|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,
Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian, by
Dlizabeth Shown Mills, 1997
Genealogy Online for Dummies, by Matthew L. Helm, April Leigh Helm,
Guide to Naturalization Records of the United States, by Christina
K. Schaefer, 1997
Hudson Mohawk Gateway, An Illustrated History, by Thomas Phelan,
Naturalization & Related Records, New York State Archives, Information
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,
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,
|A person becomes a citizen of
a country through a formal legal process know as naturalization.
This process is generally broken into several steps:
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 (also known as first
Oath of allegiance
Certificate of naturalization (also known as
Court Minutes, Dockets and Orders
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)
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
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
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
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
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
New York County Courts
Declarations of Intention, 1802-46 FHL Film
Declarations of Intention, 1846-95 FHL Film
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 Supreme Court
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
Manhattan Borough Board of Elections
Declarations of Intention, 1907-24 FHL Film
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+
New York Marine Court
Record of Naturalized Voters Registered, 1872-1878
FHL Film #1435212+
New York City Superior Court
Naturalization Records, 1827-1845; Index, 1836-1844
FHL Film #1674549+
Original records of all of the above are at
the New York County Courthouse in New York City.
Index to Naturalizations, 1843-1846 FHL Film
Declarations of Intention, Great Britain and
Germany, 1846-1895 FHL Film #0954630+
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.
| 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
law required that both the declaration of intention and the alien registry
had to be shown on the application for citizenship.
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
law dropped the 1798 Report and Registry requirements.
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
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.
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.
Division of Naturalization became the Bureau of Naturalization in the Department
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.
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.
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.
Immigration and Naturalization Service was created.
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.
Immigration and Naturalization Act stopped setting quotas on ethnic groups.