The first Act enabling the Lieutenant Governor to grant letters of denization in Tasmania was passed in 1835. This legislation was repealed in 1861 by the Aliens Act. Prior to 1835 there was no provision in the law for the government of Van Diemen’s Land to grant citizenship rights to settlers in the colony who were not British subjects.

You can find a person’s denization or naturalisation records by typing their name into the search bar and selecting ‘Names Index’. You can also select ‘Naturalisations’ from the Record Type list to limit your search results.

This guide will assist you by:

What other guides might be helpful?

Tasmanian Archives Naturalisation Records

1835-1905   Copies of Certificates of Denization and Naturalisation enrolled in the Supreme Court. (SC415)

1835-1904   Colonial Secretary’s Office and, later, Chief Secretary’s Department General Correspondence files containing applicants’ petitions to the Governor (various CSD series)

An individual will usually have both references. In some cases, the application includes a note stating that the issued certificate has been cancelled because the person failed to take the oath within the allowed time.

For further tips and information about the Names Index, we have a more detailed information page and a video.

Other relevant record series

1835-1905   Index to copies of certificates of denization and naturalisation enrolled in the Supreme Court (SC416)

1835-1904   Oaths of Allegiance and associated Papers Subscribed to by Aliens to Whom Letters of Denization were granted. (SC218)

Denization (1835-1861)

As set out in the Denization Act, non-British subjects qualified for denization if they had lived 7 years in Van Diemen’s Land or emigrated with a letter of recommendation from the Secretary of State for the colonies.

Letters of denization gave the holder limited rights. It qualified the person to own real estate, accept land grants, and to hold office (except in Executive or Legislative Council).

They applied by sending a petition to the Lieutenant Governor listing:

Applicants then had to swear the ‘oaths of allegiance, supremacy and abjuration’ within one month, before a judge of the Supreme Court. Registration fees applied.

Naturalisation (1861-1905)

The Act for the Naturalisation of Aliens, or Aliens Act, 1861, replaced the previous Denization Act.

It allowed non-British subjects to apply for naturalisation as citizens, with the same rights as people born in British territories. Especially important was the provision for children of a naturalised subject to inherit real estate in Tasmania.

Naturalisation was automatically granted to women if their husband took the oath, or if they married a natural-born British subject.

The Chinese Immigration Act, 1887 was a discriminatory law to discourage Chinese people from living and working in Tasmania. It levied heavy ‘poll taxes’ on their entry to the colony (ten pounds each) and limited the number that could travel in a single ship – “one Chinese to every Hundred tons of the tonnage of such vessel”. They were exempt from the poll tax if they were naturalised, which accounts for the much higher rate of naturalisation among migrants from China than from any other country.

As with denization, applicants had to petition the Governor and state their:

The Governor assessed each case and granted a Certificate of Naturalisation. Applicants for Naturalisation had 60 days in which to take their oath.

Oath of allegiance under the Aliens Act 1861:

” I, A.B., do sincerely promise and swear that I will be faithful and bear true Allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Victoria, as lawful Sovereign of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and of this Colony, dependent on and belonging to the said United Kingdom ; and that I will defend Her to the utmost of my power against all traitorous conspiracies and attempts whatsoever which shall be made against Her Person, Crown, and Dignity ; and that I will do my utmost endeavour to disclose and make known to Her Majesty, Her Heirs, and Successors, all treasons and traitorous conspiracies and attempts which I shall know to be against Her, or any of them : and all this I do swear without any equivocation, mental evasion, or secret reservation, and renouncing all pardons and dispensations from any person or persons whatever to the contrary. SO HELP ME GOD !”

How we can help you

There are many ways that Libraries Tasmania can help you find information about Naturalisations.

If you live in Hobart, feel free to visit us in the Reading Room and History Room on the second floor of the State Library of Tasmania (91 Murray Street, Hobart) where staff can assist you to locate a range of archival items and histories, and provide general Family History research support.

If you would like to call and speak to someone on the telephone, you can reach us on 6165 5538 or 6165 5541 between 9.30am and 5pm Monday to Friday.

If your questions require a little bit more research or are more challenging, then you can fill out an on-line form with your questions.

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