These three types of records pertain to people coming to America from foreign lands, denouncing their prior fidelity and allegiance to their homelands and instead declaring publicly their desire to become citizens of the United States of America.
Before beginning a discussion about the records, a common problem genealogists have regarding semantics should be noted. The word immigration refers to arriving or coming to a place. The word emigration refers to leaving or going from a place. Therefore a person is both an emigrant by leaving their homeland and an immigrant by arriving at their new place of residence.
People have been immigrating to the North American Continent for centuries and centuries. In fact, it has been estimated that immigrants have been arriving here from their homelands over a period of nearly 35,000 years. There were no native peoples on this continent; only animals were native to this land. The humans have all been sojourners here.
When immigration is mentioned in conversation, the listener no doubt initially thinks of the waves of far eastern peoples, Cubans or Mexicans which have occurred in recent years. If the conversation is directed toward the immigration of the late 1800s to early 1900s, the listener will probably think of the large numbers of Irish who had emigrated from their homeland because of the failure of the potato crop in the 1840s or the exodus of Germans from their homeland as the Nazis rose to power in the 1930s. If the distant historical past is invoked in the conversation the listener might conjure up images of the large numbers of Europeans who fled from the religious persecution they were experiencing in post-Renaissance Europe. The only peoples whose image seldom comes up when the subject of immigration enters the conversation are the American Indians. The fact of the matter, though, is that even the Indians were immigrants to the North American Continent; they were certainly not native to this land. Many theories have been proposed to explain where the Indian peoples emigrated from, with the most accepted being that of Asians who crossed the now-submerged Bering Strait landbridge. But as recent as 1999 a new theory has been proposed by anthropologists which suggests that the Indians may have indeed traveled to the North American Continent via Asia and the Bering Strait landbridge, but that they were not descended from Asian peoples. Instead, it is now believed that the Indians might descend from a Neandertal - Homo Sapien hybrid, referred to as Homo neanderthalensis, that originated in southern Europe and migrated eastward through the Middle East and on into Central Asia. The new theory is an interesting one in view of the fact that it was from Homo neanderthalensis that the present-day European peoples emerged.
The point to be made in regard to immigration into the North American Continent is that is has been happening since approximately 30,000 BC, and all the peoples who have immigrated to, and inhabited this land since then, have merely been sojourners upon it. So what can immigration records reveal to us about the history of immigrants to this land that we now call the United States of America?
The term immigration records encompasses, first and foremost, ships passenger lists and secondly oaths of allegiance and fidelity.
Ships were the only means to transport emigrants from Europe until the advent of the airplane in the early-1900s. And they were transporting those emigrants ever since the New World was discovered by Columbus in 1492. The Spanish ships brought passengers to the New World, but they went almost exclusively to the South American Continent and Central America. The French started a few settlements in North America from which they could conduct beaver trapping expeditions and operate trading posts. But it was the English who really established settlements for the sake of colonization.
Lists of the passengers of English ships, that is the male passengers, were kept for a number of reasons, not the least of which was to keep track of the new English subjects. The English government was aware of the fact that planting a flag in the ground did not ensure that the land was yours. In order for the English to maintain a hold on the colonies in the North American Continent, they would have to increase the population of those colonies, from whence armies could be conscripted if necessary.
To provide some idea about the early German and Swiss emigrations, the following information has been excerpted from other pages on the authors internet website, Mother Bedford (url address: http://www.motherbedford.com/German.htm).
The Germany of the 1700s consisted of nearly three hundred territories, duchies, city-states and cantons linked together by language, custom and their common Germanic ethnicity. The Electoral Palatinate (i.e. the Kurpfalz) was one of the larger territories. It encompassed the region on both sides of the Rhine River and it tributaries, the Main and Neckar Rivers. At the present time the Rheinland-Pfalz is known as the Palatinate, and it lies entirely on the west side of the Rhine. The region to the east of the Rhine, the Neckar Valley, is now known as Baden-Wurttemberg. The German emigrants of the 1700s came primarily from the Palatinate territories located along the Rhine River (i.e. in the southern part of western Germany and the northern part of Switzerland). The greatest number of emigrants came from the Duchies/ districts of Zweibrucken, Darmstadt, Hesse-Darmstadt, Hanau, Franconia, Spires, Worms, Nassau, Alsace, Baden and Wurttemberg and the Archbishoprics of Treves and Mayence. The region lying to the east of the Rhine and south of the Neckar, between the Schwarz-wald (i.e. the Black Forest) and the Odenwald (i.e. Oden Forest) was known during the Middle Ages as the Kraichgau, and from that region came a large number of emigrants.
