Immigration and Ships Passenger Lists Research Guide
Section 8.0 - Last updated September 2011

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  8.1 Naturalization  - Before 1906
    8.1.1 Naturalization Requirements and Records - Before 1906
    8.1.2 Locating Naturalization Records - Before 1906
8.2 Naturalization  - After 1906
    8.2.1 Naturalization Requirements and Records - After 1906
    8.2.2 Locating Naturalization Records - After 1906
8.3 Naturalization Records on the Internet 
    8.3.1  General Information & Databases on the Internet
    8.3.2   Local NY/NJ Naturalization Databases on the Internet

Introduction -  Naturalization records provide a way to find arrival information for immigrant ancestors.  Recent naturalization records (those issued after 1906) also contain other significant genealogical information.  Generally, citizenship was required to own land, serve in public office, or to vote.  Therefore, many immigrants did become naturalized..

To become a citizen, the alien immigrant had to first apply at a court for a  Declaration of Intention (first papers).   Later he would apply for the Petition for Naturalization (second or final papers).  Then, the Naturalization Certificates themselves, were issued to the naturalized citizens upon completion of all citizenship requirements.   This process took several years to complete as discussed below.   The records that are filed in the courts (and those that you may search for) are the Declaration of Intentions and the Petition for Naturalization.  The Naturalization Certificate was given to the naturalized citizen and you may only find it in your ancestor's personal effects.

8.1 Naturalization  - Before 1906

8.1.1 Naturalization Requirements and Records - Before 1906
Following the Revolutionary War (1776), all white residents of European descent that were born in the colonies or loyal to the Revolutionary cause became citizens.  It was not until 1790 that the first statute regulating naturalization of aliens was enacted.  But, the first definitive statute that became the basis for naturalization for the next century was enacted by Congress on 29 January 1795.  These naturalization provisions included:

Revisions were made to the 1795 statute from time to time.  However, the general provisions of this statute existed until 1906.  The most significant revisions made during this time were:
Under the provisions of these first naturalization acts, an individual could file his papers at any common law court of record.  These courts could be at the local, state or federal level.  Each court had its own procedures and in the absence of standardized naturalization forms, federal, state, county, and other minor courts created their own naturalization documents that varied greatly in format.

Note that an alien did not have to file the Petition for Naturalization in the same court that he filed his Declaration of Intentions. (For example, my grandfather filed his Declaration of Intentions in the Hamilton County, Ohio court.  His Naturalization Petition was filed in the Court of Common Pleas in the City of New York).

Generally, most pre-1906 Petitions for Naturalization papers contain little information of biographical or genealogical value.  In the majority of these early papers, only the name of the individual, his or her native country, and the date of the naturalization are given.  However, the Declaration of Intentions in a number of these pre-1906 papers may contain useful information including;

Note that the content of the Declaration of Intention forms varied  from one county to another and from one court to another, resulting in a significant percentage of the first papers created before 1906 containing only some of this information.  Also, remember that the information on these documents may not be exact, but this information can be valuable in locating your ancestor on the passenger lists.  Probably the stated port of arrival is correct, but if you fail to  find your ancestor on the passenger list for the exact date of arrival as stated on the Declaration of Intentions, search the lists for a few months before and after that date.

8.1.2 Locating Naturalization Records - Before 1906

To begin the search for an immigrant's origins, learn as much as you can about that person, including full name, approximate birth date, native country, approximately when that person came to the United States, and where that person lived after his or her arrival in the United States.

Naturalization records were kept at the court which issued those records.  You may find Declarations of Intention and Petitions for Naturalization that were filed in state or local courts in the County Clerk's office closest to the immigrant's place of residence.  However, these records may now be located at the county or state archives.   Some, such as for the New England States are at the National Archives.

Naturalization records that were filed in United States District or Circuit Courts are in the custody of the Courts or the National Archives, and are stored at one of the Regional Archives or Federal Records Centers.  For example, the National Archives Regional Office in New York has naturalization records filed in local, state and federal courts located in New York City (1792-1906) and in District Courts including those in New Jersey.

Naturalization Records by Repository - New York and New Jersey
Table 1 lists the present location of the naturalization records for most of the courts for New York and New Jersey.  You can contact these courts to locate the naturalization records.

