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Early Naturalization Records from New England States, 1790–1906 (broadcast 2015 Apr 15)

Welcome and good afternoon. My name is Andrea Bassing-Matney welcome to the National Archives Know Your Records program.
We are broadcasting live from the National Archives building in Washington, D.C., although
our presenter is calling in from Boston. So thank you for being patient and waiting. We
had a few technical difficulties this afternoon. But now we’re ready to go.
So for those of you who have joined us here onsite, again, our presenter is calling in
from the National Archives in Boston. And we do have some handouts for you so hopefully
you picked those up. And if you have any questions so that the presenter can hear you, we ask
that you use the microphone in the aisle so he can hear you all the way in Boston.
For those of you watching online, you can also ask questions by using the chat feature
on the YouTube Web page. You will also find hyperlinks on this page
so that you can bring the same handouts that we’ve provided here so feel free to use those
and there’s also a link to live captioning so you can see the written word as he speaks
it. So today from Boston, we are pleased to have
archive specialist Joe Keefe who is presentation is entitled “Early Naturalization Records
from New England States.” Today he will discuss how to use naturalization proceedings for
federal, county and local courts from Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont between
1790 and 1906. Joseph P. Keefe has a Bachelor’s degree in history from Framingham State University
in Framingham, Massachusetts, and a master of art in American history from the University
of Massachusetts-Boston. He has worked with the National Archives for over ten years many
a variety of positions. At this time, he is an archive specialist
with duties as a reference team lead and social media with the National Archives at Boston.
Mr. Keefe lectures in New England on numerous subjects including genealogy, naturalization,
and (inaudible) military records such as 54th Massachusetts infantry and World War II records
held at the National Archives. He is also a member and researcher of numerous archival
and historical society in the United States and curator for the Waltham Massachusetts
Historical Society. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming
our speaker Joe Keefe. (applause).
>>Joe Keefe: Thank you, Andrea, and thank you Know Your Records for having me.
This is really exciting for me to talk about these records because they’re one of the more
unusual collections that the National Archives has.
And these are naturalizations not only from federal courts but also local courts as well
as state courts throughout the New England area, New York and partially from Illinois.
Could we move to slide 4, please? Now, the reason — we have a lot of people
who ask us why do you have these records? Why is it that the National Archives has this
huge collection of state and local naturalization records? And the reason is that during the
Great Depression, many of the employment and relief opportunities, things such as the WPA
or if you wanted to get a job in the civilian conservation core, you had to be an American
citizen. And the jobs were limited to American citizens.
So if you were looking for work from these organizations, you had to show proof. Now,
a lot of people prior to 1906, women and children simply derived their citizenship from either
their father or their husband. And there’s no paperwork generated for these folks. So
how do they go about getting a job, and how do they go about proving that they were citizens?
And one of the techniques that they came up at the INS was to contact the WPA and the
initial thought was to do a countrywide basically copying of the naturalization records so that
people could once they wrote in or called in to the INS, that they would have some kind
of a record. If we could move to slide 5, please.
So, again, this requirement that people prove citizenship proved extremely difficult for
women especially but also children who had been young when their fathers, their fathers
had become citizens. They had absolutely no paperwork. And that includes both federal,
state, and local courts recorded only the name of the person being naturalized which
was usually the head of the household. And although the wife and children derived
their citizenship, their names were not recorded. This is one of the ways they came up with,
having a WPA project. Put a lot of people to work. It’s in the middle — they began
the project in the middle of the Great Depression in the 1930s. And if we could move to slide
6, please. So the INS used this project, and their object
was to photograph something of the fact of naturalization just so people, if they stated
that they had become citizens, that there was some way of proving it. So under this
project, various courts, for everyone, state, local, federal in Maine, Massachusetts, New
Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont made their naturalization records available to the INS.
And then clerical staff would go in. They would summarize the critical data on to some
index cards, thus creating an index and the WPA workers copied the naturalization records
using what was then known as a dexigraph reproduction system which basically prints — took a photograph
and a negative on a large card. The WPA started this in New England, New York,
and partially in Illinois. But when World War II came, the project was halted before
it could really get going by the regions. By World War II, most of the New Deal agencies
such as the CCP and the WPA had ended. So, although World War II really was the harbinger
of ending the project, the project was really dead because people didn’t really need this.
We happened to be very lucky in New England in that five of the six New England states
were finished. They didn’t get to Connecticut. Connecticut never offered their records to
the project, and they kind of went right over to New York.
Now, Connecticut does have an index. It was not created by the WPA, but it’s very similar.
If we could move to slide 7, please. This is an example of what a dexigraph looks
like. And from the late 1930s until about 1961, the INS used these copies to document
citizenship granted before 1907. Now, whether it was of the actual petitioner or the wife
or child who drives citizenship, it was proof for them thus to gain a job with these agencies.
Now, if the INS found a record, what it would do is it would send a form to the court holding
the originals. They would just ask them to verify the fact that these people had become
citizens. They would send it back. They would add it to the index.
Now, as you can kind of tell from this naturalization petition, you know, for us and if you are
a genealogist, there’s lots of information that can be garnered just from this one page.
We’ll talk about that as we move forward. If we could move to page 8, please.
And, again, this was the Work Projects Administration. This is what the dexigraph camera looked like.
You can kind of see it in the middle of the photograph. It was a kind of cumbersome thing
to use. Again, it was a negative copy that they produced. And it took a lot of people
to do this. This was a huge project for the WPA and it put a lot of people to work.
If we could move to slide 9, please. Now, why were they doing this? Really, for
genealogists or anybody doing any kind of research into 19th, early 20th century naturalization,
prior to 1960, these proceedings were handled in a somewhat loose and slipshod manner. It
was from court to court to court what kind of questions they were asking, how vigorous
they were making on making sure information being conveyed by people was the actual truth.
It really was — it was really not something that was standardized in any way, shape, or
form. Each court had its own methods and rules regarding
the naturalization procedures. No matter what federal statutes might demand, a lot of these
courts just simply made it up as they went. Some were far less demanding than others.
It didn’t take early immigrants long to learn this so you would have — one of the reasons
why this ended in 1906 was people in Congress started seeing huge numbers of folks going
to one or two specific courts, no one going to any others to get American citizenship.
And they sat looking into why is this happening? Why is this — why are these mobs going to
one court and not another? And they very quickly learned that that naturalization rules were
pretty lenient in a lot of these places. If we could move to slide 10, please. Now,
what information as a researcher do you need to know to locate a naturalization petition
from this era prior to 1906 but really for anything even — anything after 1906.
Really to conduct an effective search, you need to have the following. You obviously
need to have the person’s full name. And this is — this has to include different spellings,
especially for eastern European or ethnic names. Can be very difficult. And the proceedings
are very much almost like a passenger list. So what you’re looking at –I will show you
some examples of the actual naturalization records, what you’re looking at is something
that a clerk was sitting at a table and was orally asking these questions to the person
becoming a citizen. So if someone had a difficult name, it’s a
good chance it could get misspelled or somebody wrote down something wrong. It’s always very
helpful to have the exact different spellings. Now, you need to know the home address. You
need to — it is helpful to know a city, town, an exact address. But you need to know what
state the person was living in to — when they naturalized, when they became a citizen
to actually search correctly. You don’t want to be searching for someone in Rhode Island
who became a citizen in Massachusetts. And you need to know the approximate date
of naturalization. Again, you don’t want to be searching for — if you have a name like
Jerry O’Connor or something like that or Timothy Kelly, you can imagine how difficult that
might be into determining is this the right Timothy Kelly I’m looking for. So you need
to know at least an approximate date of naturalization. It helps winnow it down a little bit.
Also, useful things such as date of birth, date of U.S. arrival, and the country of origin.
Those things aren’t necessary. What is necessary is the full name. You need to know where they
were living, at the very least the state, and an approximate date of naturalization.
Move to slide 11, please. Now, this is an example of what the index looks like. And
the dexigraph collection from New York, New England and Illinois is what was produced
as a soundex index. Now, today it is not really necessary for researchers to use the soundex
but it was really quite a clever system. The soundex is a coded surname for the last
name index based on the way a surname sounds rather than the way it is spelled. So surnames
that sound the same but are spelled differently like Smith and Smyth have the same code. Once
these Smiths are grouped together alphabetically, then they put them alphabetically by first
name so it becomes a little easier to find. The soundex coding system was developed so
you could find a surname even though it may have been recorded under various spellings.
Again, because a lot of this was done orally, you could have various spellings on names
that this system actually helps. Now, it is a little easier today because our friends
at have actually indexed the index, if that makes sense. They have made
it searchable by name. But, again, if you have something like what
you’re seeing on the screen, George Callahan, you could imagine how many George Callahans
or Timothy Kellies or Robert O’Connors were coming into Boston, just Boston, between 1790
and 1906. So this is an example of the card and the kind of information you’re getting.
If you could move to slide 12, please. Now, the soundex I wanted to just kind of show
you on the right-hand side of your screen. You see three cards. These are all men named
Joseph Keefe. I’m sure they were stand-up citizens and wonderful Americans. But as you
can see, if you just knew Joseph Keefe and possibly when somebody was born, you can go
through and kind of pin down the person that you’re looking for.
Now, the soundex index is for, again, the states of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire
and Vermont. They’re all grouped in one index. Rhode Island and Connecticut have separate
indexes. And New York and Illinois also have soundex indexes which are separate. So keep
in mind, if you’re doing any kind of search for people in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire
and Vermont, those folks are all grouped into one index. And, again, has digitized
and indexed these by name. What you can do is you can still go through.
You can still use Ancestry if you want to use a soundex. There are ways of getting the
soundex code. It’s based on, again, the sounding — the name of how it sounds. And it will
equate characters to it. I think if you go on to, not
the guitar player but the genealogist, he has a soundex. You type in the name and it
will give you a soundex code. And then you can go into Ancestry and look up K100 which
would be Keefe and scroll through all the Keeves.
Could we move to the next slide, please, 13. Now, I wanted to show you this. This is index
cards from New York. And the index cards can actually be valuable records for genealogists
in their own right. I will give a caveat to anybody who’s looking into — we’ll go over
this a little bit before we end the day today. But if you’re a genealogist and you’re looking
into trying to find a naturalization record for the State of Connecticut or the State
of New York, most of the ones for those two states for whatever reason don’t have a lot
of genealogical information on the actual record.
But as you can see by these index cards, the ones on the left-hand side here are all for
courts of New York. And if you are a genealogist, you can garner a lot of information off of
just the index cards themselves. Now, some of the information will be on here
is the person’s address, their occupation, their date of birth, their date of arrival
which is very helpful for genealogists. Name, address, and occupation of the witnesses who
stood up in court. These are usually family, friends or co-workers. So it also opens up
another avenue of investigation for researchers where they can kind of garner some of these
names. Now, the actual record from New York probably
won’t have as much information. So keep in mind, especially for Connecticut and New York,
and we will discuss a little about this later on, but the index can be oftentimes more valuable
than the actual record itself. If we could move to slide 14, please. Now,
again, these are examples of soundex cards from the Chicago — from the Illinois area.
Our office in Chicago, Illinois holds the naturalization records for Illinois. I believe
it was only half the state that was completed, so they don’t have everybody. But you can
write to our office in Chicago if you had someone in Illinois or, like, Ohio, that area,
or if you had someone who naturalized, and they’ll be able to tell you if it exists or
not or who you can contact to then get a copy of the actual record.
And the cards themselves like those in New York have very good information on each of
the information. Just as an example, if you knew nothing about the one up top, Robert
Bruce Malcolm, you can garner some information on there that you might not have known. You
have his address, where he was living. You have his country of allegiance, date of birth
extremely important for genealogists. And you have two people named as witnesses. So
just from that one card, you can gather all kinds of information that will help you kind
of peel back that onion, as they say, when you’re doing research.
If we can move to Number 15, please. Now, what you’re seeing on the left-hand side of
the page is an actual dexigraph. And you can see — it was dark. It was a negative copy
that they produced. What these are actually naturalization petitions, and they are the
second-to-final papers that an immigrant will put in to the court before the court accepts
this. These are the actual — it is the actual paperwork that citizens are granted citizenship
on. It’s not the citizenship certificate that we’re most familiar with where you have groups
of people showing up and they have a naturalization ceremony and they take the oath of allegiance
and then they are handed a certificate. This is the paperwork that they put in with
the court and the court will actually — the court’s the actual arbiter of making a decision
of someone’s naturalization. And the application is submitted to the court.
They meet the residency requirements. Back then, if they had declared their intention
to become citizens, their information is then taken and accepted. Most petitions created
before 1906 offer little in terms of personal information, and that’s pretty standard throughout.
Some offer more than others. But in the Victorian era, especially, they’re not getting into
a lot of personal information. It’s really a copy and just a fact of naturalization.
That’s what they’re trying to convey and put down and the person became an American citizen.
After 1906, petitions contain generally the same information at the Declaration of Intention.
Declaration of Intention is taken out before the petition of naturalization is finalized.
When an immigrant walks in and says I would like to take out a Declaration of Intention,
they then have seven years in which to complete the process which would be finishing the paperwork
that you’re viewing on the screen right now. This has to be completed within seven years
of someone declaring an intention to become a citizen.
If we could move to slide 16, please. Now, what you’re seeing on the left-hand side,
this is a — from the United States district court in Boston, this is how they look now
on Family Search. Our friends at Family Search have digitized this. I will talk a little
bit about this at the end of the presentation. You can see it is not a negative anymore.
