The earliest naturalizations in New York State were the colonial oaths of allegiance taken in 1664, 1673, 1687 and 1776. Letters of citizenship and/or alien rights were also granted by the King and by colonial governors until 1700.

After 1790 naturalization records in New York can be found in county courts, including the county supreme courts, circuits courts, courts of common pleas, and the courts of oyer and terminer (former US higher courts). city courts, mayor's courts, marine courts, and United States circuit and district courts also performed naturalizations.

What is Naturalization?
The procedure by which an alien by birth is granted citizenship in a new country is known as naturalization. Naturalization records can provide the vital link to tracing an ancestor to his or her country of origin. These records can be found in a variety of courts. The process of naturalization could be initiated in one state, often the port of entry, and completed in a different state. Citizenship was not mandatory, but many immigrants obtained it as part of re-establishing their national identity in a new country. It was also needed to vote and at one time, to own property.








  • Ellis Island, Gateway to the American Reeves, by Pamela Reeves, 1998
  • Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian, by Dlizabeth Shown Mills, 1997
  • Genealogy Online for Dummies, by Matthew L. Helm, April Leigh Helm, 1998
  • Guide to Naturalization Records of the United States, by Christina K. Schaefer, 1997
  • Hudson Mohawk Gateway, An Illustrated History, by Thomas Phelan, 1985
  • Naturalization & Related Records, New York State Archives, Information Leaflet #6
  • Netting You Ancestors, Genealogical Research on the Internet, by Cyndi Howells, 1997
  • New York Archives Magazine, Volume 1, Number 1, Summer 2001
  • New York, Past and Present, by C. Poli, 1998
  • New York Extra, A Newspaper History of the Greatest City in the World from 1671 to the 1939 World's Fair, From the Erick C. Caren Collection, 2002
  • The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy, 3rd Edition, by Val D. Greenwood, 2000
  • The Unpuzzling Your Past Workbook, by Emily Anne Croom, 1996
  • United States, Naturalization Laws, 1790 to 1954, LDS Research Guide
  • Web Publishing for Genealogy, by Peter Christian, 2000
  • Women and Naturalization, ca. 1802-1940, NARA, by Marian L. Smith, 1998



A person becomes a citizen of a country through a formal legal process know as naturalization. This process is generally broken into several steps:
  • Declaration of intention (also known as first papers)
  • Petition
  • Oath of allegiance
  • Certificate of naturalization (also known as final papers)
  • Court Minutes, Dockets and Orders
Records are sometimes kept in separate journals; often they are intermixed in the court dockets with other court proceedings. Sometimes they are indexed along with other business of the court.

Declaration of Intention
Customarily declarations were usually filed three to seven years before becoming a citizen. They were often filed shortly after arrival, sometimes near the port of entry. The final papers did not have to be filed in the same court, or even the same state as the first papers. Often the immigrant moved during the intervening residency requirement waiting period. This requirement was waived after 1922. Declarations of intention contain: *name, current residence, *date of intention, *date of document, occupation, *place of birth, date of birth or age, nationality, county of emigration, last foreign residence, *port of entry, *date of entry, name of ship, marital status, personal description, *signature. (*before 1906 only these items are usually found in a declaration)

Naturalization Deposition
Depositions, also known as affidavits of witnesses, are testimonies by two witnesses who could attest to the length of residence of the applicant in the United States. These were tendered at the time the petition was filed. Naturalization depositions usually contain: name of witness, address of witness, name of applicant, residence of applicant, length of residence of applicant, statement of applicant's character.

Petition for Naturalization
Petitions are requests to petition the court to grant citizenship. They also show where the declaration of intention was filed. Petitions for naturalization contain: *name, *current residence; date of intention; date of document; *occupation; *place of birth; *date of birth or age; nationality; country of emigration; date of emigration; last foreign residence; length of residence in the United States; *port of entry; *date of entry; name of ship; marital status; name, age, place of birth of spouse; address of spouse; name(s), age(s), place(s) of birth of children; personal description, signature, photograph (after 1940). (*before 1906 only these items are usually found in a petition)

Certificate of Naturalization and Oath of Allegiance
Certificates of naturalization, records of naturalization, and oaths of allegiance performed the same function; to register the granting of citizenship. The person who was naturalized retained the original certificate. Copies of the certificate can be found in court files, land claims, passport applications, etc.

