What does "alien" mean in an UK Poll book from 1796

+5 votes
Calling on anyone familiar with 18th Century English documents:

I have been researching my Hagell line for a while and have yet to scale the brick wall. It goes back to William and then disappears. One of the questions that no one has be able to answer is "was William born in England?" No one has found birth records for him, though we have poll books and other documents related to his death.

My question is regarding the 1796 poll book he is listed in. He appears in the Unpolled Freeman section for Canterbury and is listed as Wm. Hagell, pastry cook, alien. Does that mean he wasn't born in England or just wasn't born in Canterbury?


WikiTree profile: William Hagell
in Genealogy Help by Deborah Barber G2G6 (6.4k points)

2 Answers

+3 votes
The poll book by definition is a list of those who are eligible to vote.  Or in the case of land owners who normally are listed as able to vote, a reason why they may not be eligible.  Alien would mean born elsewhere.  However, I could not find any coding references that gave a specific direction on how or when to use the word alien.  

I checked about 10 sites that had information about the difference between poll books and registers and census records and none had a specific direction that alien meant from a foreign country.   

Some of the better sites I looked at:




From my reading it sounds like what was allowed during the time prior to 1832 was up to each location.
by Laura Bozzay G2G6 Pilot (674k points)
+1 vote
An alien means a foreign national, yes. Confusingly a "foreigner" just meant not a citizen of the city.

I hesitate to assert that he wasn't born in England (although he probably wasn't) because I think that the child of "alien" parents might have also been classed as an alien, even if born in England, particularly if they planned to return "home". However the most likely explanation is that he was an immigrant.
by Matthew Fletcher G2G6 Pilot (107k points)

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