It is a nice positive copy, and there is some pretty good information in here that’s useful
for any genealogists. Naturalization records can help you find such
things, especially the ones prior to 1906. Prior to 1906, both federal, state, and local
— again, it varies from court to court. But the kind of information you’re going to get
is it’s going to help you find date and port of arrival which can then help you go and
search for a passenger list. Place of birth for your ancestor, don’t be surprised if you
see and Mr. James Mackenzie is here on the left-hand side. He was born in Nova Scotia,
Canada. He just put Nova Scotia. You see this, it is quite common where you
see just simply Ireland. The Irish are famous for this. Or Italy. But some people got very
loquacious. They would tell villages and towns and perhaps counties. So it’s always worth
checking. Now, a typical — this is — what you’re seeing
is a typical naturalization record from 1790 till about 1906 from the United States district
court in Boston. These are usually two pages. And they’ll usually show such things as the
person’s address, what their occupation is, where they were born, date of birth, date
and place of arrival in the United States which is very helpful for genealogists, again,
to make that connection back to the passenger list and their first arrival in the United
States. We can move to 17, please. Now, this is the
second page of James Mackenzie’s naturalization. The reason I wanted to show this is because
on the two pages it will show two witness’ who will speak for James Mackenzie’s moral
character, that was attached to the principles of the Constitution. He was not an anarchist. Or anything of the sort but witnesses again were usually co-workers friends or family.
Usually these people, if you begin an investigative tread on some of these witnesses, it may open
up some other lines for genealogists. If we could move to Number 18, please.
Now, on all of these in the middle of the record, you are going to see it says in a
said petitioner further represents that he made a primary Declaration of Intention to
become a citizen. That means that Mr. Mackenzie walked into it — you will see it here, it
is circled in the middle — in 1895 walked into the United States Circuit Court in Boston
and made a declarative statement and said I’m intending to become a citizen.
Oftentimes the information on the Declaration of Intention is not very dissimilar from what
you’re seeing on a petition for naturalization. But you never know. It can — if someone moved
in the interim or had a very serious life change, information on the declaration could
be different than what you’re looking at in the final paper. So it’s always worth getting
the Declaration of Intention for researchers. And as you can see here, James Mackenzie lists
the United States Circuit Court in Boston. If a declaration was taken out in the federal
court, the National Archives will hold those copies. If it was taken out in a state court,
the Waltham District Court or the Salem District Court, for example, the researcher will have
to contact the state archives to get a copy of that.
I’d like to point this out. I think it’s important. Something oftentimes overlooked by genealogists,
if they see that, they might not understand what it is. So what we want to encourage researchers
to do is to kind of peel back every layer and to find every clue that could be out there
for what they’re doing. And this is another one for them, another clue to use.
So if we could move to Number 19, please. Now, this is an example of first papers or
Declaration of Intention. And normally the first papers were completed soon after someone’s
arrival in the United States, depending on — depending on the laws that were in effect
at the time. Certain groups such as women and children were exempted. After 1862, those
who were honorably discharged from the United States military were excused from taking this
first step. So if you remember the movie “Gangs of New
York,” where they kind of set up these recruiting stations right next to ships that were docking
from Ireland, prior to 1862, that wouldn’t have been taking place because the immigrant
would have to go to a court and make a declaration. One of the reasons that they changed the law
in 1862 is they desperately needed men for the Union Army. One way of getting that was
to be able to directly recruit people right off of the boats. So that was waived after
1862. Until 1906, the content of the Declaration of Intentions varied dramatically from one
county to another and one court to another. Again, that is really from — for most of
that paperwork, it really varies both for local, state, and federal courts. And a large
percentage of the first papers created before 1906 contain very little biographical information.
Now, what you’re viewing on the right is the Declaration of Intention for James Mackenzie
from the United States Circuit Court in Boston. Declarations taken out in federal court usually
contain the following information: Occupation, place and date of birth, where and when the
immigrant arrived in the United States. Again, it varies. But it is another avenue to look
at, to find information and to really kind of help you complete your research into the
individuals. If we could move to slide 20, please. Now,
I wanted to show you this. This is a Declaration of Intention for William Edmonds from the
Albany, New York City court. And I wanted to just show it as an example of how the information
varies from court to court. This declaration gives Edmond’s birth date, where he immigrated
and his intended settlement. That can be really helpful for genealogists, where did he intend
to go. That question isn’t asked on any of the ones from New England. When they immigrate
wasn’t asked. You can see there are differences from these courts.
There are a couple of courts that really asked nothing. It was just a person’s name and the
date that they actual became a citizen or took out their original Declaration of Intention.
If we could move to 21, please. Now, this is just another example of a Declaration of
Intention from the Court of Common Pleas in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. This will be held by
our Chicago office. But I wanted to show it just to kind of show that really the wide
variety of information that’s on here. Now, this is for a gentleman named Adam Merkel.
If you didn’t know much about Adam Merkel, you won’t know much after reading this. You
will find he is a native of and not much else. Again, it is an example of the really large
differences in information in a lot of these records.
