Do you research naturalization records? No? Why not? Does the thought of going through paper files in dusty court basements turn you off? Well – I’m here to tell you that it is worth it – and with recent digitization efforts – more and more original documents have been scanned and been made available via microfilm or online.
Some of the larger subscription sites have also made some source documents available – as well as index cards that can lead you to the court that handled the proceedings.
If you wish to get educated first about all of these documents and the naturalization process and how it has changed over time – please read these two terrific summaries:
The U.S. Archives Naturalization Records
FamilySearch’s Wiki entry United States Naturalization and Citizenship
Okay – now that you are educated and know that post-1906 – about 4 awesome documents just drip with great information: Declaration of Intent, Petition for Citizenship or Naturalization, Certificate of Arrival, and the Certificate of Naturalization. Many of the online genealogy websites may not have all of these documents available, but do have index cards that are searchable – which has information regarding the court handling the proceedings. With this information you might be able to track down some of the source documents.
So lets’ go – what types of information are included in these documents?
Name (often includes middle name which is useful). Can help with spelling of more complex names for future searching as well.
Physical Characteristics – color/race, complexion, height and weight, hair and eye color, and scars or other distinctive marks.
Current Residence Address
Emigration Information – port of departure, name of ship/vessel, and date of departure
Immigration Information – port of arrival and date of arrival, name of ship/vessel
Last Foreign Residence
Spouse Information – Name of spouse and their birth location and current address. Also when they entered the U.S. May include their naturalization information if applicable
Signature (always fun to see how they signed their name)
Name and Location of court handling the proceedings
Children – names, place of birth and current residence
Witnesses – names, occupations, and addresses – always useful (and underappreciated) – may provide means of alternative research if the same surname – or if a friend – possible clues.
Former Names – if they changed their name or if they got married in the U.S. may provide great clues for additional research, especially in their birth country or former country of residence.
There is a large number of free online naturalization record and index collections; the links accessible by state below:
You might want to check out a related set of records, and that is immigration records. You can discover links to free collections for this category at the Immigration Records page on this website.
Good Luck and Happy Hunting!