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ERC: Genealogy and Family History: Records

   Naturalization Records


If a person was at least eighteen years of age, had entered the United States lawfully, and wanted to become a U.S. citizen, they could file a Declaration of Intention at whatever office was in charged of the naturalization process. Unlike the Petition for Naturalization, there was no minimum period of residency requirement to submit this document. After 1926, the U.S. Department of Labor issued this form; before this it was the U.S. Department of Commerce. Physical characteristics of the alien would be listed on this form, as well as where and when they were born, where they currently lived, and their immigration information, i.e. what port did they emigrate from and on what ship, where they last resided before emigrating, at what port and on what date they arrived in the United States, and of course, the date they filed their Declaration.

If the person wishing to declare their intent to become a U.S. citizen arrived in the U.S. after 29 Jun 1906, then a Certificate of Arrival needed to be obtained, stating that they entered the U.S. lawfully and was admitted for permanent residence. If they arrived on or before this date, they could immediately file a Declaration of Intention. Note that the U.S. Naturalization Service only came into existence on 27 Sep 1906. All immigration and naturalization files from this time on were kept in a centralized location in Washington, D.C. Thus, the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) has no naturalization records before this date. Before this date in 1906, naturalizations were handled by the court of record at the time, whether it be at federal, state, county or municipal level. In New York City, a person could still be naturalized at the local level until sometime in the 1920s when this was stopped. After this time, the petitioner had to go to the federal courts, i.e. the U.S. District Courts to apply for citizenship. In New York City, the Southern District handled naturalizations in Manhattan, Bronx and Westchester counties; the Eastern District handled Kings (Brooklyn), Richmond (Staten Island), Queens, Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

To access these naturalization records in person while in New York City, one can visit the Northeast branch of the National Archives and Records Division (NARA) at 201 Varick St., 12th floor, or Room 703 (the County Clerk's Office - Division of Old Records) for Petitions for Naturalization filed in New York County's State Supreme Court (1868, 1896-1924), Court of Common Pleas (1792-1895), or New York County Superior Court (1828-1895). Declarations of Intention filed in New York County are also available there. Full naturalization records for the Southern District of New York City (Manhattan, Bronx and Westchester Counties) between 1897 and 1944 are now on microfilm (M1972) and can be either copied at the NARA office or requested for a ten dollar fee per record from NARA itself. The records for the Eastern District (
Consisting of Kings, Richmond, Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties) will be microfilmed shortly, and the same remarks mentioned above for the Southern District documents, will apply. There were, of course, different courts that could conduct naturalization procedures (see below.)


A person who had satisfied the time requirement after filing their Declaration of Intention,* could then file a Petition for Naturalization. If they waited too long (they had to file their Petition before two and seven years), they had to reapply. Also, the applicant had to live in the U.S. (or its Territory, or Washington, D.C.) usually, but not always, for five years continuously and a period of time, usually a year in a particular state (see no. 4 below). See the explanation of the Cable Act (aka Married Woman's Act) of 22 Sep 1922 which explains the law that allowed women to become naturalized on their own (when this law was passed, a woman was no longer required to file a Declaration of Intention and could immediately file a Petition for Naturalization. The five-year residency requirement was also lowered to one year.)

What information was asked for on the Petition depended on the period of time it was filled out. Usually, the following information was listed: petitioner's name, residence, occupation, date of birth, place of birth, date of departure, port of departure, name of ship (or other means of transport), date of arrival, port of arrival, date and place they filed their Declaration of Intention*, and affidavits of witnesses (2). At a certain point, the names and residences of the wife and minor children were included.

The Petition also tried to root out anarchists (not always on Petition), polygamists, and those who couldn't speak English:

1. From a 1913 Petition form: "I am not a disbeliever in or opposed to organized government or a member of or affiliated with any organization or body of persons teaching disbelief in or opposed to government."

2. From the same 1913 form: "I am not a polygamist nor a believer in the practice of polygamy. I am attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and it is my intention to become a citizen of the United States and to renounce absolutely and forever all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty and particularly to (e.g. Nicholas II, Emperor of All the Russias) of whom at this time I am a subject, and it is my intention to reside permanently in the United States.

3. I am able to speak the English language.

4. I have resided continuously in the United States of America for the term of five years at least, immediately preceding the date of this petition, to wit, since the (day) of (month), anno Domini (year) and in the State of New York, continuously next preceding the date of this petition, (day) of (month), anno Domini (year), being a resident within this State of at least one year next preceding the date of this petition.


This oath was taken by the petitioner once it had been established that they satisfied the requirements necessary to become a citizen. The petitioner had to renounce their allegiance to the country that they were formerly a citizen of, give up any titles of nobility, and swear to defend and be loyal to the United States.

Also known as the Certificate of Citizenship, this record was used for many years, between 1867 and 1941. It listed the applicant's name, date of naturalization, term of the court, name of naturalized aliens and their former nationality.

It is a document issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) since October 1, 1991 and the Federal Courts or certain State Courts on or before September 30, 1991 as proof of a person obtaining U.S. citizenship through naturalization (a legal process to obtain a new nationality).


This certificate was issued by the Naturalization Service and acted as proof that Pauline became a U.S. citizen through "derivation or acquisition at birth (when born outside of the United States.") For example, if Pauline's parents were already U.S. citizens when she was born out of the country. It could also be that her parent(s) became citizens when she was a minor (under 18 years of age) and met the special conditions of the law.

This was a combination of the Declaration, Petition and Certificate of Arrival.

Follow the links below to examples and explanations of the following naturalization records:
(With the exception of the last two forms, the others are not ready yet for publication, but will be added to the Museum's ERC very soon.)

Common Pleas NYC (1892)
County Court, Kings County, NY (1891)
County Court, Queens County, NY (1898)
County Court, Richmond County, NY (1898)
Marine Court NYC (1848)
Superior Court NYC (1878)
Supreme Court NY First Judicial District (1905)
U.S. District Court--Eastern District NY (1903)
U.S. District Court--Southern District NY (1893)


Military Naturalizations (World Wars I and II, and the Korean War)

Women and U.S. Naturalization Law





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