The Peace of Augsburg of 1555 gave the sovereign over a village or territory the privilege of choosing the religious preference for the people who resided there. The majority of the Palatinate became Lutheran in 1556, but the villages governed by the Bishopric of Speyer remained Catholic. By the 1560s the Reformed Church had come to the Palatinate; it supplanted Lutheranism as the dominant faith. Then, during the Thirty Years War, Catholicism once more became the predominant faith in the Palatinate. In 1705 the Palatine Church Division was effected. The terms of the Division included a ruling that 5/7ths of the parishes in the Palatinate were to be Reformed; 2/7ths were to be Catholic; none were to be Lutheran.
Religious persecution is the reason often cited for the emigration of thousands of Germans. That idea seems to simply be a misinterpretation of the religious persecution reason for the emigration of British subjects hoping to avoid the Church of England. In terms of the German and Swiss emigrants, religious persecution was only one small aspect of the grand migration. In fact, it might be argued that it was more difficult for Germans and Swiss to obtain permission to emigrate on grounds of religious persecution than any other.
In 1688 King Louis XIV of France sent a large army into the Palatinate to take it into the possession of France. Two years earlier King Leopold I, the Holy Roman Emperor entered into an alliance with a number of German princes, and the kings of Holland, Sweden and Spain to preserve the Holy Roman Empire against a possible French attack. Ties between the royal families of Holland and England induced England to join the League of Augsburg. The League of Augsburg was therefore ready to meet Louis' army when it arrived in the Rhine Valley in 1688. The War of the League of Augsburg lasted for roughly seven years from 1689 to 1697. The war spread to the North American Continent where it became known as King William's War.
The War of the Spanish Succession was felt in the Palatinate when, in 1707, a French army under Marshal Villars crossed the Rhine and plundered throughout the region which is today southwestern Germany.
The hardships wrought by the Thirty Years War and then the subsequent War of the League of Augsburg, along with certain natural causes figured more prominently than religious persecution as causative factors of the migration of Germans and Swiss to America. John Duncan Brite in his dissertation, The Attitude Of European States Toward Emigration To The American Colonies, 1607-1820, noted that there were a series of crop failures throughout the territories occupied by Wurttemberg and Pfalz-Rhineland. Hardest hit were the fruit orchards and vinyards, due to the extreme cold of the winter of 1708/ 1709. Devastatingly cold weather hit Germany and the rest of western Europe. Extreme cold set in as early as October. By November, 1708 it was said that firewood would not burn in the open air and that alcohol froze. The rivers, including the swift flowing Rhone, became covered with ice that permitted carts to be driven across them. At about the same time, restrictions were placed on grazing and wood gathering in the ducal forests of the Palatinate. Increased taxes added to the hardships of survival faced by the working classes.
The greatest motivation for the mass emigration of Palatines appears not to have been religious persecution, war devastation, crop failures or even taxes. Enticement was probably the greatest encouragement for the emigration of the majority of the Germans and Swiss. That enticement came from two sources: 1.) propaganda spread by Neulanders, and 2.) letters from prior emigrants.
William Penn was given a grant of land by King Charles II of England in 1681 as payment of a loan made by William's father. Charles probably found it beneficial to get rid of Penn because he was a loud exponent of his Quaker faith. That faith, among a few others, threatened the power of the Church of England. By granting Penn the land in the New World, Charles would succeed in repaying the debt (without spending money which his government budget could not easily afford). Also, it would remove the bothersome Quaker group from his country. It would be assumed that the Quakers found the deal to be most satisfactory because they simply wanted to be able to practice their religious beliefs as they wished; their intentions had not been to provoke the troubles that they found themselves constantly in.
