Dear Ms. Reenstra,
Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!
If your father-in-law was naturalized 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. However, a few indexes and records have been donated to the National Archives from counties, states, and 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. In certain cases county court naturalization records maintained by the National Archives are available as microfilm publications. Records from state and local courts are often at state archives or county historical societies.
Beginning on September 27, 1906, the responsibility for naturalization proceedings was transferred to the Federal courts. 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. Records for Passaic, New Jersey would be in the custody of the National Archives at New York. For more information about these records, please contact the National Archives at New York (RE-NY) at email@example.com. No central index exists. To ensure a successful request with the National Archives, researchers should include: the name of petitioner (including known variants); date of birth; approximate date of entry to the US; approximate date of naturalization; where the individual was residing at the time of naturalization (city/county/state); and country of origin.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and pursuant to guidance received from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), NARA has adjusted its normal operations to balance the need of completing its mission-critical work while also adhering to the recommended social distancing for the safety of NARA staff. As a result of this re-prioritization of activities, you may experience a delay in receiving an initial acknowledgement as well as a substantive response to your reference request from RE-NY. We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your understanding and patience.
While the Federal Courts were given responsibility for naturalization proceedings, it took time for the lower courts to let go of the practice, so you may need to look at lower courts if the National Archives does not maintain a record of naturalization from the early-mid 20th century. We suggest that you contact the New Jersey State Archives in Trenton, New Jersey.
The records you seek may be available in digital form and may be viewed online via Ancestry. There may be a fee for using this service. Instead, please check for access at your local library as many library systems subscribe to these sites, making them free for their patrons.
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 from September 27, 1906 through March 31, 1956 within Certificate Files (C-Files). Beginning on April 1, 1956, INS began filing all naturalization records in a subject’s Alien File (A-File). C-Files and certain A-Files may be requested through the USCIS Genealogy Program.
We hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your family research!