California, Southern District Court (Central) Naturalization Index (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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California, Southern District Court (Central) Naturalization Index, 1915-1976 .
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This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
California, United States
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Seal of the National Archives
Record Description
Record Type Naturalization Index
Record Group RG 21: Records of the District Courts of the United States
Collection years 1915-1976
Microfilm Publication M1525. Naturalization Index Cards of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, Central Division, Los Angeles, 1915-1976. 114 rolls.
Arrangement Alphabetical in two parts. Part A 1915-1930 and Part B 1930-1976.
National Archives Identifier 618115
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites
Archive
National Archives and Records Administration


What is in This Collection?

This collection is a card index to naturalization records in the circuit and district courts of California. The cards are arranged alphabetically by surname in two parts. Part A 1915 -1930 and Part B 1930 -1976. The actual naturalization volumes vary in size and format. Prior to the late 1800s each document was usually handwritten on one page. From the late 1800s and on, printed forms were used. After 1906, many entries were typewritten.

While there were various types of naturalization records, the Declaration of Intent and Naturalization Petition usually had the most complete genealogical information.

Naturalization is the process of granting citizenship privileges and responsibilities to foreign-born residents. California’s counties recorded naturalization procedures in the court records as legal proof of citizenship. The courts handling naturalizations changed several times so the card index was created as a way to quickly access specific records. 

The index is very accurate and the information that was current at the time of naturalization was usually reliable. However, there was always a chance for misinformation. Errors may have occurred because of the informant’s lack of knowledge or because of transcription errors or other circumstances. 

The first naturalization act was passed in 1802. Immigrants to the United States were not required to apply for citizenship. Of those who did apply, many did not complete the requirements for citizenship.

Naturalization to become a U.S. citizen was a two-part process: the Declaration of Intent to Naturalize, or First Papers, and the Naturalization Record (including the Naturalization Petition), or Final Papers. The First Papers were normally filed five years before the Final Papers because of the five-year residency requirement to become a citizen.

No centralized files existed before 1906. In 1906 federal forms replaced the various formats that had been used by the various courts. Copies were sent to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), creating a central file for naturalization papers. The INS is now known as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).


To Browse This Collection

You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for California, Southern District Court (Central) Naturalization Index, 1915-1976.

What Can These Records Tell Me?

The index cards include the following:

  • Petition number
  • Date of petition
  • Name and residence of petitioner
  • Volume and page number of the petition

Some of the index cards also show:

  • Declaration number
  • Date of declaration
  • Alien registration number
  • Volume and page number of the declaration
  • Certificate number
  • Date of issuance

Declaration of Intent and Naturalization Petitions usually included the following:

  • Name of the immigrant
  • Country of birth
  • Arrival date
  • Date of Declaration of Intent or Naturalization
  • Names of witnesses
  • Signature of judge or court official

In post-1906 records, you may also find:

  • Birth date
  • Birthplace
  • Age
  • Race
  • Last foreign residence
  • Current residence
  • Arrival date and place
  • Marital status
  • Name of spouse
  • Maiden name of wife

Collection Content

Sample Image

How Do I Search This Collection?

Before searching this collection, it is helpful to know:

  • The full name of your ancestor
  • The approximate immigration and naturalization dates

If you do not know this information, check the 1900 census and then calculate the possible year of naturalization based on the date of immigration. The 1920 census may tell you the exact year of immigration or naturalization.

Search the Index

Search by name by visiting the Collection Page.
  1. Fill in the search boxes on the Collection Page with the information you have
  2. Click Search to show possible matches

View the Images

View images in this collection by visiting the Browse Page:

  1. Select the Description to view the images.


How Do I Analyze the Results?

Compare each result from your search with what you know to determine if there is a match. This may require viewing multiple records or images.

What Do I Do Next?

Indexes and transcriptions may not include all the data found in the original records. Look at the actual image of the record, if you can, to verify the information and to find additional information.

I Found the Person I Was Looking For, What Now?

  • Copy the citation below, in case you need to find this record again later.
  • Use the information found in the record to find other records such as emigrations, port records, and ship’s manifests.
  • Use the record to learn the place of origin and find vital records such as birth, baptism, and marriage records.
  • Use the information found in the record to find land and probate records.
  • Use the record to see if other family members who may have immigrated with the person you are looking for are listed and have additional information or leads; you may also find additional information on new family members in censuses.

I Can’t Find the Person I’m Looking For, What Now?

  • If your ancestor does not have a common name, collect entries for every person who has the same surname. This list can help you find possible relatives.
  • If you cannot locate your ancestor in the locality in which you believe they lived, then try searching records of a nearby town or county.
  • Try different spellings of your ancestor’s name.
  • Remember that sometimes individuals went by nicknames or alternated between using first and middle names.
  • Look for the Declaration of Intent soon after the immigrant arrived. Then look for the Naturalization Petition five years later, when the residency requirement would have been met. Look for naturalization records in federal courts, then in state, county, or city courts. An individual may have filed the first and final papers in different courts and sometimes in a different state if the person moved. Immigrants who were younger than 18 when they arrived did not need to file a Declaration of Intent as part of the process.


Citing This Collection

Citations help you keep track of places you have searched and sources you have found. Identifying your sources helps others find the records you used.

Collection Citation

"California, Southern District Court (Central) Naturalization Index, 1915-1976." Database with images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : 14 June 2016. Citing District Court. National Archives and Records Service, Los Angeles Branch, Laguna Niguel.

Record Citation:
When looking at a record, the citation is found below the record.
Image Citation:
When looking at an image, the citation is found on the Information tab at the bottom left of the screen.

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