The British government expected the proprietors of colonies in the New World to populate those colonies in order to confirm the British claims to the land. William Penn, therefore, set about publicizing the plans for his Holy Experiment. It would be a self-governing state with the separation of Church and State an integral part of the government's foundation. William Penn called for any and all interested persons to make the trip across the ocean to settle in his granted lands. A pamphlet was printed in England and distributed throughout the Palatine. Titled: Some account of the Province of Pennsylvania in America, the pamphlet published William Penn's offer to sell one hundred acres of land in exchange for £2. Penn's pamphlet also offered equal rights to all persons regardless of religion or race. Various other books and pamphlets were published and distributed throughout the Rhine valley during the next two decades, including Daniel Falckner's Curieuse Nachricht von Pennsylvania (i.e. Curious News From Pennsylvania).
Records do not reveal any mass migrations as a direct result of Penn's pamphlet campaign in Germany, but some families did take him up on the promise of a better life in the New World. Although the first major emigration of Germans would not occur until 1709, the names of sixty-four German men, heads of their households, were included on a listing made in 1691 of the residents of German Town in Pennsylvania.
The earliest emigration of Germans and Swiss from their homelands to the New World was that of a party led by Francis Daniel Pastorius in the year 1683. Enticed by William Penn's invitation to his province, the party settled near the young town of Philadelphia. The German settlement was appropriately named Germantown.
Twenty-five years would pass between the emigration of the Pastorius party and the next significant mass departure. In 1708 the Reverend Joshua Kocherthal assembled a party of forty-one adults and their children and prepared to emigrate to the Carolinas; they had been enticed by the advertisements published by the proprietary governor of the Carolina colony. In order to settle in any of the British colonies, Reverend Kocherthal had to submit a request to Queen Anne. The party traveled to London in the Spring of 1708 to secure the royal permission and was confronted by the usual governmental red-tape. Reverend Kocherthal had to provide a justification for the emigration; the reason given was the French ravages in the Rhine and Neckar Valleys in 1707. The Germans' petition was submitted to the Board of Trade. The Board of Trade suggested that the Germans should be settled in Antigua. Upon the opinion that the Palatines would not be suited to the hot climate of the West Indies it was then suggested that they be directed to the Hudson River Valley of the Province of New York. The Germans would therefore be available to assist the English on the frontier against the French and the Indians.
By the time that the Germans actually embarked for the New World in October, the original party of forty-one had been increased by the addition of fourteen more emigrants. One family had to remain behind because of the mother's illness. En route, two children were born.
The Kocherthal party arrived at Long Island on 18 December, 1708. They were granted lands along the west side of the Hudson River about fifty-five miles north of New York City. Their settlement developed into the town of Newburgh. Almost from the start, the Germans suffered from want of provisions. A proposed naval stores industry, by which the Germans would be gainfully employed, never materialized. The Reverend Kocherthal returned to England to petition the Queen for additional monetary assistance. He hoped to raise the funds necessary to establish vinyards in the new settlement. Although not able to raise the exact amount that he hoped for, the Reverend Kocherthal succeeded in obtaining some funds, and the Newburgh settlement survived and flourished. The success of the Newburgh settlement is important to the history of German emigration because it paved a favorable path through the English government for subsequent emigrants. If the settlement had failed, the English might not have been so eager to provide assistance to future German settlement schemes.
Other German families were excited by the news of the success of the Newburgh Palatines, as Kocherthal's party of emigrants became known. They were also enticed by the suggestion made by Kocherthal in the third edition of his pamphlet, Aussfuhrlich und umstandlicher Bericht von der beruhmten Landschafft Carolina, that because the English government had provided their party with monetary assistance, perhaps it would likewise provide for other emigrants.
German and Swiss families from the Rhine and Neckar Valleys began to pack up their belongings and traveled north toward the the ports of the Netherlands. A dispatch from James Dayrolle, the British Resident at the Hague, dated 24 December, 1708 included a letter from an unknown person which stated that:
Although the letter exaggerated the number of emigrants (i.e. the number would not reach nine hundred until some three months later), it was prophetic. During 1709 approximately 13,500 German and Swiss emigrants would apply for passage to the English colonies.
