Recently Lisa Alzo presented a most informative webinar concerning naturalization records.(1) In the webinar Lisa covered the steps involved for an immigrant to become a naturalized American citizen, starting with the filing of a Declaration of Intent and ending with the awarding of a Certificate of Naturalization. It was particularly helpful to see actual documents, examining the information presented on each, and noting that different states had slightly different documents used for the process.
However familiar I felt I was with the naturalization process, I knew I wanted to take a new look at some of my naturalized ancestors and relatives. Using the information Lisa presented, I wanted to revisit what I already knew about my Great Grandfather, Peter Peterson Myren. I also wanted to apply some of her research tips to see if I could learn more about Peter's path to citizenship.
One strategy suggested in the webinar was to develop a timeline of events in the naturalization process. All events that I have recorded in my Family Tree Maker software appear in chronological order, but it helped to set up a smaller, separate timeline to look at only those events related to Peter's immigration, residence, and naturalization.
My timeline included the following events. From Norwegian church records, I knew that Peter had notified that church of his plan to emigrate from Noway to America in 1870.(2) Having an approximate date of departure had enabled me to locate Peter and his brother John and their arrival at the port of Quebec in late June of 1870.(3) This 1870 date was confirmed in subsequent census documents. The 1900 US census recorded Peter as arriving in the US in 1870 and having been in the country for 30 years. This 1900 census also listed Peter as being a naturalized citizen. Information in the 1910 US census recorded Peter as having immigrated in 1878, a date I consider to be a transcription error as 1870 is the date shown in all other records I have found. The US census for 1920 also listed his arrival as being in 1870 and that he was naturalized in 1890.
My timeline confirmed that Peter had followed the established sequence of events, but I also wanted to see the documents associated with his becoming an American citizen. Several years ago, I had located Peter's naturalization record through the index available online through North Dakota State University Libraries. The information provided in the index - name, county of residence (Traill), and date of naturalization (May 1890) was specific enough that I ordered a copy of the record.
The one page record had three distinct parts. First was the signed statement by two witnesses that Peter Peterson Myren had lived in the United States for five years, lived in the state of North Dakota for one year, and that he was of good moral character. The second part of the record (shown below) was Peter's signed statement that he was renouncing all allegiance to the King of Norway and Sweden.
The third part of the record was the signed statement of a judge that "Peter Peterson Myren be, and he is hereby admitted to be A CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES", the caps being straight from the printed form. Rereading this section of the document caused me to focus on the handwritten statement that "said Peter Peterson Myren [was] the same person who took out his Intention Papers in the name of Peter Peterson before the Clerk of Circuit Court Eau Claire County, Wisconsin". After all, I had recently learned that the marriage of Peter and his wife Kari took place in Eau Claire County, Wisconsin, in 1880. I should not have been surprised to see that his first step toward citizenship had also started in Wisconsin.
FamilySearch.org provided me with the chance to find Peter's Declaration of Intention, sometimes referred to as First Papers. Their digitized Wisconsin, County Naturalization Records, 1807-1992 are not indexed, but they are easy to browse if you know the approximate date and county in which the Declaration was filed. From the Eau Claire County records, I selected the volume of Declaration of Intention 1871-1880 as most likely to contain Peter's declaration.(4) Thankfully, this volume contained an index which listed four Peter Petersons has having filed a declaration during that time period. Of the four records, two records listed a Peter Peterson born in Norway in 1848 and immigrating to the United States in 1870; this matched what I already knew about my Great Grandfather. The other two records had dates that eliminated them as possibilities for my Peter.
Looking back at the book's index for Peterson/Pederson, I noticed a listing for a John Petterson. His declaration indicated that he was born in Norway in 1843 and immigrated to the United States in July, 1870. This matched with what I already know of Peter's older brother John, especially as these two brothers had immigrated together. John's record was on page 83 of the book. One of the possible Peter records was on page 84. Plus John (page 83) and Peter (page 84) had both made their declarations on the same day, 7 Nov 1871. It was looking as if I had found my Peter's declaration.
I spent time looking back at the second possible Peter Peterson record. This second record showed a filing date of 5 Jul 1872. The signature also provided another thing to question. The record on page 148 was signed Peder Pederson, while my Peter is more frequently listed in church, immigration, census, final naturalization record, obituary as Peter Peterson / Myren. It was enough for me to feel that the declaration signed by Peter on page 84 was that of my Great Grandfather, Peter Peterson Myren.
Using a specific timeline helped me to see how and where my Great Grandfather had followed that path to citizenship. Immigration in 1870, filing a Declaration of Intention in 1871, and appearing before the court for his second papers, his actual citizenship papers, in 1890. In twenty years, Peter had made life changing decisions that lead to his becoming an American citizen. In just over twenty years, one of his sons would follow a similar path, leaving the United States and becoming a citizen of yet another country. But that's a story for another day.
- Reading all the information of a record can sometimes lead you to find new information.
- A timeline can help to clarify the sequence of events.
- Once again, Legacy through its free webinars, added to my knowledge of research tips and resources.
(1) Alzo, Lisa. "Navigating Naturalization Records"; accessed through Legacy Family Tree Webinars (free through 13 July 2016) http://familytreewebinars.com/download.php?webinar_id=380.
(2) Oppland Parish (Lesjaskog Lesja, Norway). Minister Book no. 9 (1854-1889), Espress Expatriate 1870, p. 289, entry 2, 24 Mar 1870; accessed through Digital Archives of Norway.
(3) Passenger Lists, 1865-1922, ships manifest for Mercator; accessed through Library and Archives of Canada.
(4) Wisconsin, County Naturalization Records, 1807-1992 Eau Claire > Declarations of intention 1871-1880, various pages; accessed through www.familysearch.org.