These records have been indexed by the WPA.  Note that the information on the Index Cards are arranged using the Soundex system and includes the following:
    Name of the Individual
    Name and Location of the Court,
    Volume (or Bundle) and the Page (or Record) (This information is needed to locate the copy of the actual record)

1. )   You may want to start your search for the Declaration of Intentions in the area where the alien lived shortly after arriving in the U.S.  If you fail to find that,  you should search for the Petition for Naturalization in the cities or counties where he subsequently lived.   (Sometimes, the Declaration of Intentions will be "attached" to the Petition on the microfilm records).   To search for these records, you should know your ancestor's year of naturalization, so you may therefore know where he lived and thus the locality of the court where he filed his papers.  The year of naturalization may be found in the 1920 census records as discussed in Section 2.0 of this Guide.

2.) The LDS Family History Library has microfilms of many of the indexes to the naturalization records and naturalization records themselves.  Unless you are near the court where the records may be stored, it may be the best place to start your research.  To locate these records in the LDS catalog,   use the Place search and look under  [County][State] - Naturalization and Citizenship
NoteThere are separate indexes to the declaration of intentions and to the naturalization petitions.  You may want to initially search for the declaration of intentions.  If you fail to find that document, search for the naturalization petition.   You may find a copy of the declaration of intentions attached to the Naturalization petition if the declaration of intentions had been filed in a different court.

3.) You may call or send a letter to the local county courthouse, State Archives, or NARA.  Provide as much known information as possible to help in locating the documents.

Beware!  Some clerks at the local courthouses either do not know about the existence of the naturalization records in their buildings, or are uncooperative.  They may indicate that the records were moved, etc.  Persevere in your search!

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8.2 Naturalization  - After 1906

8.2.1 Naturalization Requirements and Records - After 1906
An act of Congress of 29 June 1906 created the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization, which later became the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).
Note that the INS is now the US Citizenship and Information Services -USCIS.
This provided for the first uniform rule for naturalization throughout the U.S.  All courts had to use standardized Declaration of Intentions, Petition for Naturalization, and Certificate of Naturalization forms which contain much information of genealogical value.  

The requirements for naturalization as stated earlier remained generally unchanged until 1918.  An act in that year provided that any alien serving in the military and naval service during World War I could file his Petition of Naturalization without making the Declaration of  Intentions and without proof of the required five years residency in the U.S. (These servicemen were naturalized at military posts or nearby courts rather than at their legal residences.)   Laws enacted in 1919, 1926, 1940, and 1952 continued various preferential treatment provisions for veterans.

Then, in 1922, women could not become a citizen by virtue of her marriage to a citizen, but had to apply for citizenship.

Again, there were a number of changes to the naturalization laws as listed below

The Naturalization Process - 3 steps to become a citizen
STEP 1 - Alien filed Declaration of Intention
STEP 2 - Alien filed for his Petition for Naturalization no  more than 7 years after filing the Declaration of Intention
    •    Petitioner was allowed to change his name at this time
        •  Both names would be included on the Petition
STEP 3 Certificate of Naturalization given to new citizen when all citizenship requirements were met

The Declarations of Intention produced after 1906 may have the following information:

The Petition for Naturalization produced after 1906 may have the same information as listed above for the Declaration of Intentions.  Other information may include: Additionally, if the applicant was married, the following information may be on the form: The signature of the applicant completes the first section of the Petition. The second part of the Petition consists of Affidavit of Witnesses, including names of witnesses, their addresses, and sworn and signed statements of their knowledge of the applicant. These Petitions of Naturalization were completed with a signed Oath of Allegiance.

The Certificate of Naturalization were issued to naturalized citizens upon completion of all citizenship requirements   Most Certificates of Naturalization contain only the name of the individual, the name of the court, and the date of issue. However, the amount of information on these certificates varied from year to year and much additional information may be found on them.

The 1906 law required that all applicants for naturalization be legally admitted to the US and applied to all immigrants arriving after June 29, 1906.  Documentation was required to be submitted by the immigrant at the time he/she filed a Petition, showing the name under which they arrived, the date of arrival, port of entry and the name of the vessel.  This information was verified and a Certificate of Arrival for Naturalization Purpose was issued by the Department of Labor, Immigration Service and is attached to Petitions filed after 1911.  

