Immigration and Naturalization

Immigration and naturalization records contain the application file for naturalization of immigrants. Originally, wives and children were naturalized via the male head of household. Occasionally, the record includes a passport photograph. Immigration and naturalization records are available for free from Homeland Security via the Freedom of Information Act.

The application file lists

  • The person’s birth date
  • Birth place
  • Marriage place
  • Marriage date
  • Spouse’s name
  • Names and birth dates of children
  • Name of ship and date of arrival into country
  • Physical details (height, weight, hair color).

Researchers seeking alternative sources for an immigrant’s birthplace may find success in death certificates or passenger ship records.

Reading handwriting can be difficult particularly because previous generations used different symbols than are currently used. The library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill maintains a Writing Guide for researchers reading documents dating from the 18th century forward. For those researching European handwriting styles, Great Britain’s National Archives has “Palaeography: Reading Old Handwriting, 1500 - 1800: A Practical Online Tutorial” and Brigham Young University maintains Script Tutorials for Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish.

For more reading

Schaefer, Christina K. Guide to Naturalization Records of the United States. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1997. [Some information will be outdated due to the post-publication relocation of the Immigration and Naturalization Service to Homeland Security]