Introduction to Red Book: Naturalization
This entry was originally written by Alice Eichholz, Ph.D., CG for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
Many naturalization records (mostly federal) are now held by the regional centers of the National Archives, but an immigrant’s naturalization might have been initiated in nearly any court in any state. Since locating the correct court is not always easy, it is essential to be familiar with the naturalization process. The first step for a new immigrant was to go to court to declare the intent to become a citizen. After this, a court record was initiated. Once the requirements of citizenship had been met, the person applying for naturalization reappeared in a court, though not necessarily the same court where they initially applied. Finally, the court would award citizenship. At all three stops, records were produced.
After 1906 the naturalization process was carried out in U.S. district courts, with records generally available through the appropriate court for each state. For an excellent discussion of the process and the records it created, see John J. Newman, American Naturalization Processes and Procedures, 1790–1985: What They Are and How to Use Them (Indianapolis, Ind.: Indiana Historical Society, 1996); and Loretto Dennis Szucs, They Became Americans: Finding Naturalization Records and Ethnic Origins (Salt Lake City: Ancestry Publishing, 1998). For some states, naturalization is discussed under Court Records. Some naturalization records are included in www.ancestry.com databases.