Those Records Are Useless

One person’s “useless” is another person’s “useful.”

Recently I heard someone say that naturalization records in the United States in the 19th century are “useless.” It’s true that they generally don’t provide as much information as later records do. Naturalization records in the United States in the 19th century generally only provide the name of the individual, the date/place of the naturalization, the person to whom allegiance was owed, and the names of the witnesses.

Occasionally there may be a declaration of intention and those can provide more information.

But even those little bits of information can be helpful. The document puts your relative in a place on a specific date. If the law was being followed, he had to have been in the United States for a certain amount of time specified by law. The place of the naturalization could be a clue and the witnesses may have known the ancestor in the “old country” or, in some cases, even been related to him.

Those records might not be as useless as you think.

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