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Finding US Naturalization records can be very helpful when doing genealogy research, but can frequently be very difficult. Naturalizations before 1906 could be done in any just about any court in the country, and were not standardized. After 1906 the federal government took over the Naturalization process and all forms became standardized nationwide. The location of all Naturalization files post-1906 are generally in set locations based on where the person Naturalized.
There are different kinds of files available, but the main files you may be able to find include:
– Declaration of Intention (also known as ‘first papers’)
– Petition (also known as ‘second papers’ or ‘final papers’)
– Oath of Allegiance (sometimes part of one of the above documents, sometimes separate)
– Certificate of Arrival (certifying what date they arrived in the country, required after 1906)
Other files are also possible to find, but will generally only be found if you do a search through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) which hold the entire C-File (certificate file) for naturalized citizens (records from 1906 onwards). Ordering a search online ($20) through the USCIS is a very time-consuming process. At the time of this writing, the USCIS is backlogged and processing search requests from four months ago. Once they find records according to your search, you need to then put in a request to copies of the records found, which costs another $35.
As such, the question is how can one access naturalization records without going through such a long and expensive process. There are some records from the National Archives that are up on Fold3.com, and frankly if you have a subscription to Footnote.com, or want to purchase individual documents from the site, this is the easiest way to go if they have the records you want. Fold3.com has Naturalization records from California, Louisiana, Ohio, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania. These collections are not complete for each state, so check the site to see which years and which districts in each state are covered. Unfortunately, this collection of records is unlikely to expand on Fold3.com since they changed their focus to military records. If you’re lucky the records you want will already be on Fold3.com, but if not its likely that Ancestry.com (the new owner of Fold3.com) will start digitizing new naturalization records instead.
If Fold3.com doesn’t have the record you are looking for, then you can in some cases order the records directly from the National Archives. In order to order a record from the National Archives, you will need to know the following information about the person who became Naturalized:
– State in Which the Naturalization Occurred
– City in Which the Naturalization Occurred
– Date Range
– First Name
– Last Name
– Year of Birth
– Residence City
– Residence County
– Petition Number (only required for records from New York State)
If you have additional information, you can also provide it, such as country of origin, date of arrival in the US, name of spouse, etc. Basically, whatever information you can provide that will help the archivist searching the records make sure they find the correct record. If you know alternate names for the person, I recommend adding those to the additional information field.
The form you fill out looks like this (click to enlarge):
|National Archives Naturalization File Order Form|
The cost of ordering files through this online ordering system is $7.50, and the can be sent either scanned on a CD or copied on paper (you can choose, but they can’t always scan the records, depending on size, so you might get paper copies even if you ordered a CD).
You might think this is great, everything you’ve been looking for is going to be on this site, but keep in mind that you need to know all the above information before ordering a record, so you’ll need to do some research first. If the relative you’re researching lived in the US in 1920, definitely check out the naturalization year field in the census for that year. If you know what year they were naturalized, you now know the correct answer for the Date Range field, and you can hopefully figure out what city and county they were living in based on that year (which could be different than the city and county from the 1920 census since they may have lived somewhere else when naturalized). Of course, to help you figure all this out, you can utilize the B&F US Immigrant Census Form (available on the Forms page), which will let you collect all the relevant information from censuses from 1880-1930 on immigrants.
In addition, I’m sorry to say, not all records are held by the National Archives. Some districts only have records before 1906, some only after. Some years are missing. Some districts only carried out naturalization for a few years. One district only lists records for a single day in 1895. It’s not easy to figure out the reasons why some years are available in one district and not others.
In order that you will not have to go to the National Archives site and get all the way through setting up an account and filling out the form, only to find out they don’t have the records you’re looking for, I’ve created a chart showing all the States, Cities and Date Ranges. Thus if you go to the State below, you’ll see all the Cities from which you’ll need to select in the system (sometimes these are not, strictly speaking, cities), and then the Date Ranges are given for each City. I’ve combined contiguous date ranges, but you’ll need to select the date range that includes the year your relative was Naturalized.
[Renee Stern Steinig e-mailed me to point out that while the National Archives online-ordering system only lists the years in the table below, the actual National Archives regional branches that hold the records may contain more years than what is listed in the ordering system. She has successfully ordered records from NY from later years by selecting a random year range and then indicating the real year of naturalization in the comments. This is of course open to the archivist who receives the order whether or not to fulfill it, but for $7.50 perhaps it is worth the chance since the alternative is more costly and will take much longer.
