Get access to historic naturalization records

Find out which types of historic naturalization records are available through the court archives and how to access them.

Judicial Archivist for the Supreme Judicial Court Archives

The Details of Get access to historic naturalization records

What you need for Get access to historic naturalization records

The Judicial Archives holds naturalizations records, which document the process of becoming a citizen, for anyone who was naturalized in the state Superior Courts after September 26, 1906. The records usually include the declaration of intent and petition for naturalization. Declarations filed after January 1930 generally contain a photograph of the applicant. The Judicial Archives is able to provide attested copies of these naturalization records. Depending on the date and location of the naturalization, records may be available online or held by a different institution. This guide will serve to direct you to the appropriate location based on your needs.

Information found in the declaration of intent and the petition for naturalization may include:

  • The name, address, occupation, and date and place of birth of the applicant
  • Information about the applicant's arrival in the United States
  • The applicant's marital status and the names of their children, along with their dates and places of birth

In order to get a historic naturalization record, you will need to know:

  • The person's full name, including all middle names
  • The person's date of birth
  • Where the person lived
  • Where and when the person died
  • If possible, it would also be helpful to know the answer to the question about citizenship on the 1920, 1930, and 1940 census. This can help narrow down the possible dates if the naturalization occurred during this time period.

Pre-1906 Naturalization Records

In the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) indexed all naturalization records heard in the 19th century across all courts through September 26, 1906, including local district courts beginning in 1885. This process created an index of record cards phonetically organized through the Soundex System. The physical index is available at the Northeast regional branch of the National Archives and Records Administration, while a searchable database of this resource is available through FamilySearch.org. Using the information from the index card, you can then browse a database of petitions for naturalization by specific courts within each county to locate individual records. If you are unable to locate a record in this resource, you may forward a copy of the index card to Judicial Archives staff for assistance.

Post-1906 state Superior Courts

FamilySearch.org provides access to some post-1906 Massachusetts Superior Court naturalization records. While not searchable, these collections provide digital access to indices and corresponding petitions for naturalization. The petition volumes typically cover the years 1906-1945, although some counties are more limited in their online availability. The indices extend beyond 1945 and allow you to locate petition numbers, which you can provide to Judicial Archives staff for further assistance. Specific holdings for each county can be found in the "Online" section below.

The online holdings for FamilySearch.org do not include any post-1906 Superior Court records for either Suffolk or Dukes counties. Suffolk County Superior Court stopped hearing naturalizations as of 1886. Dukes County Superior Court continued hearing naturalizations after September 1906, but these records are not currently available through FamilySearch. You may contact the Dukes County Superior Court directly with inquiries regarding their naturalization records.

If you're researching individuals not covered by the available online resources, you may contact the Judicial Archives using the contact information at the top of the page for assistance locating their naturalization records.

Post-1906 Federal Records

Naturalization records filed with the federal courts in Massachusetts are held by the Northeast regional branch of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Waltham. After December 1991, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) began overseeing all naturalizations. INS was succeeded by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in 2003. The USCIS genealogy website allows researchers to request an index search of all records filed for a particular immigrant. Please note, there is a fee to submit an index search through USCIS.

Women

Married women are included on their husband's petition until September 22, 1922 after the implementation of the Cable Act, or Married Women's Independent Nationality Act. This effort stemmed from the incorporation of the 19th amendment on August 26, 1920. Some exceptions exist prior to this act, such as if the woman was a widow.

Children

Minor children derived citizenship from their parents. Some parents filed for certificates of naturalization for their children, while other minors would have gone before an administrative judge of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) for their own certificate around 18 years of age. Births of children to American citizens outside of the U.S. should have been registered with the U.S. consulate in that country, and these children would also need to obtain a certificate of naturalization. Certificate numbers for minor children are preceded by a letter code, such as A or AA, to signify citizenship had been received through their parents.

Dual Citizenship

For the purposes of dual-citizenship, some countries, such as Italy, may ask for your ancestor's certificate of naturalization. While the original document may still be with the immigrant's family, many consulates are aware that the certificate may not be in your possession. The Judicial Archives does not hold copies of certificates of naturalization.

Lost Certificate of Naturalization

Federal law has prohibited courts from maintaining copies of certificates of naturalization since September 1906. If you need to replace your certificate of naturalization, you may apply through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.

How to get Get access to historic naturalization records

The Massachusetts Archives holds abstracts of naturalizations from state and local courts, 1885-1931, filed with the Secretary of the Commonwealth pursuant to Chapter 345 of the Acts of 1885. These records have been microfilmed. They are arranged chronologically by year, and each volume is indexed separately. The abstracts provide the following information about the naturalized person:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Residence
  • Name of the court
  • Date of naturalization

Although they don't provide much genealogical information, the abstracts can help direct the researcher to the location of the original records.

Additional information on Massachusetts naturalizations is available from the Northeast regional branch of the National Archives in Waltham. Its holdings include photostatic copies of state and local court records (1790-1906), which are indexed through Soundex index cards, U.S. District Court naturalization records, and U.S. Circuit Court naturalization records.

Many historic naturalization records are available online. To find out if the record you're looking for is available online, please see Find out which historic naturalization records are available online.

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