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Friday, March 28, 2014

Using Naturalization Records For Your Family Research

Naturalization is the process by which an alien becomes an American Citizen, as stated by the National Archives

The Naturalization Papers are just one of the many resources anyone can use to find out more about their ancestors.  The first Naturalization Act was passed on 26 March 1790.  "Free White" persons over 21 years of age could be granted citizenship if they lived in this country  for at least 2 years, and had to be a residing in the state of which they are applying from for 1 year.  Of course, they had to be of good moral character and take the Oath of Allegiance.  Just about any court could enact an application of citizenship.  Wives and children, under the age of 21, would be granted citizenship if the Husband/Father were to become a citizen of the U.S.A.

Stricter requirements were enacted in the revision of the Naturalization Act in 1795.  Residency in this nation was required for a minimum of 5 years, with one of those years being in the state of which the application took place.  The first papers for application, known as the Declaration of Intent, were to be filed at least 3 years before the final papers, known as the Petition for Citizenship, was filed.  "Free White Males" over 21 years of age could apply.  Besides the Oath of Allegiance, the petitioner had to renounce allegiance to any foreign government.

In 1922, women  who were over 21 were able to become citizens on their own, without the need for a husband or father.

In the Fourteenth Amendment of 1868, all African Americans were granted citizenship.  American Indians, in 1924, were considered citizens, without the need to serve in the ranks of the military or marriage to white citizens.  Territories were granted citizenship through laws and/or treaties, which include Texas, Arizona, Hawaii, Louisiana, Florida and Alaska.

Census records after 1870, asked each person whether they were an alien, a naturalized citizen, or if they had filed their Declaration of Intent, if they were born in a foreign country.  The year of immigration is listed on the census of 1900 and 1910.  The 1920 census lists the year of naturalization.  Also, the census of 1940 mentions the year of naturalization, if the person were foreign born.

1910 St. Louis City, Missouri, Federal Census
Note that several persons, including Tony Busalacchi,  are listed in column 17 as Alien (AL), and one Bernard Freidman was listed as Papers Applied (PA), meaning that he had filed his first  papers, the Declaration of Intent

Follow your ancestors through the census years to get a clue as to when they may have applied for U.S. Citizenship.  The persons in the census above had not applied their papers, except for Mr. Friedman, by 1910.
1920 St. Louis City, Missouri, Federal Census
Note that Tony Busalacchi is now listed in column 13 as Papers Applied (PA), meaning that he had filed his Declaration of Intent sometime between 1910 and 1920.
Any U.S. Naturalization records created after September of 1906 were copied and sent to the INS, and one copy was kept in the court where the person had applied.  Federal court applications are kept in the National Archive Regional offices. Check to find the office location that your ancestors papers may have been kept. You can order these record copies online.

Declaration of Intent for Tony Busalaki,of St. Louis, Missouri
date October 1912

This Declaration of Intent, "First Papers", belongs to Tony Busalaki, a first cousin of the Tony Busalacchi mentioned in the census sheets mentioned previously. Notice the change in the spelling of the surname.   Note the wealth of information about this man.  His age, occupation, description of his color, complexion, height and weight, town of origin, date of birth, address, name of ship and port from which it left, note of renounce of allegiance to the King of Italy, place and date of arrival, and his signature and date.  NOTE:  not all of the information on the Declaration of Intent is true.  Take the information as clues.  The name of the ship, date of arrival, date of birth, etc. may not be true, but it is as true as he may have believed at that time.  Immigrants did not have to supply a certified birth certificate, nor did they have to show proof of the date of arrival or name of the ship.  Persons from the INS did check ship manifests to see if they could find persons applying for citizenship.  

Prior to 1906, the search for the Naturalization papers may be more difficult.  Many people may have applied their Declarations of Intent soon after arriving in America, so it would not be uncommon to see those papers filed near their port of entry.  New York, Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia, or other port of entry would be a likely place to look for those first papers.  Not everyone filed their papers in a federal court.  They could have filed in a county or a large city civil courthouse.  Hopefully, the indexes for your ancestors papers were filmed, and you will be able to at least find them on an index card that will guide you to when and where the papers were filed.  

The older records of Naturalization may not hold much information regarding your ancestor.

1867 U. S. Naturalization Index Card  for George Adam Reif of Stephenson County, Illinois

Above, the Naturalization Card for George Reif , shows that he applied for his citizenship in April of 1867 in the Circuit Court of Stephenson County, Illinois.  This card does not have all of his information, but note that it does give the location of the certificate record : Vol. B. Pg. 62.  A trip to the courthouse in Stephenson County, with a copy of this card, should get me to the right location to view the copy of the certificate for George husbands great great grandfather.  This card was listed in the :
U.S. Naturalization Record Indexes, 1791-1992 (Indexed in World Archives Project)
found on Ancestry

Index for the Naturalization in St. Louis, Missouri; 1821-1906, St. Louis Genealogical Society
for Antonio Pitti, of Italy, in the Circuit Court of St. Louis

The St. Louis Genealogical Society,  has an online index for the Naturalizations that occurred in St. Louis, Missouri.  Above, the indexed information for Antonio Pitti, of Italy, in the Circuit Court of St. Louis, is found under the ID and Volume location.  A contact at the Circuit Court would be able to assist in getting a copy of this person's documentation.  As stated on the website :

  The original naturalization records are available on film at the Missouri State Archives, St. Louis County Library, State Archives, the Family History Library, St. Louis Public Library, and the Office of the Circuit Clerk, City of St. Louis, Missouri.

