Searching for Naturalization  Records through USCIS

This month I thought I would write about something a bit lighter in nature than most of my blogs.  Given that we are all immigrants, many wish to learn more about their family histories and to obtain copies of immigration related historical  documents. One way to start is to obtain naturalization records and certificates for your ancestors. Prior to 1906, foreign nationals could be naturalized in any court of record .  The names and types of courts would vary from state to state and would change from time to time. Some were naturalized in state supreme courts and some who lived in large cities were naturalized in a Federal Court.  Pre-1906 records are not available from the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service. Generally, you must go directly to the specific court to find the documents.

In 1903,  a Justice Department investigator many the following comments:

I find the naturalization records in many cases in a chaotic condition, many lost and destroyed, and some sold for old paper. Most the records consist of merely the name and nativity of the alien with no means of identifying aliens of the same name….In numerous cases I find aliens naturalized under initials instead of Christian names, surnames misspelled or changed entirely, and names of witnesses inserted in place of the alien naturalized….The examination of the records discloses the remarkable fact that never, since the first enactment of the naturalization laws, has any record been made in any court of the names of minor children who, under the operation of the statutes, were made citizens by the naturalization of their parents.

The National Archives generally does not have naturalization records created in State or local courts but some of these records were donated to the National Archives and are available from them.  To obtain information from the National Archives you may wish to visit

After 1906  INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) which is now called  USCIS, received a copy of all naturalization records. Anyone can now search for the records of deceased immigrants through the genealogy program of USCIS.  This is a two step process. First you must start with an Index Search Request which can be done online with a credit card or by mailing Form G-1041 with a check for $ 65. This form asks you to provide the name of the person along with other names which may have been used, dates of birth – actual or estimated, place of birth   (if known) along with other biographical information that may be helpful in locating the records. If the immigrant’s date of birth is less than 100 years prior to the search request, you must provide proof of death to obtain the search results. This search identifies what records are available. After the search has been completed you can then file Form 1041A along with another fee of $ 65 to request the records that were identified in the search.  If you wish to file the search requests or the records request you may find additional information here

When researching the information for this blog, I came across other interesting information and films from the USCIS History  Office and Library. You might like to see the film USICS and the Legacy of Ellis Island is discussed by  USCIS as follows “Through historical images, first-hand accounts, and expert interviews, “USCIS and the Legacy of Ellis Island” brings to life the important work of the men and women who operated Ellis Island. It introduces audiences to USCIS’ origins and shows how the work performed on Ellis Island still influences the agency and its workforce. You can watch “USCIS and the Legacy of Ellis Island” on YouTube.”

Another interesting item in the USCIS History Office and Library is an article about Immigrant name changes which includes a July 4th Essay – American Names/Declaring Independence.

I hope that my readers have enjoyed this diversion from the more serious aspects of immigration law and hope that you have a Happy Thanksgiving. 


Linda M Kaplan
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