Various parties of German and Swiss emigrants made their way to America between 1709 and 1727. The most notable settlements were made at New Bern in the province of South Carolina and at Livingston Manor in the the province of New York. In 1712 some residents of the Livingston Manor Settlement, who were displeased with the way it was being managed, left it and created the Schoharie Settlement. Others moved southward into the province of Pennsylvania.
Smaller groups of Palatines and Swiss had emigrated during the early 1710s from their homeland with the Province of Pennsylvania as their destination.
Because of their lack of knowledge of the North American Continent, many of the early emigrants believed that Pennsylvania and the Carolinas were part of the West India Islands. Their papers requesting permission to leave their homeland stated that their destination was the island of Pennsylvania.
The Reverend Henry Melchoir Muehlenberg traveled throughout the Province of Pennsylvania after his emigration in 1742. He kept journals of his travels. In his journals, Rev. Muehlenberg commented on the Palatine emigration and early settlements in Pennsylvania. He noted four distinct phases of Palatine emigration:
The first period of the emigration mentioned by Muehlenberg included the party led by the Reverend Francis Daniel Pastorius, who settled in the vicinity of Philadelphia that became known as Germantown. It also included a party known as the 'Mystics of the Wissahickon' led by John Kelpius, and who settled in the vicinity of 'the Ridge', where the Wissahickon Creek empties into the Schuylkill River.
The second period was defined by the emigration of Palatine and Swiss Mennonites who settled on 10,000 acres of land near the head of the Pequea Creek in the part of Chester County that would become, in 1729, Lancaster County. The first of these emigrants arrived at Philadelphia on 23 September, 1710. Seven years later, In September, 1717, three ships arrived in Philadelphia carrying 363 German and Swiss emigrants.
In 1723 some fifteen families moved from the Schoharie Settlement in the Province of New York to settle in the Tulpehocken region of Pennsylvania. It is claimed that they were invited to settle there by Lieutenant-Governor William Keith. By 1725 there were about thirty-three German families residing in the Tulpehocken district. The increasing numbers of these settlers aggravated the relations between the Provincial authorities and the local Indian tribes.
The continuing emigration of large numbers of Germans from the Palatinate began to make the provincial authorities uneasy. When Patrick Gordon took office as Pennsylvania's lieutenant-governor in 1726, he took action to institute an Oath of Allegiance & Subjection to naturalize the emigrants as subjects of Great Britain.
The action was enterred into the Minutes of the Provincial Council on 14 September, 1727 and read as follows:
The emigrants aboard the ship, William And Sarah, were the first of the Palatines to be so required to take the Oath. Two years later, additional oaths were required of the immigrants. One of the additional oaths included the declaration that the immigrant would not advocate "that wicked Doctrine & Poition that Princes Excommunicated or deprived by the Pope...may be depoed or murthered by their Subjects..." The other included a statement that the immigrant agreed that "the Peron pretending to be Prince of Wales... & taking upon himelf the Stile & Title of King of England by the Name of James the third... hath not any Right or Title whatoever to the Crown of the Realm of Great Britain..."
Between the years 1727 and 1775, it has been estimated that approximately 65,000 Palatine and Swiss emigrants arrived in the Port of Philadelphia. That number, given in Volume I of the book Pennsylvania German Pioneers, by R. B. Strassburger and edited by W. J. Hinke, was based on 36,129 known passengers, of which 14,423 (males) signed their names to the Oath.
The foregoing information mainly emphasized the German and Swiss emigrants. The reason for such emphasis is because it was out of Englands need to keep track of the massive numbers of those Palatine emigrants seeking passage to her colonies that the ships passenger lists and oaths of allegiance became eminently significant. It should be pointed out, though, that practically all of the captains of the English ships which carried human cargo to the New World from the Mayflower onward maintained passenger lists. And that practice still continues to the present time. Quite a number of the various lists have been transcribed and published in book form. They are usually grouped be nationality: British Isles (England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales), Germanic (Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, etc), French and so forth. The preeminent reference work for locating an emigrant/immigrant on any published ships passenger list is the multi-volume Passenger And Immigration List Index. This set of volumes is actually a gigantic index which refers the researcher to individual published books in which an immigrants name appears.
