It’s not too late! You can register on-site beginning Tuesday, August 20, at 3 p.m. for the Federation of Genealogical Societies 2019 Family History Conference, Washington, DC – August 21-24, 2019 – at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. Whether you come one day or all four, EVERY day is packed with presentations by nationally-known experts on genealogical research. You won’t want to miss it! You’ll be sure to learn a lot. Go to FGS 2019 Conference for details.
On Thursday, August 23, 2018, at 1 p.m. (Eastern), an historian at the USCIS will present a very useful webinar, particularly for those with ancestors who arrived in the first have of the 20th century.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has transferred over a million Alien Files (A-Files) to National Archives custody in Kansas City, Missouri, and San Francisco, California. Researchers can use the National Archives catalog and well-known genealogy research sites to search for files.
Are all the indices the same? What information is included in each index? This webinar will discuss the index data and how to search various indices to find an A-File at the National Archives. We will also discuss the role of the index in transferring A-Files to the Archives.
*This webinar will not be recorded, so be sure to join it live.*
How to Attend:
1. Visit the USCIS History and Genealogy webpage.
2. Click “Guide to I&N History: Thursday, August 23.”
3. Click “Attend Session” just before the webinar start time at 1 p.m. (Eastern). If you’ve not attended a previous USCIS webinar online, it would be a good idea to hit “attend session” 10 minutes early to make sure you have the right software, etc.
“Interpreting Odd INS Naturalization Index Cards: The Case of “Gladys H” — Thursday, May 24, 1:00 PM Eastern
If you’ve ever searched online for mid-20th century naturalization records, you may have encountered unusual or hard-to-understand index cards. This webinar by a USCIS historian, will discuss examples of these cards, then present a real-life case study of the variety of numbers in Gladys H.’s complicated road to naturalization.
To attend the webinar (which will not be recorded), go to USCIS History and Genealogy Webinars, choose the May 24 session, and hit the “attend session” button. If you have not attended one of these webinars previously, hit the “attend session” button 10 or 15 minutes in advance, in case you need to download the appropriate software.
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:
From the USCIS History Office:
The First World War inspired patriotism in both native-born and immigrant Americans. At the same time, some immigrant groups fell under suspicion of being disloyal to the U.S. war effort. So, in the years surrounding the war, the Bureau of Naturalization investigated the loyalty of naturalizing immigrants to ensure that only fully qualified immigrants became citizens.
As part of the USCIS History Office’s ongoing commemoration of the 100th anniversary of World War I, this webinar examines the Bureau of Naturalization’s loyalty investigations during the war and the Bureau’s efforts to revoke citizenship from naturalized citizens it deemed disloyal. In the webinar, you will learn about the Bureau’s wartime activities through primary-source examples of loyalty investigation files and cancelled certificate of naturalization files.
Please note: This webinar will not be recorded, so be sure to join it live.