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Naturalization Records: What Are They?

Naturalization Records: What Are They?

Dating back to the year 1802, the Naturalization Act established the three part process that is still used today. An alien must declare his or her intention to become a citizen, observe the required residence period, and then petition an authorized court for admission to become a citizen. This process is both judicial (occurring before and by order of a court, and administrative (under the supervision of U. S. Immigration and Naturalization Service of the Department of Justice).

The first thing the alien should do is to file a Declaration of Intention with the authorized court, indication the intention to become a citizen, to renounce all allegiance to any foreign state and also to renounce any foreign title or order of nobility. At least two years after making the declaration (no more than 7 years) an alien who has been a resident of the U. S. for at least five years is allowed to petition the court for admission to citizenship (since 1941, the requirement to file a Declaration of Intention has been removed and the residency record shortened for spouses of citizens). This Petition included the applicant's oath and the affidavits of two witnesses who attest to the residency and the sound character of the petitioner. In conclusion, if the petition is accepted, the court then issues an order admitting the person to citizenship.

The Basic Naturalization Act of 1906, which passed June 29th and became effective on October 1st, established the Immigration and Naturalization Service. It also better defined administrative procedures, and provided federal supervision over the process. Prior to this, naturalization could occur in any federal or state court of record operating only under general requirements of federal law. Since October 1906, more detailed and uniform requirements for naturalization, including the form and contents of related records, have been specified by federal statute and propagated by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Researchers using these records will find very few female entries because citizenship was automatically conferred to the wife of any male citizen from 1866 until the passage of the Married Woman's Act in 1922. Since that time, women have been required to be naturalized separately from their spouses.

Naturalization Records

The declarations, oaths, and petitions are generally loose papers that were filed with the court. The declarations represent a written statement of desire to become a U.S. citizen. The oaths are statements of those intending to become U. S. citizens renouncing allegiance to any other country or sovereign.

Other oaths are from those who swear to have known the petitioner for a given period of time and can vouch for his or her character. Finally, the petitions from hopeful citizens are formal requests to be granted status after all the prerequisites have been met. The materials are arranged chronologically, with all documents bound together and then filed under the most recent date shown.

Prior to 1907, these declarations of intention provide date, name of petitioner, and country of origin. After 1906, the forms give additional information such as age, occupation, race, complexion, height, weight, eye and hair color, distinctive marks, birth date, residence, date and place of embarkation, means of transportation to the U. S., port of arrival and oat. Alphabetical name indexes are at the front of each volume.

Petition and Record

Prior to 1907, the petition and record offers the date, name of petitioner, country of origin, names of witnesses, and oath. After 1906, the forms also include residence, occupation, date and place of birth, date and place of emigration, means of travel to the U. S., date and place of immigration, witnesses, and their occupations and residence. Alphabetical name indexes are at the front of each volume.

Court Orders

Court orders are documents that were prepared twice yearly that identified those qualifying for U. S. citizenship. These papers are the judge's court order granting petitions of naturalization, and list the date and name of the individual.

Certificates of Naturalization

Certificates give the number, name, age, date of transaction, place and date where the declaration of intent was filed, and date and place where the petition was filed, date and place where the order was filed and the residence of each.

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