Dear Patrick Araujo,
Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!
The date of José's naturalization will shape what kind of record you will be seeking. Prior to September 27, 1906, any "court of record" (municipal, county, state, or Federal) could grant United States citizenship. Often petitioners went to the court most geographically convenient for them. As a general rule, the National Archives does not have naturalization records created in state or local courts. Researchers should contact the National Archives facility serving the state in which the petitioner resided to determine if records from lower courts are available. Records from state and local courts are often at state archives or county historical societies.
Beginning September 27, 1906, the responsibility for naturalization proceedings was transferred to the Federal courts. It took time for the lower courts to let go of the practice, so researchers may need to look at lower courts if the National Archives does not maintain a record of naturalization from the early-mid 20th century.
If a naturalization took place in a Federal court, naturalization indexes, declarations of intention (with any accompanying certificates of arrival), and petitions for naturalization will usually be in the National Archives facility serving the state in which the Federal court is located. No central index exists.
To ensure a successful request with the National Archives researchers should include: name of petitioner; date of birth; approximate date of arrival to the US; approximate date of naturalization; where the individual was residing at the time of naturalization (city/county/state); and country of origin.
In most cases, the National Archives will not have a copy of the certificate of citizenship. Two copies of the certificate were created – one given to the petitioner as proof of citizenship, and one forwarded to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).
All INS records are now overseen by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS maintains duplicate copies of court records (including the certificate of citizenship) created September 27, 1906-March 31, 1956 within Certificate Files (C-Files). C-Files can be requested through the USCIS Genealogy Program.
We hope this information is helpful. Best of luck with your family research!
First of all, a big thank you for these explanations. Indeed, I am slowly but surely learning the principle of archives in the USA!
Jose arrived in the USA in 1908 (Port of Boston) and I suppose naturalized between 1910-1920 and according to your explanations I have to get closer to the archives of the Federal court. It’s a shame that there is not a central archive for these registers to facilitate our research.
I understand that I can either search the Federal Court in California or New York (place of residence) or request assistance from USCIS to search for C-FILE.
Regarding this service offered by US Citizenship and Immigration Services, I am a little lost in the various procedures (index Search, Record with case ID…) and also surprised that it is necessary to pay € 65 for each procedure. For example, here in France (and in Portugal identical), access to this kind of archive is completely free.
Ultimately, I would agree to pay for a copy of the C-FILE but is it not possible to have a guarantee that the document exists beforehand?
Thank you in advance for your help.
From 1790 through much of the 20th century, an alien could become naturalized in any court of record. Thus, most people went to the court most convenient to them, usually a county court. The names and types of courts vary from State to State. The names and types of courts have also varied during different periods of history--but may include the county supreme, circuit, district, equity, chancery, probate, or common pleas court. Most researchers will find that their ancestors became naturalized in one of these courts. A few State supreme courts also naturalized aliens, such as the supreme courts of Indiana, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, New Jersey, and South Dakota. Aliens who lived in large cities sometimes became naturalized in a Federal court, such as a U.S. district court or U.S. circuit court.