[APG Public List] "First Papers"

Meredith Hoffman / GenerationsWeb mhoffman at generationsweb.com
Thu Jul 29 10:32:41 MDT 2010

A footnote to my earlier post about this, in which I should have  
clarified an important point about time frames and the location of  
naturalization records:

The statement that naturalization papers may have been filed in any  
court is true up until 1906; and what Patti says here is right on  
about the variety of places where one could file a Declaration of  
Intention or a Petition for Naturalization, and therefore where one  
might find these records today.

Until 1906, if they were filed in a federal court, those records are  
today likely to be at the relevant regional NARA; if they were filed  
in a state, county, or local court, you're most likely to find them at  
the relevant State Archives, or at least they may be able to tell you  
where else you might look.

(Some county court records have ended up at NARA and are on NARA  
microfilm; and there are NARA microfilm _indexes_ to some state and  
local court naturalizations, mostly pre-1906, including New York and  
the New England States.)

In 1906, the federal government started to legislate and administer  
naturalization procedures; it restricted the courts where one could  
file. Those post-1906 copies are held in the relevant NARA regional  
office for each area.

Also, since 1906 the federal government required that a copy of each  
Declaration and Petition be filed with the INS (Immigration and  
Naturalization Service). You can request copies of naturalization  
records from 1906 to 1956 from them (this is a very slow way to get  
these records, given that there are other ways to retrieve them). I've  
never dealt with newer records, but in general, after 1956, you'll  
find naturalization records at the local INS office where the papers  
were filed.

In addition, the FHL has microfilms of many records, mostly prior to  
1930; search the catalog for "naturalization" and the locality of  

Some -- but by no means all -- records are being digitized and put  
online. Some -- but by no means all -- indexes are being digitized and  
put online.

Pretty much, though, this is something that you still need to research  
and retrieve at the appropriate repository -- once you've figured out  
which one it is! -- either yourself or by hiring someone else to do  
it, if you're not able to do it yourself.

As with all records, sometimes you can't find a Declaration of  
Intention or a Petition for Naturalization, even if you're pretty  
certain it actually existed. And sometimes, when you find the column  
for Naturalization Status in the 1900, 1910, or 1920 census filled in  
with Pa (meaning that "first papers" or a Declaration of Intention has  
been filed) or Na (meaning that "final papers" or a Petition for  
Naturalization has been filed), for a variety of reasons that  
information may turn out to be incorrect.


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 12:28 PM, PLHGenealogy at gmail.com wrote:

> Leslie,
> Without knowing the details of what all was originally offered or  
> known, my comments may not be applicable. So many naturalization  
> papers lie in county courthouses, that it certainly is not a given  
> that final papers, etc., are going to appear on Footnote. As a  
> matter of fact, it is more likely that there would be no  
> naturalization papers on Footnote.com since they have records mostly  
> from the bigger district courts. A person could use any court and  
> commonly used their own county courthouse (which to my knowledge is  
> not on Footnote). They could file the declaration of intent in one  
> place and then five years later be in some other location and submit  
> the rest of the paperwork and take the oath of allegiance in a  
> totally different courthouse than where the original declaration was  
> filed.
> I would consider "first papers" to be only the declaration of intent  
> and not all the papers related to the naturalization process since  
> it's possible all the papers are not in one location anyway.
> Patti
> On Jul 28, 2010 10:29am, Leslie Drewitz <ldrewitz at mybpl.org> 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"?
> >

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