Naturalization is the process by means of which an alien becomes an American citizen. Before 1952, it used to be a two-step process that took a minimum of 5 years:
1. First your ancestor had to fill a Declaration of Intention (so-called "first papers") to become citizen, after residing in the United States for 2 years
2. After 3 additional years, if the petition for naturalization was granted, a certificate of citizenship was issued. A copy of the Petition was kept at the court, and a copy of the Petition and Certificate was sent to the Department of Immigration and Naturalization Services, which is now USCIS. After 1952, the Declaration of Intention was no longer filed.
The "Declaration of Intention" generally lists more useful information than the "petition." It includes (if issued after 1906):
• Full Name
• Date of birth
• Port of Entry
• Place of residence here in the U.S.
• Spouse’s name and place of birth
NOTE: Wives and minor children were automatically naturalized with their husbands and fathers in the early 1900's, so you may not be able to find naturalization papers for them.
How to order a Naturalization Record:
Send a request to the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) by visiting the USCIS website. You will start by ordering an INDEX SEARCH. The fee is $20. Once you receive the Index Search results you will follow up by submitting the file number citation(s) in a Record Request to receive the Naturalization Records if you Ancestor’s papers were found. The additional fee is either $20 or $35.