The naturalization process in the United States can be very confusing. Understanding what records to look for is essential for success. First, determine if your ancestor naturalized. A previous article discusses how to determine if your ancestor naturalized.
If your ancestor did naturalize, there are two types of naturalization documents you need to locate: the Declaration of Intention and the Petition. You will want to find them both—especially if it was before 1906—because they asked different questions on each document.
The Declaration and Petition could be filed in any court. The immigrant often chose the most convenient court. The Declaration was often filed 2 to 3 years after the immigrant arrived to the U.S., and the Petition was filed another 2 to 3 years after the Declaration. The whole process could be completed within 5 years of coming to the U.S. For example, if your ancestor stated on the 1920 Census that he immigrated in 1898 and naturalized in 1903, you now have a time frame. You should look for the Declaration in the place he lived between 1898 and 1901, and for the Petition, search the place he lived in 1903.
Remember that before 1906, the information found on a Declaration and Petition depended completely on the court. Each court asked different questions. Some courts asked only the name of the immigrant and the country of allegiance. Others would ask the date and place of immigration, name of the vessel and on rare occasions the immigrant’s birth date! You should always locate both records if possible.
An important naturalization law was passed in 1906. With that law, more information was recorded on both the Declaration and Petition, including:
- Birth date and place of immigrant
- Country of birth or allegiance
- Name of port and vessel
- Date of arrival
- Names and birth dates of wife and children
For more information on United States naturalization and how to find naturalization records, see the United States Naturalization and Citizenship article in the FamilySearch Research Wiki.