My grandfather’s resume says his father was naturalized in 1944 in Cleveland. So a couple of years ago, I sent off a Freedom of Information Act request for those records to the Citizenship and Immigration Service
. No dice.
Then when I noticed the subscription records site Footnote
was posting citizenship papers from the US District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern District, I started eyeing the “percent completed” bar as it ticked upward.
Every once in awhile, I’d search. Still nothing. I wondered if my grandfather fibbed, thinking he’d have a better chance at a job if his dad were a citizen. (Grandpa made himself 10 years younger on the same resume.)
Friday I tried again. I clicked on a match, even though the first name was all wrong. And it was my great-grandfather! His address and birth date; his wife’s death information; and the kids’ names and birth dates confirmed it. Looks like his name in Syria was Fadlallah. I knew him only as Mike in US records—I guess if you're gonna Americanize your name, you might as well go all the way.
Best of all, his picture’s on the 1942 declaration of intention (also called “first papers”). I’d never seen him.
Also part of the file was an oath sworn by two associates and a 1944 petition for naturalization (“second papers”).
Naturalization papers state the immigrant’s date and port of arrival, and ship name (though I’m pretty sure my great-grandparents didn’t really sail on the SS Unknown
). Now it’ll be a piece of cake, I thought, to find them on a passenger list.
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Aside from getting creative with passenger list searching (I’m going to try Steve Morse’s Ellis Island One-Step Search
), here are some things for follow-up:
- Naturalization papers give birthplaces for the applicant's children, so I'll look for birth records for my great-unces and great-aunt.
- The declaration of intention says my great-grandfather filed first papers in Cleveland in 1918—they would’ve expired without being followed up by second papers within seven years. I didn't find a 1918 record, so I'll look into what's going on with that.
See FamilyTreeMagazine.com for guidance on locating your ancestors' naturalization records
- Research the guys who swore oaths on my great-grandfather’s behalf.
.Footnote's naturalization records collection is here