California Naturalization and Citizenship
Naturalization proceedings were under the jurisdiction of the district court (a state court not a federal court) from 1850 until 1880. The county court was also given this responsibility from 1862 to 1880. The county clerk was the clerk of both these courts and kept the records. An 1872 state statute required the clerk to keep two alphabetical sets of records, one for declarations and one for admission to citizenship.
In 1880 the district and county courts were discontinued and the superior court took over all their functions, including naturalization. The county clerk was also the clerk of this court.
In 1906 the Immigration and Naturalization Service was created, forms were standardized and court records were duplicated and sent to the INS. These records can be accessed by downloading a FOIA (Freedome of Information Act) form from www.uscis.gov. Post-1906 records are also available at the National Archives--Pacific Region (San Bruno) for northern California, and the National Archives--Pacific Region (Laguna Niguel) for Southern California.
The California State Archives has records of Sacramento County for the years 1850 to 1903. The Family History Library also has Declarations of Intention for the years 1859 to 1906 in Sacramento County. The Los Angeles County Archives has records of Los Angeles County for the years 1856 to 1886:
Los Angeles County Archives
225 North Broadway
Los Angeles, California 90012
The Family History Library has microfilm copies of naturalization records for many California counties. Search individual counties in the Family History Library Catalog to determine the library holdings. Declarations of intention (1870-1931) for Alameda County, for example, are available at the Family History Library.
Naturalization records could also be filed in U.S. district courts after 1850. In counties where a federal district court sits, the federal court, not the superior court, has jurisdiction over naturalization. The Family History Library has:
- Declarations of intention from the U.S. Northern District Court for the years 1846 to 1903(FHL films 977767-70). The originals are located at the National Archives—Pacific Region (San Bruno).
- Declarations of intentions from the U.S. Southern District Court for the years 1927 to 1948 (FHL films 1249797-840). The originals and more recent records are at the National Archives—Pacific Region (Laguna Niguel).
- Records of the U.S. Eastern District Court are at theNational Archives—Pacific Region (San Bruno).U.S. Central District Court records and San Diego Superior Court records are at the National Archives—Pacific Region (Laguna Niguel).
Voting Records with Naturalization Information
The Family History Library also has an extensive collection of voting records that name the court where an individual applied for naturalization and the date (see "Voting Registers" section).
California Research Outline. Salt Lake City, Utah: Intellectual Reserve, Inc., Family History Department, 1998, 2003.