I don’t know how I missed this before, but there’s a Cook County Illinois Naturalization Index online. The Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County Archives is producing an online index to 500,000 naturalization petitions covering the years 1871 to 1929, presumably for the Midwest.
When I visited the Clerk of the Circuit Court office in person in the summer of 2008, I was told that the Declarations of Intention (aka, “first papers,” the initial step in the process and usually the one with the most information) had been destroyed years ago and all that was left were the final petitions. The final petitions for my ancestors merely stated the country of origin and not the town or province.
So this is great news. Of the 500,000 records currently being indexed, more than 400,000 of these records are Declarations of Intention from 1906-1929. Wow!
The project started in 2006 using grant funds from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), a division of the National Archives. If you’ve never heard of it, the NHPRC is the red-headed stepchild of bigger, better-funded siblings NEA and NEH. I know they are constantly in danger of being zero-funded for the tiny amount of money they do get for grants.
Search the Naturalization Declarations of Intention here and go here if you’d like to volunteer since the work is still in progress.
Cath, thanks for coming over and posting this here too. Very very helpful summary.
The German research board at GenealogyWise is worth a look:
It’s truly super that so many first papers have been “discovered” because these papers supposedly contain so much more information than the final papers!
However, and I may be wrong, I think, as it is a county court, the records at the Cook County Circuit Court would be for those people who were granted citizenship at that court only, so would pertain most directly to people who lived in that county, not all of the midwest. There is a NARA office in Chicago, which is the repository for the records of people who obtained citizenship through federal courts in the midwest, but it does not have any records of local or state courts. Before 1906,it was possible to obtain citizenship through any kind of court, federal, state, county, and local, and most people did so at the court which was most convenient to where they lived. Records of naturalizations obtained at local and state levels are most often still maintained by the officiating court, although in some states, the localities may have also filed copies with the state archives. After 1906, courts forwarded records to the INS, and I presume these are now held at the regional NARA offices, but I’m not positive.
See http://www.archives.gov/genealogy/naturalization/ for more info.
Seriously! I would have been looking harder if they hadn’t told me the records were destroyed. I wonder how many Declarations they had if half a million still survive.
I didn’t know most of the Declarations were gone. I have had great success getting mine more or less. Love that DB they have been making though!!