[APG Public List] "First Papers"

Meredith Hoffman / GenerationsWeb mhoffman at generationsweb.com
Thu Jul 29 06:00:33 MDT 2010


"First Papers" is simply the common term for "Declaration of  
Intention." This is what you file to initiate the process of becoming  
a citizen.

After that, there's a waiting period (which was different at different  
times and under different circumstances); then you file what is  
commonly called "Final Papers," which is the common term for the  
"Petition for Naturalization." (Typically, you have to have been in  
the US continuously for five years, with some exceptions, before you  
can file the Petition for Naturalization.)

They are, in fact, two separate documents. Sometimes, they may be  
filed together at whatever repository you find them, and sometimes  
they are filed separately. Sometimes, they're not even at the same  
repository! This is especially true the farther back you go, and  
before 1906 in particular, when you may find one or both documents  
filed at any number of local courts, and often not at the same court,  
and sometimes not in the same state!

So, as two separate documents, when I charge someone for locating and  
retrieving "naturalization papers," if I retrieve both, I charge for  
each one as a separate research cost, with any and all attendant costs  
(travel, finding the microfilm, locating the record, making the copy,  
recording the source information, and transcribing it, if that's part  
of the job request). That's also the case if I'm locating them online;  
if I'm lucky, I'll find both together when I search for one, but  
typically, it's two individual searches, ... with two individual  

Personally and professionally, I don't find a charge for $16 to  
retrieve a Declaration of Intention excessive. Nor is it in any way  
unethical or shady to charge a separate fee to retrieve any  
corresponding Petition for Naturalization.

As for whether the cost is "worth $16 I paid for them" -- these  
documents are what they are; nobody was trying to "foist" something  
off on your student. The issue of their value is subjective and that's  
a whole 'nother conversation....

With regard to your student saying that she was told to "look on  
ancestry...then she could find them," I assume that she was told to  
find the _index_ to the naturalization papers on Ancestry, and with  
that information it would be possible to retrieve the actual document.

Hope this helps.


Meredith Hoffman / GenerationsWeb
Plymouth, MA

JGSGB Publicity Chair
APG profile: http://tinyurl.com/genweb-apg
Co-editor JewishGen Success! Stories: www.jewishgen.org/jewishgen/testimonials
GenWeb blog: http://consultant.generationsweb.com

On 2010Jul28, at 11:29 AM, Leslie Drewitz wrote:

> Naturalization records have never been my strong suit, but one of my
> students was having a problem with getting the full file of  
> naturalization
> records from someone that she had contracted with on Genlighten.  It  
> was
> my impression that the term "First Papers" would net you everything  
> in the
> file from the declaration up to the oath - but this is not what  
> she's getting.
> The person that she contracted with just sent her a copy of the
> declaration and charged her $16.  here is what my student said:
> "..This  lady is telling me that the declaration is the first papers  
> and
> that is what I got. To tell you the truth it was not worth $16 I  
> paid for
> them. Is that not true.
> http://www.genealogybranches.com/naturalization.html  - this is the  
> link
> that I got. She told me to go look on ancestry to find the petition  
> papers
> or final oath then she could find them. Am I still not  
> understanding?..."
> Could someone clearly define the term "First Papers"?
> Thank You
> Leslie Drewitz PLCGS
> Certified Genealogical Librarian
> Local History/Genealogy
> Bloomingdale Public Library
> 101 Fairfield Way
> Bloomingdale, Illinois 60108
> (630) 924-2765
> LDrewitz at mybpl.org

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