Friday, October 26, 2012

Ancestor Citizenship and the Law, Part I

Australian War Brides
Finding Your Immigrant Ancestor
When did your ancestor become naturalized? Where is the certificate? Family researchers must be familiar with laws, acts and regulations before launching a full ancestral search. The path to citizenship has taken various courses throughout history based on laws, regulations and politics.

Derivative Citizenship
Fact: Not all of our ancestors received a Certificate of Citizenship.
As early as the first Naturalization Act of 1790 foreign born minor children became US citizens through their parents’ naturalization.  This derivative citizenship path did not require the issuance of a Certificate of Citizenship to the minor. So your ancestor, if they entered the USA as a minor, would have become citizens via their parent’s naturalization but not necessarily been named on the Certificate.  This process continued through August 1906.the Certificate.  This process continued through August 1906.

After Sept. 1906, minor children were listed on their parents’ Certificates of Citizenship, but were not issued their own certificates.  Note that the federal government became the custodian of naturalizations after that date resulting in a more uniformed issuance of citizenship and requirements.

The Immigration Act of 1924 established limited European immigration and banned Asian  immigration to the USA. This quota system was not liften until 1945.

War Bride Citizenship
Have you ever wondered how your War Bride ancestor left foreign land to set up home in the USA? Take a look at the old Good Housekeeping Magazines. The magazine during the WWII era advised the War Brides on how to set up house  in USA! This publication partnered with the US Office of War Information

This was considered a needed service especially for estimated fifty thousand (up to 100k) British brides that came to the USA as new wives to WWII and Korean veterans.  About one million soldiers married foreign women from 50 different countries overseas between 1942-1952; enough to inact The War Brides Act of Dec 28, 1945 which temporarily lifted the limits on immigration. This Act allowed spouses and adopted children of military personnel to enter the United States, but they were not granted automatic citizenship. 

I would be remiss if I failed to mention the Red Cross role in supporting and assistance in readying the war brides for their overseas travel. Red Cross workers even provided escort services. In additon to the British war brides there were approx. 7,000 from  France, Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg; , and 8,000 from Australia and New Zealand.

To search for your war bride in the USA, begin your research using the NARA, Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at the Port of NY, 1944-1948 (M1417).  Up to twenty military ships provided transport across the seas. Keep in mind that some of the brides chose airlines to America!

Copies of naturalization and citizenship certificates may be found online: see, or ordered via the website.  

Military Naturalization 
Researchers of immigrant ancestors have already learned that many veterans were naturalized while serving in WWI and WWII.  But many find it shocking that after the Sept 11 2011 attacks, immigration laws and the USCIS procedures continue to make it easy for military personnel to naturalize.  When researching your more recent immigrant ancestors, know that about 29,000 foreign born serve in the US military today and are not American citizens. Approximately 8000 permanent immigrants with green cards join the armed forces annually.  The idea is “persons serving honorably in active-duty status in the US Armed Forces at any time on or after Sept 11, can apply for citizenship, even if they have only one day of .honorable active duty service and regardless of how long they have been a US resident.”  Begin your search with the veteran’s military file: Veteran Service Records 

Canadian War Brides
Although this article is not about Canadian War Brides, I want to share with our Northern research friends that Canadian War Bride passenger lists for 1946-1947 are online at . Be sure to visit the Canadian War Brides website.

Finding Other Records
Here are a few additional searchable links:
Australia: National Archives of Australia - Leaving Brisbane:  (see mid page)
British: Indexed files searchable by surname at Warbrides UK 

Be sure to also visit: Female Ancestor Citizenship Confusion.

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible answers. 


  1. Kathleen, this is chock full of information and history that I'm learning for the first time. I knew nothing about the influx of British brides for WW II and Korean veterans. And did not know that 8000 permanent immigrants with green cards join the armed forces annually -- and good for them! A path to citizenship.

    It's very impressive reading about your genealogical activities. You know so much and also you work so hard! Thanks for this post.

    1. Thanks Mariann. At a3Genealogy we have the opportunity to research many historical topic (and love it). Glad you enjoy the blog.

  2. I enjoyed yr blog and photo.
    As an Aussie who married into the USAF.
    Back in 1990 I came across an Australian
    WW2 War bride near our USAF Base. It was
    sad, she married, left Australia, and had not
    be back since.

  3. The process of citizenship is so long and everyone who wants to obtain citizenship has to go through it. I'm trying to obtain citizenship in Canada and that's I'm preparing myself for the Canadian citizenship test. I'm studying practice tests from the Practice Test Geeks website to prepare myself for the test.

    1. James, Thanks for following a3Genealogy. Yes, the process is long for most countries now. There was a time, when 90 days a Polish client got his citizenship, or Italian clients in less than 4 months. Some are easier if you go to the country with all your documents and apply vs going through the overwhelmed Consulate / Embassies. Either way, it comes with advantages. Of course, Canada is easier if you can establish work there first and sponsored. But it does require that test. You can do it! Good luck on your dual citizenship. Let us know when you get it so we can all celebrate!
      oh...and follow a3Genealogy on social media.