Immigration from Poland to England #unitedkingdom

Debbie Lifshitz

I am currently researching a family that appears on the 1911 census. They appear neither on the 1901 census nor on the 1891 census. 
They are listed variably as Russian or Polish, so I take it that they came from Russian occupied Poland. 
I have no idea where they came from within that territory. Nor do I have a clear indication of when they arrived in England. 
What are the best tools for researching immigration to England? Are there ship manifests in the UK, like the ones available in the US? Was there a naturalization process? Was there a legal process for anglicizing names or spellings?
Any help in breaking through this brick wall would be appreciated!
Debbie Lifschitz


Hi Debbie

I have the same problem, I have 'Brisk Russian' on the right hand side of the 1911 English Census on mine and also cannot find how they got to England. Some went to different places before settling, so it's worth looking in a few directions. Some of my Ancestors split and went to different countries, the USA were very good at documenting. 

Good luck, if you find anything let us/me know !

Mandy Molava
Researching Brest, Belarus, Hungary, Galacia

Judith Elam

Hi Debbie - you can try searching here.....

Judith Elam
Kihei, HI, USA

Michael Sharp

Firstly, the 1911 census is the last publicly available census under the 100 year rule for release of government records in the UK. The only later census type records is the 1939 register compiled for issuing identity cards during WW2. May be worth while checking there as I have found info that fills in gaps from earlier in the 20th century

You are correct about Russia often referring to Russian Poland, or anywhere in the Russian empire.

There were no passenger manifests for journeys between England and Continental Europe at that time - I've tried that route - in fact many immigrants did not come on passenger steamers but on fishing or cargo ships.

There was an optional naturalisation process - it was not mandatory - you can search the Public Records Office Discovery database by inputting in the relative's name. If an index record is found, you can request a quote for copying the contents of the file concerned, and then order the copy. However due to Covid, the service may not be available at present. If you can get the file, you may find useful information on where exactly (town) they came from and on parents, children, dates of birth, etc

Also if any children were born in the UK after arrival, their birth certificates may give info on mother's first name, maiden name, etc if you don't know that. Be prepared for errors due to transcription errors, etc, Use to order the actual certificates (sometimes they can send a pdf). Use either ancestry or to get the registry entry details (registration district, year, quarter and volume/page number) that you will need to order the certificate.

Finally try jri-poland for searching for information that predates emigration to England
Michael Sharp
Manchester UK

Jill Whitehead

UK Naturalisation records from about the 1880s up to 1916 are available on

It depended where someone lived if they became naturalised, as there were local quotas. Three of my four great grandfathers naturalised in the 1890's after having been in the UK for 20 to 25 years.The 4th in Manchester joined a Naturalisation Society in Manchester with the aim of winning a lottery for Naturalisation as it was expensive. He never won the lottery, and so never bothered to naturalise. It was then about £5 equivalent to £60 today. One of my Hull ancestors failed twice in Hull and then succeeded a 3rd time in Grimsby as he had a police record due to bankruptcy. 

I wrote an article on this a few years ago in Shemot, the journal of the Jewish Gen society of GB. 

Jill Whitehead, Surrey, UK


Greetings Debbie,

You might like to try this: Poor Jews Temporary Shelter Database

We managed to find what we believe to be the record of our great grandfathers' arrival in the UK from Poland in 1902 including the name of the ship he came on. I say believe because all the details fit except that there was most probably a transcription error from the original handwritten document to the database. His surname was Zmidek but on the database its Lmidek. We are waiting to get access to the original document at the London Metropolitan Archives to confirm the error. Alas, like so many places its closed because of the Covid so we wait patiently.   Good luck with your search.   

Jeff Kutcher
Family Research:
Kutscher - Jaroslaw 
Zmidek - Chmielnik, Warsaw 
Litman - Lodz
Szklarek -Gombin

Eva Lawrence does  have naturalisation records, which often give the names of parents and more exact places of birth. However, naturalisation was an expensive process until the middle of the 20th century. If family members were still in England at that time,  the 1939 Registration, a very informative proto-census is available on in the Card Catalogue if you dig deep anough. It is more easily found on FindmyPast. Make a point of looking at the original manuscript, not the index.
Children in this census are usually blacked out, but later married names of young women and name-alterations were added to the documents during the wartime years.
Eva Lawrence
St Albans, UK.

Peter Lebensold

Does the 1939 UK Register include Scotland?  If not, was there an equivalent survey for Scotland?  Thanks.
Peter Lebensold

Michael Hoffman

Hello Peter,

The following is the 1939 Register for Scotland

Michael Hoffman


Jill Whitehead

You need to look at the ScotlandsPeople website for Scottish BMD and Census records including the 1939 Register (this is the sister website to Findmypast which deals with England and Wales). 

Jill Whitehead, Surrey, UK