Virginia Naturalization Petitions (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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Virginia Naturalization Petitions, 1906-1929 .
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This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
Virginia, United States
Virginia flag.png
Flag of Virginia
US Locator Virginia.png
Location of Virginia
Record Description
Record Type Naturalization
Collection years 1906-1929
Archive


What is in the Collection?

This collection is an index to naturalization proceedings filed in four U.S. District Courts in Virginia and corresponding to four record series at the National Archives:

  • Naturalization Petitions of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia (Abingdon), 1914-1929 (NARA M1645)
  • Naturalization Petitions of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia (Charlottesville), 1910-1929 (NARA M1646)
  • Naturalization Petitions of the U.S. District and Circuit Courts for the Eastern District of Virginia (Richmond), 1906-1929 (NARA M1647)
  • Naturalization Petitions of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria), 1909-1920 (NARA M1648).

The naturalization volumes are typed on printed forms. While there were various types of naturalization records, the Declaration of Intent and Naturalization Petition usually had the most complete genealogical information.

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.

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.

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.

Naturalization is the process of granting citizenship privileges and responsibilities to foreign-born residents. Counties recorded naturalization procedures in the court records as legal proof of citizenship.

The index is very accurate and the information that was current at the time of naturalization was usually reliable. However, there was always a chance for misinformation. Errors may have occurred because of the informant’s lack of knowledge or because of transcription errors or other circumstances.

You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for Virginia Naturalization Petitions, 1906-1929.

Coverage Map

To see a coverage map of FamilySearch's holdings of naturalizations, click here.

Collection Content

The information given for each petitio includes the following:

  • Name of the petitioner
  • Residence
  • Country of birth
  • Place and date of arrival
  • Names of two witnesses
  • Petition number
  • Date of petition
  • Volume and page number of the petition

Declaration of Intent and Naturalization Petitions usually included the following:

  • Date of Declaration of Intent of Naturalization
  • Name and age of immigrant
  • Occupation
  • Marital status
  • Name of spouse, including maiden name of wife
  • Physical description
  • Date and place of birth
  • Spouse's date and place of birth
  • Current residence
  • Last foreign residence
  • Name of place and country from which emigrated
  • Date of embarkation and port of departure
  • Date of arrival and port of entry
  • Names of witnesses
  • Signature of judge or court official

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 or 1910 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 the Collection

To browse by image:
To search the collection you will need to follow this series of links:
⇒ Select "Browse through images" on the initial collection page
⇒ Select the "Court"
⇒ Select the "Record Description" 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. 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.

What Do I Do Next?

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.

What If I Can't Find Who I'm Looking For?

  • Look for variant spellings of the names. You should also look for alias names, nicknames and abbreviated names.
  • Look for an index. There are often indexes at the beginning of each volume. Local genealogical and historical societies often have indexes to local records.
  • Search the indexes and records of nearby localities.

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Citing 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:

"Virginia Naturalization Petitions, 1906-1929" Images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2016. Citing NARA microfilm publication M1647. Pennsylvania: National Archives and Records Administration, Philadelphia Branch, n.d.

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 Virginia Naturalization Petitions, 1906-1929.