Tracing Immigrants Arrival Naturalization and Citizenship
The naturalization process varies by country, state, and time period. The records also vary. Earlier records usually give the immigrant's name, age, and country of origin. More recent records tend to be more informative. Some give a wealth of data about the immigrant and his or her family, including specific places of origin.
Not all immigrants were naturalized. In many countries, adult males were the only immigrants to be naturalized because women and children had citizenship if their husbands or fathers were citizens.
Naturalization was generally not required if the immigrant settled in a colony of the mother country. Thus there are no naturalization records for British settlers of the United States before the Revolutionary War or in Canada before 1947. (Before 1947, British subjects entering Canada were considered Canadian citizens without naturalization.) During colonial times, each colony established its own laws regarding naturalization.
Although the specifics vary by place, the naturalization process was similar for most immigrants. After a specified period of residency, the alien filed a declaration of intent to be naturalized. Later he or she petitioned a court for naturalization. Seek the records for each of these steps. Declarations of intent to become a citizen and petitions for naturalization usually provide the most information.
An excellent study of United States emigration laws and records is—
- Newman, John J. American Naturalization Processes and Procedures 1790-1985. Indianapolis, Ind.: Indianapolis Historical Society, 1985. (FHL book 973 P4n.)
A wiki article describing an online collection is found at: