Showing posts with label naturalization. Show all posts
Showing posts with label naturalization. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Closing the Book on One Family at a Time

Follow along as we figure out what's needed to "finish" documenting my grandmother's family.

It's time to work closer to home. Complete your closest families' documents.
It's time to work closer to home.
Complete your closest families' documents.
Last time I talked about 4 keys—4 things to focus on that will make you a better genealogist. One of them was "finishing" your research on individual families.

There's never going to be an end to the things you can learn about any given family in your family tree. But you can "close the book" on getting copies of their major documents.

You'll find this exercise more meaningful if you stick to your closest relatives. I'll choose my paternal grandmother Lucy, her brothers (Mike and Frank), and her parents (Pasquale and Maria Rosa).

The head of this family unit was my great grandfather Pasquale Iamarino. He was born in Italy, came to America in 1902, lived in New York and Ohio, and died in 1969.

I've had a lot of luck finding Pasquale's documents. (See "How to Use a Paper Trail to Recreate Your Ancestor's Life".) I have his:
  • 1882 birth record from Italy and his baptismal record from the church
  • 1902 ship manifest when he came to New York City
  • 1905 New York State census
  • 1906 marriage certificate with my great grandmother
  • 1908 Hornell, NY, directory
  • 1910 Federal census and 1915 New York State census
  • 1918 World War I draft registration card
  • 1920 and 1930 censuses when the family lived in Ohio
  • 1931–1935 city directories from Ohio
  • 1940 census
  • 1942 World War II draft registration card
  • 1969 death certificate from the state of Ohio
That's a pretty good haul! But there is a major piece of documentation I've never found for Pasquale. His naturalization papers.

The 1910 census calls him an Alien. The 1920 census says he had filed his naturalization papers. The 1930 census says he is a naturalized citizen. I can narrow it down further with his WWI draft registration card. In September 1918 he was a Declarant.

He began the citizenship process by September 1918, but did he file his papers in New York? He lived in Albany in June 1915, and he was an Alien on the 1915 state census. Or did he file his papers when he moved to Ohio?

I have a theory that Pasquale moved from New York to Ohio for a better opportunity with the railroad. Maybe the Erie Railroad preferred that he become a citizen.

It's a good bet that Pasquale filed his papers in the court nearest to Girard, Ohio, outside Youngstown.

My great grandfather's documents: so close to complete.
My great grandfather's documents: so close to complete.
That's one set of papers I need. What about the rest of this family of five?

For my great grandmother, Maria Rosa, I have her:
  • 1880 birth record from Italy
  • 1906 immigration record
  • 1906 marriage certificate
  • 1910–1940 censuses
  • 1931–1935 city directories from Ohio
  • 1970 death certificate
According to the 1940 census, she never became a citizen. I don't expect to find any other documents for her.

Since she doesn't seem to have become a citizen, my great grandmother's documents are complete.
Since she doesn't seem to have become a citizen, my great grandmother's documents are complete.
I'm missing my grandmother Lucy's birth and death records. Recently I solved the mystery of her missing birth record. I found her in a birth index with a misspelled last name and no first name. Now I have the document number and the wrong last name (Merino). I should be able to order that from New York, and I can order her death certificate from Ohio.

For my grandmother's brothers, my great uncle Mike and great uncle Frank, I have each census and lots of facts. As for their vital records, I have all the dates, but I don't have certificates of their births, marriages and deaths. I don't know about you, but I pay to get certificates only for my closest relatives. My dad loved these, guys, but I'm afraid I never met them.

So, the final tally of what I need before I can "close out" this family:
  • Pasquale's naturalization papers, probably from Ohio
  • Lucy's birth certificate from New York
  • Lucy's death certificate from Ohio
I'm ashamed of myself for not having purchased my grandmother's 1954 death certificate. Somehow I overlooked it. And I'm even more ashamed that I never before figured out when my great grandfather became a citizen. (It still doesn't come up in a search.)

This is exactly why I'm encouraging us all to go back to basics. Look at the families closest to you—each of your grandparents' families for starters. Figure out what's missing:
  • What can you find online?
  • What will you have to send away for?
  • What can you find on a genealogy road trip?

Take a day off from one of your distant-cousin-searches and come closer to home. Find the missing pieces for your closest relatives. Then share what you've learned with your family.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2018

What to Find on Your Ancestor's Naturalization Papers

What did your immigrant ancestor gain by becoming a citizen of their adopted country?

If they came from another country, your ancestor had to file their Declaration of Intent to become a U.S. citizen. They had to present it to the court in their jurisdiction. They had to renounce their allegiance to their former country and its head of state. After this declaration, your ancestor's citizenship was either granted or denied.

My grandfather, Pietro Iamarino, was born in Italy in October 1902. He came to America to find work in November 1920. He started working in Newton, Massachusetts, because his mother's brother lived there. Two months later Pietro moved to Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, and went to work for National Tube Company. The United States Steel Corporation (US Steel) had recently acquired this metal tube manufacturer. They most likely had lots of work to offer a healthy young man like Pietro.

Three years later, in February 1924, my grandfather must have decided he wasn't going back to Italy. He filed his Declaration of Intention in the Common Pleas Court in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, where he lived and worked.

Your ancestor's naturalization papers will hold a lot of facts you need.
Your ancestor's naturalization papers will hold a lot of facts you need.
Naturalization Documents Hold Lots of Genealogy Facts

Here's the information you can learn or confirm with your ancestor's Declaration of Intention:
  • Name
  • Physical description (color, complexion, height, weight, hair and eye color, distinctive marks)
  • Date of birth
  • Residence at the time
  • Immigration details (port of departure, name of ship, port of arrival, date of arrival)
  • Hometown
  • Name, place of birth and address of spouse
  • Current country of citizenship

The Process Continues

On 19 Oct. 1926—two and a half years after his declaration of intention—my grandfather's naturalization process was continuing. His Declaration of Intention and a Certificate of Arrival were filed. Two men who knew and worked with him signed a sworn statement that Pietro had been living in the U.S. continuously since he filed his declaration.

Four more months pass. It's now 24 February 1927: 6½ years since his arrival in the U.S. and 3 years since he filed his Declaration of Intention. Pietro takes the Oath of Allegiance. He renounces all allegiance to the King of Italy. He swears to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.

This declaration of intention includes birth dates for the applicant's husband and children.
This declaration of intention includes birth dates for the applicant's husband and children.
Eight months later, U.S. citizen Pietro Iamarino leaves his job at National Tube Company and heads for Youngstown, Ohio. There he finds a job with the Carnegie Steel Company and a room in the home of his father's second cousin, Pasquale Iamarino.

Pasquale's young daughter Lucy Iamarino was born a U.S. citizen to two immigrant parents. Lucy and Pietro, third cousins who had never met before, married in October 1927. Because Pietro was a citizen, Lucy did not have to lose her citizenship.

"What's that?" you say. The U.S. government passed a law in March 1907 called the Expatriation Act. It said an American-born woman would lose her citizenship if she married a non-citizen. If her foreign-born husband later became a U.S. citizen, she would have to go through the naturalization process, too.

Can you imagine having to be naturalized when you've never been outside the United States?

Did this rule apply to men, too? If a male citizen married a foreign woman, did he lose his citizenship? Of course not. What do you think this is—fair? This law didn't go away entirely until the 1940s.

It is possible this law affected my other grandmother, Mary. She was born in New York City to recent immigrants. In fact, she was in utero for the voyage from Italy to America. In 1922 she married my grandfather Adamo, who was from Italy.

I know for sure he was still not naturalized as little as 2½ years before he married my grandmother. I haven't found his naturalization documents. The page seems to be missing from the record collection. So I don't yet know if my grandmother lost her citizenship.

What Was the Process for Our Ancestors?

The basic process of gaining U.S. citizenship today includes:
  • Entering the country and gaining legal permanent resident status.
  • Spending 5 continuous years living here at least 50% of the time.
  • Being at least 18 years old (children can derive citizenship from their parents).
  • Having a basic knowledge of English and of American history. The Immigration Act of 1917 added this requirement. Since my grandfather came here knowing no English, he must have spent his first couple of years here trying to learn the language.
  • Having shown good moral character.
  • Agreeing with the basic concept of the U.S. government system.
  • Swearing an oath of allegiance to the United States.

What Were the Benefits of Citizenship to Our Ancestors?

Our ancestors may have found it a lot easier to get work once they became a citizen. The main benefits of citizenship are the right to:
  • vote
  • hold public office
  • travel freely
  • own land
  • reunite your family.

I have one great grandfather who managed to own buildings soon after his arrival in New York City. Apart from him, I think none of these benefits were as important to my immigrant ancestors as merely belonging.

