New England Naturalization Records:
A Simple, Yet Complete Guide To Finding Your Ancestors.
New England area naturalizations took place in federal, superior, county, city, district and even local courts through Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Vermont.
Information on this page can help you locate and research, or request, United States citizenship or naturalization records from local area courts.
"Just what is naturalization, anyway?"
In its most simplest definition, it's the granting of United States citizenship to foreign born applicants.
In some New England states, primarily Massachusetts, naturalization records begin as early as 1790.
For research purposes, you need to understand that before 1906 however, there was no national policy or regulatory procedure regarding the process of naturalization.
It was not and still is not, a mandatory procedure.
Before 1906, the entire naturalization process was conducted on a county, district or federal court level within each specific state. Because of that process, records before 1906 can be archived in a smorgasbord of court houses and archive centers throughout the state.
Beginning in 1906, and following the formation of the infamous "INS" or Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (now the USCIS), records are far more comprehensive. At this point in time, specific rules and procedures for naturalization were implemented.
What information is actually contained in the records?
For research purposes, these later records (after 1906) contain far more detail than their earlier predecessors. In general, records can contain one or all of the following: a declaration of intent, a naturalization petition, a certificate of arrival and an oath of allegiance. Later records, from about 1930 or so, might even contain a photograph of the applicant.
In addition, naturalization records generally show, for each person who made the petition, their name, age, date of birth, occupation, nationality, and whether citizenship was granted.
A record from 1936 for example, includes all of the above plus, a physical description, specific place of birth, place and date of emigration, how this person arrived - i.e., via railroad or ship, spouse's name (maiden) with date and place of her birth. A record from 1951, for a person who arrived in 1901, also included all of his children's names, with place and specific dates of birth!
These records are in abundance for New England, and especially for Massachusetts since ports such as Boston, Fall River and New Bedford were such major ports of arrival for hundreds of thousands of people.
However, and this is very important, researchers should be aware that not all immigrants sought United States citizenship.
For a variety of reasons, some immigrants just never pursued this process and therefore, records just do not exist.
In addition, few women appear in the naturalization records prior to September 22, 1922. This was the date women achieved the right to vote.
Prior to 1922, woman automatically became United States citizens if they married a U.S. citizen or if their foreign born husband applied and was given naturalization.
Children under the age of 16, automatically became citizens if their father was naturalized.
There are a few tools researchers can use to help determine if a naturalization record exists. First, the 1870 federal census (column 19) has a check mark for "Male Citizens of the U.S. of 21 years of age and upwards." If the person was a foreign-born citizen, this means that he had become naturalized by 1870.
The 1900 federal census (column 18), the 1910 federal census (column 16), and the 1920 federal census (column 14) indicate the person's naturalization status. The answers are "Al" for alien, "Pa" for "first papers," and "Na" for naturalized.
The 1920 federal census (column 15) also indicates the year in which the person was naturalized. One should use this information as a guide however, because dates reported on the census can be off by many years. Plain and simple, when the census enumerator came to call, people just did not remember specific dates.
At mass-doc.com, as part of an overall family history project, we research applications of naturalization petitions held in United States District and Circuit Courts for all the New England states as follows:
1790 - 1971
1790 - 1955
1873 - 1977
1842 - 1991
1801 - 1972
1842 - 1973
In addition, we search naturalization petition records from the state and local courts of Massachusetts - only - for the following counties and dates:
1805 - 1992
1907 - 1982
1853 - 1976
1812 - 1987
1849 - 1988
1842 - 1991
1885 -1906 (Limited records)
1812 - 1990
1809 - 1984
* Suffolk County records have large gaps; limited records available.
Unfortunately, there is no statewide index available for state and local courts and we no longer conduct individual lookups, only as part of a multifaceted overall family history project. Before a search of naturalization records can begin, one should have some or all of the following:
1. An approximate date of birth.
2. A place of origin (country).
3. An approximate date of arrival.
4. The usual place of residence in the state.
Why do you need the above? Because there are many "John Smith's" naturalized in Massachusetts between 1800 and 1900. The more facts that you have about the individual and make, the more successful our search.