Pennsylvania Eastern District Petitions for Naturalization (FamilySearch Historical Records)
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Access the records: Pennsylvania, Eastern District Petitions for Naturalization, 1795-1931 .
The records consist of naturalization petitions for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern district of Pennsylvania for the years 1795 to 1931. The records corresponds to NARA publication M1522.
Naturalization is a voluntary process by which immigrants can become American citizens and receive the rights granted with citizenship. Before 1790, British immigrants were automatically considered citizens. Some Protestant immigrants from other counties swore allegiance and requested citizenship from civil authorities. The process by which foreign immigrants could become citizens of the British empire colony, and later American citizens, was handled by the individual states until 1906, when the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization standardized immigration laws and procedures. The general requirements for citizenship include residency in one U.S. state for one year and in the United States for five years.
Naturalization papers are an important source of information about an immigrant's nation of origin, his foreign and “Americanized” names, residence, and date of arrival. Naturalization records were created to process naturalizations and keep track of immigrants in the United States.
Naturalization records are generally reliable, but may occasionally be subject to error or falsification. Be sure to search all possible spellings of your ancestor's surname. Think about how the surname was pronounced, and how it sounded in your ancestor's probable accent. The surname may be spelled differently in earlier records that were closer to your ancestor's immigration date.
For a list of records by dates currently published in this collection, select the Browse link from the collection landing page.
Citation for This Collection
The following citation refers to the original source of the information published in FamilySearch.org Historical Record collections. Sources include the author, custodian, publisher and archive for the original records.
- "Pennsylvania, Eastern District Petitions for Naturalization, 1795-1931." Images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2013. Citing NARA microfilm publication M1522. Philadelphia: National Archives, n.d.
Before 1906, the information recorded on naturalization records differed widely and often didn't mention the immigrant's town of origin or parents' names. These records may contain:
- Arrival date and port of entry
- Name and age of immigrant
- Age of immigrant
- Current residence of immigrant
- Country of origin or allegiance
In 1906, the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization was created and later renamed Immigration and Naturalization Services or INS. Some results included standardized forms throughout the country and copies of naturalization papers sent to the INS in addition to the court keeping a copy.
Naturalization records after 1906 contain more detailed information about the immigrants and their families. Possible information given in post-1906 naturalization records include:
- Name of declarant
- Date of Declaration of Intent
- Age and occupation of declarant
- Physical description of declarant
- Declarant's date and place of birth
- Declarant's marital status
- Spouse's name
- Spouse's date and place of birth
- Names of children
- Children's dates and places of birth
- Date of arrival and port of entry
- Name of ship
- Departure date and port of departure
- Current U. S. residence
- Last foreign address
How to Use the Record
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Immigrants could naturalize in any court that performed naturalizations. That included city, county, state and federal courts. Begin by looking for naturalization records in the courts of the county or city where the immigrant lived. Look first for the petition (second papers), because they are usually easier to find in courts near where the immigant eventually settled. After 1906, the declaration can be filed with the petition as the immigrant was required to submit a copy when he submitted the petition.
Because immigrants were allowed to naturalize in any court, they often selected the most convenient court. If they lived in the Eastern District but worked elsewhere, they may have gone to a court closer to work.
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.
- NARA Catalog Description for This Collection
- Naturalization Records in the USA
- Pennsylvania Naturalization Records
Related Wiki Articles
- Pennsylvania History
- Pennsylvania Naturalization and Citizenship
- United States Naturalization and Citizenship
Contributions to This Article
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Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections
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Citation Example for a Record Found in This Collection
"Pennsylvania, Eastern District Petitions for Naturalization, 1795-1931" digital images, FamilySearch (https://.familysearch.org: accessed 7 October 2011). Karl Baumgartner, 25 December 1905; citing Naturalization Records, 1910, Petition nos. 002725-003110, image 5; Federal Archives and Records Center, Washington, D.C., United States.