Jewish Naturalization and Citizenship

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Naturalization is the process of granting citizenship privileges and responsibilities to foreign-born residents. Privileges granted to citizens vary from country to country but usually include the right to live in a locality without being expelled, the right to engage in business, the right to vote, and other protections under the law.

Although immigrants were not required to become citizens, many did. Evidence that an immigrant completed citizenship requirements can be found in censuses, court records, voting registers, military papers, and other sources. Even if an immigrant did not complete the process to become a citizen, he or she may have filed an application or declaration of intention to become one.

Citizenship was usually a three-step process. First, a declaration of intent was filed. After a period of time, the immigrant then filed a final petition for citizenship. Once the requirements for citizenship were met, the immigrant received a document granting citizenship.

Naturalization records also include lists of aliens and other records of aliens. For example, the Jews’ Temporary Shelter in England dealt with Jewish refuges from Eastern Europe during the first half of the 20th century. Jews passing through England on their way to other destinations were temporarily housed in the shelter. See the Jewsih Emigration and Immigration page for further information about the shelter. The Family History Library does not have this source, but it does have some records of aliens for other countries.

Information found in naturalization records varies from country to country. Generally the later the time period of naturalization, the more information given, including the name of the applicant, birth date and place, occupation, and date of arrival. Other information that may be found in these records is a physical description of the person, names of other family members who immigrated, the port of arrival, and the name of the ship.

Beginning in 1906, naturalization in the United States was handled by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). The United States Emigration and Immigration has a detailed section about the naturalization and citizenship process in that country and how to find records. If there is a detailed page for the country or state where your ancestor lived, see the topic “Naturalization and Citizenship.”

Locating Naturalization Records[edit | edit source]

Naturalization was handled through national, state or province, county, or local courts that had the authority to grant citizenship. Usually records were processed at the state or province, county, or local court level. Many records, especially United States naturalization records before 1906, are still held by the courts where naturalization was granted. In some countries records are deposited in local, county, state or province, or national archives.

The Family History Library has many naturalization records for the United States and a few records for other countries. Check for these in the FamilySearch Catalog for the area where your family settled.