Linda Romeril, Archives and Collections Director at Jersey Heritage unpacks the Jersey Alien Registration Cards and the exotic characters you can find within these records.
The 3,500 cards that make up the Jersey Alien Registration Cards were introduced as a result of the Aliens Restriction Act passed on 17th February 1920, when the States of Jersey enacted the principles of the 1914 English Aliens Restrictions Act. Under the law, all aliens over the age of sixteen resident in Jersey had to register with the Immigration Officer, no matter how old they were or how long they had been living in the Island. From this process, a set of cards were created with personal details such as name, address, date of birth and occupation, and each card had a photograph attached which, unusually, was provided by the individual.
The Alien cards were issued up until the 1960s and, initially, any woman who married a foreign national was also required to register for a card, as well as anyone of foreign parentage. The cards are closed for 100 years from the date of the individual’s birth.
These records are a tremendous resource for anyone wanting to trace their ancestors who were born outside of Jersey and Great Britain but resided in Jersey in the 19th and 20th centuries. Other details on the cards include the date of arrival in the UK or Jersey, the place of last residence, date of marriage, date of naturalisation, if applicable, and often a date of death. Anyone registered as an alien had to report any change of address to the Aliens’ Office, as well as any travel to or from Jersey, and this information was recorded on the back of the card providing a very useful record of their movements.
The collection has helped to record Jersey’s history of immigration from the 1840s to the 1960s. The majority of the Alien cards are of French agricultural workers who came to Jersey for employment; however, there are also cards for Italian and Spanish nationals who came to the Island later to work in the hospitality industry, as well as small numbers of many different nationalities including Russians, Japanese and an Iranian.
Here are few examples of some of the interesting stories that can be found in this newly release collection of cards:
• Prince George Chavchavadze was born in St Petersburg, Russia on 30th April 1904. A famous pianist and composer, he was married to one of the richest women at the time, Elizabeth de Breteuil, owner of a Renaissance Villa in Florence and a floor of the Palazzo Polignac in Venice. They rented a manor at La Haule before the occupation believing the war would not reach Jersey. They left the Island on 16th June 1940 for England when it became apparent that the Occupation was going to take place, but returned for spells after the conclusion of the Second World War. On 8th February 1962, he and his wife were killed in a car accident at Joigny, France.
• Samuro Kimura was a Japanese national born in 1896 in Okayama who came to the Island as a 26 year old in 1922 in order to study shipping. His ambitions obviously changed during his time in Jersey, as his card was changed later to say that his profession was a chef. Interestingly, he remained in Jersey throughout the Second World War. He made the Island his home until his death in 1971.
• Rudolf Hoffmann arrived in Jersey in 1938 from Sopron in Hungary as an assistant chef, before leaving the Island for Southampton on 29th April 1940 in order to enlist with the British Army. Having completed his service, he returned to the Island at the conclusion of the Second World War and worked at both the Jersey Electricity Company Limited and the States Telephone Department as a telephone mechanic. In 1947, he declared the oath of allegiance and acquired British nationality.
Start finding your ancestors in the Jersey Alien Registration Cards (1920-1953) on Ancestry.co.uk