Naturalization Records, 1816 - 1955
Naturalization records play an important role in understanding the history of immigration in Missouri. Naturalization is the process by which a person who immigrates to the United States becomes an American citizen. Congress passed the first naturalization law in 1790. From that time through the early 20th century, immigrants could file naturalization papers in any court of record. County courts tended to be most convenient, and in Missouri, these courts included circuit court, chancery court, probate court, common pleas court, and court of equity. There was a two-part filing process, but the process did not have to take place in the same court. All Europeans residing in the Louisiana Territory (Missouri) at the time of the 1803 Purchase were automatically granted United States citizenship rights and privileges.
After living in the United States for two years, an immigrant could file the original "first papers," or declaration of intent (this requirement ended in 1952). After another three years of residence, the immigrant could file the petition for naturalization, or "second, or final papers". There are several exceptions to the general five-year rule, however:
Wives and minor children of naturalized men were granted derivative citizenship. From 1790 to 1922, wives of naturalized men or women who married U.S. citizens automatically became citizens themselves. From 1790 to 1940, children under the age of 21 became automatic citizens upon the naturalization of their father. Names and biographical information about wives and children are rarely included in declarations or petitions filed before 1906.
From 1824 to 1906, immigrants who were minors and had lived in the United States for five years prior to their 23rd birthday could simultaneously file the declaration of intent and petition for naturalization.
Special consideration was given to veterans. According to an 1862 law, after one year of residence, an honorably discharged Union Army veteran of any war could file a petition for naturalization; the requirement for an original declaration of intent was waived. An 1894 law extended this to veterans of the Navy and Marine Corps. Laws enacted between 1919 and 1952 included preferential treatment provisions for war veterans.
Before 1906, naturalization took place in local, state, or federal courts. There was no uniform system of maintaining naturalization records. The Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization was established in September 1906; local courts were encouraged to relinquish their naturalization jurisdiction to federal courts. The post-1906 records were standardized. There are some exceptions, but in general, post-1906 records are uniform in appearance and include the biographical data of the applicant and that of spouse and children.
Beginning in November 2003, volunteers from the St. Louis Genealogical Society, in a collaborative effort with the Missouri State Archives and the St. Louis City Circuit Court, sorted three partially-complete sets of naturalization index cards with citations to corresponding naturalization record books of the St. Louis Circuit Court. The Society then compiled information from the records into a searchable database of 93,104 entries, representing immigrant persons who filed for naturalization in the St. Louis court system from 1816 through September 1906.
The Naturalization Records Project at the Missouri State Archives
Volunteers are transcribing naturalization data from various county record books and from Supreme Court of Missouri record books to produce a database of immigration information. The project is ongoing with the transcription of most of the counties' records in progress. When complete this database will include naturalizations recorded throughout Missouri.
Included in Naturalization Records Project
- St. Charles
- St. Louis City
- Supreme Court of Missouri
Indexing in Progress
- Ste. Genevieve