When a person considered an alien/immigrant wants to voluntarily become an American citizen, this is known as naturalization. It’s important to remember that naturalization is never a required act; it can only voluntarily be done. If you’re looking for naturalization papers, there’s a chance you may be able to find them. Before September 27, 1906, it was possible for any court of record to grant US citizenship to a person, so most people went to a court of record that was most convenient for them. And while many courts did keep records, not all did. This is why it can be so difficult sometimes to find naturalization papers.
It’s also important to remember that even though naturalization proceedings were transferred to Federal courts in 1906, not all lower-level courts immediately stopped granting US citizenship to those going through the naturalization process. This is why it’s pertinent for researchers to look at lower court records from the early-mid 20th century when they can’t find records of naturalization in the National Archives for the same time period. It’s also crucial to understand that Federal courts took over the proceedings but not permanently. In 1991, INS took over the responsibility of carrying out naturalizations.
Want more advice on how to order naturalization records? If so, keep reading and follow the tips outlined below.
Know Where to Look
When a person received naturalization through the Federal courts, there’s a high likelihood that documentation relating to the process can be found in the National Archives. This is going to include various types of documented information, including:
- Petition for naturalization
- Certificate of naturalization (if granted)
Different states have different National Archive facilities (click on the link to find the one you need to look in), so it’s important to know which one to look in. And since there is no central index, this makes it all the more important to know which facility or facilities to query when looking for specific naturalization papers. Another place to look for naturalization documentation is with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Complete Full and Detailed Queries
When doing a query through an archive to order naturalization records, you should make the query as detailed as possible. Always include the following pieces of information to ensure you get the most accurate results for each query:
- Full name and any aliases
- Date of birth
- Approximate date of entry to the US
- Estimated date of naturalization
- State, county, and town of residence when naturalization is believed to have taken place
- Country of origin
If you find the naturalization records you’re looking for, understand that you may not be able to get an original copy. In fact, generally, there were only two original copies created when naturalization took place. One record was sent to the petitioner and one was forwarded to the appropriate archive facility or organization, such as the INS. Still yet, you can access the records you need to apply for dual citizenship if you know how to look in the right places.