In regard to Naturalizations, there was no law, federal or otherwise, in effect until the year 1790. Prior to that year, the oath of allegiance was the officially accepted method of acknowledging a change in citizenship status. Following the American Revolutionary War, delegates of the various states met together in the Constitutional Convention to discuss the creation of a federal government. On 17 September, 1787 the Constitution of the United States was approved by the delegates; its ratification by the requisite nine states would be completed by 02 July, 1788. During the second session of the Congress which convened following the ratification of the Constitution, an Act pertaining to naturalization was approved. An ACT to establish an uniform rule of Naturalization was approved on 26 March, 1790. The text of that act follows.
On 14 April, 1802 the Congress passed another Act relating to naturalization. The Act to establish an uniform rule of naturalization, and to repeal the acts heretofore passed on that subject contained four sections. The first section set down four conditions that the alien had to comply with in order to be eligible to be naturalized as a United States citizen. The second section detailed the requirement that the prospective citizen register and obtain a certificate to be presented with his application for naturalization. The third section confirmed that every court of record in any individual state would be considered as a circuit or district court for purposes of naturalization; in other words, a person who desired to become naturalized as a United States citizen could do so at any county court house. The fourth section commented on the matter of children of person naturalized as citizens of the United States of America.
The first section of the Act of 1802 included the following four articles.
The procedure that was followed to become a citizen of the United States under the guidelines of the Act of 1802 began with the prospective citizen filing a Declaration Of Intent at a his local county court house. In some cases another document, the Report And Registry, would be submitted also. The Declaration Of Intent could be submitted to the court at any time after the immigrant arrived in the United States. The Declaration was valid for a period of five years. During that time, the immigrant was expected to provide a residence for his family and exhibit a good moral character toward his neighbors. After a period of time had passed and the immigrant and his family had become settled and known in the community, he would go to the local county court house, accompanied by two neighbors or relatives, who were already United States citizens, to serve as witnesses. He would sign a Petition To Be Admitted As A Citizen. Upon review of the immigrants papers, and the witnesses recommendations, the court would either approve or deny the immigrants petition.
Subsequent Acts of Congress, which served as revisions to the Act of 14 April, 1802 were made throughout the years which clarified certain points of that Act. But no significant changes were made to the naturalization laws until the 14th Amendment was added to the Constitution of the United States on 16 June, 1866.
The 14th Amendment guaranteed privileges and immunities of citizenship, due process and equal protection rights. The 14th Amendment was significant in that it guaranteed citizenship rights to the Negro, as persons of African-American descent were known at the time. It should be noted that shortly after the Constitution of the United States had been ratified and accepted, the Congress approved a series of ammendments which had been proposed by the state ratifying conventions. Twelve amendments were considered; ten of those were approved by the Congress. The ten were ratified by the states and became official on 15 December, 1791 as the Bill of Rights. None of the original ten amendments to the Constitution specifically addressed the subject of naturalization or citizenship. The 1790 ACT to establish an uniform rule of Naturalization was felt to be adequate to regulate citizenship naturalization concerns. Through the 1802 Act to establish an uniform rule of naturalization, and to repeal the acts heretofore passed on that subject and its subsequent revisions various special situations were accomodated by the law.
In 1834 a Negro slave, Dred Scott, was taken by his master, Dr. John Emerson, to reside in Illinois (where slavery had been prohibited by the Ordinance of 1787). Mr. Scott resided in the free state of Illinois and later in the Wisconsin Territory (where slavery had been prohibited by the Missouri Compromise), and served as Dr. Emersons household servant without incident until 1846. In that year he sued for his liberty in the Missouri courts by making the claim that his long residence as a slave within a territory in which slavery was prohibited entitled his to freedom. The result of the court case, decided on 06 March, 1857, and known as the Dred Scott Decision, was that the Negro did not have rights as United States citizens under the United States Constitution. The Dred Scott Decision motivated additional court cases, and on 09 April, 1866 the Civil Rights Act was passed by the Congress bestowing citizenship rights on the Negro. The Civil Rights Act of 1866, in turn, sparked debate on the subject (the Supreme Court would later hold the Act to be unconstitutional). Due to the controversy that the Civil Rights Act was generating, the Congress moved forward and proposed and passed the 14th Amendment to the Constitution in June. The 14th Amendment stated the following.
Although an alien could apply for and become naturalized at any court of record in any of the states, the federal Congress maintained the power to enact laws and revisions. Clause IV, of Section 8, of Article I of the Constitution of the United States state that
Two years before the adoption of the 14th Amendment, a government agency was created to deal with immigration issues. In 1864, in order to encourage immigration, a law was passed which created the Commissioner of Immigration within the State Department. The Commissioner of Immigration would primarily regulate the transport and settlement of immigrants. The Commissioners authority did not supplant the states authority on matters of immigration, and after only four years, the office was abolished.
It was not until 1891 that Congress passed the Immigration Act, which established complete federal control over immigration. The Immigration Act of 1891 established the Bureau of Immigration. The bureau was placed under the control of a Superintendent of Immigration answering to the Secretary of the Treasury. It would later be placed under the direction of the newly created Department of Commerce and Labor. The Bureau had twenty-four inspection stations at the various ports of entry on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Ellis Island in the harbor of New York would become the most famous of these ports of entry.
In 1905 a commission was set up to investigate the naturalization practice and procedure throughout the states. The commission reported that there was little or no uniformity among the more than 5,000 courts. The Naturalization Act of 1906 took any remaining vestiges of control from the states courts and placed them in the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization. In 1913 the Department of Commerce and Labor was split in two and the functions of immigration and naturalization of aliens were divided.
The First World War disrupted immigration, but at its conclusion the amount of immigration resumed to its previous level. The Congress issued Immigration Acts in 1921 and in 1924 to deal with the increased level of immigration. The new Acts assigned quotas to each nationality which were based on the countries past census figures.
In 1933 an Executive Order (#6166) once more brought the two bureaus back together as the Immigration and Naturalization Service within the Labor Department. Known simply as the INS, this agency was transferred to the Department of Justice in 1940.
The first sentence of the 14th Amendment contemplated only two sources of citizenship: birth and naturalization. In 1952 the Immigration and Nationality Act was passed by the Congress. That act itemized the various categories or persons who are citizens at birth. Seven categories of persons born ... in the United States were delineated:
(1.) A person born in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.
(2.) A person born in the United States who is a member of an Indian, Eskimo, Aleutina, or other aboriginal tribe.
(3.) A person born outside the United States of citizen parents, one of whom has been resident in the United States.
(4.) A person born outside the United States of one citizen parent who has been continuously resident in the United States for one year prior to the birth and of a parent who is a national but not a citizen.
(5.) A person born in an outlying possession of the United States of one citizen parent who has been continuously resident in the United States or an outlying possession for one year prior to the birth.
(6.) A person of unknown parentage found in the United States while under the age of five unless prior to his twenty-first birthday he is shown not to have been born in the United States.
(7.) A person born outside the United States of an alien parent and a citizen parent who has been resident in the United states for a period of ten years, provided the person is to lose his citizenship unless he reside continuously in the United States for a period of five years between his fourteenth and twenty-eighth birthdays.
The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 noted various specific conditions that might prohibit an alien from being granted United States citizenship. They included things such as being convicted of a felony, advocating polygamy, etc.
Major changes in the immigration policy of the United States came about with the Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments of 1965. Previously, immigration policy had been based primarily on an ethnic and nationality basis. The 1965 Act replaced those primary concerns with ones based on reunification of families separated by immigration and recognition of the immediate needs and concerns of refugees.
Through the 1960s and 1970s the points of emigration shifted dramatically from the European nations to those of Asia and Latin America. This was due, in large part, to the Act of 1965, which raised the ceiling on the number of immigrants from the latter two regions, and lowered the ceiling on the number from Europe. In 1980 the category of refugee was granted special status when that category was deemed exclusive of the proscribed immigrant ceilings.
