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Rhonda's Tips: Genealogy Questions Answered
by Rhonda R. McClure

September 16, 1999
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Finding Naturalization Records

Q: Many years ago I obtained some naturalization information from the National Archives branch in Boston. Just recently, however, I tried to obtain some from the branch that covers Ohio and was told that the National Archives does not house such records. What am I missing? -- Jan

A: Naturalization did not fall under the responsibility of the federal government until 1906. Prior to this time, naturalization was often taken care of at the county court level. Therefore, in many instances the records being sought after may be housed in the county courthouse.

However, when looking at The Archive, A Guide to the National Archives Field Branches by Loretto Dennis Szucz and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking, published in 1988 by Ancestry, it details those naturalization records that the Chicago branch of the National Archives has for Ohio:

  • U.S. District Court, Northern District, Toledo
  • U.S. District Court, Northern District, Cleveland
  • U.S. Circuit Court, Southern District, Cincinnati
  • U.S. Circuit Court, Southern District, Cincinnati
  • U.S. District Court, Southern District, Columbus
  • U.S. District Court, Southern District, Dayton

Some of these records are strictly 20th Century records, however, there are some records for the mid - 1800s. If these records still aren't far enough back in years for the individual you are searching for, then you will want to turn your attention to the courthouse in the county where your ancestor was living.

Finding History of a Place

Q: In researching the ancestry of Thomas LATARTE; married Mary Elizabeth BURNS. I found mention of a Letart Falls, Meigs County, Ohio. It's upriver from the Racine Locks and Dam between Antiquity and Apple Grove, Ohio. There is also a Letart Township. How do I find the history of this area and its name? -- JR

A: In the late 1800s, many county histories were published. These county histories are often referred to as ":mug books" as one of their primary functions was to list a biography of some of the more prominent citizens in the county.

In addition to the biographies, these books contain a history of the different towns and cities that were created in the county. These histories include the first families to arrive and the names of early officials.

You can find some of these volumes available on microfilm through your local Family History Center. Also check your local genealogical library to see if they have any of these published histories on their shelves.

Finding a Place Name

Q: I am trying to locate the geographic location of two towns -- Romanshof and Samucheim -- in Prussia. They are said to have been in North East Prussia. If they are still in existence, and named the same, I can not find them. However considering the area during the 1700s and 1800s, they may have been either destroyed or renamed. -- Jill

A: One of the best ways to locate a specific place is to search a gazetteer. Gazetteers are dictionaries of sorts. However, instead of supplying a definition of a word, a gazetteer describes the various towns, parishes, counties, rivers, and other geographical features. Some gazetteers will also give you the longitude and latitude of the town or city in question. This makes it a lot easier to locate it on a map.

Of course, when dealing with a country that has experienced boundary changes, such as Germany, it is important to start your search in a gazetteer for the time period in question. German gazetteers generally include the applicable years in the title or in the introductory text.

Gazetteers can be found in genealogical libraries, and many of them can be found on microfilm or microfiche through your local Family History Center.

Lithuania to Boston

Q: I am researching my family that settled in Brockton, Plymouth County, Massachusetts. They arrived between 1880 and 1910. I know the years of arrival. I also know their home country was Lithuania and they arrived in Boston Harbor. How do I found out what ship they were on? Or do I first send away for a naturalization record? I am trying to find out where exactly their home city/town was in Lithuania. -- Rae

A: When working with immigrants, it is important to determine when your ancestors were naturalized. This can often be accomplished using census records, especially in the 1900, 1910 and 1920 censuses. You will want to get the naturalization records for each ancestor. Some of these are on microfilm for Massachusetts:

  • Index to New England Naturalization Petitions, 1791-1906
  • Naturalization Index Cards, 1790-1926 for Massachusetts
  • Return of Naturalization before Various Massachusetts Courts, 1885-1931
  • Naturalization Records, 1906-1917

Naturalization records, especially those in the time period you are researching, will include information on where your ancestors were born.

Passenger lists for the late 1800s and the 1900s may also help you in determining where your ancestors were born. This would be especially true for those of your ancestors that arrived in 1910. Because you know the year of arrival for your ancestors, you can turn your attention to the indexes for passengers arriving in Boston. These indexes have been microfilmed and cover the following time periods:

  • A Supplemental Index to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Atlantic & Gulf Ports (excluding New York), 1820-1874
  • Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Boston, 1820-1891; with index 1848-1891
  • Index to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Boston, Jan. 1, 1902 - DEC. 31, 1920

If some of your ancestors arrived during that 11 year gap from 1891 to 1902, then you will need to locate naturalization records first, as those records, especially the application for Declaration of Intent, will tell you the name of the boat they arrived on and when they arrived, right down to the day. You could then locate them in the passenger lists.

Getting Beyond Grandpa

Q: I would like to trace my father's history, but don't know where to start. I sent for my grandfather's Social Security number application form, which I now have. I also personally went to visit his grace this summer in Yonkers, New York, which had a conflicting year of birth for him. How would I go back on obtaining further info on where in New York City he was born? -- Kate

A: The Social Security application form may be more accurate than the tombstone. The application form was filled out by your grandfather himself. It also listed the names of his parents. This gives you the necessary information to further research his birth.

Because he was born prior to 1900, you can turn your attention to the 1900 census. A search of the soundex index for New York state should give you the necessary information to locate the family in the census itself. Then if they are indeed in New York City, you can turn to some microfilmed records of New York City vital records.

There is an index to all the boroughs of New York City covering the years 1881-1965. Birth records for some of the boroughs have also been microfilmed. These records can be accessed through your local Family History Center or if you live in New York City, you can find them at the New York Public Library. The New York City Municipal Archives also has birth records to 1909 and death records to 1948 for the five boroughs.


Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at rhondagen@thegenealogist.com.

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