Q: Francois Vincent came to the U.S. in 1836. I found his declaration of intent for citizenship in Warren County, Mississippi in the minutes of the Warren County Circuit Court. He may have lived in Vicksburg, MS in 1845-1846, then on to Yazoo City, MS. Can anyone tell me where I should look to find his final naturalization papers since Warren County didn't send them with the declaration of intent? -- June
A: Before 1906, the naturalization process was not centralized to a given federal agency. This means that as a researcher it becomes necessary to search in many different places for the records of the naturalization process.
The first place that researchers think of is the county courthouse, which has already supplied you with one of the three documents. Other county courthouses will need to be searched, as will other repositories. The lack of centralization means the records can be almost anywhere at this point.
Before 1906 naturalization records were not centralized.
The Naturalization Process
The naturalization process was not accomplished quickly. At most times in the history of the United States, this process has required minimum years of residency before applying and sometimes additional waiting periods before the final certificate was awarded. In some instances the immigrant was required to wait a minimum of five years before applying. That is, they had to be a resident in the United States for five years before they could begin the naturalization process.
The records generated through the act of an immigrant becoming naturalized result in three papers:
- Declaration of Intent
- Application for Naturalization
- Final Certificate
As your ancestor moved from one county to another, it is possible that he completed the different steps in different counties. For instance, he filled out the Declaration of Intent in Warren County and by the time he filled out the Application he had moved on to Yazoo county.
Locating the Records
While it is likely that your ancestor went to the local courthouse to complete each step of this process, it is possible that those records have now found their way to another repository.
The first place to begin your search would be the Family History Library Catalog, available through your local Family History Center or through the FamilySearch.org Web site. In addition to searching the catalog on the county level, don't overlook the state level. Some of the available naturalization records for Mississippi are catalogued under the state. Be sure to pay close attention to the Index to Naturalization Records, Mississippi Courts, 1798-1906.
While the naturalization records were not yet under the auspices of the Immigration and Naturalization Services, it is a mistake to exclude the National Archives and its branches in your research. There are some naturalization records for Mississippi at the Atlanta Branch of the National Archives.
The records could be at a library, state repository, courthouse or national repository. It may become necessary to determine if your ancestor lived anywhere else besides Warren and Yazoo counties if the records do not turn up in either of those two counties.