March 13, 2003
Q: I've tried the mid-Atlantic National Archives and the Philadelphia Archives but haven't been able to find my great-grandfather's name to get his naturalization papers. They found people who share his surname but nobody named Jacob. I got the year from the census and he always used the same spelling. I know the LDS has an index film you can order, has anyone seen them? I was wondering if it is strictly by name or if there is other information so you can be sure you have the right person? He arrived in 1884 but I haven't been able to verify his location until Philadelphia, 1900. He had a child born in Pennsylvania in 1886(the year his wife arrived). Is there a Pennsylvania state index I could search or do you have to go through each county? The year could be off but NARA/Philadelphia archives both go up to 1930. Appreciate any help and suggestions. -- Kristie
Important Dates in Naturalization
Through the years there have been additional acts passed by Congress that have affected the naturalization process:
These are just a few of the milestones over the years that affect the naturalization process.
The naturalization process was slightly more involved than showing up at the county courthouse or the district court building and swearing allegiance to the United States. While that was one of the steps, there were in fact three separate steps to the process of becoming a naturalized citizen.
Where to Turn Before 1906
As you can see by the above table, there were waiting periods before certain aspects of the naturalization process could be completed. Given that naturalizations before 1906 were filed on the county level, it is possible that each of the separate steps in the naturalization process can be found in three different places. Even if your ancestor didn't move around much, you may still find that the records have ended up in different repositories, some of them at the federal level.
If you haven't done so yet, you will want to examine everything you know about your ancestor and establish a time line of where he was living from the time of his birth until he died. The counties that he lived in up until the time of his naturalization are the ones where you will want to begin your search for naturalization records. This will probably mean that you will have to look in more than one county but the number of counties shouldn't be unmanageable.
You will want to begin first by looking at the Family History Library Catalog of the Family History Library. They have amassed quite a collection of naturalization records on microfilm. Because they are on microfilm, you can order them to your local Family History Center, where you can go through them in detail. In some cases you may find that the county records have been indexed and may be available on microfilm as well.
Generally speaking, it is a good idea to look at all the available records you find for the time period and locality in which your ancestors were living. In this case, you will want to look at the index records on microfilm. At the very least you will want to read through the catalog directory to see what the index covers.
It is likely that the National Archives branch didn't find your ancestor because the records you need are at the county level. Establish the counties in which your ancestor was living and then you will know where to begin searching for the naturalization records.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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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