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Federal Courts | Civil Courts | Criminal Courts

          A Few Hints About Naturalizations

  • Not all immigrants sought naturalization as U.S. citizens. Many chose to live out their lives without formally seeking citizenship.

  • Until 1922, women were not naturalized through court action; instead, they acquired citizenship “by right of” their husbands’ or fathers’ naturalizations.

  • Until 1940, children became naturalized upon the naturalization of their fathers.

  • The 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930 federal census schedules show whether or not an individual was naturalized.

  • Information provided in naturalization records varies, depending on the court and the time period in which the naturalization occurred. Pre-1906 naturalization records (whether they are certificates of naturalizations, declarations of intention, petitions, or oaths and whether the naturalization was granted in state or federal court) provide far less information about the applicant than do the post-1906 records.

  • The Louisiana Division also has voter registration records for New Orleans, 1891-1978. Several records series in this group contain data about the naturalization of foreign-born voters.

  • In some jurisdictions, the court's record of the naturalization was simply an entry in the minute books of the court.

Throughout the 19th century, U.S. law provided that individuals could be naturalized by any federal court or any state “court of record.” The law changed in 1906, when the naturalization process came under the control of the newly established Immigration and Naturalization Service. Although in some states naturalizations continued to be granted in state courts, in New Orleans, naturalizations after 1906 took place only in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana in New Orleans.

The Louisiana Division holds naturalization records (and/or indexing) for Orleans Parish civil and criminal courts for the period 1828-1906 and from the federal court in New Orleans for the period 1811-1985. Pre- 1906 indexing includes references to naturalizations granted in parishes other than Orleans and to counties in Mississippi, but copies of those records must be obtained from the courthouse of individual parishes/counties.

Naturalization records generally take several forms, representing the successive steps an applicant took to become a citizen:

  • Declarations of Intention
    The first step in the naturalization process, by which an applicant declared his intention to become a citizen and renounced his allegiance to a foreign government. Those who entered the country as minors were not required to make a declaration of intention, nor were applicants who were married to U.S. citizens.

    Information found in pre-1906 declarations of intention (sometimes called “first papers”) varies, but generally includes only the name of the applicant, date of declaration, port of arrival, and country (but not town) of origin or allegiance. The applicant’s age and year of arrival in the U.S. are sometimes also given. After 1906, declarations include some or all of the following: name, age, occupation, race, complexion, height, weight, color of hair and eyes, place and date of birth, address, port of embarkation for the U.S., name of ship, former place of residence, port and date of arrival in U.S.

  • Petitions
    The formal petition to the court asking to be made a citizen was made several years (the length of the waiting period varied over time) after the declaration of intention was filed. The petition was generally made on the day the naturalization was granted. Some petitions make reference to the date of the declaration of intention and the court in which it was filed.

    Petitions give much the same information as the post-1906 declarations: name, address, occupation, date of birth, place of birth, port of embarkation to U.S., date of embarkation, port of arrival, date of arrival, name of ship, date and location of court in which declaration was filed. The petition (for males) also gives marital status, name of wife, her date and place of birth and current residence, and the name, birth date, place of birth, and address of minor children. The petition also provides the opportunity for the petitioner to “Americanize” his name.

  • Oaths of Applicants and Witnesses
    Statement of the applicant renouncing allegiance to foreign government and swearing allegiance to the U.S. government. Accompanied by statements of several witnesses who attest that they know the applicant to be of good character and to have met the designated residency requirements for naturalization. (The witnesses may be relatives of the applicant.)

  • Certificates of Naturalization
    Formal document granting citizenship. Pre-1906 certificates give very little information beyond the name of applicant, date of naturalization, and country of origin or former allegiance. Certificates are not included in the post-1906 federal records; after 1906, a copy of the certificate was given to the new citizen and a copy was sent to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, where it was kept on file. In the federal court records, the oath is followed simply by an order of the court admitting the applicant to citizenship.

Note: In the lists that follow, dates for “loose” records are given inclusively. There may be only a handful of records within those dates.

Naturalizations in Federal Court (New Orleans)

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana [New Orleans]. Index to Petitions and Declarations of Intention, 1811-1985.
In addition to the number, volume, page, and date for declarations and petitions, the index also gives the naturalization certificate number. Note that the index extends beyond the time period of declarations and petitions available in the Louisiana Division. mf GS36-159 to 170

  Digital images of the original card index above are available at www.familysearch.org (FREE). At this time, the images are incomplete.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana [New Orleans]. Naturalization Records, 1813-1932.
Microfilm made by the Genealogical Society of Utah of naturalization records when these records were still in the possession of the U.S. District Court in New Orleans. (With the exception of the loose declarations of intention, which are housed in the Louisiana Division, these records are now housed at the National Archives and Records Administration’s Southwest Region facility in Fort Worth, Texas.) Included in the microfilmed records of this court are:

Declarations of Intention, 1813-1932 mf GS36-171 to 185

Loose Declarations of Intention, 1840-1863 mf VNU320

Petitions and Other Records, 1906-1929 mf GS36-186 to 207


Naturalizations in Civil Courts (Orleans Parish)

The original records of naturalizations granted by the Orleans Parish civil courts were transferred to the Louisiana Division along with the other civil court records. The records include declarations of intention, oaths of applicants and witnesses, and certificates of naturalization. The Orleans Parish civil courts kept separate books for certificates of majors and minors (those who entered the U.S. as minors).

