View Full Version : Genealogy Lesson - Naturalization Records

05-29-2008, 11:16 AM
Naturalization Records -

If your ancestor applied for citizenship or became a citizen of the United States, there are many things that you may be able to learn from the paperwork required by the government.

When your ancestor entered the United States, they were classed as aliens. Aliens were allowed to remain in the country as long as they registered annually with the government.

If they were to choose to become an American Citizen, there were 3 steps to make that happen. The documents that were required during these steps are known in the world of genealogy as naturalization records.

You should be aware that prior to the Revolutionary War (pre 1790) that Citizenship was not such an issue, as most immigrants were British and America was a British Colony. Any records pertaining to these early immigrants becoming citizens were handled by the colonies and are
pretty rare. After the Revolution, naturalization was regulated by the federal government. They established the 3 step process which is still used today.

The First Step:

Declaration of Intention aka first papers

After an anlien had been in the country for at least 2 years, they could declare their intention to become a citizen. This was done by a male ancestor, as women and minor children wer granted a citizenship automatically when the husband/father was naturalized.

Before 1906, this declaration could be filed in any local, county, state or federal court.

The first papers were required to contain an oath declaring the intent to become a United States Citizen; a pledge to support the U.s. Constitution; a statement renouncing any foreign allegiance or hereditary titles that may have been given in the homeland; the applicant's name and date of application. First papers also included information such as present address, age, birth date, place of birth and the port of entry into the United States.

(After 1906, additional information required would include: occupation, color, weight, height, hair and eye color, and any distintive marks. Also required wer date and place of birth, place of departure for the United States, vessel name, date of arrival in the U.S. and last foreign residence. At an even later date, information was required about applicants spouse and children.

The Second Step:

An alien was required to live in the U.S. for a specified period of time, usually three years from the declaration of intention. After the Basic Naturalization Act of 1906, this period could not exceed 7 years.

The Third Step:

After satisfying the first two steps, an alien cout then petition the court for his citizenship. This petition was known as the second papers. (To confuse genealogist further, this petition did not have to be filed in the same court as the first papers!)

Contents of the second papers varied depending on where this petition was filed and the year it was filed. Generally they contained the applicant's name, an oath of allegiance and two affidavits from witnesses stating that they had been a resident for the required time.

After 1906 and the standardization of the form it would also contain the date of petition, names of the witnesses, birth date and age of applicant, port of entry and the date of filing first papers. Additional information could also include information on a spouse and/or the applicants children.

If all of the applicant's paper work was in order, he was awarded the third paper, a Naturalization Certificate. This legal proof of citizenship was often your ancestors most prized possession. (My great-grandfather's was framed and among his possessions in a steamer trunk.)

With the 1906 standardization the certificate became a two part form that was numbered. One copy was given to the citizen and the second was retained by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Because your ancestor could file his papers in any court, they are often difficult to locate. This is especially true when our ancestors moved around and the papers were filed in different locations. With the wealth of information that is contained on the documents, they are well worth looking for. The Federal Census records contain helpful information to narrow your search, at least for determining the time frame.

**Compiled using information form NARA and Family History Made Easy - Step by Step.

05-29-2008, 12:21 PM
How do I go about obtaining my father's naturalization certificate? I have a letter (rather the image of - I seemed to have misplaced the original :() dated 1965 from the United States Senate and signed by Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts congratulating my father on his naturalization but I'd love to get a copy of the actual certificate. Any suggestions for me Jan?

05-29-2008, 02:21 PM
How do I go about obtaining my father's naturalization certificate? I have a letter (rather the image of - I seemed to have misplaced the original :() dated 1965 from the United States Senate and signed by Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts congratulating my father on his naturalization but I'd love to get a copy of the actual certificate. Any suggestions for me Jan?

Do you have any idea where he might have filed any of his papers? Is the date (wishful thinking, probably) on the letter of congratulations? There are index lists online for some places and some dates. Let me do some digging around and any information you can provide as far as places and dates would be a help (pm is ok). In the mean time, are you familiar with Cyndi's List? I'll paste below the link for her page on this resource:


Hope this will provide some insight.


09-02-2008, 12:48 PM
Gosh, I wish Ancestry.com didn't cost 300 bucks a year.that is too much for me.

09-04-2008, 12:53 PM
Joba, I pay $19.95 a month for it. Can you not do monthly payments to it?

09-05-2008, 12:16 PM
Well, it has been so long since I went to the site I think I would need to get all info I would like to research first (gathered & ready)& then maybe give it a try for a month.I have been kinda lax lately in my genealogy work

09-05-2008, 03:28 PM
The cost of a year long membership looks frightening for sure :eek: When I find time to research, I usually get as prepared as I can with the who, when, why and where. Then you can join for a month and the cost vs the information you gain doesn't seem so bad. There are times when they run promotions and offer a two week trial to ancestry. You just have to remember to cancel before you get billed for it.

09-16-2009, 10:35 PM
Most libraries have a special edition of Ancestry and I believe it has a little bit of the English and Canadian records with it. If you check around and sign up for newsletters for all the various genealogy sites you can find out when they have free days for all or certain records. I use those and even broke through a brick wall on one of my dh's lines. Also some of the other sites have specials from time to time. You can post for help in the message boards at Ancestry, GenForum (genealogy.com) and other places for help. Even find-a-grave has a message forum. I have received help from the forums at several places and made it through some other brick walls because of help from others.

09-28-2009, 09:44 AM
I have exciting news.I had my family tree up on ancestry.com for several years now. the only response I ever got was from a cousin a couple years ago.Well three weeks ago I got an email through ancestry from someone inguiring about a member in my tree__ a great great grandparent. I had to use goggle translate to read the email.I referred this email to Thomas our family historian & sure enough we are related. Not direct descendants but related.!! HIstory in the making!! You never know what you will find when you keep looking.