By Connie Lenzen, CGSM
An article for the May2009 issue of the Genealogical Forum of Oregon's Insider.
Because of the cumbersome, disjointed processes that have created them, naturalization records are some of the most difficult to locate.
Prior to 1906, naturalization could take place in any court of record at the city, county, state, or federal level; and the various steps of the process might have taken place in different courts across several states.
Since 26 September 1906, aliens have been required to initiate naturalization proceedings with the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) and now with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS); followed by other action that could take place in any federal or state court in the area of residence provided that court agreed to meet federal guidelines.
Post-1906 naturalization documents may exist locally or federally; and the USCIS records of any given event may be housed in the National Archives or at one of their regional branches. Records created within the past seventy-five years are deemed confidential, and those records are therefore closed to the public.
If your ancestor was naturalized after September 1906, the USCIS can find the records for you because all courts have been required to forward copies of these records to INS and now to USCIS. The “USCIS Genealogy Program” permits genealogists to apply online for the records.
Just like naturalization is a two-step process, the application is a two-step process. First you apply for an Index Search ($20.00). Search results are returned to the researcher, along with instructions on how to request the file(s) from USCIS or the National Archives.
The index search is important because USCIS will check the following record groups:
- Naturalization Certificate Files (C-files) from September 27, 1906 to April 1, 1956;
- Alien Registration Forms from August 1, 1940 to March 31, 1944;
- Visa files from July 1, 1924 to March 31, 1944;
- Registry Files from March 2, 1929 to March 31, 1944; and
- Alien Files (A-files) numbered below 8 million (A8000000) and documents therein dated prior to May 1, 1951.
The second step is to request the records. With the index search results from your first request, you can order the files. The fee is $20.00 (if the record is on microfilm) or $35.00 (if the record is in manuscript form).
To go to the forms, go to the USCIS website, http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis. Click on the “About USCIS” tab; then click on “USCIS History, Library and Genealogy;” and finally click on “USCIS Genealogy Program.”
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