Bit by bit, delving deep into the search for both of my Irish ggg grandfathers, extensive records of their lives within America have become abundant. Files are overflowing; stuffed with land, court and vital records. I have searched so extensively for these men, I feel I know every inch of their being-from the time they hoped the pond until their demise-but yet; records from their homeland are void. And the documents that could hold the key to their townlands-their final naturalization papers-have gone astray.
During my rampant and exhaustive search for the naturalization papers of my Irish ancestors, George Crawford and Samuel Rolston, I stumbled upon their Declaration of Intent papers. After the federal establishment of naturalizaton law in and around 1800, requirements defined the process that immigrants must take to be eligible to become U.S. citizens. And amoung other requirements, the applicant must file his Declaration of Intent three years prior to the finalization of his citizenship.
So, with the discovery of George and Samuel's Declaration of Intent papers, one would reason I also landed their final Naturalization files; ultimately revealing the county origins of their homeland.
No. Dead-end, again.
The immigrant's Declaration of Intent papers reveal nothing; certainly no details to speak of, other than they were immigrants from Ireland and 'intended' to become citizens. Rich genealogical details within the papers are void, especially for Irish immigrants, and the mysterious final completion of their naturalization paperwork, have not, and may possibly never surface.
History reveals that the filing of the Declaration of Intent allowed the immigrant to purchase land, but with the required three-year wait to take their oath, many never completed the final task. Reasons being were varied: The path to U.S. citizenry was an expensive process; immigrants migrated on to other states; died, or just flat forgot. Federal rules for monitoring the immigrant's final paperwork were not yet in place in the 1800's, ultimately leaving the immigrants to complete the task on their own.
Which leads me back to George and Samuel, my Irish ancestors. Did they every pledge an oath of allegiance, patriotically completing their road to U.S. citizenship? For me, this perplexing question may never be answered. But an even stranger, ultimately more personal problem lurks within the deepest corner of my mind:
If my Irish ancestors were never naturalized, does that mean as their ggg grandaughter...I'm illegal?
Wow, I really need to study that citizenship test!
To search for your ancestor's naturalization records, start with the county courthouse and then move on to the state archives where the immigrant resided. For the web: Ancestry.com and GermanRoots.
Keep searching for answers,