Lenawee County Michigan Naturalization

This information was submitted by Carol Stevens. Please remember if you write to any government office, be it federal, state or local, always be polite, brief and specific about what you are seeking. Give enough information that they can find the right person (if the record exists) but don't give them the person's life history. They are busy people. Just like you and I.

General Naturalization Information

From 1790-1906: Naturalization records are often kept in the court where the naturalizations occurred. You would need to find out which court (city, county, district, superior, or federal) was handling naturalizations in the particular year. Then write to them.

From the first naturalization law passed by Congress in 1790 through much of the 20th century, an alien could become naturalized in any court of record. Thus, most people went to the court most convenient to them, usually a county court; these courts could be called the county supreme, circuit, district, equity, chancery, probate, or common pleas court. If your ancestor lived in a large city, he sometimes became naturalized in a Federal court, such as a U.S. district court or U.S. circuit court.

Congress passed the first law regulating naturalization in 1790. Usually, naturalization was a two-step process that took a minimum of 5 years. After residing in the United States for 2 years, an alien could file a "declaration of intent" (also called "first papers") to become a citizen. Three more years and the alien could "petition for naturalization." After the petition was granted, a certificate of citizenship would be issued. These two steps did NOT have to take place in the same court. Of course this "two-step, 5-year" general rule, has several exceptions.

The first major exception was that "derivative" citizenship was granted to wives and minor children of naturalized men. From 1790 to 1922, wives of naturalized men automatically became citizens, this means you will probably not find naturalization papers filed under a wife's name. This also meant that an alien woman who married a U.S. citizen automatically became a citizen, ditto for papers filed under her name. (On the other hand if an American woman married an alien she would lose her U.S. citizenship, even if she never left the United States.)

From 1790 to 1940, children under the age of 21 automatically became naturalized citizens upon the naturalization of their father, therefore, no individual papers for these kids either. Unfortunately, however, names and biographical information about wives and children are rarely included in declarations or petitions filed before September 1906.

The second major exception to the general rule was that, from 1824 to 1906, minor aliens who had lived in the United States 5 years before their 23rd birthday could file both their declarations and petitions at the same time.

The third major exception to the general rule was the special consideration given to veterans. An 1862 law allowed honorably discharged Army veterans of any war to petition for naturalization--without previously having filed a declaration of intent--after only 1 year of residence in the United States. An 1894 law extended the same no-previous-declaration privilege to honorably discharged 5-year veterans of the Navy or Marine Corps.

(The above data was found on the internet on several sites and includes only the time frames which would be covered by the records in Lenawee County.)

Lenawee County had naturalization records from 1853-1906 in 4 volumes, each volume having it's own index. Those 4 volumes have now been forwarded to the Archives at the State Library of Michigan and any requests for copies of documents should be addressed to the Archives instead of the Lenawee County Clerk.

It is not generally known that under our laws, a child of American parents born in a foreign country is an ALIEN; and although they may return with him immediately; all the disabilities of a foreigner attach to him. Every year the number of American families who go abroad and the number of children who draw their first breath on foreign soil is largely increasing. These circumstances are not likely to decrease in their numerical frequency in the future, and renders the operation of our laws on this subject, as at present existing, exceedingly unfortunate and embarrassing. Congress should take such action as will relieve the offspring of our citizens born during a temporary foreign residence, from these onerous disabilities.

Specific Lenawee County Naturalization Information
Volume A, dated 1853-1868, title on binding "Declaration of Intent". This volume has 3 main sections as follows:

        Part 1, pages 1 to 118, each page having 3 parts, a declaration, an attestment section, and a granting of naturalization section. Each page is for ONE individual. (The attestment section is for several neighbors/friends to swear that they have knowledge of the applicant and that applicant has lived in the state for a specified time.)

        Part 2, paged 119-267, each page having 3 sections, each section being a declarations for a different man, therefore, 3 men declare on each page.

        Part 3, pages 268-299, is the same as Part 1 of Volume A.

Volume B, dated 1856-1877, title on binding "Declaration of Intent":

        Pages 1 - 390, each page having 3 sections, the same as Part 2 of Volume A, 3 declarations for 3 individuals.

Volume C, dated 1859-1903, title on binding "Declaration of Intent", however, the word Intent has been crossed off and the word Naturalization written below it in ink:

        Pages 1 - 591, each page having 3 sections, as in Part 1 of Volume A. Each page is for ONE individual. It should be noted here that many of the pages had the third section, the naturalization section, blank. This could be explained by the applicant dying or moving on.

Volume D, dated 1877-1906, title on binding "Declaration of Intent":

        Pages 1 -318, 3 declarations per page, the same as Part 2 of Volume A, 3 declarations for 3 individuals.

It should be noted that your ancestor could have papers in more than one volume in Lenawee County, the researcher may only look in one volume unless you request they look in more than one. The dates overlap as you can see from the list above.

Naturalization papers can be an interesting family history "find". It can be a confusing and frustrating search, but rewarding if you are lucky enough to locate your ancestor.

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