Certificates of naturalization usually contain: name, address, date of document, place of birth, date of birth or age, nationality, country of emigration, marital status, name and age of spouse, address of spouse, name(s) and age(s) of children, personal description, signature, photograph (after 1929).

Oaths of allegiance usually contain: name, current residence, date of document, name of government or country of origin.

Court Minutes, Dockets and Orders
Court minutes are a record of all proceedings of a court. They provide a brief chronology of the actions of a term of court. Some terms of court minutes are combined with dockets, providing a listing of cases pending until a final judgment is rendered. court orders record the final disposition of a case, such as the granting of citizenship. They may be the only source of information of a naturalization when no papers can be found. Court minutes usually contain: current residence, former residence.



New York County Court and Common Pleas
  • Declarations of Intention, 1802-46 FHL Film #0954904+
  • Declarations of Intention, 1846-95 FHL Film #0954072+
  • Declarations of Intention, all nations, 1889-90 FHL Film #0954903
  • Declarations of Intention, Germany, 1846-95 FHL Film #0947890+ (includes other countries)
  • Naturalization Indexes, 1853-66 FHL Film #0953637
New York County Courts
  • Index to Petitions, 1784-1906 FHL Film #0953636+
  • Naturalization Records & Index, 1792-1906 FHL Film #1001979+ This index includes the following courts:
    • New York County Court of Common Pleas, formerly Mayor's Court, 1792-1895
    • New York County Superior Court, 1828-95
    • New York County Supreme Court, 1868, 1896-1906
New York Supreme Court
  • Declarations of Intention, 1907-24 FHL Film #1509730+
  • Declarations of Intention, 1895-1905 FHL Film #0955070+ (This includes some records from the court of common pleas.)
  • Declarations of Intention, Germany 1895-1906 FHL Film #0954049+ (This includes Germanic nations and other nations.)
  • Declarations of Intention, Great Britain, 1896-1906 FHL Film #0954647
  • Declarations of Intention, Italy, 1897-1906 FHL Film #0954657+
  • Petitions and Records of Naturalization, 1907-1924 FHL Film #1435846+
  • Card Index to Naturalization Petitions, 1876-1924 FHL Film #1509012+
Manhattan Borough Board of Elections
  • Record of Naturalized Voters Registered, 1872-1878 FHL Film #1435212+
New York Marine Court
  • Naturalization Records, 1827-1845; Index, 1836-1844 FHL Film #1674549+
New York City Superior Court
  • Index to Naturalizations, 1843-1846 FHL Film #1953636+
  • Declarations of Intention, Great Britain and Germany, 1846-1895 FHL Film #0954630+
Original records of all of the above are at the New York County Courthouse in New York City.

Books and Manuscripts

  • Scott, Kenneth. Naturalizations in the Marine Court, New York City, 1827-1835. New York, N.Y.: New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, 1991.
  • Scott, Kenneth. Naturalizations in the Marine Court, New York City, 1834-1840. New York, N.Y.: New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, 1991.
  Ancestry Immigration Collection

 


While original US nationality legislation of 1790, 1795 and 1802 limited naturalization eligibility to "free white persons," it did not limit eligiblity by sex. But as early as 1804 the law began to draw distinctions regarding married women in naturalization law. Since tht date, and until 1934, when a man filed a declaration of intention to become a citizen but died prior to naturalization, his widow and minor children were "considered as citizens of the United States" if they/she appeared in court and took the oath of allegiance and renunciation. Thus, among naturalization court records, one could find a record of a woman taking the oath, but find no corresponding declaration for her, and perhaps no petition.

New laws of the mid-1800s opened an era when a woman's ability to naturalize became dependent upon her marital status. The act of February 10, 1855, was designed to benefit immigrant women. Under that act, "any woman who is now or may hereafter be married to a citizen of the US, and who herself be lawfully naturalized, shall be deemed a citizen". Therefore, alien women generally became US citizens by marriage to a US citizen or through an alien husband's naturalization.

If a woman's husband naturalized before 1906, the woman may or may not be mentioned on the record which actually granted her citizenship. Her only proof of US citizenship would be her husband's naturalization record. In other cases, an immigrant woman became a citizen when she married a US citizen. In this case, her proof of citizenship was a combination of two documents; the marriage certificate and her husband's birth record or naturalization certificate.

