Internment of Enemy Aliens During World War I

The internment of over 110,000 Japanese citizens and Americans of Japanese descent during World War II is well-known. In contrast, U.S. internment of over 6,000 German citizens and other enemy aliens during the First World War has been largely forgotten.

Was your ancestor interned? Read my article, “Internment of Enemy Aliens During World War I” for more information. I recommend starting with online newspaper databases which sometimes contain news reports about aliens arrested and detained. Then, you’ll want to locate federal records in the custody of the U.S. National Archives. My article will introduce you to available records and how to request record searches and copies.

EnEmAlienToymakersNAID31478939.jpg

Photo: Enemy aliens interned at Fort Douglas, Utah, pass the time by building model ships. 165-WW-161C-94. NAID 31478939. American Unofficial Collection of World War I Photographs, 1917-18; Record Group 165, Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs; National Archives at College Park, MD. 

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Minor’s Naturalization

While we normally think of naturalization as a two step process whereby the alien first declares his intent to become a citizen and then petitions for naturalization, there were exceptions to that procedure.

For example, from 1824 to 1906, aliens who came to the U.S. while under age 18 could effectively declare their intent to become a citizen at the same time they filed their petition for naturalization once they had reached age 21 or more and had lived in the U.S. for five years (three of which as a minor). Let the law speak for itself:

image002.jpgSo, to summarize: the alien still had to meet the five year requirement for residency, and three years of that had to be while he was a minor.

Many courts used specific forms for these cases that combined declaration of intent language and petition language in one document, and they made sure to include the word “minor.”  Some may say the applicant “arrived as a minor,” while others will have the words “Minor Naturalization” emblazoned across the title or as a watermark.

For more on naturalization, see Naturalization Records and Women and Naturalization, Part I and Part II.