West Virginia Naturalization Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)
|This article describes a collection of historical records scheduled to become available at FamilySearch.org.|
- 1 Collection Time Period
- 2 Record Description
- 3 How to Use the Record
- 4 Record History
- 5 Related Wiki Articles
- 6 Related Websites
- 7 Contributions to This Article
- 8 Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections
- 9 Sources of information for This Collection
Collection Time Period
The records cover the years 1814 to 1991.
The collection consists of a variety of naturalization records for 32 of 55 West Virginia Counties. Records include the following:
- Declarations of intention
- 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
The following chart lists the counties included in the collection.
The following information is usually found in naturalization records:
- Year of immigration
- Native country
- Birth place
- Birth date
How to Use the Record
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.
Compare the information in the record to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct person. You may need to compare the information of more than one person to make this determination.
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.
You may also find these tips helpful:
- 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.
If you do not find the name you are looking for, try the following:
- Check for variant spellings. Realize that the indexes may contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings and misinterpretations.
- 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.
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.
Why This Record Was Created
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.
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.
Related Wiki Articles
Contributions to This Article
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Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.
Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections
When you copy information from a record, you should also list where you found the information. This will help you or others to find the record again. 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.
A suggested format for keeping track of records that you have searched is found in the Wiki Article: How to Cite FamilySearch Collections
Examples of Source Citations for a Record in This Collection
- United States. Bureau of the Census. 12th census, 1900, digital images, From FamilySearch Internet (www.familysearch.org: September 29, 2006), Arizona Territory, Maricopa, Township 1, East Gila, Salt River Base and Meridian; sheet 9B, line 71.
- Mexico, Distrito Federal, Catholic Church Records, 1886-1933, digital images, from FamilySearch Internet (www.familysearch.org: April 22, 2010), Baptism of Adolfo Fernandez Jimenez, 1 Feb. 1910, San Pedro Apóstol, Cuahimalpa, Distrito Federal, Mexico, film number 0227023.
Sources of information for This Collection
West Virginia. Naturalization Records, 1814-1991. West Virginia State Archives. Charleston, West Virginia.