Tennessee Naturalization and Citizenship

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Online Resources[edit | edit source]

What is naturalization?[edit | edit source]

Naturalization is the process by which a native or citizen of one country becomes a citizen of a different country, thus giving privileges and responsibilities to the foreign-born residents.

Immigrants to the United States have never been required to apply for citizenship. Of those who applied, many did not complete the process. Evidence that an immigrant completed the process can be found in censuses, court minutes, homestead records, passports, voting registers, and military papers.

For more information regarding United States naturalization, click here.

What records are created?[edit | edit source]

The naturalization process consists of two records the immigrant must submit: a declaration of intention, and a petition

Declaration of intention: The immigrant must first declare their intention to become a citizen. The form is created was unique for each court that granted naturalization until 1906. Thereafter, the forms were standardized. The declaration can be submitted anytime after the immigrant arrives in the country, although often immigrants waited 2 years before applying.

Petition: The petition is the final paper filed with a court, and it can be filed in a different court than then the declaration of intention. Starting in 1802, the immigrant had to be a resident for 5 years before he could be a citizen. There was a 3 year waiting requirement between the declaration of intention and the petition. In 1824, the waiting requirement changed to 2 years.

For more information about naturalization records, click here.

What information is on naturalization records?[edit | edit source]

The declaration of intention and the petition varied greatly before 1906 because each court required different information. Information may include: port of arrival, date of immigration, country of origin and age of the applicant.

After 1906, the forms were standardized and more information was required from the immigrant. Information may include: age, birth date and place, residence, date of application, last foreign address, country of birth/allegiance, occupation, personal description, port and date of arrival, vessel of arrival, marital status, wife and children with birth dates and places, and when and where the declaration was filed.

Post-1906 naturalization records[edit | edit source]

Early records contain less information than those created after 1906, when the forms were standardized and the Immigration and Naturalization Service was created. Post-1906 records can be accessed through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly INS). This agency kept a duplicate of the records created in the court. Details such as birth date and place, physical description, and marital status may be given in the post-1906 records.For records at the USCIS, use their Genealogy Program at www.uscis.gov. (This is a fee service.)

For more information regarding how to obtain naturalization records, click Naturalization Records here.

Naturalization in Tennessee[edit | edit source]

In the colonial era, Tennessee was part of the Commonwealth of North Carolina. To naturalize, the residents of Tennessee could appear before any court of record and declare their allegiance to the Commonwealth of North Carolina.

A 1790 federal law allowed immigrants to declare their allegiance to the United States before any U.S. circuit or district court, state supreme court, or local court of record.

If your ancestor lived in or near a large city, or near a city where U.S. courts convened, you may find naturalization records in the U.S. District Court before 1906.

For the rural areas of Tennessee, naturalization records may be found in the circuit court, county court, court of common pleas, or chancery court in each county. Often the records were mixed in with other court proceedings making them difficult to locate. A few counties kept separate records for naturalization. After 1906, all naturalizations were handled in Federal District Courts.[1]

Tennessee Naturalization Records On the Internet[edit | edit source]

There are a few online resources available for Tennessee naturalizations. This includes indexes and digital images of naturalization records. The website, Online Searchable Naturalization Indexes and Records, contains links to naturalization indexes and records. It is arranged by state and gives the statewide indexes and records first. It then gives the countywide indexes and records. This website is updated regularly and is a great source to begin searching for naturalization records on the Internet.

Tennessee State Library and Archives[edit | edit source]

The Tennesse State Library and Archives has microfilmed copies of court records for many of the counties in Tennessee. Naturalization records could be in the court minutes for the county court, court of common pleas, circuit court or chancery court. Sometimes the naturalization records were kept in a separate volume.

Use the Tennessee State Library Archives website to see an inventory list of court records available for each county. Currently county inventories are not yet available on the Web site for Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, and Rutherford,

You can order microfilm copies of court records or you can order a 5 year search of any court records that have an index.

For more information on ordering copies of microfilm, click here.

For more information on ordering a search of the court record indexes, click here.

You can also visit the Tennessee State Library and Archives in Nashville, Tennessee and view the microfilms yourself. For more information about visiting the Archives, click here.

Tennessee County Archives[edit | edit source]

There are many county and municipal archives throughout the state of Tennessee. Often original records from the county courthouse are transferred to these archives. The type of records and the charge for research varies greatly from archive to archive. Contact the archive to see if they have the naturalization and court records for your county. For a list of all the archives in Tennessee and their contact information, click here.

National Archives, Regional Branches[edit | edit source]

Copies of Federal District Court naturalization records have been transferred to National Archives (NARA) regional branches. The NARA branch that covers Tennessee is the Regional Branch in Atlanta, Georgia. The regional branch often charges less money for naturalization records than the USCIS.

Records available at the NARA regional branch in Atlanta are:

  • 1790-1958 Naturalization Records of U.S. District Courts in the Southeast, NARA M1547
  • 1828-1955 Index to Naturalizations, Chattanooga, Tennessee, NARA M1611

Family History Library (FHL)[edit | edit source]

Naturalization records should be searched for under the town, county, and state levels in the FamilySearch Catalog. The topics to search for are: Naturalization and Citizenship, and Naturalization and Citizenship - Indexes. Because Tennessee naturalization records are often mixed among the court minutes of different courts, you should also search under the topic, Court Records for your county. The FHL has court records for many counties in Tennessee. County naturalizations include Bradley, Davidson, Franklin, Gibson, Jefferson, and Shelby.

United States District Court naturalizations (National Archives Record Group 21) on film at the Family History Library:

A key reference book to naturalization records is Schaefer, Christina K. Guide to Naturalization Records in the United States. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997.FHL book 973 P4s

Schaefer identifies records at both the National Archives (Georgia) and the Family History Library. She also describes many state and county courthouse collections. This book was published in 1997 and has not been updated. At that time, the FHL collection of Tennessee naturalization records was very small. Some naturalization records have been added to the FHL collection since that time.

Microfilm found in the FamilySearch Catalog can be viewed at the Family History Library.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services(USCIS)

If your ancestor naturalized after 1906, a copy of the naturalization records was sent to the USCIS (formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service). The USCIS has instituted the Genealogy Program for public access to all records from 1906 to 1956 created by this agency. Review the Genealogy Frequently Asked Questions website to expedite your order and ensure success for your request.

When ordering by mail, use forms G-1041 (for an index search) and G-1041A (for obtaining the record). You must submit an index search to obtain a record unless you have a valid file number. Once the form is filled out, include a money order or cashier's check. Cash or a personal check will not be accepted. There are no refunds for incorrect file numbers submitted or for negative results.

The mailing address is
USCIS Genealogy Program
P.O. Box 805925
Chicago, Illinois 60680-4120

The fee schedule is:

  • Index Search--$20 (form G-1041)
  • Microfilm copies--$20 (form G-1041A)
  • Paper copies--$35 (form G-1041A)

The FOIA G-639 is used to obtain naturalization records created after 1956.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Bamman, Gale Williams. "Research in Tennessee," National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 81, No. 2 (Jun. 1993): 120. FHL US/CAN Book 973 B2ng v. 81 (1993)
  2. May be used for free at Family History Center. To locate a center near you, click here.