California, Northern U.S. District Court Naturalization Index (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page
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Access the records: California, Northern U.S. District Court Naturalization Index, 1852 - 1989 .
This Collection will include records from 1852 to 1989.
This collection is a card index to naturalization records in the circuit and district courts of California. The cards are arranged alphabetically by surname.
The actual naturalization volumes vary in size and format. Prior to the late 1800s each document was usually handwritten on one page. From the late 1800s and on, printed forms were used. After 1906, many entries were typewritten.
While there were various types of naturalization records, the Declaration of Intent and Naturalization Petition usually had the most complete genealogical information.
For an alphabetical list of records currently published in this collection, select the Browse link from the collection landing page.
The first naturalization act was passed in 1802. Immigrants to the United States were not required to apply for citizenship. Of those who did apply, many did not complete the requirements for citizenship.
Naturalization to become a U.S. citizen was a two-part process: the Declaration of Intent to Naturalize, or First Papers, and the Naturalization Record (including the Naturalization Petition), or Final Papers. The First Papers were normally filed five years before the Final Papers because of the five-year residency requirement to become a citizen.
No centralized files existed before 1906. In 1906 federal forms replaced the various formats that had been used by the various courts. Copies were sent to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), creating a central file for naturalization papers. The INS is now known as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Naturalization records are generally well preserved, but some records may have been lost to fire or other disasters.
Naturalization is the process of granting citizenship privileges and responsibilities to foreign-born residents. California’s counties recorded naturalization procedures in the court records as legal proof of citizenship. The courts handling naturalizations changed several times so the card index was created as a way to quickly access specific records.
The index is very accurate and the information that was current at the time of naturalization was usually reliable. However, there was always a chance for misinformation. Errors may have occurred because of the informant’s lack of knowledge or because of transcription errors or other circumstances.
Citation for This Collection
The following citation refers to the original source of the information published in FamilySearch.org Historical Records collections. Sources include the author, custodian, publisher, and archive for the original records.
- Northern United States District Court. Naturalization index. United States National Archives and Records Administration, San Bruno, California.
The index cards include the following:
Index cards include the following information:
- Petition number
- Date of petition
- Alien Registration number
- Name and residence of immigrant
- Birth date of immigrant
- Date certificate issued
- Court where certificate issued
Declaration of Intent and Naturalization Petitions usually included the following:
- Declaration number
- Name of the immigrant
- Country of birth
- Arrival date
- Date of Declaration of Intent or Naturalization
- Names of witnesses
- Signature of judge or court official
In post-1906 records, you may also find:
- Birth date
- Last foreign residence
- Current residence
- Arrival place
- Marital status
- Name of spouse
- Maiden name of wife
- Birth date of spouse
- Residence of spouse
How to Use the Record
To search using the index, fill in the requested information in the initial search page. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information about the ancestors in the list to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or person. You may need to compare the information about more than one person to find your ancestor.
To search the collection, you will need to follow this series of links:
⇒ Select the "Browse" on the initial collection page
⇒ Select the "Description" category which takes you to the images.
Begin your search by finding your ancestors in the card index. Name indexes make it possible to access a specific record quickly. Check the index for the surname and then the given name. You may need to look at many cards to find the one you are seeking. Remember that these indexes may contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings, misinterpretations, and optical character recognition errors if the information was scanned.
When searching the images it is helpful to know the following:
- The full name of your ancestor
- The approximate immigration and naturalization dates
- The ancestor’s residence
If you do not know this information, check the 1900 census and then calculate the possible year of naturalization based on the date of immigration. The 1920 census may tell you the exact year of immigration or naturalization.
When you have located your ancestor’s record, carefully evaluate each piece of information given. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details that can lead you to other records about your ancestors. Add this new information to your records of each family.
For example, you can use naturalization records to:
- Learn an immigrant’s place of origin
- Confirm their date of arrival
- Learn foreign and “Americanized” names
- Find records in his or her country of origin such as emigrations, port records, or ship’s manifests
You may also find these tips helpful:
- Look for the Declaration of Intent soon after the immigrant arrived, then look for the Naturalization Petition five years later, when the residency requirement would have been met. Look for naturalization records in federal courts and then in state, county, or city courts.
- An individual may have filed the first and final papers in different courts and sometimes in a different state if the person moved. Immigrants who were younger than 18 when they arrived did not need to file a Declaration of Intent as part of the process.
- If your ancestor had a common name, be sure to look at all the entries for a name before you decide which is correct.
- Continue to search the naturalization records to identify siblings, parents, and other relatives in the same or other generations who may have naturalized in the same area or nearby.
- The witnesses named on naturalization records may have been older relatives of the person in the naturalization process. Search for their naturalizations.
- You may want to obtain the naturalization records of every person who shares your ancestor’s surname if they lived in the same county or nearby. You may not know how or if they are related, but the information could lead you to more information about your own ancestors.
If you do not find the name you are looking for, try the following:
- Check for variant spellings. Realize that the indexes may contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings and misinterpretations.
- Try a different index if there is one for the years needed. You may also need to search the naturalization records year by year.
- Search the indexes of nearby counties.
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Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections
A suggested format for keeping track of records that you have searched is found in the wiki article. Help:How to Cite FamilySearch Collections.
Citation Example for a Record Found in This Collection
"California, Northern U.S. District Court Naturalization Index, 1852-1989," images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org: accessed April 3,2012), Naturalization Records, Doyle, M.-Duong, B.; Image 14 of 3472 images;Michael Joseph Doyle, February 25,1924; citing United States National Archives and Records Administration, Pacific Sierra Region,FHL Microfilm, 165 rolls Family History Library Salt Lake City, Utah.