Research Notes -
from Park Genealogical Books,
your specialists in genealogy and local history for Minnesota and the surrounding area


Naturalization Records

The United States of America, land of opportunity, where the streets are paved with gold, held allure for many from other parts of the globe. Minnesota's early efforts to populate the land pulled many from the already settled east. In 1855, the Territorial Legislature appointed a Commission of Immigration, a post which existed into the 1920s.

With the Homestead Act of 1862 granting 160 acres of free land to bona fide settlers, Minnesota's growth was ensured. Minnesota had millions of acres of federally owned land. Citizenship was necessary to homestead the land, which meant that the newly arrived Germans, Scandinavians and others needed to file to become citizens. The rules were minimal - an age requirement of over 21, residency, good moral character, and a willingness to renounce allegiance to a monarch.

An applicant could go to any court to apply for citizenship, from municipal courts through supreme courts. Women became citizens when their husbands did (under a federal law of 1855), and lost their citizenship when marrying a foreign born man.

In the mid 1870s, the first federal law restricting immigration was passed. In September of 1906 the Federal Naturalization Law restricted granting naturalization to certain courts, and required the applicants to speak English. The 1920s brought additional changes to the federal law. Under the Cable Act of 1922, a wife for the first time could obtain citizenship independently of her husband. In 1924 the National Origins Act was passed, which established a maximum number of immigrants from various countries.

Throughout the many rule modifications and to the present, those born in the U.S. are citizens from birth, regardless of the citizenship status of the parents. Those living in the country following the Revolutionary War were also automatically citizens, with no requirement to apply for naturalization.

Minnesota researchers have three major repositories to check for naturalization records. The Minnesota Historical Society has an extensive collection from the Minnesota municipal, district and state supreme courts. All county District Court naturalization records plus those from the Minnesota Supreme Court are available on microfilm through interlibrary loan from MHS.

Minnesota's federal court records are divided between two of the Regional Branches of the National Archives. When the Regional Branches were first established, Minnesota was served by the Kansas City Branch, and most of the early federal court records for the state were transferred there. In 1971 Minnesota was switched to the Chicago Branch. Consequently records transferred from the Minnesota's federal courts after that date were sent to Chicago.


Court Records

Minnesota Court Records: The Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) holds the originals of the records done in local courts. Check the MHS holdings through the on-line PALS catalog.

The Range Genealogical Society can provide copies as well. These indexes are very complete, with each variation of spelling included. The fee schedule is on the Ironworld Research Center page.

While the microfilm copies of the County District Court and the Minnesota Supreme Court records can be borrowed through interlibrary loan, note that only the books set aside for naturalizations have been microfilmed. Some early records were written in Miscellaneous District Court books, interspersed with other court activities. (See the Minnesota Genealogical Journal: 8 for naturalizations in Benton County from 1851-1855.)

Federal Court Records: The Federal Archives Branches in Kansas City and Chicago have records for the U.S. District and U.S. Circuit Courts for Minnesota. Some of the holdings in Kansas City have been microfilmed for the Family History Center libraries. The original records can be used, by appointment, at the appropriate Archives branch. The holdings, by area of Minnesota, include:

  • First District, Winona (held in Kansas City)
    • U.S. District Court, Certificate Stubs, 1909-1920
    • U.S. District Court, Declarations of Intention, 1895-1924
    • U.S. District Court, Naturalization Petitions, 1896-1920
    • U.S. Circuit Court, Declarations of Intention, 1910
    • U.S. Circuit Court, Naturalization Petitions, 1897-1899
  • Second District, Mankato (held in Kansas City)
    • U.S. District Court, Naturalization Papers, 1893-1919
    • U.S. District Court, Declarations of Intention, 1906-1940
    • U.S. District Court, Naturalization Petitions, 1896-1920
    • U.S. Circuit Court, Naturalization Declarations of Intention, 1900-1911
    • U.S. Circuit Court, Naturalization Petitions, 1897-1911
  • Third District, St. Paul (held in Kansas City)
    • U.S. District Court, Naturalization Index, 1859-1897 (with other series)
    • U.S. District Court, Naturalization Certifications, 1859-1897
    • U.S. District Court, Declarations of Intention, 1859-1955
    • U.S. District Court, Naturalization Petitions, 1897-1951
    • U.S. District Court, Naturalization Petitions-Military, 1918
    • U.S. District Court, Naturalization Petitions-Overseas, 1943-1956
    • U.S. Circuit Court, Declarations of Intention, 1864-1911
    • U.S. Circuit Court, Naturalization Petitions, 1897-1911
  • Third District, St. Paul (held in Chicago)
    • U.S. District Court, Declarations of intention, 1959-1969
    • U.S. District Court, Naturalization Petitions, 1952-1979
  • Fourth District, Minneapolis (held in Kansas City)
    • U.S. District Court, Declarations of Intention, 1890-1962
    • U.S. District Court, Naturalization Record and Naturalization Petitions, combined, 1897-1965
    • U.S. District Court, Naturalization Petitions, Military, 1918
    • U.S. District Court, Naturalization Repatriation Record, 1919-1942
    • U.S. District Court, Naturalization Order Books, 1929-1960
    • U.S. District Court, Naturalization Certificate Stubs, 1907-1927
    • U.S. District Court, Naturalization Certificate Stubs-Soldiers. 1918-1919
    • U.S. Circuit Court, Declarations of Intention, 1890-1911
    • U.S. Circuit Court, Naturalization Petitions, 1897-1911
    • U.S. Circuit Court, Naturalization Certificate Stubs, 1907-1912
  • Fifth District, Duluth (held in Chicago)
    • U.S. District Court, Indexes to records, 1894-1944
    • U.S. District Court, Declarations of intent, 1891-1937
    • U.S. District Court, Naturalization petitions, 1897-1955
  • Sixth District, Fergus Falls (held in Kansas City)
    • U.S. District Court, Declarations of intention, 1890-1947
    • U.S. District Court, Naturalization petitions and record, 1897-1946
    • U.S. District Court, Repatriation applications and orders, 1938-1946
    • U.S. Circuit Court, Declarations of intention, 1890-1911
    • U.S. Circuit Court, Naturalization petitions, 1897-1911
  • Sixth District, Fergus Falls (held in Chicago)
    • U.S. District Court, Indexes to naturalization papers, 1890-1959
    • U.S. District Court, Declarations of intention, 1947-1950
    • U.S. District Court, Naturalization petitions and records, 1944-1978

(c) 1996 Park Genealogical Books, Roseville MN


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