NATURALIZATION RECORDS

What are naturalization records and why you need them?

I have told many people that before you “jump the pond” to your ancestor’s homeland, it is important to gather all the documents and information you can on their life in the United States first. Many people will notice on census records that their ancestors were either AL-Aliens or NA – Naturalized Citizens and there will be a date of Naturalization next to the NA. What most people don’t realized is there is usually at least a two page file with a wealth of information associated with the male immigrants. Wives and children were usually naturalized under their spouse/father. The file usually includes at least two very important documents:

  1. Declaration of Intent – a document they file when they come to the United States telling the government they would like to become a citizen. The waiting period was usually 5 years of residency. Information on the Declaration varied during different time periods, but usually included valuable information such as full name, date of birth, place of birth, arrival date in the U.S, the name of the ship or railroad, plus the names of his wife and children. Newer declarations could include such things as the applicant’s picture.
  2. Petition for Naturalization – after the waiting period the alien would file this with the government and without any issues would be granted citizenship after denouncing allegiance to their prior government and signing an Oath of Allegiance to the U.S.

Sometimes, the 5 year waiting period was waived.  My great-grandfather, Coleman Joyce, came to the U.S. from Ireland in 1915 and was recruited into the U.S. Army, stationed at Ft. Devens in Massachusetts, and was taught a trade. When he was discharged after nine months, he filed a Petition for Naturalization and was approved for citizenship. The great thing was that his documents mentioned what ship he came on and where he left from in Ireland [Lettermore Island, Galway, Ireland], which made it easier to find him on a passenger list. The passenger list then confirmed where he was born and his father’s name. When my parents took their “Trip of a Lifetime” to Ireland in 2011 they were able to take a detour to where Coleman Joyce, my father’s grand-father grew up. He could not imagine that his father was one of 13 known children that lived in a two room house on such a small island. It made the trip more personal to him and it can for you as well.

Other times, citizenship was denied. My great-grandfather’s brother, Michael Joyce came to this country in 1914 and filed a Declaration of Intention. He filled out a WWI like everyone did in about 1917, but he was drafted.  To keep from serving in the war he used his legal right to declare alien ship and not have to serve. He filed his Petition for Naturalization in 1920. He must not have realized that the government would check with the military to see if he was a veteran or not. Since it was found that he claimed alien ship during the war [his legal right], the government exercised their right to deny him citizenship and make him wait another five years to file again. By the time he refilled in 1925, things had changed to my delight. This time he was granted his citizenship, however when I got his file I was shocked that I was staring at a picture of my great-grandfather’s brother.

Top 5 Reasons to Obtain Naturalization Files –

  1. Naturalization records can be a wealth of knowledge that may help you find where your ancestor came from.
  2. Naturalization records after 1906 are usually held by regional National Archives and Records Administration [NARA] locations who are easy to work with
  3. If the record is held by NARA, the cost is usually $7.50
  4. Once the request is received by NARA they have 10 business days to let you know whether a file was found or not, so less wait time then most records
  5. Why not? What do you have to lose?

 

K.G. Genealogy and Research specializes in obtaining Naturalization records post 1906 from NARA for New England, New York, and Pennsylvania. We are also helpful in locating records from local courts prior to 1906; however those records usually cost more than those held by NARA.

See Michael Joyce’s second attempt at citizenship below:

 

 

THE TREASURE OF MILITARY RECORDS

My grandfather was a man of few words. His favorite pastime during his retirement was sitting in his kitchen in Massachusetts, and watching his favorite team, the Boston Red Sox, play. When they won the World Series in 2004, I almost fell over. I immediately called my grandparent’s house to see if my grandfather was okay. He was after all 89 year of age and in poor health and I wanted to make sure he didn’t have a heart attack and collapse. Luckily that wasn’t the case. He was chatty and I could hear pure pride and happiness in his voice. Something I had never heard before in my lifetime but would one more time.

My grandmother had to have when my grandfather was 91 and since she was going to be in the hospital for five days and since my grandfather couldn’t drive anymore, I flew up to Massachusetts to stay with him for the week and to bring him to visit my grandmother daily. Since he had already brought up the subject when he asked me to look into his family history for him, I made what I thought was a great list of interview questions for him. When we sat down to breakfast one morning I started asking him a few questions about his favorite music, movies, and so one. I pretty much got one to two word answers to my open ended questions. I thought I was wasting my time, until I asked the question he must have been waiting to be asked, “What was it like being in the Navy during WWII?” His face lit up like I had never seen and a big smile came across his face. He told me that serving his country during WWII was “The best time of my life”. He then launched into a two hour one sided conversation with me. He told me that he was working in the Navy ship yard repairing ships when the war broke out. He said he followed the war through the papers but never thought about enlisting until the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. After that he felt the need to enlist and since he was working for the Navy it only made sense to him to join the Navy.[1] He told me so many stories that day that it felt I was really meeting the younger version of my grandfather for the first time. My hand was taking notes so fast it would ache for days after, but I was having a fantastic time.

