GER-VOLGA-L Archives

Archiver > GER-VOLGA > 2007-08 > 1187587798

Subject: [GV] Becoming a US citizen 100 years ago
Date: Mon, 20 Aug 2007 00:29:58 -0500

Have you wondered if you grand parents or great-grand parents were illegal
aliens? That is, did they become citizensof the US, and what were the laws
back 100 years ago. What were the requirements for becoming a citizen
back in the late 1800's and early 1900's?

This is a little lengthy, so if your not interested, delete the message


>From Yahoo! Answers: What year were US citizenship requirements
"The general elements of the 1802 naturalization law remained the
law of the land for more than a century. Congress made relatively few
adjustments to the law during that time. Nevertheless, some of those
changes promoted uniformity while others lessened the requirements
for naturalization in certain cases, and still others denied naturalized
U.S. citizenship to entire classes of persons.

"The Act of May 26, 1824 provided that an alien who came to the
U.S. while under age 18 might, after reaching age 21 and after five
years residence, be admitted as a citizen without having previously
made a declaration of intention. Often termed "minor naturalizations"
because they related to immigrants who arrived in the United States
as minors, 1824 Act cases were also called "one paper
naturalizations" because no declaration of intention was required. The
ease and speed of naturalization under the 1824 Act led to unfortunate
abuses and frauds that continued until repeal in 1906.

"Another exception to the two-step naturalization process was created
for veterans who served honorably in the U.S. Army during wartime,
allowing them to petition for naturalization without previously filing
a declaration of intent. This class of "one paper naturalizations" was
first introduced by an Act of July 17, 1862, and was extended to
veterans of the Navy and Marine Corps on August 1, 1894. During
World War I nearly 200,000 alien soldiers were naturalized under
provisions of the Act of May 9, 1918, and additional legislation
governing the naturalization of members of our armed forces passed
in 1919, 1926, 1940, and 1952.

"After passage of an Act of February 10, 1855, immigrant women
were able to acquire U.S. citizenship without naturalization. They
became citizens upon marriage to a U.S. citizen husband, or upon
their husband´s naturalization. Like children, who since 1790
acquired citizenship upon the naturalization of a parent, women
derived citizenship from their husbands. A 1907 law took this concept
further by providing that all U.S.-born women who married aliens
would lose their U.S. citizenship upon marriage. It was not until 1922
that women´s citizenship was separated from that of their husbands.
For more details, see the history of women and naturalization on the
Website of the National Archives and Records Administration.

"While nationality law allowed some variation in naturalization
requirements, by the turn of the 20th Century many Americans were
concerned with variations in naturalization procedures and the
increasing lack of uniformity. Each court charged a different fee and
recorded naturalization on different forms. And it seemed each court
had its own interpretation of what constituted "good moral character"
or "attachment to the Constitution." Most disturbing was the
prevalence of fraudulent naturalization under old laws that did not
require either positive identification of the applicant nor proof that the
applicant had been legally admitted as an immigrant to the United
States. A Presidential commission investigated naturalization
throughout the United States and reported their findings in 1905. In
addition to documenting widespread fraud, the commission report
recommended passage of new legislation to govern future U.S.

"Consequently, the Naturalization Act of June 29, 1906 implemented
most of the commission´s recommendations. Because courts
previously competed for naturalization business and naturalization
fees, the new law set standard fees for all naturalization proceedings
in all courts. Because incomplete naturalization records fostered
fraud, the new law mandated standardized Declaration and Certificate
forms be used by all courts and that copies of all naturalization
records be forwarded to a supervisory Federal agency. The 1906 law
created that agency by establishing the Bureau of Immigration and
Naturalization (a predecessor of the current INS, which is now in the
U.S. Department of Justice) in the U.S. Department of Commerce and

"The 1906 Act also made knowledge of the English language a
requirement for naturalization. Proficiency in English was considered
essential to performing the duties of citizenship, the most important
of which is to cast an informed vote. The commission report
explained the requirement as follows:

This thread: