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 »