Unfortunately, my grandfather passed away the following May, just before his 92nd birthday. He and my grandmother had made it through 67 years of marriage. He was buried with his fellow soldiers at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne, Massachusetts. After his funeral, I found myself a little lost about what to do next with my life. Should I drop the subject of genealogy or should I still pursue it even though I had lost the person who had inspired me to pick it up. Then one day, during my day job, I was on the internet clicking on random items about WWII. I saw that copies of military records were available to veterans or next-of-kin of deceased veterans.[2] I clicked on the link and it brought me to an online ordering system. I immediately called my father and had him request my grandfather’s military record. Even though he was only in the Navy for just under two years and the charge to the next-of-kin was $60, I thought  the file would just give me back a piece of my grandfather’s life.  I didn’t expect the treasure I received.

Two weeks later I got it in the mail unopened by my father and was amazed with what I had. It was a plain manila file folder that had to be at least 2 inches thick. What could be in there? He wasn’t in the service that long. I opened the folder and there he was, my grandfather’s mug shot I call it. It was the first picture that was taken of him when he enlisted showing his height and noting his weight. Next I found my grandfather’s fingerprint card, and after that a picture of his class when he graduated from boot camp in New York. New York? He never mentioned New York. Every page was a different treasure, a piece of information I never knew.  During his story to me why would he have thought to mention his starting rank, his promotions, where he went to boot camp, what his specialty was in the Navy and so much more. He told me the stories of the who, what, when, and where. Now I was seeing the official story straight from the Navy to his file.  It completed the picture for me and I was beyond thrilled.

A friend of mine’s father passed away just over a year ago. While at our house for dinner she was telling a story about him and at the end mentioned he never would talk about his time in the military. I perked up and asked her how long he was in the service for and she told me he had been in for 20 years and was honorably discharged when she was a child. I couldn’t speak quickly enough. I told her about my grandfather’s military record and even brought it to the table for her to look through. My grandfather was only in for a short time and she was amazed at the information. I went to my file drawer and got the forms that she needed if she decided she wanted to order her father’s military record. She is still debating whether or not to get it. She thinks maybe there was a reason he never talked about it and she’s a little scared of what might be in it.[3] Either way she decides it doesn’t really matter. It’s about knowing she has an option which she never knew existed.



[1] Interview, Name withheld due to privacy, 15 October 2006

[2] National Archives and Veterans Administration [NARA], St. Louis, MO.

[3] Interview, Name withheld due to privacy, 6 May 2012

An Irish Citizenship Success Story

My parent’s and four other couples were planning a general site-seeing trip to Ireland. One of the men going on the trip had a grandfather born in Ireland and asked me to see if I could find the specific place his grandfather came from. Anyone who has attempted this task knows that this is a very difficult task.  I ordered his grandfather’s death record and was able to come up with the county in Ireland in which he was born, but that wasn’t enough.  So I ordered his grandparent’s marriage certificate to see if the information matched or if there was another clue. When I received the marriage certificate I was ecstatic. It listed the supposed townland in which the grandfather was born. With that information in hand I scoured Irish records and came up with a baptismal record with the same name as his grandfather, which had the same parent’s listed as on the marriage record. I called my client with the good news and he immediately called his travel agent and planned an additional week to spend in his grandfather’s townland.  I received great news when he returned. The church where his grandfather was baptized was still standing and not only did he find the original copy of his grandfather’s baptismal record, but also his great-grandparent’s marriage record, and baptismal records for siblings of his grandfather.

A few weeks after return he asked if there was anything he could do to honor the memory of his grandfather. This is when I brought up the idea of applying for Irish Citizenship by descent. Since he was the grandchild of a person born in Ireland, he was eligible to apply. Application is not as easy as it sounds.  There are forms to fill out and certified documentation required and a few more hoops to jump through. He carefully followed the application guidelines and requirements and handed K.B. Genealogy and Research the task of the certified documentation the Irish Embassy requires.

Three months later I received a wonderful phone call.  The man was now a Citizen of Ireland as well as the United States. He was also now eligible for an Irish Passport.  The passport arrived the beginning of March and next thing I know I was invited to a St. Patrick’s day party to celebrate his new Irish Citizenship and Irish Passport. What is he going to do now with dual citizenship? He’s not quite sure yet as it’s only been a couple months. All I know is that I love it when a plan comes together.