Monthly Archives: April 2011

Finding US Naturalization Records

US Nationalization records can be great sources of information for someone doing genealogy. All post-1906 records should contain the town of birth for the person naturalized, and some pre-1906 records may also contain this information (although pre-1906 records are not standardized and are much less likely to have the exact town). For purely historical value, they are interesting documents and should always contain your relative’s signature on them.

However, finding US Naturalization records is complicated, and getting copies of those records can be even more complicated. There are a few ways to go about finding records, but one very good resource is the National Archives which has an online ordering system that some people don’t know about. You can order copies of US Naturalization records for $7.50 each, and receive them either scanned onto a CD, or copied onto paper. Records usually ship in less than two weeks. Records exist from as early as 1790 and as recently as 1992, although not all locations have records from all years.

One frustrating aspect of the National Archives site is that you have no way, in advance of logging into the site and beginning the order process, to know whether they have records from the place and year you are looking for, which means you might spend time going through the login and ordering processes only to find out they don’t have records from the year you need.

In an attempt to make this process a little bit easier, I’ve created a table listing all the States and Cities for which Naturalization records can be ordered from the National Archives, and have listed the ranges of years for which records are available. You can now go to the Naturalization page on this web site to see the complete table of Nationalization record holdings at the National Archives.

Note that each of the general resources I have created on this site now have their own tabs across the top of each page, one each for Forms (the B&F Forms System), Search (B&F Enhanced Genealogy Search) and now Naturalization.

In future I hope to enhance the Naturalization page with other resources specific to accessing Naturalization records. Let me know what you think.

British Mandate Publications

This posting is a bit tangential to genealogy, so for those not interested, I apologize. However, researching history goes hand-in-hand with researching your family. It’s hard to understand what is going on in your family tree without understanding what was going on around your family at the time.

In the period between WWI and shortly after WWII, the British government ruled the area which now constitutes Israel and Jordan. That area was called the British Mandate of Palestine (the ‘mandate’ given to the British by the League of Nations). What is now Jordan was split off in 1922 as Transjordan, and eventually became the modern state of Jordan (technically the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan). The remaining area is now the State of Israel and the territories (Gaza, which was captured by Egypt, and the West Bank, captured by Jordan, during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948-49 and later captured by Israel in the Six Day War of 1967).

Back to the British. It’s important to realize that the period of the British Mandate was the apex of the British imperial empire. After WWI, the British ruled over the largest land mass in its history (1.8 million square miles) and yet it really was the beginning of the end of the empire. During the interwar years, and following WWII, the British Empire began to unravel.

During this transitional period, the British government published quite a bit about what was going on in their empire. Many of their publications, even though they dealt with far-flung parts of the empire, were either published or at least made available by the British Mandate government. When the British left in 1948, they left behind many of their government documents which found their way into what became the Israel State Archives.

While many of the documents from this period deal specifically with the British Mandate of Palestine, the variety of documents is actually quite interesting. Many documents deal with the British during WWI and WWII. War Office. Colonial Office. Parliamentary debates. Naval law. Education. Police. Prisons. Railway. Agricultural and Veterinarian studies. Archaeology. Water. Documents related to France, Egypt, Iraq, India, Yemen, Transjordan, Sudan, Turkey, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), West Indies, Kenya, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Gambia and more.

Some documents of interest to genealogists (besides for general history) include a phone book from Iraq in 1945 and phone books of the Palestine Mandate from 1946 and 1947. A guide to transliterating geographical and personal names from Arabic and Hebrew into English that was published in 1931. Several reports deal with the Arab riots in 1920, 1929, etc. which presumably list the names of the victims.

Of course, as the government was British, the great majority of documents published were in English. For those people interested in general British history, there are probably better ways to search for these documents, although browsing the Israel State Archives catalog might give you some idea of what documents you want to look for elsewhere.

The Palestine Gazette, the official publication of the government for all legal notices and publications of new laws, etc. also included name changes during the period, although these are already indexed and searchable on the Israel Genealogical Society web site.

