Illinois, Northern District (Eastern Division), Naturalization Index (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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FamilySearch Record Search This article describes a collection of historical records available at
Access the records: Illinois, Northern District (Eastern Division), Naturalization Index, 1926-1979  and Illinois, Northern District Naturalization Index, 1840-1950.

Record Description

This collection consists of a card index to naturalization records for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern Division of the Northern District of Illinois, in Chicago, ARC Identifier 1165908. This collection is being published as images become available. The indexes are for records that cover the years from 1840 to 1950.

Naturalization is the process of granting citizenship privileges and responsibilities to foreign-born residents. Most 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.

For an alphabetical list of records currently published in the Illinois, Northern District Naturalization Index, 1840-1950 collection, select the Browse.

For a list of records by soundex currently published in the Illinois, Northern District (Eastern Division), Naturalization Index, 1926-1979 collection, select the Browse.

Collection Time Period

These indexes are for records that cover the years from 1840 to about 1979.

First Collection

The first collection consists of card index to naturalization records for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern Division of the Northern District of Illinois, in Chicago. The card index was compiled from the following series: "Naturalization Petition and Record Books, 1906 - ca. 1975" (ARC Identifier 281842), "Petitions for Naturalization, 1906-1991" (ARC Identifier 593882), and "Overseas Naturalization Petition Books, 1942-1956" (ARC Identifier 1183015).

Second Collection

The second collection is a soundex card index to petitions for residents of northern Illinois, northwestern Indiana, southern and eastern Wisconsin, and eastern Iowa. It includes no records from Cook County, Illinois, prior to 1871 as these records were destroyed by fire. For more information about Soundex indexes and instructions for coding names, see the Wiki article “Soundex.”

The index includes the following counties for Illinois: Boone, Bureau, Carroll, Champaign, Cook, De Kalb, Du Page, Ford, Fulton, Grundy, Henderson, Henry, Iroquois, Jo Daviess, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Knox, Lake, La Salle, Lee, Livingston, Marshall, McHenry, McLean, Mercer, Ogle, Peoria, Putnam, Rock Island, Stark, Stephenson, Tazewell, Vermilion, Warren, Whiteside, Will, Winnebago, and Woodford.

The index includes the following counties for Indiana: Benton, Fulton, Jasper, Lake, La Porte, Marshall, Newton, Porter, Pulaski, St. Joseph, and Starke.

The index includes the following counties for Iowa: Allamakee, Appanoose, Benton, Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan, Butler, Cedar, Chickasaw, Clayton, Clinton, Davis, Delaware, Des Moines, Dubuque, Fayette, Floyd, Grundy, Hardin, Henry, Howard, Iowa, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Jones, Keokuk, Lee, Linn, Louisa, Mahaska, Mitchell, Monroe, Muscatine, Scott, Tama, Van Buren, Wapello, Washington, and Winneshiek.

The index includes the following counties for Wisconsin: Adams, Brown, Calumet, Columbia, Crawford, Dane, Dodge, Door, Florence, Fond du Lac, Forest, Grant, Green, Green Lake, Iowa, Jefferson, Kenosha, Kewaunee, Lafayette, Langlade, Manitowoc, Marinette, Marquette, Menominee, Milwaukee, Oconto, Outagamie, Ozaukee, Portage, Racine, Richland, Rock, Sauk, Shawano, Sheboygan, Walworth, Washington, Waukesha, Waupaca, Waushara, Winnebago, and Wood.

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.

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). 

Naturalization records are generally well preserved, but some records may have been lost to fire or other disasters. 

Citation for This Collection

The following citation refers to the original source of the information published in Historical Records collections. Sources include the author, custodian, publisher, and archive for the original records.

United States District Court and Immigration and Naturalization Service. Illinois, Northern District, naturalization index. Federal Archives and Records Center, Chicago, Illinois.

Suggested citation format for a record in this collection.

Record Content

The following lists are information usually found on the index cards. However, not all of this information is provided on every card.

Index cards for naturalizations taking place prior to 1906 typically contain the following:

Illinois, Northern District, Soundex Index to Naturalization Petitions (10-0397) (11-0450) DGS 4640946 109.jpg
  • Name of the petitioner
  • Residence of petitioner
  • Birth date of petitioner
  • Name of the court in which naturalization occurred
  • Document number
  • Country of origin
  • Date and port of entry of arrival in U.S.
  • Date of naturalization
  • Names and addresses of witnesses

Most cards that index naturalizations after 1906 provide space for the following information:

  • Name of petitioner
  • Address
  • Name of the court in which naturalization occurred
  • Crtificate, petition, or other identifying document number
  • Country of origin
  • Date of birth
  • Date and place of arrival in the United States
  • Date of naturalization
  • Name and address of witnesses

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 place
  • Marital status
  • Name of spouse
  • Maiden name of wife
  • Birth date of spouse
  • Residence of spouse

How to Use the Record

Begin your search by finding your ancestors in the card index. Name indexes make it possible to access a specific record quickly. Check the index for the surname and then the given name. You may need to look at many cards to find the one you are seeking. Remember that these indexes may contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings, misinterpretations, and optical character recognition errors if the information was scanned.

When searching the index it is helpful to know the following:

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

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.

Use the locator information found in the index (such as name of court, page, entry, or certificate number) to locate your ancestors in the records. Compare the information in the record to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct person. You may need to compare the information of more than one person to make this determination.

When you have located your ancestor’s record, carefully evaluate each piece of information given. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details that can lead you to other records about your ancestors. Add this new information to your records of each family. For example, you can use naturalization records to:

  • Learn an immigrant’s place of origin
  • Confirm their date of arrival
  • Learn foreign and “Americanized” names
  • Find records in his or her country of origin such as emigrations, port records, or ship’s manifests.

You may also find these tips helpful:

  • Look for the Declaration of Intent soon after the immigrant arrived, and then look for the Naturalization Petition five years later, when the residency requirement would have been met. Look for naturalization records in federal courts and 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.
  • If your ancestor had a common name, be sure to look at all the entries for a name before you decide which is correct.
  • Continue to search the naturalization records to identify siblings, parents, and other relatives in the same or other generations who may have naturalized in the same area or nearby.
  • The witnesses named on naturalization records may have been older relatives of the person in the naturalization process. Search for their naturalizations.
  • You may want to obtain the naturalization records of every person who shares your ancestor’s surname if they lived in the same county or nearby. You may not know how or if they are related, but the information could lead you to more information about your own ancestors.

If you do not find the name you are looking for, try the following:

  • Check for variant spellings. Realize that the indexes may contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings and misinterpretations.
  • Try a different index if there is one for the years needed. You may also need to search the naturalization records year by year.
  • Search the indexes of nearby counties.

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Citation Example for a Record Found in This Collection

"Illinois, Northern District Naturalization Index, 1840-1950." database and digital images, FamilySearch ( accessed 21 March 2012), Fred Ban, naturalized April 6, 1891; citing Illinois Naturalizastion Index, FHL microfilm 1,432,017;United States Federal Archives and Records Center, NARA M1285.

Information about creating source citations for FamilySearch Historical Collections is listed in the wiki article Help:How to Create Source Citations For FamilySearch Historical Records Collections.