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Overheard in GenForum: John Rosendahl, Died 1939, Kemmerer, Wyoming
by Rhonda R. McClure

Each week Rhonda answers a question from the GenForum message boards and gives her expert answer here. We'd love to hear anything you have to add. Go ahead and leave your comments on GenForum with the original message.

December 20, 2001
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Q: I want to locate the naturalization papers for Wyoming for John Rosendahl. -- Gretchen

A: The naturalization process has undergone some changes since it was first instituted in the late 1700s, after the American colonies became the United States. Before the American Revolution any oaths of allegiance were to England.

Because you are looking at the state of Wyoming, the early changes do not affect your research. The state of Wyoming was admitted to the Union in 1890. While this is when Wyoming attained statehood, it is possible that there are naturalization records on the county level that begin earlier.

Naturalization records are found on many levels.

Wyoming History

The town of Kemmerer is in Lincoln County, Wyoming. Wyoming Territory was formed in 1869 with the county of Uinta formed in December of that year. Uinta County originally comprised the land that now is made up by present day counties of Teton, Lincoln, Uinta and half of Sublette. The town itself was not founded until 1895.

Before you can begin to look for naturalization records for your ancestor, you need to first learn what naturalization records may be in existence and for what periods of time. Depending on when your ancestor was naturalized you may need to turn your attention to the federal records rather than the records created at either the state or county level.

Even if your ancestor was naturalized before federal record keeping took over, it is possible that the records you may need to research have been deposited with the National Archives branch for Wyoming.

Possible Resources

Before 1906 naturalization records were found in many places. Individuals going through the naturalization process could file one set of papers in one county or court, the second in another and receive the final certificate from yet a third. In 1906 the federal government, under the Immigration and Naturalization Service began to receive copies of these records. Before 1906 you will want to check the county courthouse, the state repositories like the state archives and the state historical society as well as the federal repositories such as the Rocky Mountain Region NARA branch in Denver, Colorado.

Among its other holdings, the Rocky Mountain Region NARA branch has 21 Records of District Courts of the United States that pertain to the states covered by this regional archive, which among others include the state of Wyoming.

There are a variety of different records found in this group, but they include naturalization records. According to the Rocky Mountain Region's Web site, they have district court records for Wyoming from 1888 to 1969. Some of these are naturalization records and may help you with the naturalization of your ancestor.

Doing Your Homework

Before you can begin to search for your ancestor's naturalization records, you must first determine when he was naturalized. You may already know this and just didn't include it in your information. If you don't know this, then the first place to turn is the census records. The 1900-1920 census records will indicate if your ancestor has completed the naturalization process.

If your ancestor was naturalized before 1906, you will need to create a timeline of where your ancestor lived from the time of immigration. It is possible that the naturalization process was begun at any time after immigration and you may need to search the holdings of all localities where he lived.

If your ancestor was naturalized after 1906, then it is likely that the naturalization records can be found through the Immigration and Naturalization Service. While they do not have databases online, the Web site has some good information for those researching their ancestors, including FAQ sections.

In Conclusion

The naturalization process was actually a three-step process. Finding these records often requires that a researcher look in more than one place. It often needs research from local levels all the way to federal levels.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

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 rhondagen@thegenealogist.com.

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