While they didn't lose their accents, they did adopt the American way of life. They were proud that their children were born as U.S. citizens. America was the land of opportunity, and that's really all they wanted. Opportunity.

What this long process like for your ancestors? How would you fare if you stepped off a ship in another country and had a couple of years to learn the language, the history and the legal processes? All while securing good employment and a place to live.

Our ancestors went through more than we'll ever know to give us all the things we take for granted. Like the right to vote. How will you honor them?


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Friday, September 21, 2018

How to Keep from Going Too Far with Your Family Tree

How do you know when to stop gathering documents and facts for the in-laws in your family tree?

My full collection of documents for a distant cousin's wife.
For certain types of distant relatives, I'm collecting
the basic documents and stopping right there.
I've been thinking about this ever since I decided to delete the in-laws of distant relatives from my tree.

Here's an example. When I was new at family history research, "easy" families were impossible to resist. So, when I saw my Great Uncle Mike's granddaughter-in-law had a tree with 7 generations of Uncle Mike's wife's family, I "adopted" them all.

I added this big branch to my tree with little or no documentation. I found documents for some of the people, but I didn't care enough about this branch to see it through. They weren't mine.

My new policy is simple. Unless I have a reason to go further, I will stop at the parents of a relative's spouse. I kept Uncle Mike's wife's parents, but the rest of her many ancestors are gone.

The 2 main reasons I would break this policy are:
  1. An in-law asked me to research their family.
  2. The in-law family is from the same town as mine and may be related.
With this new policy fresh on my mind, I found myself looking at documents for a relative's wife today. I downloaded Emily's naturalization papers from FindMyPast.com 2 weeks ago. They were offering free access for a few days.

The site had indexed Emily by her married name—my family name—which is why I found her. I recognized who she was immediately and downloaded the 2 pages. Then they sat on my desktop for a while.

When I finally examined the naturalization papers, I realized I had Emily's:
  • date and place of birth in Italy
  • immigration date with the name of the ship
The pages also confirm the birth dates I had for her husband and son, so they're well worth having.

Before I found her naturalization papers, all I had for Emily was:
  • Her 1927 marriage certificate—but not a copy of it. I saw and transcribed it at the New York City Municipal Archives years ago. Her parents' names were on that marriage certificate, so I already had them in my tree.
  • The 1940 U.S. Federal Census.
  • The Social Security Death Index record of her death in 1991.
Knowing that I have no plans to add anyone else from her family, what other documents should I try to find and add to my tree?

Her naturalization papers say she was born on 2 Dec 1907 in Savignano, Italy. So I've got to look for that document. Vital records for Savignano are available online, so I drilled down to the year 1907 and found it.

This document gives me her mother's original name and her father's age and occupation. I don't need any more details about Emily's parents.

In 1907 Emily's town was called Savignano di Puglia. She was born on Via San Giovanni.
In 1907 Emily's town was called Savignano di Puglia. She was born on Via San Giovanni.
Oh, by the way, her name isn't Emily. I always thought it might be Emilia, but now I have her birth record. She was born Ermilinda Franceschina Concettina D'Apice. She signed her marriage certificate as Emily, and her naturalization papers say Emily. But those papers also include the name "Ermelinda".

Now I have Emily's:
  • 1907 birth in Italy
  • 1927 marriage in New York
  • 1940 census in New York
  • 1944 naturalization in New York
  • 1991 death in New York
What's the most important piece of documentation missing from that list? She was born in Italy and married in New York. How did she come to America, and with whom?

Emily and her sister Giuseppa came to New York in 1919 to join their sister Elvira in the Bronx.
Emily and her sister Giuseppa came to New York in 1919 to join their sister Elvira in the Bronx.
Her naturalization papers include an immigration date of 19 Dec 1919 aboard the S.S. Duca D'Aosta.

When I found her ship manifest, she was single and sailing with her much older, unmarried sister, Giuseppa. They listed their father Angelo, so I knew they were the right family from Savignano. They were joining their other sister, Elvira, at 628 Morris Avenue in the Bronx.

Emily's street in Savignano still exists. It's always nice to get an idea of where the people in your family tree came from.
Emily's street in Savignano still exists. It's always nice to get an idea of where the people in your family tree came from.
I had to laugh when I saw that address, because if you were going there, you were bound to meet my relatives.

