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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Thoughts on Genealogical Investigations in Immigration – Part Three: Naturalization

Utah Naturalization Records, 1906-1930
US District Court (Utah)
Petitions for naturalization and petition evidence, 1912 Feb-1914 Mar, vol 3, no 151-249
My own experience is that naturalization is that these documents can be either extremely valuable to locate the immigrant or a bust. I once went to the U.S. Archives in Philadelphia to look for the naturalization documents for one of my ancestors and found out that any such documents for the time period I was looking, were in the Philadelphia City Archives. After a second search at the City Archives, the disappointment was when I found the documents for two ancestors; they consisted of a single sheet of paper with very little information and no specific information about their city of origin.

The watershed year for naturalization in the United States is 1906. Before that date, anyone (with a few restrictions) could apply for citizenship in a local state court. After that date the U.S. Federal District Courts assumed all naturalization actions. If your ancestors arrived in America after the Revolutionary War, there is always the possibility that they applied for citizenship. It is a good idea to have a basic understanding of the process and the documents that may have been created.  Many researchers become aware of the potential for naturalization documents when they see a "NA" notation on a U.S. Census record.

The Unites States National Archives has many of the records subsequent to 1906. Many of these records have been digitized and are also available online. The Historical Record Collections have free access to 53 collections of naturalization records. There are additional naturalization records on, Here is a list of other websites that may contain other records, see "Online Searchable Naturalization Records and Indexes."

The U.S. National Archives explains:
Naturalization is the process by which an alien becomes an American citizen. It is a voluntary act; naturalization is not required. Of the foreign-born persons listed on the 1890 through 1930 censuses, 25 percent had not become naturalized or filed their "first papers."
From 1890 to the present, the laws concerning naturalization have become more and more complicated.  A list of the major naturalization laws can be found in the Research Wiki article, "United States Naturalization Laws." The Research Wiki also contains a very good summary of the entire process of naturalization. See "United States Naturalization and Citizenship."

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