If you want a year not mentioned in the table below, find the regional branch likely to hold the records you want from the list of locations, then check out the regional branch’s holdings to see if they have more years available than what is listed in the online-ordering system (which is reflected in the table below).
For example, New York has a list of their naturalization holdings online that indicates holding that are much more recent than the 1906 date listed as the last year in the online-ordering system.]
I hope people find this useful. If you find any mistakes, please let me know in the comments below. Please also feel free to comment on your own experiences finding and getting copies of Naturalization records.
National Archives Naturalization Online Ordering
|Arizona||Cities within the Arizona Territorial Courts||1881-1912|
|Middletown||1795-1859, 1872-1906, 1926-1955|
|New London||1793, 1819-1906|
|Linn County Superior Court||1891-1894, 1898-1947|
|Topeka||1868-1870, 1872-1890, 1908-1984|
|New Orleans||1898-1903, 1906-1991|
|Maine||Alfred||1805-1837, 1840-1852, 1860, 1904|
|District of Maine||1790-1991|
|Gr Bar (Great Barrington?)||1887-1906|
|New Bedford||1847-1855, 1885-1906|
|Michigan||Bay City||Mar 19, 1895|
|Fergus Falls||1897-1902, 1906-1936, 1939-1978|
|Mankato||1897-1901, 1907-1929, 1930-1961|
|Winona||1896-1900, 1916-1920, 1955-1961|
|Nevada||1st Judicial District (Churchill County)||1908-1956|
|2nd Judicial District (Washoe County)||1907-1949|
|New Hampshire||Amherst||1848-1873, 1876|
|Laconia||1846-1852, 1866, 1874-1906|
|Plymouth||1844-1858, 1860-1900, 1902-1906|
|Cities in Bernalillo county||1882-1962|
|Cites in Colfax county||1882-1962|
|Cities in Dona Ana county||1882-1962|
|Cites in Grant county||1882-1962|
|Cities in Lincoln county||1882-1962|
|Cities in Mora county||1882-1962|
|Cities in Rio Arriba county||1882-1962|
|Cities in San Miguel county||1882-1962|
|Cities in Santa Fe county||1882-1962|
|Cities in Sierra county||1882-1962|
|Cities in Socorro county||1882-1962|
|Cities in Taos county||1882-1962|
|Cities in Valencia county||1882-1962|
|North Dakota||1st Judicial District||1861-1877|
|2nd Judicial District||1861-1882|
|Puerto Rico||San Juan||1899-1972|
|District of Rhode Island||1842-1906|
|East Greenwich||1854-1903, 1905-1906|
|Western District (All Divisions)||1911-1965|
|South Dakota||Sioux Falls||1906-1928|
|Utah||Salt Lake City||1906-1930|
|District of Vermont||1801-1906|
|Big Stone Gap||1914-1944|
* In general I used the exact spelling of a city as listed on the National Archives site, with two exceptions. First, in Massachusetts one city is listed as Gr Bar, which I assume is Great Barrington, and have added in parenthesis. Second, in Washington it lists Walla Wall which I have listed as Walla Walla. If there really is a separate city named Walla Wall, I apologize.
3 thoughts on “Naturalization”
Philip, Joe Beine maintains a great set of web sites for US records, including naturalizations:
You might want to include links to these sites in B&F.
When someone applied for naturalization they had to give their passport and possibly birth record to the INS. The immigrant couldn’t merely write his date and place of birth onto the naturalization forms; the INS required PROOF.
Genealogists want to see the naturalization FILES containing the naturalization forms AND THESE ATTACHED PROOFS, bec they show the applicants parents, town of birth, & last foreign adr, data not shown on the forms.
20 years ago I saw the files of many immigrants who arrived approx.1900 to 1970 at NARA, and these files contained these proofs. I would merely go to NARA & ask the personnel to look for a file under a name, and wait in the enclosed reading room. They would bring the nat file to me in about 5 mins. No advance request was needed.
Can one still obtain these file documents (proofs) from NARA? NARA’s websites, and you also, speak only about obtaining copies of the naturalization forms, the petitions for naturalization. No one mentions the proofs (passport, birth records, etc.)
NARA websites have thousands of words of text explaining their records & procedures, but for some reason there are no explanation for this simple basic question.
P.S. Your site says I’m commenting with my WordPress.com account, but I don’t know what that means. Please reply to my email: [email protected]