If we could move to 21, please. Now, I also wanted to show you an example of a non-federal
court record. This is from the third District Court of Bristol County in New Bedford. It
is known as the mariner capital of New England. So we had a lot of people coming in and staying
in the area and settling in and around New Bedford, Fair Haven, Cape Cod area. This is
for Charles Lomboy who was a free black living in Fair Haven, Massachusetts. He was employed
as a mariner. This naturalization is three pages long. So
you can kind of get a sense of the disparity in information that the third District Court
of Bristol is asking. And the court in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, they’re not asking anything.
And if you go into the third District Court of Bristol County, you are being interrogated.
Where would you probably go to find out where the least information is being asked and go
to that one? This is great if you are researching Charles Lomboy. There is lots of information
here about him. You are getting what his occupation was, where he was residing, where and when
he came into the United States. On the second page, again, you are getting witnesses. You
are getting a lot more information here than just the kind of single page stuff that a
lot of the courts were asking. If we could move to 23, please. Again, these
are examples of the second and third pages just to kind of show you. It really just points
out the disparity in information that really what was going on in the American judicial
system at the time, especially in regards to naturalization and naturalization law.
If we could move to 24, please. Now, I had mentioned Connecticut and New York
a little while ago. I just wanted to show you an example.If you are doing research in
Connecticut records, you are in for a huge disappointment. Anything prior to 1906, really
pre1907, there’s not a whole lot there. As you can see from this, there’s just listings
of names where people are residing at which most of us already know. We need to know that
so we can get to the index and a date of naturalization. So there’s really not a whole lot of information.
One thing you’re getting here, though, is the court that the Declaration of Intention
was filed. Now, if you follow this line, if you’re doing say, Thomas Canning who is the
top guy on the list and you go to the Superior Court and find Mr. Canning’s Declaration of
Intention, you will find something similar to this right here. They are just listings
of names. There is very little biographical or genealogical information for the States
of Connecticut and New York. If we could move to 25, please. And, again, this is an example
of pre1906 naturalization from the Circuit Court of Northern Illinois. This is really
a good example of how information prior to 1906 varied from court to court.
If we looked at really kind of wealth of information that you are finding on the record in the
third District Court and New Bedford and then take a look at this record, there’s not a
whole lot here and really if you were doing research into this gentleman, Henry Blogeth
you would find very little that’s helpful within this page, very little. It is just
an example. I like to warn people about that but encourage them to take the dive and look
into these records, especially for genealogists but historians as well.
But for genealogists, you may have a record that has all kinds of information or you may
have something very similar to this that has very little information. But you never know
until you find it. If we could move to Number 26, please.
Again, this is just another example to kind of show you how really different, radically
different things were from court to court to court in the United States especially with
regards to naturalization law. This is an United States District Court for
the Northern District of Ohio. Again, this comes from our office in Chicago. It is, again,
just showing variance in information. If you knew nothing about Adam Merkel, this is his
naturalization record, you would know really nothing about Adam Merkel after you finished
other than he was from Cleveland. So if we could move to 27, please. Now, one
thing I do want to point out — this really confuses a lot of people — this is the Section
2 of the naturalization act from 1855. Any woman who is now or may hereafter be married
to a citizen of the United States and who might herself be lawfully naturalized shall
be deemed a citizen. What does that mean? Well, naturalization for women has always
been this really kind of confusing issue. And in general, prior to 1922, women did not
naturalize. They simply derived citizenship through their husband or their father. Very
few women actually walked into court under their own name and did it, not unheard it.
But it was pretty unusual. When things change, when women are granted
the right to vote, now they begin to naturalize under their own names. By law they have to
naturalize under their own names. So you see this huge influx of women after 1922 when
they were granted the right to vote. Keep that in mind, 1922 is really a kind of cut-off
date, especially for women. And a lot of times when you are looking on the census and you
find a husband and a wife, the wife will be listed as naturalized, she simply derived
it from her husband prior to 1922. After that, if you see a woman on the census
page, on a census page and it said she’s a naturalized citizen, she probably took the
paperwork out under her own name so just keep that in mind. That’s really important.
But, again, it’s not unheard it that women did this under their own name. And I wanted
to show you this. If we could move to Number 29, please.