So now I've learned the names of 2 of Emily's sisters, the age of one of them and the address of the other. But I have a policy now. No unnecessary siblings of the spouse of a distant relative.

That's why Giuseppa and Elvira D'Apice will live in my tree only in Emily's immigration notes. Having a policy makes it much easier to deal with questionable situations like this. What I will add, because her husband and son belong to my family, is her 1930 census. And maybe I'll find her and her sisters in the 1920 census. But no more than that!

If you're a fan of Mel Brooks' movie "The Producers," you may recognize the phrase I will repeat when I'm tempted to add a wildly distant in-law to my family tree. "Be brutal! Be brutal!"


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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

4 Key Places to Discover Your Ancestor's Hometown

The exact address where my grandfather was born in Italy.
The exact address where my grandfather was
born in Italy.
When my in-law's father died, she knew nothing about his family but his parents' and his sister's names. I offered to build her family tree. With only a few names and the states where they lived, I was able to add several generations to her tree.

It wasn't hard because they'd lived in America for so many generations. Census records offered a way to trace the family's moves from state to state.

But only a few groups of people have lived on the same continent since before recorded history. At some point, everyone else immigrated.

To trace your family back to another country, you must find out exactly where they came from. Once you find that town name, you'll know where to search for birth, marriage and death records.

Here are 4 of the best places to find your ancestor's hometown.

1. Ship Manifests/Immigration Records

The later your ancestor came to your country, the better. Before the 1890s your ancestor's ship manifest may tell you only their home country. A later immigration record can give you that important hometown.

While researching my great grandmother Maria Rosa Caruso, a cousin said Maria Rosa mentioned her Italian hometown often. She called it "Pisqualamazza".

My great grandmother's hometown, seen on her immigration record.
My great grandmother's hometown,
seen on her immigration record.
Unfortunately, there is no such town. My research was at a standstill. So I searched for anyone named Caruso coming to New York from a town that sounded like "Pisqualamazza".

And I found it. My great grandmother's 1906 ship manifest shows it, and the transcription on Ancestry.com helped me read it. My great grandmother's Pisqualamazza was Pescolamazza!

When I found no such town on a map, I Googled it. Pescolamazza changed its name to Pesco Sannita in 1948, so my great grandmother knew it by its old name.

2. Draft Registration Cards

My great aunt told me our Saviano family was from Avellino, but that's not specific enough. Avellino is both a city and a province with many towns. I was stuck.

It was my 2nd great uncle's World War II draft registration card that changed everything. He was 64 years old in 1942, but he still had to register. Thank goodness. Because, despite 2 spelling errors, I learned he was born in Tufo, Avellino. I looked at an online map to find the correct spelling.

This 1942 draft registration card gave me the exact location I needed.
This 1942 draft registration card gave me the exact location I needed.
Shortly after that discovery, I found his 1877 Tufo birth record, and that of his older brother none of my cousins had ever heard of.

3. Naturalization Papers

My grandfather came to America in 1920 at the age of 18. He first went to live in Newton, Massachusetts, where his uncle lived. Then he went to work in Western Pennsylvania where he applied to become a U.S. citizen.

His "declaration of intention" papers include his hometown of Colle Sannita, Italy, and his birth date—which is not what we thought it was. Knowing his hometown, I was able to get his 1902 birth record from the Italian archives. This confirmed that he was born on October 8, just like it says on his declaration of intention.

Naturalization papers can provide birth dates and places -- sometimes for an entire family.
Naturalization papers can provide birth dates and places—sometimes for an entire family.
4. Passport Applications

It's always a thrill when you can find your ancestor's passport application, complete with a photo. My cousin Attilio Sarracino's passport application confirmed that he was born in New York. But his father, Carmine, lived in Pastene, Italy.

There may be typos, but a passport application provides solid information you need.
There may be typos, but a passport application provides solid information you need.
Members of this family went back and forth between Italy and America a couple of times. I found a record of Attilio's 1907 U.S. birth in Pastene, Italy's 1909 register book. They needed him on the record books because his family was planning to stay in Italy and raise him.

Finding these documents helped me make sense of family lore. "Pisqualamazza" wasn't a place. "Avellino" was too vague. And there are 2 towns (Pastene and Pastena) with families named Sarracino!

Before you dive into a new collection of foreign vital records, find all the domestic records. Make sure you know your ancestor's hometown so you don't end up chasing documents that aren't there.


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