Chronology  of events:   After 1906

1906 -Naturalization Act provided for Uniform Rules & established the Bureau of Immigration & Naturalization 
    •    Mandated standardized forms  - 3 copies made
            One Copy forwarded to the INS
            One copy given to applicant
            One copy stayed at Court
    •    Passenger Lists were checked to confirm date of entry (after 1911)
1907 - Marriage determined women’s nationality
    •    U.S. born citizen women lost citizenship if she married alien
1918 - Military Naturalizations
            Immediate naturalization of an alien in Service during WWI
1922 - Cable Act (Married Women’s Act)
    •    Women ‘s nationality is no longer dependent upon husband
1924 - Immigration Quota Act
    •    Aliens need Visas to immigrate (issued at U.S. embassy)
    •    Visas usually have birth records attached 
1929 - Registry Act
    •    Arrival records may be created for an alien arriving before 1921 and not having proper records (To prove residency)
1929 - Photograph now required on naturalization documents
1940 - Alien Registration Act (Smith Act)
    •    All aliens (over age of 14) must register at post office (including fingerprinting) – The alien received a “Green Card”
    •    The requirement became annual in 1952.
    •    Files archived as the A-Files (after 1944)
    •    All alien files consolidated under one Alien Registration Number

The following records may be available at the US Citizenship and Information Services -USCIS
•    C File - 1906 to 1956 - Naturalization Records including:
        •    Declaration of Intention
        •    Petition for Naturalization
        •    Certificate of Arrival
        •    Naturalization Certificate:
        •    OL Certificate  (Issued if person was naturalized before 1906, lost their Certificate and applied for a replacement after 1906)             
•    Immigrant Visa - 1924 to 1944
•    Registry Files - 1929 to 1944
•    Alien Registration (AR) Forms - 1940 to 1944
•    A-File - 1944 to present - Combined immigrant records including:
    •    Registry Record or Visa
    •    AR Forms
    •    Naturalization Records (since 1956)
    •    Others 

8.2.2 Locating Naturalization Records - After 1906

Three copies of Post-1906 Naturalization Records were made: one was kept at the court of record, one was forwarded to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (Now the BCIS) , and one was given to the applicant..

You can obtain these records by either:

The request should adequately describe the specific records sought as discribed above:  (e.g., C-Files, Visa, Registry, Alien Registration (AR), and A-Files) to enable to INS to conduct a search.  The minimum information required is: Other useful information  includes: Mail the request to:

USCIS Genealogy Program
PO Box 805925
Chicago, IL 60680-4120

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 8.3  Naturalization Records on the Internet

8.3.1  General Information & Databases on the Internet

The Olive Tree Genealogy - Naturalization Records in the USA
Most comprehensive collection of  links to online (and offline) naturalization records in each state and county.  A good place to start looking for records in any county in any state.  Search this large (and somewhat confusing) site by skipping down to the absolute bottom of the page (past all of the advertising) to the list of links entitles “state choices” and selecting the state that you are interested in.

Online US Naturalization Indexes  & Records

Comprehensive collection of  links to online naturalization records

LDS Family History Library  Catalog
- Use Place Search for the County and State of interest: Then look under Naturalization and Citizenship.  

Fold3 (Formerly Footnote), a fee-based service, has digital copies of naturalizations for the following areas:  CA (Los Angeles, San Diego, Southern), LA (Eastern), MA, MD, NY (Eastern, Southern), OH (Northern), & PA (Eastern, Middle, Western)

8.3.2   Local NY/NJ Naturalization Databases on the Internet  Citizenship & Naturalization database (fee based service)  — Includes:
New York County Supreme Court Naturalization Petition Index 1907-24  - and other databases.
Go to:   for complete list of all included databases.

Southern District Court of NY Naturalizations 1906 - 1959

US Circuit Court of the Southern District  1846-1876 and 1906-1911

Eastern District Court of NY Naturalizations  1865 - 1956

Brooklyn Naturalization Records 1907-1924

Bronx County Naturalization Records 1914 - 1952

Queens County Naturalization Records 1906 - 1957

Richmond County Naturalizations  1883 - 1959

Military Naturalizations for following military facilities

World War I
Aviation Field #2**
Camp Mills **
Camp Dix
Camp Upton
Fort Slocum
World War II
NY Eastern District
NY Southern District *
Korean War
NY Eastern District
NY Southern District*
** Also under Nassau County Also at *Also at

Nassau County , NY Naturalizations 1899 - 1986  (includes Camp Mills & Aviation Fields #2)

Suffolk County, NY Naturalizations 1853-1990

NOTE: Steve Morse provides a One Step tool for searching the Naturalization indexes listed above.

Rockland County, NY  Naturalization Records 1836 - 1991

Westchester County, NY Naturalization Records, 1808-1955

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Copyright © Arnold H. Lang 2002