As you may know, naturalization was a two-step process. First, an immigrant had to file a "declaration of intention" stating their intent to become a citizen. After a specified number of years, they could then file a petition for naturalization, asking a court to naturalize them. "Papers filed" means that the declaration had been filed but not the petition. Chances are high that your grandfather was naturalized a few years after the 1920 census.
After 1906, immigrants were generally required to file for naturalization in federal court. (This is good news for you: the state records are very spotty.) You may find this link helpful: https://www.archives.gov/research/immigration/naturalization. May I ask the name of your grandfather and where he lived? I'm sure someone would be glad to help you look up his records. Many federal court records have been microfilmed and are available for free through the National Archives or other websites. Happy research!
On the 1920 census his status was listed as “papers filed“.The 1930 census showed his status was listed as naturalized. So, sometime between 1920 and 1930 he became a US citizen.
I have been researching on ancestry and family search and have come up with a few items of information none of which are certain.
On the 1920 census my grandfather‘s name was listed as Joseph Petro but sometime later the name he used was Joseph Pietro. In fact, my mother used the last name of Pietro not Petro.
Family Search showed that he was born somewhere in Italy between 1879 and 1881. After he immigrated to the US, he lived at 38 Willow St., Port Chester, Westchester county, New York. His wife’s name was shown as Sicurso but in later census records it was shown as Mary with a middle initial of S.
Ancestry records show that he immigrated to the US in 1905, 1906 but on the 1910 census his year of immigration was listed as 1910. I believe the latter was a mistake.
So, I have to find a document that proves that my grandfather was not naturalized prior to my mothers birth of 1914. I guess his naturalization document would prove that.
Any help you could provide is greatly appreciated. I have searched exhaustively on family search and ancestry trying to find his naturalization records without success.
I am at a loss as to what to do next.Bill Romanello
I think I figured out what's going on here. First of all, let me share with you records from the New York State censuses of 1915 and 1925. They're both in Ancestry.
Also, I found a World War I draft registration card and a World War II draft registration card, also in Ancestry.
The 1925 census tells us that your grandfather was naturalized in "W.P." This assuredly refers to White Plains, the county seat of Westchester County. However, there was no federal court in White Plains until 1978. This convinces me that your grandfather was not naturalized in federal court, but instead in state court. This is not entirely unheard of: the Archives has written that "it took time for the [state] courts to let go of the practice [of naturalization.]" Westchester County maintains an index of naturalizations, which you can access at http://recordcenter.westchestergov.com/NaturalizationSearch.aspx. There are numerous records from the 1920s period. One is for a Giuseppe Pitera, who declared his intention in 1917 and petitioned for naturalization in 1920. The name "Giuseppe Pitera" matches the draft cards I posted above, both of which are near-certain matches. I would consider it more likely than not that this is the one.
Unfortunately, the Westchester naturalization records (as opposed to the index) have not been digitized; the county charges for a copy. If you have an urgent need for these records, that's something you can consider. Even without the formal records, however, I can say with a high degree of confidence that your grandfather was naturalized in the year 1920, in New York state court in White Plains. (I can also confidently attest to a date of birth of October 14, 1878, in Palmi, Calabria, Italy.)
Hopefully this is helpful to you. Let me know if you have any difficulties or questions. This was a challenging but enjoyable puzzle for me - thanks for sharing it with us!
Have a great Thanksgiving.
Thank you. Thank you. I can’t tell you how much this information means to me. I have been trying for weeks, no months, researching only coming to a dead end.
We went to a friends home for Thanksgiving and upon our return I checked my email and there it was. I wouldn’t have guessed in a million years that my grandfather’s true name was Pitera not Pietro.
You are truly a Magician.
My next task is to get his naturalization record from Westchester County. I need that to prove my Mother, who was born in 1914, was in fact born to an Italian citizen. Based on your research it seems very likely that he was naturalized in 1920 which is, of course, six years after my mother was born. But, I need to obtain the documents to prove that in fact took place.
Also, I have to obtain my grandfather‘s birth certificate from Italy. Any ideas on how I could obtain that? I am light years ahead of the game because you provided not only his date of birth but the place in which he was born.
I guess it was common during that time for people to change their names randomly. You would not be able to do that today.
i’ve ordered my grandfathers death certificate from the village of port Chester and I am interested to know what name will appear on it.
also, I’ve ordered my mother’s birth certificate and I’m wondering what name will appear on it.
So, thanks again for your work I appreciate you helping me find this information.
When I woke up this morning, I decided to check if I could find your grandfather's birth certificate. I did indeed find it. You can imagine my surprise when I saw in my email your message asking for just that. Here is the birth certificate, courtesy of the Italian state archives in Palmi. http://dl.antenati.san.beniculturali.it/v/Archivio+di+Stato+di+Reggio+Calabria/Stato+civile+italiano/Palmi/Nati/1878/007… (It uses the Giuseppe Pitera name as well.) If you need a certified copy (and you probably do), you can apparently order it from the archives in Reggio Calabria. See no. 11 here: http://www.antenati.san.beniculturali.it/faq/?lang=en. The website of the Reggio Calabria archives is http://www.archiviodistatoreggiocalabria.beniculturali.it/index.php.
With respect to the formal naturalization paperwork, you can get the records from Westchester County. As detailed here, https://archives.westchestergov.com/naturalization-records, the cost is fifteen dollars for the document itself plus five dollars for the certification. I recommend asking for the petition, since it will generally say whether the application was granted or denied. (Sometimes, a copy of the declaration is attached to the petition.) Just fill out the "individual record request" form, providing the archive number of A-0019(30)S(Z2), the year of 1920, and the name Giuseppe Pitera. The petition may also give you marriage information, his date and place of arrival, and even a photograph! Do let us know what you find, and always feel free to ask if you need any further information.
