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.



3 Responses

  1. I was given a citizenship paper for my great grandfather telling me where he went to get it. I’m hoping there’s a declaration of intention in the city named as the place he took his oath. It was around 1870.

  2. I learned from the 1850s naturalization of a 2nd GGF that he could sign his name. That’s an important bit of family history for Irish Catholics of the time.

    And from the 1870s naturalizations of a GGF and his brother, I learned a surname change, as well as a family connection, from County Longford.

  3. I learned from the naturalization record of my great grandfather, that at the time of his naturalization, His wife and two sons who were also born in England became citizens upon his naturalization. I searched and searched for my great grandmother’s record and could not find it. Until finally a clerk in a little court house pointed out what was on my great grandfather’s record. .

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