Slide 29 shows you a record. This is a petition for naturalization pour Barbara Baier. And
she applied for citizenship in the United States District Court for the District of
Columbia on January 29th, 1892. And you’ll see in the middle, I’ve circled it where the
clerk had to alter the text as a man of good moral character, crossed “man” out and quote
“a woman of good moral character.” Again, it was unusual and they had to kind of doctor
some of these records to get women naturalized but it wasn’t completely unheard of. Some
women did — Mr. Baier had died before he could finish the application process. He was
applying for citizenship himself. So when he passed away before he completed
the process, the wife picked it up under her own name. Again, this is another naturalization
record. This comes from the collection of the National Archives in Boston. It is for
Mary Medley from the United States District Court in Boston. Mrs. Medley was naturalizing
under her own name, again, because — this is a different lady — her husband had died
before he completed the naturalization process. While this is, again, unusual to see a woman’s
name in the petition before the year 1922, some women did naturalize if their husband
had died, if they never get married, their father never came here. They’re certainly
not barred from the process. They could certainly do it. But it was unusual.
And this is just another example where we’re actually altering documents so under here
it says that she is the wife of said Edmond Medley who is now deceased so she is doing
this under her own name because of his passing. If we could move to slide 31, please. Now,
one thing, when women were granted the right to petition for citizenship under their own
name in 1922, women who were married to an alien had to petition for citizenship as if
they were aliens themselves. And this was very controversial. It only lasted for about
ten years. I might be wrong with that. But it wasn’t very long. So if you had a nativeborn
woman in the United States who married a foreignborn man who had not yet completed the naturalization
process, she lost her citizenship and had to reapply under her own name as if she had
just gotten off the boat from a foreign country. It was called repatriation. This is a repatriation
naturalization for a Catherine Hogan who was married to her husband James Hogan in 1907.
If you look closely, Catherine is not petitioning the court for citizenship until 1943. So there
is a huge gap in time there. She just didn’t — we’ve run into this quite a bit here. I
can’t speak for other custodial units within the National Archives. But we’ve had several
units who came in, and they were quite bitter about it.One woman came in and said her mother
never felt she needed to give up something she never lost. She’s quite right about that.
She never did give up her citizenship. It was just kind of stripped from her.
This is something to keep in mind. I don’t know how long this lasted. Maybe just into
the early ’30s. Can certainly look it up. These are things to keep in mind. Again, it
is another kind of layer you are peeling back that onion. Keep in mind that these do exist.
If we can move to 32, please. There are other laws — so between 1824 till 1906, minor aliens
who had lived in the United States before their 23rd birthday could filed a petition
and declaration at the same time. I believe even today — I don’t think a Declaration
of Intention is required. I’m not wholly familiar with immigration law but I think that’s the
case. Over the years Congress has tweaked these laws and there have been changes but
the setup is basically the same. If you are an alien, you come into this country and you
a right to walk into any court in the United States of America and say I would like to
be a citizen of the United States. You then have an option of taking out a Declaration
of Intention to become a citizen in which case you have seven years to complete the
process or you can establish residency which I believe is five years, five to seven, and
then complete the process that way. If we could move on to 33, please.
Now, this is — so finding these records, how do we find them? How do we locate them?
This is a card for a gentleman named Timothy Sullivan. And for researchers to find the
direct dexigraph or naturalization record that they’re looking for, they need to know
the volume and the page number. So if you’re looking it up, the most important thing on
this index is going to be the third line. You’ll see it circled there. It is the USDC
Boston which stands for the United States District Court in Boston and then two numbers,
89-98. What that stands for is volume? Volume 89, page 98. That is what you need to now
know to find the record for Timothy Sullivan. If we can move to 34, please. Now, our friends
at which is free, they are completely free. You can log on and begin
searching. They have recently finished digitizing our collection at National Archives-Boston,
our dexigraph collection. This information is free. It is available to all researchers.
Family Search is currently working on a name index so researchers can search for a person’s
name but it is not completed yet. So you still have to request an index search. We can do
that for you. Or you can search the index via I believe Family Search
now has the index now as well. What you’re look for is that third line. If you were looking
for Timothy Sullivan, what you are seeing on the left here is Timothy Sullivan’s actual
petition for naturalization. If you were looking for this, you’d need to find that card.
If we could move to 35, please. Now the collection is located on Family Search
under New England, petitions for naturalization. The year range which Family Search has given
for the collection is a little incorrect. It’s really for the years — most important
years are going to be 1790 to 1906. I think Family Search put the years in just to give
themselves some leeway. But the — almost really the bulk of the collection is going
to be between the years 1790 and 1906. If we could move to the next slide, 36, please.
Now, once we get into New England petitions for naturalizations, what you need to do is
click on view images in this collection. And it says — you can see there in the middle,
it will say browse through 792,000 images. I believe we’re over 900,000 now. I think
the entire collection has been put on Family Search. They’ve completed it. And because
you cannot search by a name yet, you have to browse through to find the naturalizations
that you’re looking for. And as of this program, not all the images
have been uploaded. I believe they’re just about complete with Vermont, and I think Rhode
Island and Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire are completely done. When we were putting
this presentation together, it wasn’t. But they go very quickly and Family Search gets
a lot of material up very fast, a lot of these collections. Vermont I do not believe it is
complete but everybody else is. If we can move to slide 37, please.
