Tennessee Naturalization and Citizenship
In the colonial era, residents of Tennessee could appear before any court of record and declare their allegiance to the Commonwealth of North Carolina. A 1790 federal law allowed immigrants to declare their allegiance to the United States before any U.S. circuit or district court, state supreme court, or a local court of record.
For naturalizations that took place in Davidson County, see:
- Smith, Mary Sue. Davidson County, Tennessee Naturalization Records, 1803–1906. Nashville, Tennessee: Byron Sistler, 1997. (Family History Library book 976.855 P4s.)
If your ancestor lived in or near large cities, or near a city where the U.S. courts convened, you may find naturalization records in the U.S. District Court. For the rural areas of Tennessee, naturalization records were usually kept by the circuit court clerk in each county. Records may be in the circuit court order books, where they may be mixed in with other court proceedings. A few counties kept separate records for naturalization.
The Family History Library has microfilm copies of the records of some Tennessee counties. Naturalization records can be found using the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
TENNESSEE - NATURALIZATION AND CITIZENSHIP
TENNESSEE, [COUNTY] - COURT RECORDS
TENNESSEE, [COUNTY] - NATURALIZATION AND CITIZENSHIP
Naturalization is the process of granting citizenship privileges and responsibilities to foreign-born residents. Naturalization records are an important source of information about an immigrant’s place of origin, original and Americanized names, date of arrival, and residence.
Immigrants to the United States have never been required to apply for citizenship. Of those who applied, many did not complete the process. Evidence that an immigrant completed the process can be found in censuses, court minutes, homestead records, passports, voting registers, and military papers.
Various types of records were created during the naturalization process, including declarations of intention, petitions, and oaths of allegiance. Each record in the process can give different details about the person, such as age, the country of birth, ethnic background, the date and port of arrival, the name of the ship, previous residences, and current address.
Post 1906 Records
Early records contain less information than those created after 1906, when the forms were standardized and the Immigration and Naturalization Service was created. Post-1906 records can be accessed through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly INS). This agency kept a duplicate of the records created in the court. Details such as birth date and place, physical description, and marital status may be given in the post-1906 records. For records at the USCIS, use their Genealogy Program ($) at www.uscis.gov. (This is a fee service.)