Premiering today, May 19, 2021, at 1 p.m.! As the family historian, you have amassed information and records that will one day pass to the next family historian. How do you share your findings with others? How to engage young family members involved with all your hard research may be another story. Education staff members Missy McNatt and Dorothy Dougherty will demonstrate fun and engaging ways to connect research to your family, including younger family members. This lecture will highlight activities related to our most popular genealogy records, such as Immigrant Ship Arrivals, U.S. Census Records, Naturalization records, and Military and Pension files. The presenters will also demonstrate new ways to share your research finds online, using social media tools.
Staff members at the National Archives at Chicago are tagging various records series in Record Group 21, Records of District Courts of the United States, to make them more accessible to a wider audience.
One of these series is the U.S. District Court, Detroit, Repatriation Records, 1918-1970 (National Archives Identifier 1150838). Between 1907 and 1922, women lost their U.S. citizenship if they married a foreign national. Later, many women wished to regain their U.S. citizenship. Depending upon when they applied, the women were required to file either a Petition for Naturalization or take the Oath of Allegiance. This series primarily includes the latter document. The records consist of eight legal-size archives boxes, and each box contains approximately 700 repatriations. To date, NARA staff has created over 23,000 tags for the series.
For more information about women and naturalization laws, see the excellent two-part article by Marian L. Smith, “‘Any Woman Who is Now or May Hereafter Be Married…’ Women and Naturalization, ca. 1802-1940,” Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration, Vol. 30, Nos. 2-3 (1998). Here are links to Part 1 and Part 2.
On 25 April 2018, USCIS historian Zack Wilske gave an excellent presentation about the laws affecting naturalization of Asian alien soldiers and sailors during World War I. Without reproducing his webinar, which was not recorded, let me share a few highlights.
The Naturalization Act of 9 May 1918 provided expedited naturalization for “any alien serving in the military or naval service of the United States during the time this country is engaged in the present war.” The serviceman needed proof of enlisted status or honorable discharge and supporting testimony of two witnesses.
This Act exempted service members from five requirements: (1) five years of U.S. residency; (2) filing a declaration of intention; (3) ability to speak English; (4) the need to demonstrate knowledge of American history and institutions; and (5) the need to file in a court with jurisdiction over his residence.
The question soon arose whether Chinese, Japanese, and Hindoo [sic] servicemen could be naturalized under this law. Did Congress mean “any alien” or was the 1918 act was to be read in harmony with prior statutes and case law that held that held that most Asian natives were not “free white persons” eligible to naturalize. (In 1870, Congress extended the right to naturalize to “persons of African nativity, or African descent.” Filipinos were also permitted to naturalize.)
There was disagreement within the Bureau of Naturalization, and between different Federal judges. Judge Horace W. Vaughan of the U.S. District Court of Hawaii construed “any alien” literally to include Asian servicemen, and began naturalizing them, as did some other judges. Ultimately the Bureau decided that Asians were not eligible, and selected the naturalization of Hidemitsu Toyota, who was naturalized in Boston, Massachusetts, on 26 May 1921, as a test case to take all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which decided on 25 May 1925, that Asians were not included in the “any alien” language of the Act of 9 May 1918.
The Supreme Court decision made the naturalization status of those Asians murky at best and, condensing a lot of history here, eventually the Act of Congress of 24 June 1935 cleaned things up by (1) allowing Asian veterans of World War I to naturalize; (2) allowing Asians naturalized during the war to have their naturalization certificates validated; (3) allowing new certificates to be issued to those who lost them. These provisions expired 1 January 1937.
At least 700 Asian soldiers or veterans naturalized during or after World War I. Many of them were interned by the U.S. government during World War II. Racial bars on naturalization did not end until 1952.
The National Archives and Records Administration will have its 2017 Virtual Genealogy Fair online on Oct. 25, 2017. If you miss any part of it, don’t worry, it will be posted online at a later date.
If you missed the 2013 to 2016 Virtual Genealogy Fairs, you’re still in luck – all the videos, PowerPoints, and other handouts are still online. Just follow these links: