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Using Naturalization Records in Genealogy
Naturalization records can yield valuable information on immigrant ancestors. Since the first Naturalization Act of 1790, aliens coming to the United States were required, in most instances, to establish residency and file for citizenship. Becoming "naturalized" usually required declaration of intention and, after meeting the residence requirement, a petition to become a citizen. A individual might also be required to obtain depositions from friends and neighbors in support of their application. The petition, if successful, resulted in a certificate of naturalization.
Although there are various kinds of naturalization records, declarations of intention and certificates of naturalization are usually the most helpful to genealogists. Before the immigration law of 1906, declarations of intention recorded name, date, signature, and country of birth or allegiance. Additionally, some also stated the date and port of arrival in the United States. After 1906, the form was expanded to include each applicant's age, occupation, personal description, date and place of birth, citizenship, present and last foreign address, ports of embarkation and entry, name of passenger vessel traveled, and date of arrival in the United States.
Naturalization records are thus very useful for identifying our immigrant ancestors' places of origin. Remember, however, that many immigrants lived briefly in other countries (often Canada, the Caribbean basin, or South America) before finally coming to the United States. As a result, the last foreign address may reveal a migration pattern much more complex than you may have expected to find. Furthermore, since the declaration of intention records the vessel and port of embarkation as well as the port and arrival date in the United States, you can thus readily identify the immigration passenger list that records the arrival of your ancestor in America.
However, while naturalization records can be a goldmine of information, locating an ancestor's naturalization records in the first place can prove very frustrating:-
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