Proving Involuntary Naturalization?

My Italian GGF, Giuseppe Belotte (sometimes spelled Bilotti or Belotti) naturalized in 1899, returned to Italy and married my Italian GGM, Sofia Zito (sometimes listed as Sophie or Sophia) in 1901 and returned to the US in 1902. They had my GM in NY in 1924.

In the census of 1925 in NY, Sofias naturalization is listed as 'through husband', so presumption is it was non-voluntary, and she never took any other steps to naturalize outside of marrying him.

What immigration or naturalization docs can I actually get to validate or refute this? I have Giuseppes naturalization in 1899, but can't find anything for Sofia, which is somewhat expected given the 'through husband' census status. Still, UNCIS and NARA don't necessarily have any documents prior to 1906, and so I would love any help in how to approach / any additional documents that might help?

  • Sophie got derivative citizenship through her husband.  Your use of "involuntary" isn't what I would use for the process.  More like automatic according to the laws of the time.  Read the article by Marian Smith: 

    www.archives.gov/.../women-and-naturalization-1.html

  • Got it - Follow up question - is there any scenario where someone would be 'involuntarily naturalized' or is derivative citizenship probably always the proper terminology?

  • "Involuntary" does suggest she became a citizen despite her protest, which is generally misleading.  But it is true she had no choice so one might find that term useful.  If so, one would say she also "involuntarily" took on her new husband's surname.  She knew the consequences and married him anyway.

    Surely a few immigrant women were surprised to find they had been automatically naturalized via derivation but few if any complained.  Without any right to vote what did it matter?

    "Involuntary" might be a better fit for the US-born women who lost their US citizenship by marriage to an alien prior to 1922.  These women were often extremely angry when later learning they were no longer US citizens.  Unfortunately for them ignorance of the law was no excuse and they had to either naturalize/later repatriate to get their US citizenship back.

    One very different situation where "involuntary" may have been adopted was in early 20th c. Italy.  Many of Italy's subjects migrated back and forth to the US to earn money.  Many of those subjects found their travel in and out was much easier after they filed a declaration of intention or even went through with a petition and final naturalization.  But Italy could not imagine that any of its subjects would voluntarily give up their Italian citizenship (that is, they only did so to make money) therefore Italy was refusing to recognize their subjects' foreign naturalization.  A small chapter but, from their point of view, the term "involuntary" would work.

    It is an interesting question,

    Marian Smith

  • That last piece you mentioned is particularly interesting - so Italy refused to recognize their subjects foreign naturalization?  How exactly did that manifest itself?  Like if someone naturalized in the US but then returned to Italy, how would it still be seen that they'd have their Italian citizenship?

  • If I recall correctly, it manifested mainly in international discussions over expatriation, where different nations had different ideas or interpretations of citizenship.  And I'm talking about the very late 19th/early 20th c.  

    An Italian naturalized in the US could then return to Italy as a returning Italian citizen.  I'm not sure what Italy's documentary requirements were (if any).  

  • Documentation a derivative citizen's citizenship depends on dates and actions, so it all depends upon how long Sofia lived and whether she took any action to obtain documentation of her derivative citizenship.  Women derived until 1922, and children continued to derive thereafter.  But it was not until 1929 that derivative citizens had a way to obtain a certificate of derivative citizenship issued in their own name.  

    It appears Sophia lived long after 1929, through the Great Depression, World War II, and after.  So she had opportunities to apply to INS for a Certificate of Derivative Citizenship.  But did she do so?  Not everyone applied, but many did.  Especially women who:

    • Needed public assistance (like Old Age pensions) during the Great Depression, or in the 1950s, 1960s
    • Wanted to vote in a precinct with strict rules about proof of citizenship
    • Entered the workforce (esp. during WW II when many jobs required proof of citz)

    The only complete index to derivative certificates issued is with USCIS, so the only way to know if Sofia applied is to request a search of their index via the USCIS Genealogy Program.  If so, it would identify a Certificate File (C-file) number of the Derivative A series (i.e., a C-number with the prefix "A").  One would then have to make a separate request to USCIS for the file because it is paper, not digitized.  

  • Can you explain why you think it was "involuntary"? Are there letters or something else that Sofia wrote saying that she did not want to be an American citizen?