On my way South and West to attend the Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research, I took time out to stop into the National Archives Southeast Regional Branch in Morrow, Georgia (near Atlanta). This branch serves the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee and provides documentary records (textual records, maps, photographs, and architectural drawings) relating to the conduct of national government operations in those states. It also has extensive microfilm collections
I wanted to take a look at the immigration and naturalization records available at the Southeastern Branch of the Archives.
U.S. naturalization records at the branch begin in 1790. The records are organized by court and then, within date ranges, alphabetically by petitioner.
I examined the petition for citizenship of Louis Nicholas Allard.
The two-page document says that he was a native of St. Domingo and a subject of the Republic of France. (Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, was a colony of France between 1795 and 1801 and (after a slave rebellion) between 1802 and 1809.) The petition says that he arrived in the United States on 15 May 1793, and currently resides in Savannah, Georgia, where he has lived for four years with his family. His age at the time of the petition (12 December 1798) is recorded as 42. He says that he has “no profession or occupation, but was formerly a planter.” He was admitted into citizenship on 12 February 1799. All in all, this is a fair amount of data to find in the couple of pages of an immigration file of the Federal period.
I also looked at the declaration of intention (to become a citizen of the United States) for, Shelby County, TN. He applied for American citizenship on 3 December 1906. In the document, he declares that he was born 26 November 1872 in Cittau, Germany (now Zittau Germany, as far as I can figure). The document notes that he arrived in New York “on or about” 13 August 1903. In later records such as this one, we usually find not only the date but also the port of entry.
But the real treasure trove are the most recent immigration documents. For example, I pulled the declaration of intention and ancillary documents for Sam Wahl (Sam Wakdofsky) of Shelby County, Tennessee. This suite of documents includes a petition for naturalization, an oath of allegiance, a certificate of arrival, and a declaration of intention (with a signed photograph of the applicant).
There are also affadavits of two witnesses as to the veracity of the statements Sam Wahl has made, and whether they would recommend him for citizenship. It is an amazingly detailed document, with detailed physical descriptions of the applicant (Male, white, blond complexion, blue eyes, light hair, 6 feet, 160 pounds, with “very curly hair”). It also includes the name of his wife, her date and place of birth, and the date and place of their marriage, as well as the date and place of birth of their children.
I can hardly wait to get such a document for my wife’s grandmother, to try to untangle that Serbian family.
About the Archives, I will also note that records in the archival document room are easy to get. The staff is friendly and helpful, and even took time out to help me put my requests in. The pull documents as requested, and will bring in multiple boxes at a time, though they ask you to work on only one box at a time, and one file in that box at a time, to help ensure correct re-filing.
There is no wi-fi on the premises, and though there are open computers, they are for dedicated research use at designated sites. They are in the process of putting together a wireless network, but, in the meantime, you can get your Internet fix (or your trailing spouse can, across the street at the Dunkin’ Donuts.)
I’m looking forward to using this facility, and the Georgia Archives next door, many times in the future.
U.S. District Court, Southern District of Georgia, Savannah Division, Records of the U. S. District Courts of the United States, 1685–1991. Record Group 21. Naturalization Case Files, 1790–1861, A-E. Acc. 55A0024, Box 1. Naturalization Papers, Louis Nicholas Allard, 1799.
U.S. District Court, Western District of Tennessee, Memphis Division, Records of the U. S. District Courts of the United States, 1685–1991. Record Group 21. Naturalization Declarations, Vols. 1–3, December 1906-February 1917, Nos. 1–677, Box 1, Vol. 1, p. 1. Naturalization Declaration, Gustav Heindrick Richter, 1906.
U.S. District Court, Western District of Tennessee, Memphis Division, Records of the U. S. District Courts of the United States, 1685–1991. Record Group 21. Naturalization Petitions, Vols. 11–13, March 1938-November 1942, Petition Nos. 1545–2016, Box 2. Naturalization Papers, Sam Wahl, 1935.