Have you ever observed or taken part in a U.S. naturalization ceremony? We have. After going through a years-long process to apply for U.S. citizenship, thousands of people from all over the world were on hand to take the oath and receive their certificates. It's very moving, and an important part of our growth as a nation as we recognize and welcome new Americans.
Indeed, such ceremonies have been an integral part of our nation's existence as a beacon of hope for immigrants escaping war, famine, poverty, and persecution. And if you have immigrant ancestors, it's possible to find their naturalization records for FREE on FamilySearch.org (we do not recommend using the FamilySearch app which has some limitations). Here's how:
- Go to https://www.familysearch.org/search/ and log in (or create an account, it's free) or select Search > Records
- Enter the first and last name
- For "Place," use the name of the state if you know where the ancestor lived at the time of naturalization.
- For Year, use year of death or (roughly) when they were naturalized.
- Select "Collection"
- Scroll down to "Migration & Naturalization" and "Show All"
- Select the relevant county or state collections to your ancestor, and click "Apply Filter"
- Review the results.
If there are no relevant results, try changing the search criteria using alternate names, dates, and places. You can also try immigrant siblings or other relatives for clues about your own immigrant ancestor.
If you find a likely hit, examine the original (if available) and save it. If it is a critical record, print the image for your records and place it into archival genealogy storage.
There are no guarantees that old petitions, certifications, and other records of naturalization documents will be on FamilySearch. In addition, there are variations from state to state and even county to county, particularly during the 1800s. Relevant FamilySearch links to specific repositories can be found here, as well as a book recommendation about immigration and naturalization:
They Became Americans provides an accurate, readable, and interesting historical framework for the citizenship process. It suggests ways of finding naturalization records and discusses the weaknesses and strengths of the different types of records. If naturalization records are not to be found, They Became Americans points to a variety of alternative sources for finding immigrant origins.
One of the great things about finding your ancestor's naturalization documentation is they often show how long the immigrant was in the United States, as well as their country of origin. For some ancestors, we have even found the local place of origin overseas, such as a town or county.