The Island has seen a small amount of immigration over the centuries:

A separate set of pages giving some genealogical history of the more prominent of these families is given elsewhere.

Blundell speaking of the 1640's states:

As concerning the inhabitants of these towns, they are of 2 sorts, natives and foreigners. I call all those foreigners wch are not born in the Isle of Man, as the English, who are here in the greatest number, Scots, Irish, and Welch. The English come over hither, some to serve the Lord of ye Island, to have office or place under him, or to be of his household, as shall be shewed hereafter, and these for the major part are Lancashire or Cheshire men, ye Scots, Irish, and Welch, as the first most come to dwell there, some few to be shopkeepers, the others marry with the Manks women, so their children become natives. These foreigners, as I conceive, do make up ye 4th, the natives born 3 parts, of the inhabitants of every town.


yt there is not so much as one Frenchman, Spaniard, or Dutchman yt doth profess or exercise any manual trade either in of the towns or of the country, or hath any habitation there. These foreigners for their diet and apparel every one pleaseth himself according to their own country, manner, and custom. These are civil, sociable, very industrious, but subtle, crafty, and envious one of another.

Waldron in his 'History of the Isle of Man' (written 1720's) states that

but then as the chief towns are seldom without some gentry, either English, Irish, or Scots, tho' the greater number are of the two latter.

There is one interesting aside in a letter from Bishop of Kilmore to George Dodington dated 10 Jan 1734/5 Dublin: recommending to him Lady Doneraile's case, who is appearing before the House of Lords for alimony. Her husband "being a weak man and a sot, his relatives have him entirely in their keeping in the Isle of Man, where for £200 a year, he may have his dose of brandy and claret twice a day". [HMC vi 1909] .

Early Encouragement of Immigration

An act of Tynwald of August 1697 repealed earlier discrimination against aliens:

An ACT, for repealing the Laws made against Aliens,

WHEREAS by two severall antient Laws, the one of the Year 1429 incerted in the Book of Statutes of this Isle, it is provided and declared that all Aliens residing within the said Isle, shall make Faith and Fealty to the Lord; and if any such Alien be so resident and make no Faith or Fealty to the Lord when he dyeth, (whose Tennant soever he be,) the Lord shall have his Goods by his Prerogative: Now it being the good Will and Pleasure of the Right Honourable the Lord of this Isle to have the said Laws repealed, for the Encouragement of all Foreigners and Strangers to reside here, be it therefore enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That the before-recited Laws, and all Things mentioned or intended in and by the same, shall, from and after the Day of the Date hereof, be utterly repealed, made void, and of none effect, to all Intents and Purposes whatsoever; and that all and every Person or Persons, whether Subjects of the Kingdomes of Scotland or Ireland, or any Foreigners or Strangers, of any other Kingdoms or Nations (their Prince being in amity with the Crown of England) coming into this Isle to reside, shall for the future have and enjoy the same Imunitys, Privilledges, and Advantages that any of the Subjects or Inhabitants of England have or hereafter shall or may have and enjoy by the Laws and Customes of this Isle, any other Law, Usage, or Custome heretofore practiced to the contrary notwithstanding.—(Signed.)— John Parr, Daniel Mylrea.—N. Sankey, J. Rowe, Ri. Stevenson, Tho. Huddleston.—Charles Christian, Nich. Christian, John Wattleworth, Cha. Moor, Day. Murrey, Nicho. Thompson, Sill. Ratcliffe, John Bridson, Tho. Christian, Will. Christian, John Curlett, John Kaighin, Caesar Wattleworth, John Oates, Pat. Christian, James Bancks, James Christian, Ro. Christian, James Gates, Robert Curghy, Thomas Woods.

