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Massachusetts, United States Naturalization Records - FamilySearch Historical Records

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Massachusetts, United States Naturalization Records, 1871-1991
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This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
Massachusetts, 
United States
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Record Description
Record Type Naturalization Records
Record Group RG 21: Records of District Courts of the United States
Collection years 1871-1991
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites
Archive
National Archives and Records Administration



What is in This Collection?[edit | edit source]

Naturalization records from the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts. The collections are from Record Group 21 Records of the United States District Court. The records were acquired from the National Archives at Boston and include the following collections.


General Information About Naturalization Records

“’Naturalization’” is a voluntary process through which immigrants can become American citizens. By becoming naturalized citizens, immigrants are granted the same rights, privileges and protections as natural born citizens. Before 1790, British immigrants were considered citizens of the British colonies in America, and later American citizens. Some Protestant immigrants from other European countries requested citizenship from civil authorities. After swearing allegiance, immigrants were generally granted citizenship. The process by which other immigrants could become citizens of the British Empire or the American colonies, and later American citizens, was handled by the individual colonies then states until 1906, when the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization standardized immigration laws and procedures. Naturalization to become a U.S. citizen was a two-part process: The Declaration of Intent to Naturalize, or First Papers, and the Naturalization Record (including the Naturalization Petition), or Final Papers. The general requirements for citizenship include residency in one U.S. state for one year and in the United States for five years The First Papers were normally filed five years before the Final Papers because of the five-year residency requirement to become a citizen.

Naturalization papers are an important source of information about an immigrant's nation of origin, his foreign and “Americanized” names, residence, and date of arrival. Naturalization records were created to process naturalizations and keep track of immigrants in the United States. Naturalization records are generally reliable, but may occasionally be subject to error or falsification. Be sure to search all possible spellings for the surname of the person for whom you are looking. Think about how the surname was pronounced, and how it sounded in the immigrant’s probable accent. The surname may be spelled differently in records that were closer to your ancestor's immigration date.

What Can These Records Tell Me?[edit | edit source]

Before 1906, the information recorded on naturalization records differed widely and often didn't mention the immigrant's town of origin or parents' names. These records may contain:

  • Arrival date and port of entry
  • Name and age of immigrant
  • Age of immigrant
  • Current residence of immigrant
  • Country of origin or allegiance

In 1906, the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization was created and later renamed Immigration and Naturalization Services or INS. Some results included standardized forms throughout the country and copies of naturalization papers sent to the INS in addition to the court keeping a copy. Naturalization records after 1906 contain more detailed information about the immigrants and their families. Possible information given in post-1906 naturalization records include:

  • Name of declarant
  • Date of Declaration of Intent
  • Age and occupation of declarant
  • Physical description of declarant
  • Declarant's date and place of birth
  • Declarant's marital status
  • Spouse's name
  • Spouse's date and place of birth
  • Names of children
  • Children's dates and places of birth
  • Date of arrival and port of entry
  • Name of ship
  • Departure date and port of departure
  • Current U. S. residence
  • Last foreign address

Collection Content[edit | edit source]

Immigrants could naturalize in any court that performed naturalizations. That included city, county, state and federal courts. Begin by looking for naturalization records in the courts of the county or city where the immigrant lived. Look first for the petition (second papers), because they are usually easier to find in courts near where the immigrant eventually settled. After 1906, the declaration can be filed with the petition as the immigrant was required to submit a copy when the petition the petition was submitted. Because immigrants were allowed to naturalize in any court, they often selected the most convenient court. For example, if an immigrant lived in Maine, but worked in Vermont or New Hampshire, they may have gone to a court closer to work.

Sample Images[edit | edit source]

How Do I Search This Collection?[edit | edit source]

Before searching this collection, it is helpful to know:

  • The immigrant's full name, including possible alternative spellings:
  • Other identifying information such as birth place, age or date of arrival

If you do not have this information search the federal census records after 1900. They list the years of immigration and if naturalized.


Search the Index[edit | edit source]

Search by name by visiting the Collection Details Page.
  1. Fill in the search boxes in the Search Collection section with the information you know
  2. Click Search to show possible matches


How Do I Analyze the Results?[edit | edit source]

Compare each result from your search with what you know to determine if there is a match. This may require viewing multiple records or images. Keep track of your research in a research log.

What Do I Do Next?[edit | edit source]

When you have located the desired record, carefully evaluate each piece of information given. Save a copy of the image or transcribe the information. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details. You should also look for leads to other ancestors or persons of interest.


I Found the Person I Was Looking For, What Now?[edit | edit source]

You can use naturalization records to:

  • Learn an immigrant’s place of origin
  • Confirm their date of arrival
  • Learn foreign and “Americanized” names
  • Find records in the immigrant’s country of origin such as emigrations, port records, or ship’s manifests
  • Look for the Declaration of Intent soon after the immigrant arrived, and then look for the Naturalization Petition five years later, when the residency requirement would have been met. Look for naturalization records in federal courts and then in state, county, or city courts.
  • An individual may have filed the first and final papers in different courts and sometimes in a different state if the person moved. Immigrants who were younger than 18 when they arrived did not need to file a Declaration of Intent as part of the process
  • If your ancestor had a common name, be sure to look at all the entries for a name before you decide which is correct
  • Continue to search the naturalization records to identify siblings, parents, and other relatives in the same or other generations who may have naturalized in the same area or nearby
  • The witnesses named on naturalization records may have been older relatives of the person in the naturalization process. Search for their naturalizations
  • You may want to obtain the naturalization records of every person who shares your ancestor’s surname if they lived in the same county or nearby. You may not know how or if they are related, but the information could lead you to more information about your own ancestors


I Can’t Find the Person I’m Looking For, What Now?[edit | edit source]

Check for variant spellings. Realize that the indexes may contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings and misinterpretations

  • Try a different index if there is one for the years needed. You may also need to search the naturalization records year by year
  • Search the indexes of nearby counties


Research Helps[edit | edit source]

The following articles will help you in your research for your family in the state of Massachusetts.

Citing This Collection[edit | edit source]

Citations help you keep track of places you have searched and sources you have found. Identifying your sources helps others find the records you used.

Collection Citation:
The citation for this collection can be found on the Collection Details Page in the section Citing this Collection.
Record Citation:
When looking at a record, the citation can be viewed by clicking the drop-down arrow next to Document Information.

How Can I Contribute to the FamilySearch Wiki?[edit | edit source]

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