you get started with tracing your Alien Ancestors.



Whilst it is easy and important to check online resources remember your local archive (nearest to you or the ancestor you are researching).

Archives have a wealth of material waiting for you to discover, most of which will never be published online.

So visit your County Record Office (CRO); find your nearest here




The Oxford Learners Dictionary describes an alien as:

  • a person who is not a citizen of the country in which they live or work

The Cambridge Dictionary describes an alien as:

  • coming from a different country, race or group



Emigration and Immigration

Emigration (leaving) and Immigration (arriving) records tend to be passenger lists permissions to emigrate or records of passports issued.



Starting your research


  • When exploring alien ancestors draw up a timeline of where they were and when


  • You can then draw up a list of archives or record sets to explore


  • Search online newspapers along with family stories and memories


  • Have a Family Bible? Check for any BMD’s recorded overseas


  • Census can provide clues to overseas births


  • Think about why your ancestors traveled to a particular place? Migrated to work in mines or cotton factories? Then read around these subjects



British Records

Records of aliens arriving from Europe are few and far between. The main subscription websites have some record sets and are worth checking out; for example:



England, Alien (Foreign) Arrivals, 1810-1811, 1826-1869 (a record set detailing non-British citizens arriving in England. This record set relates to a collection at The National Archives)

UK, Aliens Entry Books, 1794-1921 (a record set consisting of correspondennce and documents of the Home Office and the Aliens Office)

May contain Ancestors name, nationality, occupation, place and date of arrival, ship name



Gravesend register: list of passengers who passed through port of London from March to October 1669

FindMyPast deals generally with Emigration and Immigration, to and from North America and Australia. Although like most websites it is worth revisiting every few months to check out their new record sets


Find out more in my talk:


  • Archives
    • Definitions
    • Aliens
  • Emigration and Immigration
  • How do you know you have alien ancestors?
  • Starting your research
  • Specialist sites
  • British Records
    • Military
  • British Empire
  • European Sources
    • Online
    • BMD
    • Language
    • Identity cards
    • Census
    • The European Library
    • Huguenot Society
    • Naturalisation
  • Further help
    • FamilySearch
    • Passenger records
    • Cyndislist
    • Books
    • Professional Genealogist
  • My Blogs (Electronic handout only)


View all my talks and book me



Photo by Cheryl Empey,


Robert Parker is a Genealogist and Trainer, based in Kent. He delivers courses, guidance, talks and research services for those interested in tracing their ancestors. See for his 5 steps to discovering your ancestors. Contact Robert to discuss your requirements without obligation.

What stories could your ancestors tell?

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