I'm so glad that my efforts have been helpful to you, and I wish you success in your future endeavors.
You are truly amazing. I have no idea how you find this information but I am glad that you did. I took your advice and requested a copy of my grandfathers petition from Westchester County. In fact, I mailed the way the form with my check yesterday.
I’ve been working all day and haven’t had the opportunity to check my email but I was about to ask you to try and locate my grandparents marriage certificate. I looked a little closer at the email and apparently you anticipated that request.
How were you able to find out my grandfather’s true name? I’ve been researching the name Joseph Pietro for months and it’s no wonder why I could not locate anything.
my lifelong dream was to become a citizen of Italy. I have no plans to relinquish my US citizenship but I will apply for dual citizenship. Based on what I have read there would be zero chance of obtaining my citizenship without the information that you provided.
One day when I’m able to finally obtain my citizenship I will think of you and the valuable information that you provided and remember how grateful I am to you.
God bless you.
I'm glad to share my process, even though I regrettably don't have any rabbits to magically pull out of my hat. After wasting untold amounts of time in the naturalization records for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, I moved on to digging up the census records. These weren't terribly difficult to find since they included his address and the names of his wife and children. It seems each one referenced him by a different name - Joseph Petro, Joseph Pietro, Joseph Pitera, and even Guisppie Petero. (Census-takers weren't terribly good at writing down non-English names.) When I eventually deciphered what "W.P." stood for (and after tracking down more red herrings in the Southern District records), I realized that he had to have been naturalized in state court since there was no federal court in White Plains during this period. A Google search for "Westchester County naturalization records" found me the Westchester archives with their index. I inputted all the surnames from the census records (Petro, Pietro, Pitera, Petero), and the only one that made sense (i.e., the dates matched) was Giuseppe Pitera. When I inputted that name back into Ancestry, I found the draft cards, which confirmed to me that the Pitera name was the correct one.
Ultimately, you just got lucky. Many counties don't have an index of their naturalization holdings like Westchester does, and those that do rarely post it online. If your grandfather had ended up in a different county, finding his records may well have been impossible. This sort of random chance is quite common. I've traced one branch of my family tree back to the late 1600s in the Azores. A different ancestor (also from the Azores) assumed the seemingly random surname of "King," making it impossible track him back across the Atlantic. (At least your grandfather's name change made sense.) That branch of the family tree is perpetually stunted, never getting past the early 20th century. Some ancestors are destined to be easy, while some ancestors (like your grandfather) are just destined to be difficult.
It's always gratifying to help someone find new genealogical records, and it's even better when doing so results in practical benefits for real people. Make sure to post a copy of your records when they arrive - one never knows what additional information might be lurking in them - and feel free to ask if there's anything else you're interested in finding out. I wish you the best of luck in all you do.
On another whim, I found your grandparents' marriage record. You can view it here: http://dl.antenati.san.beniculturali.it/v/Archivio+di+Stato+di+Reggio+Calabria/Stato+civile+italiano/Palmi/Matrimoni/190… I don't know if this is of any value to you, but you might at least find it interesting. I can't make out very much of it (I don't read Italian), but they appear to have been married on November 30, 1901, in Palmi.
(As you might have noticed, my previous reference to question no. 11 should have been no. 10. Sorry.)
Thanks to you in today’s mail I received my grandfathers certified naturalization record. I received both his petition for naturalization and his Declaration of intention. You were spot on in predicting the date of his naturalization stating that you thought he was naturalized in 1920. The certificate says he was naturalized April 23, 1920. You were perfect.
Now I can prove that my mother born in 1914 was born to an Italian citizen which is a prerequisite for my Italian citizenship.
I could not move forward without obtaining these key documents. I can’t thank you enough.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays
Great! I'm so glad that I was able to help you. Merry Christmas!
If you could provide the name, approximate birth year, and location in the US were he lived (or provide a link to the 1920 Census), one of us will help you look for the information.
Thank you ever so much for responding to me. I am exploring filing for dual citizenship with Italy and doing so requires me to produce certain documents. One of the records that I am asked to produce is a record that shows that my grandfather not a US citizen at the time of my mothers birth. My mother was born April 29, 1914.
His children were Philip, Angelina, Salvatore, Concetta, Joseph and my mother Millie.On the 1920 census his status was listed as “papers filed“.The 1930 census showed his status was listed as naturalized. So, sometime between 1920 and 1930 he became a US citizen.
I am at a loss as to what to do next.Bill Romanello
I have not been able to find his naturalization record among those in the Southern District of the US federal court, but I finally found his 1918 WWI draft card, which states that he had declared his intention to become a citizen, but was not yet naturalized. Note how he signed his name, which is another variation of the spelling.
Thank you very much for attempting to help me but I was able to find information from another source.
thank you again
Dear Mr. Romanello,
Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!
As the previous poster mentioned, 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 custody of the National Archives facility serving the state in which the Federal court is located.
Unfortunately, no central index exists. To ensure a successful request, please 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 various NARA reference units. We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your understanding and patience.
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).
Certificates of citizenship were issued by the Federal courts until October 1991 when INS took over responsibility for naturalization proceedings. 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 since September 27, 1906 and may be requested through the USCIS Genealogy Program.
We hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your family research!