The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 attempted to gain control over an increasing disregard for the immigration laws by employers, who knowlingly employed aliens in their businesses. In order not to appear inhumane to the nearly three million illegal aliens who had been in the United States since 1982, the Immigration Reform and Control Act provided an amnesty and legalization program.
In 1990 an Immigration Act allowed for an increase in total immigration, emphasizing greater leniency toward employment- based immigration. Attention was also more focused on emigrants from previously under-represented countries. The Immigration Act of 1990 also revised the grounds for exclusion and deportation.
The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 encompassed a reorganization of the process for the removal of illegal aliens along with increases in the criminal penalties for immigration related offenses.
Before closing this discussion about immigration and naturalization, a comment needs to be made regarding the naturalization of women. The various Acts of Congress which pertained to this subject, and which were enacted during the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries stated that the law applied to "free white persons". There was no mention of the laws being applicable to either male or female or both. It was not until the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was ratified on 26 August, 1920 that suffrage was granted to women; and until that time they had no, or at least very few, rights under the law. They were not permitted to vote, they seldom could own property, and so forth. The general attitude that the laws of the nation applied solely to men extended into the immigration and naturalization laws. There were exceptions to the rule, though. Between 1804 and 1934 if a husband applied for citizenship, but died prior to naturalization, his widow and any minor children were eligible to become citizens of the United States. They only needed to appear in court and take the requisite oath of allegiance. In many instances, immigrant women did not feel the need to acquire naturalization because when their immigrant husbands became naturalized, their own citizenship was granted as a foregone conclusion. Minor children, likewise, were instantly granted citizenship upon the approval of their fathers application. Despite the fact that they did not need to, there were many cases in which children of naturalized immigrants, when they reached the legal age, went to the courts and applied for their own citizenship. This aspect of the law worked against women who married an alien and then left with him to reside in a foreign country. In such a case, the womans United States citizenship was forfeited. (A woman, whose citizenship was thusly forfeited, could regain her United States citizenship by applying and taking the oath of allegiance.)
The Married Women's Act, or Cable Act was passed in 1922. The Cable Act stated that a woman, whether she was married or not, was entitled to possess the rights of nationality on her own. This law granted to women nearly identical naturalization rights as to men. The only difference was that if a husband was granted citizenship, the wife was not required to go through the entire process herself; she merely filed a petition to initiate her own naturalization proceedings.
A variety of records can be found in local and national archives relating to immigration, naturalization and oaths of allegiance.
In the local court houses you can find records of naturalization applications and approvals from the early-1800s into the 1920s. In the case of widows of naturalization applicants, it is possible to find the approved papers bearing witness to a widow having taken the oath of allegiance, but no application in her name. Some of these naturalization records have been transcribed and are available in book form. The original naturalization records are most often maintained in the Prothonotarys office.
The National Archives maintains originals and microfilms of many types of immigration and naturalization records. Along with approved certificates of naturalization, the Archives maintains those which were either not approved or revoked.
The Steerage Act of 1819 mandated that ship passenger lists be collected and maintained by the United States Customs Service. This practice continued until 1892. The Immigration and Naturalization Service began to maintain the lists in 1891 and has continued to do so to the present time.
Visas are essentially Foreign Service forms. They were originally given to potential emigrants by a U.S. Consul at an embassy in the emigrants homeland. There have been a number of types of visas in use over the years. In countries whose immigrants to the United States were regulated by quotas, the visa was known as a quota visa, while those coming from countries that were not restricted by quotas obtained the non-quota visa. If a person wanted to apply for permanent citizenship in the United States, an immigrant visa was obtained. The non-immigrant visa was used by foreign students, tourists on vacation and others who intended to spend only a short time in the United States. Quota and non-quota immigrant visas are maintained in the archives of the INS.
In 1940, a program called the Alien Registration was established. The intention of this program was to fingerprint and maintain a file on every non-citizen. Known as the Alien Files, or A-Files, the collection is maintained by the INS. The A-Files are protected by the Freedom of Information / Privacy Acts.