By Jamie Drake
As discussed in the first part of this series, naturalization records were created by way of three forms; Intention, Petition, and Certificate. These were signed at various stages of the process and may or not not be available for the person you are researching. This system remained in place with relatively few changes until 1906 when the Bureau of Naturalization and Immigration (Now the I.N.S.) was formed. This bureau established a national system for recording immigrant’s information and created a national database in addition to the local court records.
The new and standardized records contained much more information including birth dates and places, names, relations, and birthdays of accompanying family, when, where, and on what ship arrived, description, dates of marriage, residence and addresses. A copy of the Declaration of Intent was given to the applicant, the state court in which applied, and Bureau of Naturalization. The copy given to the applicant would then later be given to the court in which they petitioned for citizenship. If this was completed and the court accepted the petition, the new citizen was then given a certificate of naturalization and copies would be kept at the court and immigration bureau.
At this time, the courts allowed to perform naturalizations were limited but there were no longer requirements for state residence to apply. While many people used the nearest courthouse, it may be worthwhile to check other courts nearby or in places of temporary residence. The courthouses might have more records than were required by the Bureau of Naturalization. In 1929, photographs were added to the naturalization records and many are archived and available online. When reviewing these archives, make sure you look one page before and one page after your ancestor’s main documents, the photographs were sometimes placed on those pages.
Just a couple of other important facts to remember below:
-Immigrant children earned citizenship through their parents in a process called Derivative Citizenship. They had to show proof of the parent’s status to prove their own. No documents were created if they were female or a boy under the age of 16. Any date provided prior to 1929 could be the father’s date of naturalization.
-Derivative citizenship was given to wives of naturalized men. These women were required to provide their husband’s date of naturalization and a marriage certificate as proof. After 1922 things got a little tricky. Immigrant women could no longer claim derivative citizenship, but could also not apply for citizenship on their own. During this period of time, a natural born citizen woman could lose her citizenship if she married anyone who wasn’t. It wasn’t until 1929 that women could apply for their own citizenship.
-Military service could affect the dates and timelines for naturalization. Sometimes it sped the process up, sometimes men were naturalized on bases. There has never been a requirement to be a U.S. Citizen to join the military.
-People for whom you won’t find naturalization records: African Americans were recognized as citizens in 1868, Native Americans in 1924. There are some exceptions. Also, territorial expansions granted residents of those lands citizenship in the year they were annexed.
-In 1929 individuals who could not previously have their own citizenship status were able to apply for a record in their own name. These records are available only in a special database at http://www.uscis.gov/genealogy.