Again, this is the index card for a William Bowles of Lowell, Massachusetts, who is naturalized
at the United States Circuit Court in Boston. Again, as an example really to make sure that
researchers know this, the most important thing is going to be the third line where
it says USDC, Boston, Mass, 115-7. That’s standing for volume 115, page 7. So now what
the researcher will have to do to find this is to get on We have to
find the United States District Court in Boston, volume 115 and page 7. We are going to come
to Mr. William C. Bowles’ actually naturalization petition.
If we can move to 38, please. Researchers then have to go on and within
this you pick the state which is up top and then you have to pick the court. If you click
on Massachusetts, you will see underneath U.S. Circuit Court — so if we are looking
for Mr. Bowles, we would then click on U.S. Circuit Court for Boston. This is under Massachusetts.
And we’re going through this fairly quickly. But if you log on to Family Search and just
start looking around, it becomes pretty clear. It’s pretty intuitive how to use this and
to — how to navigate through to find what you’re looking for. If we could move to 39,
please. Now, again, if we’re looking for Mr. Bowles,
we’ve clicked into Massachusetts. We’ve clicked into the United States Circuit Court in Boston
and now we have to click into volume 115. As I’ve circled here, just click on volume
115. We’ve located the court which we needed. We scrolled through until we have found the
correct volume that we needed. Now, we need to find the actual page number.
Now, as you scroll through volume 115 from the United States Circuit Court, what you’re
looking for is a page number. Now, the great thing about the dexigraph collection is that
when the dexigraphs were collected and produced in the 1930s, the WPA put all kinds of identifying
information on the side of the card. So you’ll see U.S. Circuit Court, Boston, Massachusetts,
volume 115, page 7. And this is for William C. Bowles. As you can see, this is some pretty
good information about Mr. Bowles on here. If we could move to slide 41. Now, again,
I wanted to mention has the index not the actual records. Family Search did
the work on this project and did the — really put everything together, they have both the
index as well as the petitions. And you can find both on their Web site. But don’t forget
that if you are using Ancestry, if you have it at home or using it at the library or using
it at one of the National Archives’ facilities all over the country, if you find an index,
that is how we’re going to go about — we now have to go to Family Search. You go from
Ancestry to Family Search to find the actual record.
If we could move to 42, please. So I wanted to thank all of you again. I’ll
take some questions here before we go. But I want to thank you for your time. I hope
this shed some light on a really interesting collection that we have here at the National
Archives. And it’s really one that can be used by researchers and, again, not just genealogists
but it can be really great for genealogists but also historians who might be looking at
trends and immigration trends and who is settling in what area of the United States in the late
19th, early 20th century. I want to thank Andrea and Know Your Records
and all of now for being a great audience. Thank you.
>>Andrea Bassing Matney: Thank you so much, Joe. That was very informative. I’ve been
checking online to see if we have any questions and we don’t have any at this time.
We do have an onsite audience. And I encourage you, if you have any questions at all to ask.
You’ll have to use the microphones in the aisle.
While we’re thinking about questions we might have for you, I was wondering, towards the
beginning of your presentation, you had given a Web page for soundex.
>>Joe Keefe: Yes. So the soundex index is available, again,
either on or They both have digitized the index that was
created by the WPA. And that would be the soundex index.
Now, the soundex, if you go — if you want to do — you can search by name obviously.
But as I mentioned, if you have a name like Timothy Kelly, it really can be very difficult
which one is mine. I mean, how many Timothy Kellies are coming into Boston and New York
in the early 20th century. I mean, we can just imagine.
So what the soundex will do is helps you kind of go through and look at various spellings.
And the Web site that I mentioned it was Steve Morse is a genealogist and he has this
great Web site. And I would encourage anyone that goes on to his Web site to kind of play
around. He’s got some really great material. But if you scroll down under naturalization
records, Steve has a place where you can enter a name and it will give you the soundex code.
So if you want — try to figure out a soundex code without the help of someone like Steve
is really very difficult.Some of the older guys who used to work here when I first started
do it off the top of their head. I can’t tell you. It is like one vowel equals blah, blah,
blah. But you can do that. Steve — you just type in the person’s last name and Steve will
give you the soundex code. So then you have to go from Steve’s Web site to
or Ancestry which has the index. What you can do — all you have to do is find that
soundex and you can go through it. It is alphabetical by first name. You see the various spellings
that are on there. It’s a little easier, especially if you have
a very common name like Smith or Kelly or Jones or something.
