Declarations and Naturalizations – St. Clair County, Illinois
©Diane Renner Walsh
The path to naturalization was, and is, a voluntary act. Today the process toward citizenship is entirely overseen by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) which assumed responsibility for the immigration service functions of the federal government.
Before 1906, any court that retained a written record could be involved in the process. i.e., courts at the the municipal, county, state, or federal level.Generally, little genealogical information is included in documents prior to 1906—no ship name or arrival date, no names of family other than the applicant, no town of birth in the old country.
In late September 1906 a law was passed that established the federal government with sole authority of the naturalization policy. The forms used and the questions asked became standardized. Documents created after 1906 provide a wealth of genealogical information. The Declaration or Petition after 1906 may include the ship name, date of arrival, town and date of birth, and names of wife and children or siblings. When possible, obtain both the Declaration of Intent, and the Petition to Naturalize.
Upon meeting residency requirements, an ancestor may have filed the Declaration of Intent (first papers) in one court, and later filed a Petition for Naturalization / Citizenship (second papers) in a different court in the same county. If he moved, the Petition might be in an entirely different county or state. Sometimes a person only filed a Declaration and failed to complete the process. These variables make finding the documents difficult.
The 3-step Process
1. Declaration of Intent filed.
2. Petition for Naturalization filed.
3. Oath taken.
- During some wars, the Declaration step was waved in return for military service with honorable discharge.
- Derivative citizenship was granted for women and children when the husband or father completed all the steps. Consequently, documents for women are rarely found before 1922, the year the law changed.
- Children, upon reaching adulthood, might later file a minor’s petition for naturalization.
- If a name change took place during the process, this change will usually be noted on the Petition.
Jump to Research help (tips to determine when your immigrant filed papers; addresses where records are located, further reading).
For each type of record discussed below:
Papers refer to original documents filed in court. Today these papers may be in manuscript or microfilm form.
Record usually refers to the court’s record book. The official Court Record is usually limited to a name, number, and date. In some cases the Record was the only required document retained by the court.
1816 – 1906 Naturalizations
Circuit Court 1816 - 1906
The Circuit Court Record Book(s) recorded the
- court date of the declaration or naturalization, and
- the number associated with the action.
Circuit Court Declaration Record 1835–circa 1904
- See microfilm reel 9, sequence 20004 in the courthouse, Circuit Clerk’s office. The original Record book is very likely lost or destroyed. No transcription has been done at this writing (January 2010).
Sample Circuit Court Declaration Record 1835 – circa 1904 | .pdf 570KB
Circuit Court Naturalization Record 1816–1905
- The Circuit Court Naturalization Record 1816 – 1905 was transcribed by Robert Buecher as St. Clair County, Illinois [Circuit Court] Naturalization Index, 1816–1905, (Thomson, Ill.: Heritage House, 1976). The Record contains only the court term naturalized, the number, and the name. Apparently no surnames began with the letter Q as that page was blank; however, the original Court Record should include any that were filed. Many libraries have this publication, including the Belleville Public Library Archives.
- The original Circuit Court Naturalization Record book 1816 – 1905 is preserved at the Illinois Regional Archives Depository.
- Filby published St. Clair County Naturalizations in his Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, (Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1981). However, Filby used Buecher’s work for the Passenger List compilation. Use Filby’s publication when Buecher’s is not close at hand. Filby’s works are in many libraries, and online at fee-based genealogical websites such as Ancestry.com.
- On rare occasion, nineteenth century minutes of the Circuit Court might mention an order for the Final Oath. IRAD has minutes of some courts available up to about 1877. An exact year and court term facilitates this search.
East St. Louis City Court Declarations and Naturalizations 1874-1906
These City Court files include
- Declarations of Intent (1854–1906);
- Petitions for Final Papers and Naturalization Final Oaths;
- Minor’s Petition and Final Oath; and
- Soldier’s Petition and Final Oath
Search the index, on the Illinois State Archives web site, courtesy of IRAD interns.
Note: Circuit Court and County Court naturalizations are not in this index.
To view or order a record found in your search:
- View the microfilm on location at the Belleville Public Library Archives. Caveat: handwriting interpretation may affect locating the record needed.
- Order photocopies from IRAD in Carbondale
County Court Declarations and Naturalizations 1864 - 1906
- Sample County Court Declaration Record | pdf 382KB
- Sample County Court Naturalization Record pdf 475KB
- On our member site.
