General Collection Information
This collection contains naturalization records between 1823 and 1974 for Palm Beach County, Florida. There are two types of documents available in this collection: Declarations of Intent (casually known as “first papers”) and Petitions for Naturalization (“second papers”). Naturalization records contain a wealth of information. In addition to immigration information, you may also find personal details such as occupation, or a physical description or photo.
Using this Collection
Records in this collection may include the following information:
When searching naturalization records, keep in mind that some immigrants changed their names when they became citizens. Searching for alternate names or spellings can make it easier to find your ancestor
The records in this collection contain a lot of information, possibly even photos. Some records may span multiple images. Clicking the arrow to the right of the image allows access to multiple images, if available.
If you can’t find a record, try looking at other places your family member may have lived. The process of naturalization took a minimum of five years, and it’s possible your family member may have moved between registrations. If you’re looking for a record from before 1906, check nearby courts. Before 1906, any “court of record” could grant citizenship, including city, county, state, or federal courts.
Collection in Context
The naturalization process in the United States has changed over time. After Independence, Congress passed the Naturalization Act of 1790, giving new Western European immigrants the ability to apply for citizenship. Eligible applicants had to have lived in the U.S. for at least two years and be “free white person(s) of good character.” This law excluded Indigenous, African, and Asian people from citizenship.
After the Civil War, the Civil Rights Act of 1866 brought about the 14th Amendment, guaranteeing citizenship rights to formerly enslaved Black people and all others born in the United States with the exception of Native Americans.
In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was signed into law and wouldn’t be repealed until the Magnuson Act of 1943. However, Asians born in the U.S. had their citizenship rights restored through the Supreme Court decision of The United States vs. Wong Kim Ark (1898). This ruling affirmed the 14th Amendment and guaranteed birthright citizenship to all non-Indigenous people born on U.S. soil.
In 1906 Congress passed the Basic Naturalization Act, which introduced the use of standardized naturalization forms. The records in this collection are some of the oldest records available for Palm Beach County. Many of the records in this collection predate the founding of Palm Beach County, as it was a part of Dade County until 1909.
The Expatriation Act of 1907 mandated that any American woman who married a foreigner would give up her U.S. citizenship and take on that of her spouse. She could only regain her U.S. citizenship if her foreign spouse became a naturalized citizen, or if she went through the naturalization process herself. The act was repealed with the passing of the Cable Act in 1922.
The Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 banned immigration from Asia, provided for the creation of the U.S.-Mexico Border Patrol, and set quota limits on immigrants from Southern and Eastern European countries. That same year, the Snyder Act extended birthright citizenship to Native Americans. Yet, all Native Americans didn’t have citizenship and suffrage rights until 1948.
The Nationality Act of 1940 proclaimed all people born on U.S. soil to be citizens, regardless of ethnic background.
Ancestry.com. “Naturalization Records: What Good Are They and Where Can I Find Them?” Last modified October 14, 2009, https://www.ancestry.com/corporate/blog/naturalization-records-what-good-are-they-and-where-can-i-find-them.
Goodman, Adam. The Deportation Machine: America’s Long History of Expelling Immigrants. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2020.
Jacobson, Matthew Frye. Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999.
Ngai, Mae. Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004.
National Archives. “Naturalization Records.” Last Modified May 27, 2021. https://www.archives.gov/research/immigration/naturalization.
National Archives. Hacker, Meg. “When Saying ‘I Do’ Meant Giving Up Your U.S. Citizenship.” Accessed August 9, 2021. https://www.archives.gov/files/publications/prologue/2014/spring/citizenship.pdf.
Smith, Marian L. “Race, Nationality, and Reality.” National Archives. Last modified Summer 2002, https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2002/summer/immigration-law-1.htm.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. “History of the Oath of Allegiance” Last modified April 23, 2020, https://www.uscis.gov/citizenship/learn-about-citizenship/the-naturalization-interview-and-test/history-of-the-oath-of-allegiance.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. “History of the Certificate of Naturalization (1906-1956)” Last modified January 6, 2020, https://www.uscis.gov/about-us/our-history/history-office-and-library/featured-stories-from-the-uscis-history-office-and-library/history-of-the-certificate-of-naturalization-1906-1956.