Daily Archives: September 12, 2014

Naturalization Records of Your Immigrant Ancestors

Ancestry-logoby Dorris Douglass, Special Collections Librarian

Did your immigrant ancestor arrive in the United States after March of 1790? If so, and if he wanted to become a citizen in this promising land with the right to vote, then he had to be “naturalized.” This was the legal procedure of granting him the same rights and privileges of a citizen born in this country. The first federal naturalization law was passed on March 26, 1790 and required the applicant to have lived in the United States for two years and at least one year in the state where he resided. Congress soon decided that the applicants needed to have to have lived in the United States longer. On January 29, 1795 an Act was passed whereby the applicant was required to have been living in the United States for at least five years. Furthermore, he was to file a declaration of intent to become a citizen, three years before his naturalization was to be granted. Other requirements were that he was to have lived for at least one year in the state where he was naturalized; he was to be of good moral character; he was to renounce any title of nobility; he was to renounce his loyalty to the sovereign of his former country, and to take an Oath of Allegiance to the United States. Minor children of the applicants have automatically become citizens with their parent since 1790 to the present, and the wives of applicants automatically became citizen with their husbands from 1790 to 1922, without separate papers being filed.

To find naturalization records on Ancestry.com go to “Search,” then “Immigration & Travel,” then “Narrow by Category,” then “Citizenship & Naturalization Records.” Some of Williamson County’s naturalizations records are found in Louise Lynch’s series of Williamson County, Tennessee Miscellaneous Records. Of special interest is that for Albert Lotz, who on May 24, 1855 renounced his loyalty to the King of Saxony. Albert Lotz’s former residence now houses the Lotz House Civil War Museum. The Special Collections Department of the Williamson County Public Library also has a book Davidson County, Tennessee Naturalization Records 1803-1906.

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Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

71GXQFa+RRLBy Robin Ebelt, Reference Department

I can’t imagine living in a world where birds no longer fly, plants and animals are difficult to keep alive and the weather is even more unpredictable than living in middle Tennessee! The Reestablishment has tried to fix things but they are not being too successful. Seventeen year old Juliette has been locked up in prison and is on the verge of starvation! Now the Reestablishment wants to use her as a secret weapon!

As the plot enfolds, this dystopian/romance definitely entertains. My favorite character is Adam, the love interest, because I love the background story that connects him to Juliette. What intrigues me about this novel is the clever style in which Tahereh Mafi wrote the book. I love the way she crosses out Juliette’s initial thoughts and follows them with a more vanilla version. It is a neat way to hear the truth see what the character is thinking. The book is packed with metaphors and imagery—perhaps a bit overboard but I survived.

I would have to say that I liked this book. I’m still not completely certain of what special “superhuman” power Juliette possesses. How did she get it? How will the Reestablishment try to use it? Why does it affect some people and not others? Will she learn to control it?

I guess that’s what the sequel is for. I just hope it doesn’t veer into the comic hero genre.

Beginning genealogy: Those (not so) pesky neighbors!

By Jason Gavin, Special Collections Librarian

You’ve started your family genealogy, and zipped right through the first few generations using census records on Ancestry.com. Great! Then the inevitable happens – you hit a brick wall. Great-great-Grandma or Grandpa seems to simply disappear off the face of the Earth! Now what? It’s time to take a closer look at the census records you’ve already used, and look at those nosy neighbors.4332964512_8d5eb8f643_o

It’s always worth bearing in mind that census records were compiled by a (sometimes very) fallible human being walking door to door, knocking, and asking “who lives here?”. If you stay aware of this fact, you won’t make the mistake of assuming that because a name is spelled a particular way, in must not be Grandpa Stephen, because he spelled his name with a “v”. If the census taker heard “Gavin”, he might have written “Gavin” on the census. If, on the other hand, he heard “Caffin”, that’s what he’ll write (I’ve seen it happen!). And if the name was even slightly exotic, be it French, German, Italian, Swedish, etc. – forget about it! I am often tempted to believe that to be hired as a Federal census taker prior to 1900, applicants had to pass a grueling exam, where only the most hard-of-hearing, sloppiest penmanship, and poorest spellers passed. I can’t prove this, but I have my suspicions.

The other reason it’s worth remembering this door-to-door-knocking fact, is that it means all of the families listed above and below the family you’re researching were next door neighbors. This can be tremendously helpful! For one reason, youthful betrothed tended to marry the guy or girl next door, or a couple of houses down, or the next street over. If you can find great grandpa while he was single in the census records, you can very often find great grandma’s family on the next page or sometimes even living next door.

Another reason this is useful is because families during certain periods tended to move in groups. The Johnsons moved from North Carolina to Kentucky to Tennessee with the Smith family, for example. And along the way, sons might marry daughters. You never know how little clues like this might help you break through your brick wall. As an example, I found a house full of my ancestors in the 1880 census, along with a very elderly lady by a different last name of Hollingsworth. Continuing my line yielded a few more results, but I eventually hit the familiar brick wall. This was solved eventually not by researching my family name, but by tracing the Hollingsworths, and looking at their neighbors. And sure enough, I found a family of Hollingsworths living next door to some Gavins in 1850, which filled in the gap I was looking for and allowed me to plow headlong into the next brick wall on the Gavin line.

Paying attention to occupations and nationalities of neighbors can also lend some context to the history and kind of location your ancestors were in as well. Was everybody a farmer? This might indicate a poor rural location. Is there evidence for industry? Do you see blacksmiths or railroad workers clustered in the neighborhood? Were the majority of the neighbors German or Irish, or did they speak languages other than English? This might give a clue as to your ancestor’s nationality. What was the average age of people in the community? An extreme lack of elderly individuals might indicate the area was fairly newly established, whereas a uniform lack of young men of certain age might indicate heavy recruitment for a war.

Like so much in genealogy, the smallest, most overlooked clues can lead to big breakthroughs with a little patience and diligence.

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