Pennsylvania Eastern District Naturalization Indexes (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page
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Access the records: Pennsylvania Eastern District Naturalization Indexes, 1795-1952 .
Collection Time Period
The records cover the years 1795 to 1952.
The collection consists of Soundex card indexes to naturalization petitions and declarations of intention from the U.S. Circuit and District Courts for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The information typically includes the name of the individual, petition number, declaration number, birthdate, date of petition or declaration, and occasionally other pieces of information: name variations, marriage information, etc. This collection corresponds to NARA M1248: Indexes to Naturalization Petitions to the U.S. Circuit and District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, 1795-1951.
The soundex index is a phonetic index that groups together names that sound alike but are spelled differently, for example, Stewart and Stuart. The index cards are filed according to the soundex number associated with each family name and then by given names. For more information on soundex indexes and help with coding names and using the index, see the Soundex wiki article.
The soundex index cards for the years generally include the following information:
- Birth place
- Last permanent residence
- Name and address of relative or friend
- Port and date of entry
- Name of ship
- Line number in the passenger lists
How to Use the Record
Immigrants could naturalize in any court that performed naturalizations. That included city, county, state and federal courts. Begin by looking for naturalization records in the courts of the county or city where the immigrant lived. Look first for the petition (second papers), because they are usually easier to find in courts near where the immigant eventually settled. After 1906, the declaration can be filed with the petition as the immigrant was required to submit a copy when he submitted the petition.
Because immigrants were allowed to naturalize in any court, they often selected the most convenient court. If they lived in the Eastern District but worked elsewhere, they may have gone to a court closer to work.
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, and 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.
Naturalization is a voluntary process by which immigrants can become American citizens and receive the rights granted with citizenship. Before 1790, British immigrants were automatically considered citizens. Some Protestant immigrants from other counties swore allegience and requested citizenship from civil authorities. The process by which foreign immigrants could become citizens of the British empire colony, and later American citizens, varied between states until 1906, when the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization standardized immigration laws and procedures. The general requirements for citizenship include residency in one U.S. state for one year and in the United States for five years.
Why the Record Was Created
Naturalization papers are an important source of information about an immigrant's nation of origin, his foreign and “Americanized” names, residence, and date of arrival. Naturalization records were created to process naturalizations and keep track of immigrants in the United States.
Naturalization records are generally reliable, but may occasionally be subject to error or falsification. Be sure to search all possible spellings of your ancestor's surname. Think about how the surname was pronounced, and how it sounded in your ancestor's probable accent. The surname may be spelled differently in earlier records that were closer to your ancestor's immigration date.
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Sources of information for This Collection
"Pennsylvania Eastern District Naturalization Indexes, 1795-1952." FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org). NARA M1248, Library of Congress, Washington D.C. FHL microfilm, 60 reels. Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
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 Create Source Citations For FamilySearch Historical Records Collections.
Examples of Source Citations for a Record in This Collection
- “Delaware Marriage Records,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org: accessed 4 March 2011), entry for William Anderson and Elizabeth Baynard Henry, married 23 November 1913; citing marriage certificate no. 859; FHL microfilm 2,025,063; Delaware Bureau of Archives and Records Management, Dover.
- “El Salvador Civil Registration,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org: accessed 21 March 2011), entry for Jose Maria Antonio del Carmen, born 9 April 1880; citing La Libertad, San Juan Opico, Nacimientos 1879-1893, image 50; Ministerio Archivo Civil de la Alcaldia Municipal de San Salvador.