West Virginia Naturalization Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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West Virginia Naturalization Records, 1814-1991 .
This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
West Virginia, United States
West Virginia flag.png
Flag of West Virginia
US Locator West Virginia.png
Location of West Virginia
Record Description
Record Type Naturalization
Collection years 1814-1991
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites
  • [hhttp://www.wvculture.org/history/archivesindex.aspx West Virginia State Archives]
West Virginia County Clerks

What is in the Collection?

The collection consists of a variety of naturalization records for 32 of 55 West Virginia counties. The records cover the years 1814 to 1991. Records include the following:

  • Declarations of intention
  • Petitions
  • Oaths of allegiance
  • Certificates of naturalization
  • Registers of naturalizations granted and/or denied
  • Card files of naturalization
  • Naturalization orders
  • Lists of naturalized citizens
  • Naturalization dockets

Coverage Table

The following chart lists the counties included in the collection.

Barbour Hancock Mineral Randolph
Berkeley Hardy Mingo Roane
Brooke Harrison Monongalia Summers
Clay Lewis Nicholas Tucker
Fayette Logan Ohio Upshur
Gilmer Marion Pocahontas Wetzel
Greenbrier Mason Preston Wood
Hampshire McDowell Raleigh Wyoming

Collection Content

Sample Image

These records usually contain the following information:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Year of immigration
  • Native country
  • Birth place
  • Birth date

How Do I Search the Collection?

To begin your search 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.

Search by Name by visiting the Collection Page:
Fill in the requested information on 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. You may need to compare the information about more than one person to find your ancestor.

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 "County" category
⇒Select the "Record Type, Date Range and Value" category 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.

I Found Who I was Looking for, What Now?

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.

Tips to Keep in Mind

  • 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.

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 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.
  • Search the indexes of nearby localities.

General Information About These Records

Naturalization is the process of granting citizenship privileges and responsibilities to foreign-born residents. The 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.

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. 

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. 

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.

Known Issues with This Collection

Important.png Problems with this collection?
See a list of known issues, workarounds, tips, restrictions, future fixes, news and other helpful information.

For a full list of all known issues associated with this collection see the attached Wiki article. If you encounter additional problems, please email them to support@familysearch.org. Please include the full path to the link and a description of the problem in your e-mail. Your assistance will help ensure that future reworks will be considered.

Citations for This Collection

Citing your sources makes it easy for others to find and evaluate the records you used. When you copy information from a record, list where you found that information. Here you can find citations already created for the entire collection and for each individual record or image.
Collection Citation:

"West Virginia, Naturalization Records, 1814-1991" Database with Images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2016. West Virginia State Archives, Charleston.

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 West Virginia Naturalization Records, 1814-1991.

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 West Virginia Naturalization Records, 1814-1991.

How You Can Contribute

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

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