Naturalization is the process by which an alien becomes an American citizen. Prior to 1906, immigrants could file for naturalization in any court at the local, county, state or federal level. In Travis County, naturalization records can be found in the records of the District and County Courts and date from 1887-1906. In 1906, the Basic Naturalization Act turned the naturalization process over to the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization.
The process of naturalization generally took a minimum of 5 years and involved declaring an intent to naturalize and renouncing allegiance to a foreign sovereign, waiting a specified amount of time, then filing a court petition to naturalize. After a hearing, a judge would grant the successful applicant a certificate as proof of citizenship. Women and children generally did not apply for citizenship as they derived citizenship from their spouses or their fathers.
Each step in the citizenship process produced its own set of documents. The three types of records created for most naturalized citizens were the declaration of intent, petition for naturalization, and certificate of naturalization.
• Declaration of Intention
With this record, an alien declares his intention to become a US citizen and renounces his allegiance to foreign governments.
• Petition for Naturalization
Once a person declared his intention to become a citizen, met the residency requirement and waited the required period after filing, he could submit a naturalization petition to the court.
• Certificate of Naturalization
After the applicant completed the citizenship requirements and signed an oath of allegiance (a record usually found along with the petition), a certificate of naturalization was issued to the immigrant. Most certificates contain the individual’s name, certificate number, name of the court where he filed, and date issued.
What research value do naturalization records have? The records provide documentation of the origins of an individual or family. Additionally, naturalization records can include a variety of biographical information, including residence, occupation, date and place of birth, place of departure, date of emigration, date and port of arrival in the United States, marital status, and names and dates of birth of children.
Travis County naturalization records can be found online on the Portal to Texas History and on the Travis County Archives’ Preservica site. An index to all naturalization records can be found here (last names A-K) and here (last names L-Z).