- On the SCCGS Quarterly. Search the surname index
- Declarations in volume 20 number 4 (hereafter 20:4), pp. 147 -150;
- Naturalizations in volume 21:1, 1998, pp. 1 – 15, surnames A-J; volume 21:2, 1998, pp. 45 , surnames K-Q; and volume 21:3, 1998, pp. 102-112, surnames R-Z.
Occasionally, the applicant’s copy of the County Court Declaration of Intent may be included with the Petition and Final Oaths if second papers were filed in a different court. Such was the case for Angelo Temanti whose County Court Declaration of Intent was included when he filed Petition and Final Oath in the East St. Louis City Court.
- Here is Mr. Temanti’s County Court Declaration 1893 | .pdf 480KB
1906 and later Naturalization-related Papers and Record Books
Certificate of Arrival – Required after 29 June 1906
A Certificate Of Arrival generated by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) may be among naturalization documents. Aliens who arrived in the U.S. after 29 June 1906 were subject to this additional naturalization step which required their immigration record be verified. All certificates are typewritten, not all certificates of arrival were preserved by all courts. The title of the document has frequently led to misunderstanding, causing some to state that certificates of arrival were issued to immigrants upon their arrival in the U.S. This was not the case. The following is from Loretto Szucs and Sandra Luebking, editors, The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy, 3rd ed. (Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2006), p. 403.
- First, the immigrant applied for naturalization, sometimes five or more years after entry.
- Next, federal naturalization officials had to verify the immigrant’s lawful admission to the country with his official immigration record, usually a ship passenger list.
- Once the immigration record was located, arrival information was certified on a form called a Certificate of Arrival.
- The certificate was then forwarded by federal naturalization officials to the court where the immigrant had applied for citizenship. The certificate served as proof of the immigrant’s eligibility to naturalize.
Circuit Court Declarations, Petitions, and Final Oath 1906 – circa 1957
- Circuit Court Declaration of Intent 1926 for Charles Goldberg 1926 declaration .pdf 396KB
- Circuit Court Petition and Oath of Naturalization 1930 Petition and Oath 1930 .pdf 369 KB
- Circuit Court Petition Record 1929 Petition Record 1929 .pdf 468KB Note the three name changes on this record (Teubig to Klein, Lidicka to Lidisky, and Petersitsky to Peters).
Microfilm is available at several locations:
- Circuit Court Naturalization Declarations of Intent Papers 1906 – circa 1957
- Circuit Court Naturalization Letterbooks 1906 – 1924,
- Circuit Court Order books 1929 – 1957, and
- Circuit Court Petition Record 1906 – 1957
At the local Family History Center (FHC)
Microfilm on permanent loan. 255 Fairwood Hills Dr., O’Fallon, Illinois 62269. Telephone 618.632.0210.
On the web
- An index 1906 – circa July 1918 for documents filed and microfilmed on the first three (3) of the 19 volumes is on our website.
- An index 1906–1945 to all but Volume 19, courtesy FamilySearch. Quickly locate the 1906-1918 records there in microfilm roll number: 2188876. Images may be viewed at any Affiliate Family History Library (O’Fallon, Illinois; St. Louis County Library on Lindbergh; St. Louis Public Library, downtown).
East St Louis City Court Declarations and Naturalizations after 1906
East St. Louis City Court Declarations of Intent Papers 1904 to 1950
IRAD in Carbondale has these records.
East St. Louis City Court Petitions for Naturalization Papers 1906 to circa 1957
Microfilm is held in the Circuit Clerk’s Office at the courthouse in Belleville. Microfilm may be viewed on site but is cumbersome to use because index guides do not specify a specific court name for the documents on microfilm. Some indexes appear at the beginning of a reel, or separately.
East St. Louis City Court Petitions for Citizenship Papers
IRAD in Carbondale has this record set on microfilm roll 8A although as titled Petition Record 1903–1910, and 1921–1929. Some indexes are available at this facility. Additional papers might be included with the Petition, for example, declaration of intent from a different court, alien registration documents, and sometimes a photograph.
East St. Louis City Court Naturalization Order Books 1929 to 1949
IRAD in Carbondale has this record set. The Order Book of this court is similar to the document image shown in the Circuit Court pre-1906 section of this webpage.
If your immigrant was not found in the East St. Louis City Court, be sure to check naturalizations by the Circuit Court after 1906, a court also used by East St. Louisans.
US District Court Naturalizations after 1906
1906 to 1944
The US District Court at East St. Louis has no index for 1906 – 1944.
- The USCIS (formerly INS) in Washington, D.C. has papers for all naturalizations at the US District Court at East St. Louis for a fee. Helpful explanations for this complex set of records is at the USCIS link. The wait may be lengthy so consider searching for documents in other courts first.
