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Tag Archives: naturalization

- Our History as Told by the Pittsylvania County Court Records


Photographic view of the Pittsylvania County courthouse, State Route 57 & U. S. Route 29, Chatham, Pittsylvania County, Virginia. Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

In the past few months, I have examined dozens of boxes of unprocessed Pittsylvania County court records dating back to the 1760s, searching for chancery causes for a future project. Most of the bundles appeared to have remained unopened since the day they were filed away over two centuries ago. Along the way, I discovered various documents that told the individual stories of people from different backgrounds that when brought together produced a integrated historical narrative of Pittsylvania County.

One box contained a bundle of declarations for Revolutionary War pensions filed in the Pittsylvania County Court. Declarations are narratives recorded by Revolutionary War veterans recounting their tours of duty fifty years earlier. One veteran named Lewis Ralph was 100-years-old at the time he filed his declaration in 1820. A native North Carolinian, Ralph enlisted in 1775 for a three-year term. He noted that he served “two years and a half a sargent [sic] under General Washington” and fought at the battles of Monmouth, Germantown, and Brandywine. He was discharged at West Point in 1778 and after the war moved to Pittsylvania County.

In a bundle of court papers dated 1811, I found the naturalization record of Alexander Brown. Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Brown immigrated to the United States at the age of 18 in 1799. He initially resided in Petersburg where he worked as a … read more »

- “I Declare My Intention to Become a Citizen of the United States of America …”

 Immigrants take the oath to become citizens of the United States in January 2010 at the Library of Virginia.

Ghio Transcript Fisch Transcript Adams Transcript

On November 3, a naturalization ceremony will be held at the Library of Virginia.  A group of people from various nations will take an oath declaring their allegiance to the United States.  The coming ceremony prompted me to investigate the extent of naturalization records in the Local Records collection.  We have naturalization records for approximately 30 localities.  You would expect to find naturalization records in some localities such as  Newport News, Portsmouth, and Norfolk County because of their location along the coast.  However, LVA has naturalization records for western localities as well including Roanoke County, Russell County, and Rockingham County.  The bulk of the records are dated before 1906. The reason being that prior to 1906, the naturalization process was the responsibility of local and state courts. 

The predominant documents found in the naturalization records are the declarations of intent.  An immigrant seeking U.S. citizenship would first file this document in which the applicant declared his or her intent to become a citizen and renounced allegiance to a foreign government.  Information found in the declaration included name of applicant, place of birth, date of birth, age, and name of the ruler to which he or she renounced allegiance.  A person could declare intent to become a citizen at any time and in any place after arriving … read more »

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