>>Andrea Bassing Matney: Thank you so much, Joe, for that answer. Very thorough answer.
We do have a question here from our audience. Sir, if you would like to ask your question
to Mr. Keefe.>>Thank you very much, Mr. Keefe. It was
very informative. If an individual did not apply to the WPA, would their records of naturalization
be in the files?>>Joe Keefe: They should be, yes. So if — the
WPA went into each of these courts and they were just using the actual documents. Anybody
who became a citizen through any of these courts, their records would be in there and
they would be in the WPA project, yeah. I hope that answers your question.
>>Andrea Bassing Matney: We have another question that came online from Jan Murphy.
She says: Some of the soundex cards have information on both sides. It says over at the bottom
of the card. For some cards it seems the second side was not microfilmed. How can we find
the second side?>>Joe Keefe: Well, she is very right. And
the reason they didn’t microfilm the second side, oftentimes if you see that, it says
“over please” or “look over,” the reason like Ancestry or Family Search didn’t digitize
that is there’s nothing on the back. Oftentimes it will just be use this as the correct spelled
name or it might list the court or the date — it was really just information that when
the WPA people were doing the indexing, they jotted some notes on the back like this is
the correct spelling, use this or something like that. And it’s not really of any value
to the researcher. But it is a mystery. So you see that and then there’s nothing else.
And I can see why people are kind of confused. Usually there is not a whole lot of information.
It is just notes that the WPA people were using.
If you’re curious and you see that, depending on where the court was, especially anything
from New England, we do have the originals. So if somebody was interested in getting a
copy of the backside of a card that they see, we can pull the card and make a copy for them.
That would be no problem at all. Usually, again, it’s not going to be very useful information.
That’s why they didn’t microfilm and digitize that information.
>>Andrea Bassing Matney: Thank you, Joe. That’s a very helpful answer. She came up
with a second question.She asks: Any tips on finding the declarations once we have found
the petition?>>Joe Keefe: Most of the petitions are going
to have where and when someone took out a declaration. That’s not always the case. Again,
it goes to this variance of the information that was being asked. That’s the first place
to check. If you check, usually you are going to say — it is going to say something like
this person made a primary Declaration of Intention to become a citizen at and it will
give you the court and the date. Really that’s what either us or a state archive would need.
We just needed obviously the person’s name. But the Declarations of Intention were put
together by date so we need to have that date. Now, there are some indexes that the courts
put together. They’re not great. They’re kind of clunky to use, but there are — it varies
from court to court. Some courts put an index together for Declarations of Intentions. Other
courts, if the person didn’t show up or didn’t show up to complete the process, they will
simply throw away the Declaration of Intention and they simply bound the Declarations of
Intention into a large binder and they didn’t complete an index.
So check the petition first. If the petition has nothing depending on the court, usually
what most immigrants would do, they would go to the same court that they went to take
out their primary declaration. So if somebody went to the United States Circuit Court in
Boston to get their petition, it is a good bet they probably went to the United States
Circuit Court in Boston. We can do a search. There are ways to find
it.But it can be difficult and the record-keeping practices, especially for something like that,
with Declarations of Intention, they were viewed as something it’s kind of a placeholder
until the petition is finalized. So once the petition is finalized, that thing becomes
almost a useless piece of paper and a lot of courts simply disposed of them. But there
are some indexes from court to court.>>Andrea Bassing Matney: Thank you, Joe.
Our next question is also online from Jay Glasser.The question is: I just followed up
on Family Search. My grandfather was naturalized in Connecticut. The card has N340 in the upper
corner. What is the next step?>>Joe Keefe: Well, what he’s looking at is
the soundex code. So for him, that almost becomes moot at this point.
What he can do, the next step is send us an email at [email protected] so he has
the information. The Connecticut records were not digitized so they’re not available online.
So what he needs to now do is contact us and we’ll make a copy from the original and send
it to him. He is certainly welcome to come in and view the original and make copies himself
digitally. But his next step — that N number is the soundex code. Since he’s found that,
it’s really kind of moot. That doesn’t mean anything now. So he needs to take that name
and that third line which will give us the court and the volume and the page number and
send that to us and we’ll go from there.>>Andrea Bassing Matney: Wonderful, Joe.
That’s very helpful. Are there any other questions? I don’t see
anything else online. Thank you to our audience members for attending onsite.
Mr. Keefe, thank you so much. I know it is unusual to do a broadcast from Boston. But
it worked very well. And we have several people who are still watching us online.
I ask that if you have any comments or compliments, anything you’d like to say, feel free to add
it to the chat. I appreciate hearing back from you.
Mr. Joe Keefe, thank you so much for your time.
>>Joe Keefe: Thank you so much for having me, Andrea.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

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