Immigration and Naturalization

Not everyone has an ancestor who left their native country, but almost everyone in the United States does. And even for those whose ancestors seemed to have never left their country, there are voting and citizenship records, which are similar to naturalization records.


Non-native born people usually need some sort of government approval so that they can have citizenship and the benefits that comes with it, such as voting.


Naturalization records in the US consist of some sort of application for citizenship and a certificate of citizenship to show the person is a citizen. In 1906 the US government standardized the process with specific forms and a requirement that the process take place thorugh the US Federal District Courts. Prior to that, naturalizations occured in various courts, either state, federal or local, and the information requested in the forms completed were not always the same.


Immigration records for those who came to the US usually means ship manifests, although some people arrived by train, and at some point, by plane. Most immigrants arrived at New York City, but plenty of immigrants also came to the US through the Canadian border or the ports of Boston, Philadelphia or Baltimore. There are several other ports of entry, notably San Francisco, the Mexican /Texas border, Florida or Maine.


A ship manifest may show the town in the old country where the immigrant previously lived, especially on manifests after 1906. Finding your family in a ship list requires knowning the names under which they and their family members travelled. You may learn those names in several ways such as oral history, gravestones (especially for Jewish names) or naturalizations. You will learn when they immigrated from census records.