From the Ancestry
The Naturalization of Three Brothers
Questions of citizenship and naturalization frequently perplex family historians. This week we look at three naturalized brothers for whom no actual naturalization record can be found and the reason serves to remind us that an understanding of the appropriate laws and procedures is necessary for effective family history research.
Brothers George, Theodore, and John Trautvetter all claim to be naturalized citizens in their 1900 through 1930 census enumerations. While census records can be incorrect, consistencies from year to year should be noted. Abstracts of the brothers' entries follow:
Note: In the interest of space, complete citations are not given, but all census entries for the Trautvetter brothers were in Hancock County, Illinois, either Rocky Run, Walker, or Warsaw Townships.
Given that the brothers were likely naturalized before the immigration reform of 1906, local county records were searched for their naturalization. (Most pre-1906 naturalizations were performed by one of the various county courts.) Regular naturalizations and records of minors' naturalizations were searched. (The distinction is important as regular naturalizations and minors' naturalizations may be filed and index separately.) No record was found.
While it is possible that the brothers naturalized in a different court, it seems unlikely in this case. Family tradition and records indicate the family settled in Hancock County immediately after their immigration and did not move. Before other counties and court records are checked, it is time to re-think and re-analyze.
So how could George have been naturalized before his twenty-first birthday? Simple. He had nothing to do with it. Had George's father naturalized when George was underage, George would automatically have become a citizen when his father did. So would any other minor children of the father.
This type of citizenship is commonly referred to as derivative citizenship. A derivative citizenship is one where the status not obtained directly but is "derived" from the citizenship of another. If this is the case, the three brothers were naturalized but did not have any actual "paper" of their own showing their citizenship status.
Looking for the Father
of Intent during this time were usually taken orally from the person
making the declaration, without proof. Later declarations of intent
(particularly those after 1906) required document of entry into the
United States. George was probably just taken at his word. Readers
familiar with German geography will note that Salsungen probably refers
to Bad Salzungen. George's declaration of intent (along with his actual
signature) can be viewed here:
Had naturalization occurred after 1906 the names of the children would have been stated explicitly. For records before the immigration reform there were numerous individuals who were naturalized without their name ever appearing in a naturalization record. Others were in the same situation as the Trautvetter brothers. Some might even have been uncertain of their citizenship status and indicated so on a census record. Some individuals in order to guarantee their citizenship status would naturalize of their own accord to prevent any ambiguity.
These Are Not Minor Naturalizations
If your ancestor's responses to citizenship questions in the census indicates he was uncertain of his status, consider the possibility that your ancestor actually had derivative citizenship. There are many other reasons why your ancestor might have been confused, but it is an option worth considering.
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 currently a member of the board of the Federation
of Genealogical Societies (FGS). He conducts seminars and lectures
nationally on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and
contributes to several genealogical publications, including Ancestry
Magazine and Genealogical Computing. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit
his website, but he regrets that
he is unable to assist with personal research.
Michael John Neill will be speaking at the following events throughout 2005:
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