Naturalization Records

At our Genealogy Networking Group last week we discussed naturalization records: what they are, information they contain, and where to find them.

Buffalo, New York. Naturalized citizens attending “I am an American” day rally at the Memorial Auditorium

Naturalization records are created when an immigrant ancestor applied to become a United States citizen. Several important facts to know about naturalization records are:

  1. Many laws have been passed over the years governing the details of the naturalization process, beginning in 1790. Important dates to know are 1906, when the process and forms became standardized under the federal government, and 1922, which gave an alien woman the right to become naturalized on her own (before this time, an alien woman received derivative citizenship when her alien husband was naturalized). The FamilySearch Wiki has a good overview of most of the naturalization laws passed by Congress.
  2. Becoming a citizen was a two-step process. First, the immigrant filed a form in court called a Declaration of Intention, or First Papers, renouncing his allegiance to a foreign ruler and his intention to become a citizen. After a period of time (usually 5 years), the person would go back to court and fill out his Second Papers, or Petition for Citizenship.
  3. On becoming a citizen, the person would receive a Certificate of Naturalization. This document belonged to the person; a copy was not kept by the government, so the Certificate of Naturalization will only be found in family papers.

Department of Labor Naturalization class

The amount of information contained in the Declaration of Intention and the Petition for Citizenship varies depending on what year the records were created. Generally speaking, records created after 1906 will have more and better information in them, such as names of spouse and children, birthdates and places of same, and possibly the immigrant’s hometown.

Naturalization records can be found in the Ancestry database at the library (or as a personal subscription), on the FamilySearch website, and on two websites maintained by Joe Beine, Naturalization Records Research Guide and Online Searchable Naturalization Records and Indexes. For further information, check out two helpful books in our Genealogy Reference collection: Guide to Naturalization Records of the United States by Christina K. Schaefer and The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy.

Image credits:
1.America Gains a Famous Citizen image from New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer: Al AumullerLibrary of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.05649
2.Buffalo, New York image from Collins, M., photographer. (1943) Buffalo, New York. Naturalized citizens attending “I am an American” day rally at the Memorial Auditorium. May. [Image] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/owi2001027746/PP/.
3. Department of Labor image from (1912) [Department of Labor naturalization class]. [between and 1932] [Image] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/94507482/.

One thought on “Naturalization Records

  1. Pingback: Alien Registration Cards | Shelf Life

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