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Genealogy: Naturalization Records

This guide provides an overview of library resources that can help with genealogy and family history searching. Please reach out to the library if you have questions or would like additional information.

Introduction to Naturalization Records

Naturalization is the process by which an immigrant becomes a United States Citizen. While naturalization was not required to hold a job or own property, many immigrants did pursue this process after arriving in the United States. 

How can naturalization records guide your genealogy research? Depending on the year in which your ancestor filed, naturalization records can provide a researcher with information such as a person's birth date and location, occupation, immigration year, marital status and spouse information, witnesses' names and addresses, and more. Early naturalization records, from the 1790 through 1906, only typically provide an immigrant's name and country of origin.  

Prior to 1906, naturalizations could be processed by any court, and Pittsburgh had county and federal courts where immigrants could go. All possible courts should be checked for pre-1906 naturalization records.  

Starting in 1906, all naturalizations were handled by the Federal courts. For general research purposes, and Fold3 feature some federal naturalization records online but not all. 

Virtual Genealogy Tip: Naturalization Records

Woman and Naturalization circa 1802-1940

The fact that women are not equally represented among the nation's early naturalization records often surprises researchers. Those who assume naturalization practice and procedure have always been as they are today may spend valuable time searching for a nonexistent record.

Naturalization records from 1906 and later

For copies of naturalization records from 1906 or later, please contact the National Archives branch in Philadelphia to request a search of the Western District of Pennsylvania court records (for ancestors from Western PA). The records held by NARA cover 1906-1991. If you are applying for dual citizenship in another country, you should request a certified copy. You may contact National Archives in Philadelphia by emailing​.

Requests for records dating 1991 and later must be directed to U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services.

Naturalization Records pre-1906

Naturalization Records: The library holds copies of naturalizations performed in county courts prior to 1906. Library staff may search the publication A List of Immigrants who Applied for Naturalization Papers in the District Courts of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania for your ancestor by using their surname. If your ancestor’s surname is not found, it may be in either the U.S. District Court records or Circuit Court records. 

  • Allegheny County courts (1790-1906). Copies of these records can be provided by the Library or Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society. 
  • U.S. District Court (1820-1930) 
  • Circuit Court (1820-1911) 

National Archives - Naturalization Records

Naturalization is the process by which an alien becomes an American citizen. It is a voluntary act; naturalization is not required.

Prior to September 27, 1906, any "court of record" (municipal, county, state, or Federal) could grant United States citizenship. Often petitioners went to the court most geographically convenient for them. As a general rule, the National Archives does not have naturalization records created in state or local courts. However, a few indexes and records have been donated to the National Archives from counties, states, and local courts. Researchers should contact the National Archives facility serving the state in which the petitioner resided to determine if records from lower courts are available. In certain cases county court naturalization records maintained by the National Archives are available as microfilm publications.  Records from state and local courts are often at state archives or historical societies.