I am well pleased with these severall Acts, and do confirm the same, and will that they be published in due Forme upon the Tynwald Hill. DERBY

[Lex Scripta 1819 p183]

Running Trade

This major activity of the Island has been well covered by many authors - the following brief quote from Woods, 1811 gives the situation following 1765:

Till the act of revestment in 1765, and the subsequent regulations, the chief business of the place was smuggling. The annual returns of this trade exceeded 350,000l. and by some were estimated so high as half a million, while the value of seizures was not more than 10,000l. so that the profits to those engaged in it were probably enormous. The Duke of Athol, having a small duty upon imports, rather encouraged than set his face against it. The place formed completely the harbour and the storehouse of smugglers, whence they shipped their goods, as occasion offered, to England, Ireland, or Scotland, to the great detriment of the British revenue, Many persons being by its failure thrown out of employment, emigrated to America; some went to sea; some engaged themselves in the fisheries; and others turned attention to the cultivation of the ground. To exchange an irregular and idle life for one of constant activity- and industry is no easy achievement: the waste lands and short crops evince how much remains to be done.


Following a law of 1737 which allowed residents to avoid prosecution for debts not contracted on the Island, Douglas became known as a resort of debtors. Robertson writing in 1794 states:

But Douglas is not only the chief seat of commerce: it is also the principal residence of the English. Officers on halfpay, and gentlemen of small fortunes resort hither; invited by the abundance of the necessaries, and the easy access to the luxuries, of life. Besides these, there are several decayed merchants who have sought shelter here from the persecution of unrelenting creditors : these live in retirement, and seldom mingle with their more independent countrymen. To the society of the English Douglas is considerably indebted. They have given life and gaiety to the town; and have contributed to polish the manners of the natives. Convivial societies, assemblies, and card-parties, are now frequent among the higher circles of Douglas.

However by the early 1800's the situation would appear to have become different as the following quote from Woods relating to 1808 relates

The Isle of Man is a place of considerable resort for strangers, and is become so chiefly or altogether upon two accounts. The first is that it is a place privileged by law from all debts not contracted here; and from debts contracted here, if not with the inhabitants as far as respects the person and money of the debtor, but not his goods. The subject will be further noticed in the Second Book. The island is so much the resort of persons of this description, that a man, on his arrival, is, ipso facto, immediately suspected of coming hither to avoid his creditors. A poem by a Manksman has the two following couplets:
Let not the peaceful stranger hope to find
An Eden here, and saints of human kind
No sooner is he ladled o' the quay,
Than vigilant detraction grasps her prey."

The second reason is, that a family may live especially in the country, and more particularly at the northern part, at a very small expense.

Woods also gives several anecdotes of various means of redress taken against such debtors - most involving forcible removal from the Island!

Perhaps the most wounding criticism of such 'come-overs' can be found in Hannah Bullocks History of 1816 - talking about the fairer sex she writes:

In speaking of the female part of the community, I shall pass lightly over the occasional visitors, and confine my remarks almost wholly to the natives, those who have come hither from other countries have seldom presented good specimens; either extravagance or necessity are badly calculated to form the character of woman in the best mould, and to one or other of these causes may be ascribed most of the emigrations which have hitherto taken place. Future writers will probably have better subjects to describe, but till now the most striking traits exhibited by these fair wanderers have been a sovereign contempt for those them came to live amongst, a prodigious flippancy, vast affectation of high breeding, and pretensions to a rank in their own country, not always borne out by facts. With these ladies it was usual to pass their time in querulous regret at the fate which had condemned them to irradiate so low a sphere, and eager anticipations of their return to a more extended circle.

A law of 1814 effectively put an end to this safety and, although current residents were safe as the law applied only to new residents, the debtors moved out.


I will conclude with the following quote from Woods

The attractions of the island appear sufficient to occasion a continual influx of strangers. The worst characters will probably introduce the most wealth. Having no money which they can honestly call their own, they will be prodigal of that which they have iniquitously acquired.

They will build and plant, and endeavour to introduce into the present scene every possible luxury and comfort. On its being the continual resort of strangers depends, and I think may safely depend, the increasing prosperity of this country.

I will refrain from more than mentioning, the Island's current, almost total, reliance on the 'Offshore Finance Industry'.

 [Genealogy Index]


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
© F.Coakley , 2001