From the first naturalization law passed by Congress in 1790 through much of the 20th century, a noncitizen could become naturalized in any court of record. Thus, most people went to the court most convenient to them, usually a county probate court, but they might also have appeared before a common pleas court. In 1906, the Federal Government required a copy of the court records concerning the process of becoming a naturalized citizen to be forwarded to the US Naturalization Service. After 1917, naturalizations become more likely to be handled by Federal United States District Courts held at the regional Federal District Courts of Ohio.
As a general rule, naturalization was a two-step process that took a minimum of 5 years. The first step in the naturalization process was to file a Declaration of Intention that the immigrant wishes to become a citizen of the United States. Declarations of Intention are sometimes referred to as First Papers. This document could be filed after the immigrant resided in the United States for 2 years.
After 3 additional years, the immigrant filed a Petition for Naturalization. The Naturalization Petition is also known as Second Papers. Please note that the Petition for Naturalization does not have to be filed in the same court as the Declaration of Intention. If the court approved the naturalization, the immigrant took a naturalization oath or oath of allegiance to the USA. The immigrant received a certificate of naturalization as proof of citizenship.
"Derivative" citizenship was granted to wives and minor children of naturalized men. From 1790 to 1922, wives of naturalized men automatically became citizens. This also meant that a noncitizen woman who married a U.S. citizen automatically became a citizen. From 1790 to 1940, children under the age of 21 automatically became naturalized citizens upon the naturalization of their father.
The Archives & Library has naturalization records from some Ohio counties, but not all. Please note that the time period that our naturalization record collections cover vary depending on the county and the court. To determine if we have a certain county’s probate or common pleas court records, do a keyword search in our Online Collections Catalog. For example, search: Knox County Naturalization.
Unfortunately, there is no statewide index to naturalization records in Ohio. The U.S. Census, particularly in early 20th century, can provide clues to when and where your ancestor naturalized. Clues in the Census Records, 1850-1930 via the National Archives indicates where to find Immigration and Naturalization information on the U.S. Census.
For naturalization records not in our collection, contact the local county Probate Court or Clerk of Courts to find out where the records are housed. Also, check the Online Collections Catalog for indexes done by county genealogical and historical societies. Having the index citation will help you when contacting the county's court to request the record.
Many Ohio courthouse records were microfilmed in the past by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They have been recently adding digital images of Ohio court records they microfilmed to the FamilySearch website.
The website is free, but they do require that you register for an account. At present, many of the courthouse records have not yet been name indexed (meaning you may not get results by typing the name in the search box), but you can page through the collections, much like viewing microfilm. Here is the link to Ohio, County Naturalization Records, 1800-1977. Scroll down to select Browse through 1,097,134 images, and you can choose a particular county from the list of counties.
In 1906, the Federal Government required a copy of the records concerning the process of becoming a naturalized citizen to be forwarded to the U.S. Naturalization Service. As a result, beginning in 1906, the duplicate record of the naturalization will be on file with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, so you may want to start your search there. If you believe your relative naturalized in 1906 or after, we recommend that you review the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services History and Genealogy webpage.
USCIS Genealogy Program
After 1917, naturalizations become more likely to be handled by Federal United States District Courts, Northern and Southern districts in Ohio. These records are held by the National Archives Great Lakes Region Office in Chicago. Finding aids to their naturalization records are available online.
National Archives at Chicago
7358 South Pulaski Road
Chicago, IL 60629