A great resource to finding your ancestors or more information about them are the Untied States Naturalization records. Naturalization is the process that foreign immigrants becomes an American Citizen.
Congress passed the first naturalization law back in 1790 requiring any one to become naturalized in any law of record, usually a county court. The process was a two step process that took a minimum of five years. An immigrant first had to submit a “declaration of intent” and then after three years they could “petition for naturalization”. Once the petition was granted they would be issued a certificate of citizenship. These two types of documents will be the ones that you will encounter with your ancestors information. I obtained this information from a great article, from Claire Prechtel-Kluskens, “The Location of Naturalization Records,” The Record, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 21-22 (Nov. 1996), located at the National Archives website which I highly recommend that you read. This is the link to it: http://www.archives.gov/research/naturalization/naturalization.html
Unfortunately I could not find any information about my own family since we are very recent immigrants to the United States but that may not be your family’s case.
To check this records out I searched for people form the small town in Mexico where many of my ancestors came from to see if anyone from there had ever become a U.S. Citizen and or applied for citizenship. I entered “Arcabuz” on the search field at Ancestry and got 13 matches back. The record listed for Francisca Saenz Guerra caught my attention, so I checked it out to see what useful genealogical information I could find.
Here is a partial cut out of the Image:
As you can see the above record is a petition for naturalization and it contains a great wealth of information. It mentions that she was born in Arcabuz and provides her date of birth. It also provides her marriage information and a listing of all her children including their current city or town of residence.
If she would be one of your ancestors you could use the information provided to look for her birth record and thus find her parents and grandparents.
These records are great and for the following few days I will be doing more research on my wife’s ancestors to see if any of them are found within these records.
Where to Find These Records:
There are three major locations that you will find these records but only two of them are online and those are familysearch and ancestry.com. The national archives have them also but they are not searchable not browsable..
Family search is a free place where you will be able to browse through the naturalization records. Unfortunately almost all of them have not been indexed so you will need to have an idea of where your ancestor became a citizen to be able to browse manually. They have 184 collections about immigration and naturalization, below I listed three major ones that contain naturalization records for many Mexican Americans. Please note, don’t limit yourself to these collections only since I have found Mexican Americans that became U.S Citizens in many other states of the United States.
See full list of the 184 collections here: https://familysearch.org/search/collection/list/?page=1&recordType=Migration
On the top left corner where it says “filter by collection name” enter :naturalization” to bring down the amount of collections to 45.
So far ancestry is my favorite place to look up these kind of records since many of them have been indexed. As a matter of fact Jesus Francisco a member of the We Are Cousins Facebook Group made me aware on July 13 that Ancestry had added 14 million records and 11 million new images to its U.S. Naturalization Records collection.
Fortunately you will not have to be browsing manually like at familysearch.
Note: You do need a paid account to see these records. You can get a 14 day free trial today, to test drive these searchable collections. Just click here. (FYI: I am an Affiliate for Ancestry, what that means is that if you end up staying with them after the 14 day trial I get a little commission with no extra cost to you).
Ancestry has most of the United States listed here http://search.ancestry.com/search/group/us_naturalization?o_xid=57458&o_lid=57458&o_sch=Social
They really don’t have anything online but I am still including them since the images that both FamilySearch and Ancestry use are mainly from the National Archives. Here is the link for more information. https://www.archives.gov/research/naturalization/#online
Coming to America: Celebrating the Immigrant Experience
This is a great video by the National Archives. I thought that you might enjoy it as much as I did.
“Out of Many One”
I truly hope that you found this post useful and found actionable information for your own research. Have fun and don’t forget to let me know of any great finds that you may come across.