Pennsylvania Eastern District Naturalization Indexes (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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Pennsylvania, Eastern District Naturalization Indexes, 1795-1952 .
This article describes a collection of records at
Pennsylvania, United States
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Record Description
Record Type Naturalization Indexes
Record Group RG 21: Records of the District Courts of the United States
Collection years 1795-1952
Microfilm Publication M1249. Indexes to Naturalization Petitions to the U.S. Circuit and District Courts for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania,1795-1931. 60 rolls.
National Archives Identifier 350
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites
National Archives and Records Administration

What is in the Collection?

Three 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, birth date, 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, 1795-1952 and is part of Record Group 21 Records of the District Courts of the United States.

  • 1795-1906, Rolls 1-8
  • 1906-1926, Rolls 9-36
  • 1926-1952, Rolls 37-60
You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for Pennsylvania Eastern District Naturalization Indexes, 1795-1952.

Collection Content

Sample Image

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 Soundexwiki article.

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 allegiance 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.

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.

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 immigrant 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. 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.

What Can this Collection Tell Me?

Soundex index cards usually include the following:

  • Name
  • Birth place
  • Age, Gender, Occupation and Nationality
  • Last permanent residence
  • Final destination
  • Name and address of relative or friend
  • Arrival date and port of entry
  • Name of ship
  • Line number on passenger list
  • Volume, page number

How Do I Search the Collection?

To begin your search it is helpful to know:

  • The immigrant's full name
  • Other identifying information such as birth place, age or date of arrival

If you do not have this information search the federal census records after 1900. They list the years of immigration and if naturalized.

Search by Name by visiting the Collection Page:
Fill in your ancestor’s name in the initial search page. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information about those in the list to what you already know about your own ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or person.

View images in this collection by visiting the Browse Page:
To search the collection you will need to follow this series of links:
⇒Select "Browse through images" on the initial collection page
⇒Select the appropriate "Date Range"
⇒Select the appropriate "Name Range" which takes you to the images.

Look at each image comparing the information with what you already know about your ancestors to determine if the image relates to them. You may need to look at several images and compare the information about the individuals listed in those images to your ancestors to make this determination.

With either search keep in mind:

  • There may be more than one person in the records with the same name.
  • You may not be sure of your own ancestor’s name.
  • Your ancestor may have used different names or variations of their name throughout their life.

For tips about searching on-line collections see the on-line article FamilySearch Search Tips and Tricks.

What Do I Do Next?

When you have located your ancestor’s record, carefully evaluate each piece of information given. Save a copy of the image or transcribe the information. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details. Add this new information to your records of each family. You should also look for leads to other records about your ancestors.

I Found Who I was Looking for, What Now?

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
  • 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.
  • Indexes may contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings and misinterpretations.

I Can't Find Who I'm Looking for, What Now?

  • Look for variant spellings of the names. You should also look for nicknames and abbreviated names.
  • 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.
  • Try alternative search methods such as only filling in the surname search box (or the given name search box) on the landing page leaving the other box empty and then click on search. This should return a list of everyone with that particular name. You could then browse the list for individuals that may be your ancestor.

Citing this Collection

When you copy information from a record, you should list where you found the information; that is, cite your sources. This will help people find the record again and evaluate the reliability of the source. It is also good to keep track of records where you did not find information, including the names of the people you looked for in the records. Citations are available for the collection as a whole and each record or image individually.

Collection citation:

"Pennsylvania, Eastern District Naturalization Indexes, 1795-1952." Database with Images. FamilySearch. : accessed 2016. Citing NARA microfilm publication M1248. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.

Record citation (or citation for the index entry):

The citation for a record is available with each record in this collection, at the bottom of the record screen. You can search records in this collection by visiting the search page for Pennsylvania Eastern District Naturalization Indexes, 1795-1952.

Image citation:

The image citation is available by clicking on the Information tab at the bottom left of the screen. You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for Pennsylvania Eastern District Naturalization Indexes, 1795-1952.

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