A few years ago, I was researching an immigrant ancestor for one of our client’s who had come from Eastern Europe. Various records listed his birthplace as Poland, Russia and Lithuania. In order to continue tracing the family in Europe, we obviously needed a more specific place of birth. After striking out with a few of the more common record sources, I decided to try locating this ancestor’s naturalization record since census records were very consistent in stating that he was naturalized. The only problem, however, was that this ancestor worked with the rail road and moved frequently throughout the country. Knowing exactly where he had received his citizenship was important to locating this record.
After searching the records of various courts in the known places of residence, I was coming up empty handed. It seemed obvious that this ancestor was naturalized in some unknown place of residence. Rather than digging into this further, I inquired with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service). I knew that they had a master index of all naturalizations after 1906. However, I was both shocked and disappointed to learn that there was an 18-20 month waiting time! Yes, that’s right, 18-20 months!
The waiting time was not conducive to our client’s completion goals and so the research continued using a variety of complex and time consuming methodologies with the goal of identifying this ancestor’s exact place of birth. While I am pleased to report that the research was eventually successful, I am fairly confident that had we been able to go straight to the naturalization record, we may very well have saved a great deal of time!
Recently, the USCIS announced the opening of its new Genealogy Program. This is a very exciting new service that now offers a 4-6 week turnaround for the following records:
- Naturalization Certificate Files (C-files) from September 27, 1906 to April 1, 1956
- Alien Registration Forms from August 1, 1940 to March 31, 1944
- Visa files from July 1, 1924 to March 31, 1944
- Registry Files from March 2, 1929 to March 31, 1944
- Alien Files (A-files) numbered below 8 million (A8000000) and documents therein dated prior to May 1, 1951
While this is a fee-based service, it could save you time when looking for documents relating to ancestor’s citizenship—especially when tracing an immigrant’s place of origin.
The service first offers an index search ($20), which involves a search of the USCIS’s master index for all references pertaining to your ancestor. You will then have specific details about the records that are available and copies can then be requested ($20-35). To learn more about this service, visit the new page on the USCIS website at: http://tinyurl.com/6gp6gt.
Enjoy and happy hunting!