Information in these documents after 1906 are the same in for all courts across the United States.
1944 to Present
An index for Declarations and Petitions, 1944 – present filed with this court is available on-site, U.S. District Court, 750 Missouri avenue, East St. Louis, IL 62201.
Since the 1990s, a person files an application for naturalization with the USCIS in Chicago which then visits the U.S. District Court in East St. Louis three times a year to interview applicants from the metropolitan region. When the process is complete, the naturalization ceremony is [now] performed at St. Louis. Papers are kept with USCIS. [Conversation with the District Court ,1995.] Recent files may be closed for privacy reasons.
Photocopies may be requested through the USCIS website.
Repositories with St. Clair County's Naturalization papers - Addresses
- Belleville Public Library Archives, 121 E. Washington St., Belleville, Illinois 62220. Telephone: 618.234.0441
- Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. Microfilm on interlibrary loan may be ordered through Family History Centers across the United States.
- Office of the Circuit Clerk is the custodian of all St. Clair County historical naturalization-related documents and books from the various lower local courts. Not all papers and documents or record books survived into the late twentieth century. Courthouse at Belleville, telephone: 618.277.6600
In 1995, original papers and record books stored offsite were released by the Circuit Clerk and transferred into the IRAD system for preservation. The Office of the Circuit Clerk retained a number of original declarations, petitions, and final oaths, in manuscript and microfilm form on location ( in the felony division 2001); most date from the 1920s-forward.
- Illinois Regional Archives Depository (IRAD), St. Clair’s records are at the SIU-Carbondale location c/o Special Collections, Morris Library–6632, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL 62901–6632. Telephone: 618.453.3040
- US District Court records: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office (USCIS). See its Genealogy sidebar “Searching the Index.”
Tips to Locate Your Ancestor's Papers
Lists of new citizens were published under the subject heading citizenship or naturalization. Be aware names may be rendered differently than in court.
Belleville and East St. Louis newspaper articles abstracts are on microfilm and/or cards at the Belleville Public Library Archives.
Where did he live?
The federal census, a basic genealogist’s tool, will show the county where an ancestor lived.
Many St. Clair county immigrants spent a few years in St. Louis or elsewhere prior to settling here. The St. Louis County Library
has naturalization indexes online for St. Louis city and county.
Narrow the time frame when your immigrant filed papers
Naturalization questions were asked on the federal census population schedules for 1830, 1870, 1900, and 1910. Obtain the complete schedule as an online image or photocopy from microfilm. Indexes and partial transcriptions seldom include more than a name, place, age, and relationship.
World War I Draft
If born between 1872 and 1899, find his World War I draft registration card for naturalization answers. This wiki shows questions on the three (3) draft registration cards Those for St. Clair County are on microfilm at the Belleville Public Library Archives, and are digitized on some fee-based genealogical websites.
The year and court naturalized is found on passports. Surprisingly, many immigrants did travel back to the old country. Read these Passport search strategies.
The St. Louis County Library has on microfilm, U.S. Index to Passport Applications, 1810 – 1817; 1830 – 1831; 1834 – 1906.
Passports indexed and digitized may be available at fee-based online genealogy websites.
If your ancestor was here in the states in 1862, met requirements, and applied for government land in the western United States, he may have filed a Homestead Application. In addition to naturalization questions, a wealth of genealogical information is found in these files. Read this wiki how to research these records and historical background about The Homestead Act at the National Archives.
- On the Illinois State Archives website (process, applicable Illinois and federal laws).
- Read IRAD’s Record Descriptions in Illinois’ Circuit Courts with links to St. Clair’s holdings at the SIU-Carbondale location.
- An excellent article at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) website. U.S. District Court records held by NARA nationwide are highlighted.
- John Newman’s American Naturalization Processes and Procedures 1790–1985, (Indianapolis, Indiana: Indiana Historical Society, 1985), and the newer version, American Naturalization Records, 1790–1990: What They are and How to Use Them (North Salt Lake, UT: Heritage Quest, 1998);
- John P. Colleta’s They Came in Ships, (Salt Lake City, UT: Ancestry, Inc., 1993)
- Loretto Dennis Szucs’ They Became Americans: Finding Naturalization Records and Ethnic Origins, (Salt Lake City, UT: Ancestry, Inc., 1998).
- St. Clair County, Illinois Research and Resources: A Genealogist’s Guide, available from SCCGS.
St. Clair County Genealogical Society, PO Box 431, Belleville, IL 62222-0431.
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