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Source Information

Ancestry.com. Philadelphia, 1789-1880 Naturalization Records [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2003.
Original data: Filby, P. William, ed. Philadelphia Naturalization Records. Detroit, MI, USA: Gale Research Co., 1982.

About Philadelphia, 1789-1880 Naturalization Records

Information compiled in this data set was originally edited by P. William Filby and published as a book volume called Philadelphia Naturalization Records. It includes information on more than 113,000 immigrants from nearly 100 countries who applied for citizenship through the Philadelphia courts system from 1789 to 1880.

Filby's volume was compiled from an eleven-volume index originally completed by the Work Projects Administration (WPA) in about 1940. The Work Projects Administration, under the sponsorship of the Pennsylvania Historical Commission, created an eleven-volume index called the Index to Records of Aliens' Declarations of Intention and/or Oaths of Allegiance 1789-1880 in United States Circuit Court, United States District Court, Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, Quarter Sessions Court, Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia. This original WPA volume is generally considered to be one of the most important documents in the American naturalization and immigration archive.

You can learn a great deal of information about your immigrant ancestor by researching with this data set. Most of the records list an individual's name, any alternate spellings or interpretations of that name, that individual's country of former allegiance, as well as the date and location the individual filed a declaration of intention and/or oath of allegiance.

By writing to the court(s) referenced in this data set, a researcher can receive a copy of an individual's actual naturalization record. An original record typically contains such prime genealogical information as birthplace and birth date, date and place of arrival in the United States, place of embarkation, last foreign address, country of foreign allegiance, current residence, and a physical description.

You'll generally learn the following information about an ancestor referenced in this data set:

Name - Occasionally, the manner in which an applicant signed a court document will differ from the manner in which the name was entered by the court clerk.

Country - You'll learn the immigrant's country of former allegiance.

Date - This is the date that the individual originally appeared in Philadelphia court records. While this is usually the date in which the declaration of intention was made, occasionally, it is the date on which the oath of administration was taken.

Court - This is the court in which the individual originally appeared. Records of five Philadelphia courts are included in this data set: Court of Common Pleas, Quarter Sessions Court, Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, United States Circuit Court, and United States District Court. Please note that combined with the records in the custody of the Court of Quarter Sessions, are those of the Mayor's Court, the Recorder's Court of Northern Liberties, and the General Sessions Court.

Additional Information - In some cases, you'll find even more specific information about your ancestor, such as:

  • The date on which the individual filed a declaration of intention
  • The court where the individual filed a declaration of intention
  • The date on which the individual took the oath of allegiance
  • The court where the individual took the oath of allegiance
  • Any alternate interpretation or spellings of a name
  • Whether or not the individual was a minor

Citizenship Applications in the United States:

The following information has been adapted from the Introduction to the original text version of Philadelphia Naturalization Records published by Gale Research.

The process of becoming a U.S. citizen is a lengthy one, and the information required at the various stages makes citizenship and naturalization records important documents to the genealogical researcher. First, the applicant needed to make a declaration of intention to become a citizen. The required data varied from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The declaration form usually contained the applicant's name, age, place, and date of birth, allegiance, and date of declaration. Before 1866, declarations also included the date and place of arrival in the United States and place of embarkation. After 1866, the form usually gave a physical description (complexion, height, weight, color of eyes, identifying marks), current place of residence, last foreign address, name of ship, and port and date of entry.

Having filed the declaration, the applicant usually had a minimum two-year wait before naturalization; however, the laws pertaining to naturalization changed from time to time. From 1790 to 1795, the requirement for free, white aliens was residence of one year in a state and two in the United States. In 1795, the requirement was changed to a residency of five years in the United States. From 1798 to 1802, the requirement was fourteen-year residency in the United States and the declaration of intention had to be filed five years prior to naturalization. In 1802 the laws were again changed to one year's residence in a state and five in the United States, with the declaration filed three years prior to naturalization. Except for a few minor changes, the five year residency requirement remains to this day.

Naturalization as a process was established in 1790 when Congress passed the first Federal Naturalization Law, employing local courts as its agents. From 1790 to 1906 all documents were filed in a central office in Washington, D.C. After 1906 the naturalization process came under the jurisdiction of the Department of Immigration and Naturalization, and the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization was created.

There are noticeably fewer female names than male names indexed in the Philadelphia Naturalization Records, perhaps because, until 1922, married females automatically became citizens when their husbands received citizenship. Unmarried females were able to go through the naturalization process, but for various reasons few apparently did.

Locating Original Records:

The following information has been adapted from the Introduction to the original published version of Philadelphia Naturalization Records published by Gale Research. Some of the information originally appeared in a leaflet published by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania called Information Regarding Naturalization Records, compiled by Waldo A. Turk.

For copies of records from the Court of Common Pleas or the Court of Quarter Sessions:

Philadelphia City Archives
Room 523
Philadelphia City Hall Annex
Philadelphia, PA 19107

For records from the United States Circuit Court and the United States District Court:

Archives Branch
Federal Archives and Records Center
5000 Wissahickon Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19144

For records from the State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, you may wish to contact:

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
P.O. Box 1026
Harrisburg, PA 17120

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