From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A 1919 Session of Naturalization Court

American citizenship, granted and denied


We know that our immigrant ancestors became U.S. citizens, but what was the process? I found a report of a session of Naturalization Court held in 1919 in rural northern Kansas, while I was looking through old newspapers for information about my relatives who lived in the area. My German great-grandparents, immigrants to America in the 1880s, probably went through similar court appearances during their efforts to become citizens.

I was afraid it might be a copyright violation to reprint the entire article, so I wrote a summary of the facts in it.

----- ----- ----- -----

On November 10, 1919, a Naturalization Court was held in Republic County, Kansas. District Judge Hogin was assisted by Examiner C. A. Ramsey of Kansas City. Fourteen applicants for American citizenship attended the court, but only three were successful in acquiring citizenship: Henry Skucius of Belleville, Kansas, and James Nordquist and Axel Johansson, both of Agenda, Kansas.

There is no mention of any women among the citizenship applicants; apparently all fourteen were men.

Of the three successful applicants, two of them got new names along with their citizenship papers.
Mr. Nordquist's old country name was Jons Nordqvist and the court at his request, on his petitioning for the second time under his true old country name, changed it to James Nordquist as he wished.

This was also Mr. Johansson's second trial at citizenship and the court changed his name to Axel J. Smith, by which name he has been known for many years. So many men in his home community by the name of Johansson caused confusion in getting mail and the like was the reason he preferred to be known by the name of Smith.

Some cases were continued because the applicants had not yet mastered the English language. Other cases were continued because the U.S. had recently been at war with the native countries of the applicants, and thus, special releases were needed (and not yet received) from the War Department. One case was dismissed at the request of the applicant, a pastor who had moved to another state.

1920s: A Turkish immigrant celebrates his
newly-acquired American citizenship.
Image from Wikimedia.
One applicant for citizenship, Andrew Nelson, of Wayne, Kansas, did not appear in court, although he was notified. His case was continued because he was serving in the Army.

The judge and the examiner dismissed the application of another immigrant, Frank Hostinsky, because one of his witnesses had been in the Army in France for the last five years. Mr. Hostinsky was instructed to reapply with new witnesses at the next court (May 17, 1920.)

Examiner Ramsey and Judge Hogin urged the unsuccessful applicants to attend the Naturalization Schools offered twice a week in two locations in Republic County. At these schools provided by the Naturalization Department, the applicants could receive instruction, free of charge, in the English language and in principles of American government.

Source: Cuba Daylight of Cuba, Kansas (which was published in Belleville, Kansas, "in the interests of Cuba and vicinity"), December 5, 1919. Page 1, column 3. Located via the Digital Archives of the Belleville Public Library.

Victor Serrao, American citizen, June 24th, 1929.
Image courtesy of staypuftman on Flikr

Immigrants taking the U.S. citizenship oath, 1925
Image courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society on Flikr

2 comments:

Collagemama said...

Interesting process information. I've driven through Belleville, Kansas way more times than I want to count.

Genevieve said...

I don't think I've ever been through Republic County, KS. It's a little farther east than my usual path from my brother's place in Kansas to my old stomping grounds in Nebraska.

However, now that I know that I had swarms of ancestors living there in the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s, I hope to visit!

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.