NATURALIZATION AND CITIZENSHIP in the U.S.
WHERE TO LOOK:
Prior to 1990 "any court of record" could accept applications and issue citizship papers. Residency in that court's district was not a requirement. So one should check all three levels:county courts, state courts and federal courts.
All searches should begin in the National Archives. Start with the regional office
Citizenship and Imigration Services has copies of all the records from all
levels filed after September 26, 1906 C-Files include all US
naturalizations from all States and Territories, and from all courts (Federal,
State, and local). C-Files contain a copy of the Declaration of Intention to
become a US Citizen (to 1952), Petition for Naturalization, and Certificate of
Declarations filed after Sept 27, 1906, were only good for 7 years. If the immigrant did not petition within the 7 years, the declaration expired and the immigrant had to start over again from the beginning. Most C-Files from 1906 to 1956 are on microfilm, with the remainder in paper form, and BCIS has an index to those that have been filmed. They are available with a Freedom of Information/Privacy Act request to BCIS Headquarters in Washington, D.C. For naturalization records after 1956, Freedom of Information requests must be sent to the appropriate District Office
USCIS also holds records relationg to "derivative" citizenship, reumed or restored U.S. Citizenship and loss of U.S. citizenship.
The USCIS Genealogy Program is a fee-for-service program providing family historians and other researchers with timely access to historical immigration and naturalization records of deceased immigrants. (Brochure)
Pre-1906 the records are only found in the National Archives or the individual courts.
Another good source of information are the applications for U. S. Passports. and Arriving Passenger Lists.
Before the March 26, 1790, naturalization was under the control of the individual states.
In 1790 Federal act set residence requirement nationwide at 2 years. Limited citizenship to "free white persons". (See below for more inframation)
In January, 1795, the 1790 act was repealed and the residence requirement was raised to 5 years. It also required, for the first time, a declaration of intention to seek citizenship at least 3 years before naturalization. Applied to anyone over 18 years old.
In June, 1798 the residence requirement was raised to 14 years.
The Naturalization Act of April 14, 1802, reduced the residence period for naturalization back to 5 years.
All of the above required that the applicant to demonstrate that he was a person of "good moral character" and to swear an oath of allegience. These requisites continue today.
Act of 1824 reduced interval between declaration of intention and admission to citizenship to 2 years.
An act passed in 1862 provided that if a man joined the Union Army and served until the end of the war, he could take his honorable discharge papers to court and be issued a naturalization certificate.
This process was repeated for the Spanish-American War, the Phillipine Insurgence, and World War I.
There is a separate of Naturalization of World War I soldiers. They were naturalized before they shipped out so if killed in action they could die as Americans.
Noncitizens who had served honorably in the U.S. armed forces during the Vietnam conflict or in other periods of military hostilities, were recognized in the Act of October 24, 1968. This act amended the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, providing an expedited naturalization process for these military members.
The Naturalization Act of June 29, 1906 established a new federal agency, the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization, to help administer citizenship and establish nationwide standards. The act also made oral English ability a requirement of citizenship.
Since 1906, after an
immigrant filed a Declaration of Intention or a Petition for Naturalization
in a naturalization court, the Bureau of Naturalization was called upon to
provide a certification of the immigrant's arrival record.
The certification, called a Certificate of Arrival was sent to the courthouse. This was done to satisfy the naturalization requirement that everyone who arrived since June 29, 1906 had to have a legal immigration record if they wanted to become a U.S. citizen.
In 1926 verification clerks began to record the verification (record check) and certification activity on each passenger list record. The annotations can be found on any passenger list, before or after 1926, but they will all relate to naturalization activity occurring in 1926 or later. So finding that ships passenger list with your ancestors name on it, may help you determine his or her exact date and place of naturalization [For more details and help interpreting naturalization annotations see Guide to Interpreting Passenger List Annotations by Marian L. Smith, Historian of the U.S. INS.]
Race, Sex and Age Distinctions
As stated above, the 1790 act, limited citizenship to "free white persons". The Naturalization Act of July, 14 1870 expanded this to "persons of African nativity and African descent." Chinese were barred from naturalization under the Chinese Exclusion Act of 6 May 1882. Subsequent court decisions denied most individuals from Asia access to U.S. citizenship. Racial restrictions only began to disappear during World War II, first for Chinese (1943), then East Indians and Filipinos (1946), and finally for any group in 1952.
Historically, married women derived citizenship from their husband. Under the 1855 Act, a woman automatically became an American upon marrying a U.S. citizen or following the naturalization of her foreign husband. The 1907 Expatriation Act extended this logic by taking away the citizenship of a U.S.-born or naturalized American woman if she married an alien. The 1922 Married Women's Act (or the Cable Act) finally severed the link between naturalization and marital status for most women. However, women who married foreign-born Asian men ineligible for naturalization did not retain independent citizenship until 1931.
Since 1790 children derived citizenship from their parents. The age at which they could apply for themself changed over the years from 18 to 15. The Child Citizen-ship Act of 2000 added a new provision making citizenship automatic for children adopted from foreign countries, provided at least one parent is American at the time of adoption.
Women and children who became citizens through the husband or parent are classified as having "derived" citizenship. They may apply to receive their own certifcate. If the certificate number is preceded by an "A" it was a derivative application. A "C" means it was an original application.
For a short period, the age of application was lowered to 14 but is now back to 18.
For further information see:
Familysearch.org has a great guide to finding U.S. Naturalization and Citizenship information