from the Ancestry Daily News
Michael John Neill – 11/28/2001
The "confusing" census entry is viewable at: www.rootdig.com/census/verikios1920.html
I must admit the census entry confused me. The wife was a native of the state of New York State and was listed in the 1920 census as an unnaturalized alien. There is an "x" in the box for her year of immigration to the United States.
All other records clearly indicated the individual in question, Mary Verikios, had been born in New York State. While looking at other individuals on the same census page, I noted that a female neighbor born in Wisconsin was also listed as an alien with no date of naturalization or immigration. The commonality was that both ladies were married to men who were immigrant aliens. This connection warranted further study. It turned out that for these two ladies (and thousands of others), their choice of a husband impacted their citizenship.
The problem centers around the history of women in regards to naturalization.
The census entries for both women indicate they were probably married around 1910. I learned that under the law in effect at that time, both women would have lost their citizenship upon their marriage to an alien. To further compound the problem, courts during this era and for some time before frequently held that women derived their citizenship status from that of their husband. There were exceptions (single women filing homestead claims were sometimes naturalized whether they were a widow or had never been married).
The history of naturalization in the United States is somewhat complex. The complexity is aggravated for women by the fact that the laws regarding naturalization and females were ambiguous, especially before 1907. For a significant portion of American history, a woman's citizenship status was derived from the status of her husband. In many cases immigrant women were naturalized "by default" upon their marriage to a citizen or upon their foreign-born husband obtaining citizenship. This derivative type of citizenship is the reason there are few naturalization records for immigrant women for most of American history. For those who were "naturalized by marriage" there generally is no mention of them in any records before 27 September 1906, when Congress standardized the naturalization process and required names of spouse and children on naturalization paperwork. Also, until women received the right to vote, there was little reason for many to bother with the expense and procedure of naturalization. However, there are occasionally naturalization records for women in the 1880s, 1890s and later. Many of the children "naturalized by default" via their father's naturalization, but not listed specifically, later went through the naturalization process themselves.
To reduce confusion, here is a brief chronology relevant to the problem at hand:
How Does This Impace Marie?
Marie's husband, Peter Verikios, was naturalized in 1934. Marie and Peter divorced in 1940. Marie subsequently married another U.S. citizen a few years later. None of these events made a difference in Marie's status after she married Peter, for they all took place after the Cable Act of 1922, which separated a woman's citizenship status from that of her husband. Her marriage to Peter between 1907 and 1922 was the "problem" in regards to her citizenship status.
Where Should I Go?
That one little "X" in the 1920 census really gave me a history lesson.
Szucs, Loretto D., They Became Americans: Finding Naturalization Records & Ethnic Origins , Salt Lake City, Utah, Ancestry, Inc., 1998.
Michael John Neill, is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael is the Web columnist for the FGS FORUM and is on the editorial board of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly. He conducts seminars and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including Ancestry and Genealogical Computing. You can e-mail him at: email@example.com or visit his Web site at: www.rootdig.com/, but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.
Copyright 2001, MyFamily.com.
used with permission by the author on his website