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# Friday, May 25, 2007
It's Only Natural
Posted by Allison

Q Several branches of my family came to United States in the 1860s from Sweden and Germany and England—before Ellis Island. Were these people automatically made citizens or did they have to apply for naturalization? Where would one go to learn of this procedure?

A Any immigrant coming to the United States in the mid-1800s would have had to be naturalized to become a citizen. The process was twofold: First, the newcomer would have filed a declaration of intent for citizenship (referred to as “first papers”). After fulfilling the five-year residency requirement, he could then file his petition for naturalization. He had to sign these “final papers”—so if you can find that petition, you’ll have the added treat of seeing your ancestor’s John Hancock.

When male immigrants were naturalized, their children also automatically received citizenship. Between 1855 and 1922, their wives did, too.

The federal government standardized the naturalization process (including the paperwork) in 1906. Since your ancestors arrived before that, they could've filed for citizenship in any court—they might even have started the process in one location, then completed it in another. To cover all your bases, you’ll need to hunt for records at the local, county and state levels.

Start with a place search of the Family History Library catalog for locations where your ancestors might have petitioned, and look under the naturalization heading to identify records available on microfilm. Next, check archives at all three levels. Some archives and other official stewards of naturalization records have posted indexes and documents online: See Joe Beine’s state-by-state directory of links. NaturalizationRecords.com is also helpful.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services has copies of all post-1906 naturalization records. To request those, download and fill out form G-639 and mail it to US Citizenship and Immigration Serivces FOIA/PA, 111 Massachusetts Ave.,
Washington, DC 20529 (be sure to write “Freedom of Information Act Request” on the envelope).

Naturalization records can be a gateway to finding your ancestor’s passenger arrival list, as they often tell port and date of immigration (though the earlier the records, generally the less detail they contain). In fact, that’s how I confirmed the family story of my great-grandfather Henry Essel’s 1888 arrival through Philadelphia, enabling me to locate the ship manifest recording him and his family.

You can learn more about the naturalization process in They Became Americans by Loretto Dennis Szucs (Ancestry, $19.95) and The Family Tree Guide To Finding Your Ellis Island Ancestors by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack (Family Tree Books, $19.99). For Carmack’s 10-step guide to tracing immigrant ancestors, see our Yearbook 2003 issue. Library and Archives Canada provides information on Canadian naturalizations.


immigration | naturalization
Friday, May 25, 2007 11:06:48 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Suspicious Death
Posted by Diane

Q Leslie Carlisle Grant was born about 1912 in Macon Co., NC. I last found him on the 1930 census in Miami, Dade Co., Fla., living near his sister Ethel Heinneman. Shortly after, he supposedly joined the Army. Coming home on leave from who knows where in 1931 or 1932, he supposedly drowned in New Orleans’ Lake Pontchartrain or the Gulf of Mexico. How can I find out where he was in the military, and what records show about him?
from the FamilyTreeMagazine.com Brick Walls Forum

A Unfortunately, military service records won’t help you, since the War Department didn’t compile service records for the Regular Army—men who served during peacetime. (For more, see archives.gov/genealogy/military.)

Leslie Grant’s death certificate should give his cause of death. If he indeed died in Louisiana, you can request the record from the Louisiana State Archives, which has instructions on its Web site.
    
An unusual death might’ve led to an autopsy. According to the New Orleans Public Library Web site, autopsy reports held there are “almost exclusively limited to crime-related deaths or to accidental deaths caused by some sort of violence (e.g., suicide, automobile accidents, drowning, etc.).”

Autopsy Reports, Proces Verbaux, 1905-1968 include the date and cause of death as well as other information from autopsies. Coroner’s Record Book Journals, 1905-1969, record all cases referred to the coroner.

 “Seems like an event like that would have made the papers,” posted FamilyTreeMagazine.com Forum user Michele. “The current major newspaper is the Times-Picayune.” It’s among the microfilmed holdings at the NOPL, which offers a newspaper listing by year. See your February 2007 Family Tree Magazine for newspaper research advice.

If you can’t visit the Crescent City, ask your librarian about requesting microfilmed records through interlibrary loan. Also research Ethel Heinemann, who may have left correspondence, funeral cards or other documents bearing clues about what happened to her brother.

Anyone have another suggestion? Click Comment to add it.


birth/death records
Wednesday, May 23, 2007 2:25:04 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, May 10, 2007
Saving Old Scrapbooks
Posted by Diane

Q I've discovered scrapbooks my mother made in the 1930 and '40s. They include photos and paper ephemera such as party napkins and dance programs. The scrapbook pages are black and the items are glued on. What's the best way to preserve this material? Also, I'd like to take pictures of each page. Should I use a traditional camera with no flash or digital camera with a built-in flash?

A Those albums with black pages were common during the early 1900s, and people often wrote in them with opaque white ink. "Black scrapbook paper is not the best choice for photo storage," says preservation expert and blogger at The Practical Archivist Sally Jacobs. The paper's high acid content can make it brittle over time.

The glue your mom used may be acidic, too. "Even so, it would be unwise to try to deconstruct the scrapbook," advises Jacobs. That's because you can lose important caption information, and separating glued-together paper is a risky move best done by a professional archivist.

Jacobs recommends inserting acid-free, buffered tissue between the scrapbook pages. ("Regular-thickness paper would make the book too thick by the time you finish," she says.) Buffered paper contains alkaline ingredients, which will help neutralize the acids in the black paper and slow their migration to the album's contents.

Then, to protect the book against light and dust, store it flat in an archival drop-front box in a size as close as possible to the dimensions of the scrapbook.

You can purchase archival tissue and boxes from suppliers such as Archival Methods, Gaylord Brothers, and Light Impressions.

"Bring out the scrapbook and show it off to anyone who wants to see it, but tuck it away somewhere safe the rest of the time," Jacobs says. That means in a house that's cooled in the summer and heated in the winter, ideally in an interior closet to reduce temperature fluctuations. Avoid attics and basements.

You're on the right track in wanting to visually preserve the pages. The problem with using a built-in flash is that you can get a glare from shiny surfaces, such as a glossy photo or anything metallic, in the book.

"If the scrapbook doesn't have anything reflective on the pages, you might get away with the digital/flash camera," says Family Tree Magazine's photographer Al Parrish. "But it would probably be safer to use some sort of available light, such as outside on a cloudy day, with the camera white balance set to Auto." Parrish also highly recommends a tripod.

You could try doing this yourself, and if you're unsatisfied with the results and you can afford it, hire a professional photographer to shoot the book.

Keep an eye out for the September Family Tree Magazine, on sale July 17—it'll have an article full of simple ways to preserve and enjoy heirlooms.

Got advice or stories of your own? Post them here.


Preserving Heirlooms and Photos
Thursday, May 10, 2007 3:43:32 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]