In searching for your ancestors' Naturalization and Citizenship papers, be sure to search - all free records, all the time.  Many documents have been digitized, and can be found online, or you can view the images on microfilm at your local LDS library or local library.  Don't forget to contact county courts, circuit courts and even criminal courts.
Many  WWI draftees and enlisted men were encouraged to become citizens.  Even later, 
when WWII involved the United States, residents were encouraged to become citizens and/or register as aliens.  These registrations can be found in the regional National Archives.  

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Will of Dr. Joseph H. Downing

Among the collection of old photos and papers in the suitcase  belonging to my husband's family, was a copy of the Last Will and Testament of Dr. Joseph Downing.  He was my husband's great grandfather.

Born in Camp Point, Adams County, Illinois, Joseph Downing was the second son of William Downing and Mary Elzada Bates.  He had six siblings : three brothers and three sisters.  Joseph married Anna Tipton on 7 June 1880 in Adams County.  

Dr. Downing was an 1882 graduate of the Rush School of Medicine in Chicago, Illinois.  
By 1890, he was practicing medicine in Saunders County, Nebraska, later moving to Butler County.  
His brother, Albert R. Downing, also graduated from  Rush Medical College, and moved to Custer County,  Nebraska.

Anna and Joseph had two daughters : Jessie, born in 1893, and Helen, born in 1898. A son, Robert Downing, died in infancy in 1897.

Dr. Downing passed on 25 May 1942 in Columbus, Nebraska.  His wife, Anna, passed on 2 December 1945 in Rising City, Nebraska.   

Friday, March 14, 2014

Here's to the Irish in Your Family

Well, unfortunately, I don't have any Irish ancestors.  But, most of my friends do.  So I am going to recommend a FREE service available this weekend from Ancestry at

The Irish Collections are free to search this weekend, in honor of St. Patrick's Day.

I took a gander at what they have to offer :



Immigration Records

Church Records


Cemeteries.....and the list goes on.

Take a minute, or two, and search for those elusive Irish ancestors.  Or, help your friends to find theirs.  The Luck of the Irish to you!

Friday, March 7, 2014

World War I Army Nurses Serving in France

A group of photographs from the collection of my husband's grandfather includes images of the nurses who tended to the sick and injured servicemen of World War One.

Can you imagine what it must have been like?  Serving in a foreign land, tending to the injured soldiers, many of whom did not speak English, must have been very stressful.  These young women did their best to provide good medical care, while they were reminded that they were only appointed to the ANC, and did not receive the respect that male medics received.  

From the website : Women in the U.S. Army

The Army Nurse Corps

Army Nurse Corps recruiting poster


On April 6, 1917, the United States entered World War I. There were 403 nurses on active duty, including 170 reserve nurses who had been ordered to duty in twelve Army hospitals in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico.
By 1918, more than 12,000 nurses were on active duty serving at 198 stations worldwide. In May 1917, six base (general) hospitals with more than 400 nurses sailed for France for service in the British Expeditionary Forces.
On Oct. 2, 1917, Gen. John J. Pershing sent a cabled request “for a competent member of the Nurse Corps” to supervise nursing activities in the American Expeditionary Forces. Bessie S. Bell, then Chief Nurse of Walter Reed General Hospital, reported to serve on Nov. 13, 1917.
Army Nurse preparing medicine
On May 25, 1918, the Army School of Nursing was authorized by the Secretary of War as an alternative to utilizing nurses’ aides in Army hospitals. Courses of instruction opened at several Army hospitals in July 1918. Annie W. Goodrich was appointed under contract as Chief Inspector Nurse for the Army; she became the first dean of the Army School of Nursing.
Army nurses during World War I did not have officer status. They were not commissioned, but appointed into the ANC. Medics sometimes refused to accept nurses’ authority on the wards. After the war, Congress, to show their appreciation, gave nurses officer status by allotting them “Relative Rank,” meaning that an Army nurse first lieutenant, for example, received less pay and status than a male first lieutenant.
As a sign of their valiant contribution in the Great War, Army nurses were awarded numerous medals – including the Distinguished Service Cross (an award ranked second only to the Medal of Honor).

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Rarely Seen Photos of WWI

Rarely do you find photos that were confiscated from German prisoners of war circa 1918.
Luckily, my husband's grandfather, LeRoy Hessler Reif, was able to obtain photos during his time of service as a medic in World War I.  Each one tells a story about the individuals photographed.  Their lives were changed by the decisions of men who had enormous egos.

And, those servicemen who were lucky enough to carry cameras with them while they performed their duties, were able to capture in photos what the war was really like in Europe.

Laboring German Prisoners of War Guarded by American Soldiers in France

Some of the Youngest German Soldiers Captured.  They were Chained to Their Machine Gun to Prevent Them From Running Away, Scared of Their Fate.

The Kaiser Taking Time to Review His Troops.  This Photo was Just One of the Many Taken from  Captured German Soldiers.

The Kaiser's Officer Headquarters on the Front Lines

A Photo of Field Marshall Von Hindenburg

This was supposed to be the War to End All Wars.  Unfortunately, that dream was not fulfilled.  Countless fighting men and women have lost their lives to support the inflated egos of those who wish to rule the world by imposing their beliefs and ways of life on those who seek freedom to make their own decisions.  In the end, they will realize that God is the only one who is in charge.  And, no human being can replace Our Lord.  Until that thought is recognized by everyone, we will have to endure conflicts that create havoc in the lives of the innocent.