Just as alien women gained US citizenship by marriage, US born women often gained foreign nationality and lost their US citizenship, by marriage to a foreigner. For many years there was disagreement over whether a woman lost her US citizenship simply by virtue of marriage or whether she had to actually leave the US and take up residence with her husband abroad. Finally, it was decided that between 1866 and 1907 no woman lost her US citizenship by marriage to an alien unless she left the US.

After 1907, marriage determined a woman's nationality status completely. Under the act of March 2, 1907, all women acquired their husband's nationality upon any marriage occurring after that date. The change nothing for immigrant women but US born citizen women could now lose their citizenship by any marriage to any alien. Exceptions to this can be found in the West and upper Midwest where women filed homestead entries and it was necessary to prove citizenship to obtain final deed to the property. Some judges granted their petitions despite their marital status.

On September 11, 1922, Congress passed the Married Women's Act, also known as the Cable Act. This 1922 law finally gave each woman a nationality of her own. No marriage since that date has granted US citizenship to any alien woman nor taken it from any US born women who married an alien eligible to naturalization. Under the new law women became eligible to naturalize on almost the same terms as men. The only difference concerned those women whose husbands had already naturalized. If her husband was a citizen, the wife did not need to file a declaration of intention. She could initiate naturalization proceedings with a petition alone (one paper naturalization). A woman whose husband remained an alien had to start at the beginning, with a declaration of intention. It is important to note that women who lost citizenship by marriage and regained it under the Cable act, could file in any naturalization court, regardless of her residence.







1790 In order to apply for citizenship, the law required two years of residency in the US and one year in the state where the immigrant filed for his or her final papers. The immigrant had to be of good character. Children of naturalized citizens were considered to be citizens.

1795 The residency requirement was changed to five years in the US and one year in the state where the naturalization petition was filed. The declaration of intention need to be filed three years before the petition.

1798 The residency requirement was changed to fourteen years in the US, and the declaration of intention needed to be filed five years before the petition for naturalization could be applied for. Aliens were required to report their arrival to the US through a process called Report and Registry.

1802 The law returned to the 1795 requirements, and the declaration of intention was filed three years before the petition. The alien had to live in the US for five years and one year in the state where he or she applied for naturalization. Children of naturalized citizens were considered citizens.

1804 Aliens residing in the US between June 18, 1798 and April 14, 1802 were allowed to naturalize without previously filing a declaration of intention. Widows and children of aliens who died before filing final papers were granted citizenship.

1816 The law required that both the declaration of intention and the alien registry had to be shown on the application for citizenship.

1824 The law changed and reduced the filing time between the declaration of intention and the petition of naturalization from three to two years. The alien had to live in the US for at least five years and one year in the state where the petition was filed. Alien minors were naturalized upon reaching 21 years of age if they had lived in the US continuously for five years.

1828 The law dropped the 1798 Report and Registry requirements.

1862 Aliens over 21 who received an honorable discharge from the military could become citizens without having filed a declaration of intention upon proving one year residency. this applied to the Civil, Mexican, Indian and Spanish American Wars.

1891 The Bureau of Immigration was established under the Treasury Department to handle immigration laws. Health requirements were added, which denied many aliens the opportunity to immigrate to the US.

1906 The Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization was created as part of the Department of Commerce and Labor. The Division of Naturalization handled citizenship records. The Bureau standardized the forms and brought order and control to the naturalization process.

1913 The Division of Naturalization became the Bureau of Naturalization in the Department of Labor.

1918 Those in the US Military or Navy were allowed to file a petition for naturalization without filing a declaration of intention. They also were not required to prove five years residency.

1922 Wives of immigrants no longer could derive their citizenship from their husbands. They had to file their own applications. Alien wives of US citizens could file for citizenship after one year of residency.

1926 There was a clarification of registry requirements, and certificates of arrival were given to aliens. Aliens were required to submit a picture with their declaration of intention.

1933 The Immigration and Naturalization Service was created.

1940 The Immigration and Naturalization Services was transferred to the Department of Justice. Aliens were required to report to their local post office to be fingerprinted within thirty days of their arrival to the US.

1952 The Immigration and Naturalization Act stopped setting quotas on ethnic groups.

1954 Ellis Island closed.









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