Virginia Naturalization Petitions (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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Access the records: Virginia Naturalization Petitions, 1906-1929 .

Record Description

This collection is an index to naturalization proceedings filed in four U.S. District Courts in Virginia and corresponding to four record series at the National Archives:

  • Naturalization Petitions of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia (Abingdon), 1914-1929 (NARA M1645)
  • Naturalization Petitions of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia (Charlottesville), 1910-1929 (NARA M1646)
  • Naturalization Petitions of the U.S. District and Circuit Courts for the Eastern District of Virginia (Richmond), 1906-1929 (NARA M1647)
  • Naturalization Petitions of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria), 1909-1920 (NARA M1648).

The naturalization volumes are typed on printed forms. While there were various types of naturalization records, the Declaration of Intent and Naturalization Petition usually had the most complete genealogical information.

For a list of localities currently published in this collection, select the [(URL for the Collection Page browse link) Browse] link from the collection landing page.

These records cover the years from 1906 to 1929. 

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.

Naturalization is the process of granting citizenship privileges and responsibilities to foreign-born residents. Counties recorded naturalization procedures in the court records as legal proof of citizenship.

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.

For a list of records by localities and dates currently published in this collection, select the Browselink of the collection landing page.

Citation for This Collection

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

"Virginia, Naturalization Petitions, 1906-1929" Images. FamilySearch. : accessed 2013. Citing NARA microfilm publication M1647. Pennsylvania: National Archives and Records Administration, Philadelphia Branch, n.d.

Suggested citation format for a record in this collection.

Record Content

The information given for each petition includes the following:

Virginia, Naturalization Petitions (10-0677) DGS 4679902 58.jpg
  • Name of the petitioner
  • Residence
  • Country of birth
  • Place and date of arrival
  • Names of two witnesses
  • Petition number
  • Date of petition
  • Volume and page number of the petition

Declaration of Intent and Naturalization Petitions usually included the following:

  • Date of Declaration of Intent of Naturalization
  • Name and age of immigrant
  • Occupation
  • Marital status
  • Name of spouse, including maiden name of wife
  • Physical description
  • Date and place of birth
  • Spouse's date and place of birth
  • Current residence
  • Last foreign residence
  • Name of place and country from which emigrated
  • Date of embarkation and port of departure
  • Date of arrival and port of entry
  • Names of witnesses
  • Signature of judge or court official

How to Use the Record

To begin your search 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 or 1910 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 Collection

To search the collection, select "Browse through images" on the initial collection page
⇒ Select the "Court"
⇒ Select the "Record Description" which takes you to the images.

Look at the images one by one comparing the information with what you already know about your ancestors to determine which one is your ancestor. You may need to compare the information about more than one person to make this determination.

Using the Information

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.

Tips to Keep in Mind

  • 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.

Unable to Find Your Ancestor?

  • 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.

Related Websites

Genealogy Quest - Free Genealogy Records

Related Wiki Articles

Contributions to This Article

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Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections

When you copy information from a record, you should list where you found the information. This will help you or others to find the record again. It is also good to keep track of records where you did not find information, including the names of the people you looked for in the records.

A suggested format for keeping track of records that you have searched is found in the wiki article Help:How to Cite FamilySearch Collections.

Citation Example for a Record Found in This Collection

"Virginia Naturalization Petitions, 1906-1926," images, FamilySearch ( http : accessed 3 May 2012), U.S. District Court. Western District (Charlottesville) > Declarations of Intention, no 1-100 (1908-1927) > image 18 of 66, Robert Douglas, age 21; citing Naturalization Petitions, United States Federal Archives and Records Center.