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  • One of the most exciting genealogical finds can be the naturalization papers of one's grandfather or great-grandfather-renouncing his allegiance to a former ruler and accepting citizenship in the United States. There were generally (procedures varied over the years) three steps involved. After five years in the United States, an immigrant could seek citizenship. The "first paper" to be filed, the Declaration of Intent, contains the most helpful information for the researcher. Those completing this form were asked for their date of arrival, the name of their ship, and their place and date of birth.

    After a specified amount of time (often two-three years depending upon the state), a Petition for Naturalization was filed and, if approved, was followed some months later by a Certificate of Naturalization. These forms can generally be found at the county court house or the U.S. District Court closest to the immigrant's residence. Copies can also be found in the National Archives.

    The World War I draft forms described in the military records section of this website can often give a clue about the registrant's progress through the steps toward citizenship. Many of these forms list "intent filed," "first paper completed" or "citizen" in a description of the status of our immigrant ancestors.

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