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Rhonda's Tips: Genealogy Questions Answered
by Rhonda R. McClure

April 20, 2000
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Locating Naturalization Records

Q: How can I find the records of my Great Grandfather's naturalization? He came to Philadelphia from Ireland about 1870 and I believe he was naturalized in 1916. Where can I write to obtain a copy of the record? -- William

A: The first thing you will need to do, if you haven't done so already, is to locate your great grandfather in the 1920 census. If you suspect that he was naturalized in 1916, this information should show up in the 1920 census.

Once you have established that your ancestor did in fact get naturalized in 1916, then you will be in search of those records. After 1906, the Immigration and Naturalization Service in Washington, DC was the body responsible for naturalization, and as such they have the naturalization records.

However, it may be that there are some microfilmed indexes or records for the area in which your ancestor was living when he was naturalized. Once you have established his whereabouts in 1920, I would suggest searching the Family History Library Catalog under that area for Naturalization and Citizenship to see if there are some microfilmed records of use to you. If not, then you will need to contact INS directly at 425 Eye Street NW, Washington, DC 20536.

Getting Past a Brick Wall

Q: My father died when I was young so I couldn't ask him about our family history. My grandfather also passed away before I could find any information. All I've found so far is: My Great Great Grandfather's name was Joseph Richardson his wife's name is unknown. Great Grandfather Harvey C Richardson born May 18, 1854 somewhere in Indiana. His wife's name was Katherine A Flood born Nov. 14 1863 somewhere in New York. They met and married in Washington, Iowa Nov. 24, 1884. They had 5 children and my grandfather was the youngest. Any ideas of what I should do next? I've searched and searched but to no avail I've come up empty handed in census records, the Internet, and CD-ROMs. -- Dennis

A: You have begun your research sort of in the middle of the research process. In genealogy the rule of thumb is to work from the known to the unknown. However, this doesn't mean jumping back to the furthest generation known and starting there.

Working from the known to the unknown means to get records on the events and people that you know about. That means getting death certificates for your father and grandfather. These may include information on your grandparents and great grandparents. You will then need to get the marriage record for your great grandparents. This may hold clues as to where in Indiana and New York they were married. Also, don't forget to get their death certificates too.

You mentioned that you had used census records, but you didn't say if you had just relied on indexes or which families you had tried to find. It may be that you need to return to these records and begin to search for all the families, tracing them back through each of the census years.

Also, keep in mind that when you are working with the published indexes, what you are forced to use when working with earlier census, that not everyone is included in those books. The published census indexes tend to include only the head of the family plus anyone living in the household that is of a different surname. So it is possible where your great grandfather and great grandmother are concerned, you may have found their family in the index.

Understanding Citizenship Columns in 1920 Census

Q: I have a question about column 14 (Naturalized or Alien) on the 1920 census. The ledger clearly shows three responses to the column Na, Pa, and Al. I figured that Na is naturalized and Al is Alien but I am clueless to what Pa means. The Pa is clearly written differently than Na. In both cases on the ledger where it appears the wife's Pa is crossed out and replaced with Al. Both cases show year of Naturalization -- Loretta

A: First, you have guessed correctly. The Al stands for Alien. This is a person who has not begun the naturalization process and is still considered a resident alien in the country.

The Na stands for Naturalization. This individual has completed the naturalization process and are now a naturalized citizen. Depending on when this took place, the records may be at the INS in Washington, or at a county courthouse.

The Pa stands for Papers. This means the the immigrant is involved in the naturalization process, however they have not yet completed all the steps. It is possible that in the column where you normally would see the date of naturalization that the enumerator elected to include the date that the first filing took place. For those that took place after 1906, the records will be found at the INS 425 Eye Street NW, Washington, DC 20536.

Russian Émigré

Q: I am trying to find relatives of my two granduncles in the US. Their names are Isaac and Aaron Kemler, emigrated from Russia between 1900 and 1905. How do I go about it? -- Israel

A: The first step to this is to try to determine where your granduncles were likely to have entered the United States. This can usually be done by first locating them in the census records. In your case, the 1910 and 1920 census would be the first step.

It may require that you go through the indexes to different ports in search of your granduncles. The good news is that if they came through New York, that they arrived during one of the periods that have been indexed.

An easier way to possibly find out where and exactly when they immigrated would be to turn to the naturalization records, if you find from the census that they were naturalized. If they were, you will want to contact the Immigration and Naturalization Services in Washington to get a copy of the naturalization records. In those records you should find the information about when and what port they came through. It might even supply you with the boat on which they arrived.

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at

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