Genealogy Immigration/Migration: Using United States naturalization records in researching immigrant ancestors

Using United States naturalization records in researching immigrant ancestorstion, Migration-Ancestral Roots-Q-ZBy Barry J. Ewell

The following are records and resources that genealogists find extremely helpful and full of clues to find immigrant ancestors. The information is designed to provide a quick reference and direction of where to find and search for records as probable places to find information.

Naturalization records document that an individual was granted citizenship in the United States. Naturalization records are a way to locate arrival information for immigrant ancestors. Those issued after 1906 will have other significant genealogical information. Many immigrants become naturalized. Citizenship was required to own land, serve in public office, or to vote. Information varies greatly among documents and time period.

Pre-1906 Naturalization Records
Documents or records from before 1906 vary greatly from state to state because there were not federal standards. You should at least be able to find the following information:

  • Country of origin
  • Port of arrival
  • Port of embarkation
  • Date of arrival in the United States

Post-1906Naturalization Records
Documents after 1906 can include information such as the following:

  • Name
  • Current address
  • Occupation
  • Birthplace or nationality
  • Birth date or age
  • Marital status
  • Name, age, and birthplace of spouse
  • Names, ages, and birthplaces of children
  • State and port of emigration (departure)
  • State and port of immigration (arrival)
  • Name of ship or mode of entry
  • Town or court where the naturalization occurred
  • Names, addresses, and occupations of witnesses
  • Physical description and photo of immigrant
  • Immigrant’s signature
  • Witness names
  • Immigration year
  • Additional documentation, such as evidence of a name change

How to Use Naturalization Records
Use naturalization records to learn the following information for your ancestor:

  • country of origin (pre- and post-1906)
  • timeframe to search for a ship passenger arrival list (pre- and post-1906)
  • clues about relatives or neighbors (pre- and post-1906)
  • ancestor’s signature (pre- and post-1906)
  • perhaps another version of your ancestor’s name, such as a non-anglicized spelling (pre- and post-1906)
  • exact village or town your ancestor came from (post-1906)
  • immigrant’s birth date and place (post-1906)
  • details of arrival in the United States (name of ship, date and port of arrival, and so on) in order to find ancestor’s ship arrival record (post-1906)
  • names, dates, and birthplaces of wife and children (post-1906)
  • occupation (post-1906)
  • marriage details (post-1906)
  • photograph of the ancestor (post-1906)
  • evidence of a name change (post-1906)
  • reference to other courts where first papers may have been filed (suggesting immigrant lived elsewhere for a while) (post-1906)

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