Note: The Louisiana Division holds naturalizations only for Orleans Parish. Naturalizations granted in other parish (or in Mississippi) must be obtained from the Clerk of Court of the relevant parish/county.

Index to Certificates of Naturalization Issued by Louisiana Courts, 1831-1906.
Prepared by the New Orleans District Office of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, this index serves as a master index to the final naturalization certificates (but not to the declarations) in Orleans Parish civil and criminal courts and in civil courts in other Louisiana Parishes. The index also includes some naturalizations for Mississippi courts. (The original copy of this index is housed at the National Archives and Records Administration’s Southwest Region facility in Fort Worth, Texas.) mf (Ask for the microfilm at the La. Division Reference Desk)

Note: Since the index does not reference declarations of intention, the declarations can be easily located only if the naturalization certificate notes the date and court where the declaration was filed. Some certificates include that information; others do not.

  Digital images of the original card index above are available at www.ancestry.com (subscription only) and at Ancestry Library Edition, accessible in all NOPL facilities. The images are part of Ancestry.com's "U.S. Naturalization Record Indexes, 1791-1922" database.

First Judicial District Court, 1828-1846
Loose Declarations of Intention, 1841-1846 mf VNM320
Loose Certificates (Majors and Minors), 1828-1846 mf VNM743m

Parish Court, 1836-1846
Declarations of Intention, 1836-1844 mf VNA320
Certificates (Majors and Minors), 1836-1846 mf VNA743ma

Second District Court, 1849-1884
Oaths of Applicants and Witnesses, 1874-1870 mf VNB250
Declarations of Intention, 1849-1884 mf VNB320
Certificates (Majors), 1850-1878 mf VNB743a
Certificates (Minors), 1850-1884 mf VNB743m
Certificates (Majors and Minors), 1872-1874 mf VNB743ma

Third District Court, 1846-1877
Oaths of Applicants and Witnesses, 1846-1867 mf VNC250
Declarations of Intention, 1848-1877 mf VNC320
Certificates (Majors), 1846-1867 mf VNC743a
Certificates (Minors), 1867-1876 mf VNC743m

Fourth District Court, 1854-1880
Declarations of Intention, 1854-1874 mf VND320
Certificates (Majors), 1854-1879 mf VND743a
Certificates (Minors), 1866-1880 mf VND743m

Fifth District Court, 1846-1879
Declarations of Intention, 1854-1879 mf VNE320
Certificates (Majors), 1866-1877 mf VNE743a
Certificates (Minors), 1866-1879 mf VNE743m
Certificates (Soldiers and Sailors), 1868-1878 mf VNE743s

Sixth District Court, 1853-1880
Declarations of Intention, 1863-1878 mf VNF320
Certificates (Majors), 1865-1872 mf VNF743a
Certificates (Minors), 1853-1880 mf VNF743m

Seventh District Court, 1868-1872
Certificates (Majors and Minors), 1868-1872 mf VNG743ma

Lafayette City Court, 1840-1844
Loose Certificates (Majors and Minors) mf II VNL743ma

Civil District Court, 1880-1906
Oaths of Applicants and Witnesses, 1880-1903 mf VNT250
Declarations of Intention, 1888-1906 mf VNT320
Loose Declarations from State Courts, 1880-1903 mf VNT320s
Certificates (Majors), 1879-1906 mf VNT743a
Certificates (Minors), 1884-1906 mf VNT743m


Naturalizations in Criminal Courts (Orleans Parish)

The original records of naturalizations for Orleans Parish criminal courts (First District Court, Superior Criminal Court, and Criminal District Court) are housed at the Jefferson Parish Public Library (deposited there by the American Italian Renaissance Foundation Museum). The records were originally housed at Tulane University and, while at Tulane, were filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah. The loose declarations of intention are housed in the Louisiana Division.

Although several different criminal courts are represented among the criminal court records, the microfilms are all labeled “Criminal Courts.” The inclusive dates for each series is as follows:

Declarations of Intention, 1880-1899 (and Index) mf VNL320

Loose Declarations of Intention, 18471876 mf VNZ320

Certificates, 1853-1898 (and Index) mf VNL743

Note: The Index to Certificates of Naturalization Issued by Louisiana Courts, 1831-1906, described above, indexes criminal court naturalizations, as well as civil court naturalizations. There are, however, separate indexes to the criminal court naturalization records, which may also be consulted.