Bessie (nee Tachna) Perlmutter
Eva (nee Myers) Tachna
Harry Nathan Tachna
Menachem Mendel Titon
Naturalization is the process of granting citizenship privileges and
responsibilities to foreign-born residents. 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.
Immigrants to the United States have never been required to apply for
citizenship. An immigrant could become a citizen anytime after they arrived in
the United States. Of those who applied, many did not complete the
requirements to become a citizen.
Before 1906, the
information recorded on naturalization records differed widely. Naturalization
records before 1906 are not likely to give town of origin or names of parents.
However, naturalization records after 1906 contain more information than earlier
records. Information in post-1906 records is more detailed and may include birth
dates, birth places, and other immigration information about the immigrant and
members of his family.
Before 1906, naturalization
records may contain:
- Port of arrival
- Date of arrival
- Age of immigrant
- Residence of immigrant
- Country of origin or allegiance
In 1906, the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization was created.
 (Later called Immigration and Naturalization Services or INS.)
The result was standardized forms throughout the country and a copy of the
naturalization papers sent to the INS in addition to the court keeping a copy.
Naturalization records began
in Colonia times. The requirements and process of naturalization have changed
many times over the years. The basic requirements have been residency in the
country for a given period of time, good moral character, and an oath of loyalty
or allegiance given in a court of record.
Colonial Naturalization (Pre-1790)
British immigrants were automatically citizens of the colonies (British
Empire). A few Protestant immigrants from other countries gave oaths of
allegiance or appeared before a civil authority to request citizenship (a
process sometimes referred to as denization). Seven of the original colonies had
their own laws for naturalizing foreigners as citizens of the British Empire
colony. After the Revolutionary War, the individual states established their own
naturalization laws and procedures.
Types of Colonial Naturalization
- Denization--A type of naturalization used to obtain land. You
could buy and sell land, but could not hold public office. There were no
political privileges associated with denization.
- Oath of Allegiance--This type of naturalization during the colonial
period was used to renounce all former country loyalties. This gave the
immigrant full privileges, including voting and holding public office.
- Collective citizenship--This naturalization process was used to
naturalize a group of people without using documents. Collective
naturalization happened when the United States became a country in 1776 and
all those living in the country (except Native Americans and African
Americans) were collectively and automatically made US citizens.
Naturalization From 1790-1906
The first naturalization law was enacted in 1790. Over the years,
naturalization laws changed numerous times, but generally speaking the process
required a Declaration of Intention and a Petition to be filed to become a
citizen. After 1906, several other documents were created during the
The immigrant also had to be a resident in the United States 5 years and a 1
year resident in the the state before becoming a citizen. In 1795, there was a 3
year waiting period, later changed to 2 years in 1824, between filing the
declaration and the petition.
The naturalization process is completed in a court of law. The process
usually required several steps to complete and various documents related to
naturalization may be found in the court records described below.
The typical naturalization process involved three steps:
- Declaration of Intention. The immigrant filed a declaration of
intention (also called first papers) to renounce allegiance to foreign
governments and to later prove he or she had resided in the country long
enough to apply for citizenship. Residency laws changed consistently over
time ranging from no residency requirement (meaning they could declare right
after they "came off the boat") to 14 years residency. However, generally
speaking, an immigrant filed a declaration of intention up to two years
after he immigrated to the United States. The immigrant could declare any
time after he arrived after fulfilling the residency requirement. Some
immigrants waited as late as 20 years after coming to the United States to
begin the process to become a citizen. There are some
exceptions to the naturalization process where the immigrant was not
required to file a declaration.
- Petition. The immigrant had to wait anywhere between one to three
years after he filed his declaration to file his petition for citizenship
(also called second or final papers). Most often the petition was filed in a
court nearest to the town where the immigrant settled. An Oath of Allegiance
was also signed to pledge the immigrants allegiance to the Untied States and
sign a written oath.
- Certificate. After all requirements were completed, the immigrant
was sworn in as a citizen and issued his or her certificate. The certificate
is given from the same court the petition is filed in. It is called the
Certificate of Citizenship or Certificate of Naturalization.
Naturalization After 1906
When the INS was created in 1906, other naturalization records were
created to process naturalizations and keep track of immigrants in the United
States. Copies of these documents are only in the possession of the former INS,
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). A summary of
some of these documents are listed below:
- Certificate of Arrival, 1906 to the present--After 1906 an
immigrant was required to submit a certificate of arrival when he petitioned
for citizenship in order to prove the length of his residency. This document
gives the place of entry, manner of arrival, and date of arrival. This was
kept in the file with the petition.
- Certificate of Registry--A certificate created by the INS to
document immigrants who arrived prior to July 1, 1924 to the United
States where no original arrival record could not be located.
- Visa and Application--Began with the Immigration Act of
1924. All aliens had to have a Visa to enter the United States. Visas were
obtained at US Embassies and Consulates abroad. Visa Files contain birth
information, parents, children, previous residence and a photograph beginning
- Alien Registration--The Alien Registration Act of 1940
required that every non-citizen of the United States, age 14 years and up, had
to register and fill out the Alien Registration form. The Alien Registration
Program created a specific form, AR-2, for this program and forms were created
from 1 Aug 1940 to 31 Mar 1944 during World War II. All original alien
registration forms were microfilmed and are at the United States Citizenship
and Immigration Services. The originals were destroyed after filming.
- An alien registration form contains the following information:
- Name at time of entry to the US
- Other names used
- Date of Birth
- Marital Status
- Height & Weight
- Hair & Eye Color
- Port, date, ship, and class of admission at last arrival in US
- Date of first arrival in US
- Years lived in US
- Intended stay in US
- Usual occupation
- Present occupation
- Present employer, including address
- Club, organization, or society memberships
- Military service (Country, branch, dates)
- Date and number of Declaration of Intention (if filed), and city and
State where filed
- Date of Petition for Naturalization (if filed), and city and State where
- Arrest history
- Date and place of registration