Other British Mandate documents made searchable on the Israel Genealogical Society web site include part of the 1922 census (from Petah Tikva and Tel Aviv) and a collection of lists of medical practitioners. The 1922 census is available to anyone online, but the medical practitioners list is only available to IGS members. Thanks to Rosie Feldman for pointing out these additional resources.

By now you might be wondering where on the Israel State Archive’s web site you can search their catalog of British Mandate government publications. The fact is, you can’t search for it there. The Israel State Archives does not have this index online. In fact, while it was put onto a computer roughly twenty years ago, they no longer even know where that computer file exists anymore, if it does at all. Like many government archives, they have their budget issues and I don’t blame them for these problems. So how do you search this catalog? The archive has a printout from 1993 on fading paper from when it was computerized back then. You can go to the archive and look at it if you’d like of course, but the purpose of this posting, besides making people aware of this archival resource, is to make available a digital version of this catalog.

I didn’t re-type the catalog. It’s 111 pages. What I’ve done is scanned the catalog, applied optical character recognition to the pages so it is semi-searchable, and put the whole thing online. I say semi-searchable because the document was in such poor shape that I wouldn’t rely on the search exclusively to find entries in the catalog. Also, there are about 9 pages of Hebrew documents at the end of the catalog which are not searchable at all (for those who can read Hebrew).

In order to access these documents in the archives, you need to go to the archive building in Jerusalem. It’s in a nondescript building in the Talpiyot neighborhood. See their web site for details on hours, etc. The code given in the catalog needs to be ‘translated’ into a location code using a second document they have there, which maps the codes. I can put this online too if there’s interest, but if you’re already going down to the archive to look at documents, this will only take a few minutes there anyways. For those documents not specific to the Palestine Mandate, and many of those that are, you can probably also find these same documents in British archives and other archives of former British territories.

I’ve posted the document using Google Docs, which allows anyone to browse the document as well as search it. Keywords used in the search are highlighted yellow in the document (orange when the current selection). Considering the original shape of the document, the OCR was surprisingly good and the searching works fairly well.

Example of highlighted search terms in the catalog

So check out my online catalog of the British Mandate of Palestine government publication index from the Israel State Archives.

I’m not sure where to put a link to this for future reference, but for the time being I’ve added it to the my list of links in the right column of the blog (scroll down to bottom right of this page). You can always search for this posting too.

New Genealogy Forms Posted

Thank you to all those who made suggestions for changes to my genealogy forms. The new revised forms, with the changes described in my previous post, are now live on the Forms page.

In addition to the new Ancestor Form, Family Form, Sibling Form and Ancestor Location Form, there is an all-new form called the US Immigrant Census Form. This is the first in a new series of research-oriented forms. I had originally intended to release this form after another form I am working on, but as I finished this one and I though people would find it useful, I’ve decided to post it first.

The US Immigrant Census Form is intended to help those researching people who immigrated to the US during the huge influx between the 1870s and 1930s, although it is useful for those people who immigrated earlier but were living in the US during this period as well. The idea is that each census provides different information that is useful for researchers and can help you find more records.

For example, in 1900 and 1910, the census listed how many children were born to a woman, and how many were still living. You can use this information to figure out if children may have been left behind in the old country, or may have died young. While the country of origin of each person and their parents is listed in all the censuses on the form, the language spoken by each parent is collected only in 1920. This can sometimes be more useful than the country of origin which is frequently vague – ‘Russia’ for example is not a very useful country to have listed in a census form as it could correspond to over a dozen countries that were part of the Russian Empire during those years. From 1900 on the naturalization status of each person is listed in the census, but in 1920 the actual year the person was naturalized is recorded. These bits of information are all very useful for researchers who are looking to use census records as a springboard to getting more information on immigrants to the US.

Thank you to Michael Goldstein who had an early look at the census form and reminded me to add the Military Service field.

As always, please let me know what you think of the forms, and if there are any improvements you’d like to see please post them in the comments.

So go check out the now-improved B&F Forms System.