Certificates of Citizenship

Friday’s entry completed the story of my grandfather’s immigration and naturalization experiences, but I didn’t post the Certificate of Naturalization of Kostanty Niedzialkowski (clicking on the link above will bring up a PDF file, and clicking on the image below will bring up a JPG file).

Kostanty Niedzialkowski's Certificate of Naturalization

So, Kostanty became a citizen of the United States, but what about his wife, Helen?

Through history, the way in which women acquired citizenship in the United States has changed several times.

After passage of the Act of February 10, 1855, an alien woman acquired citizenship simply by marrying a citizen.

The Naturalization Act of 1906 decided that when a man became a citizen, his wife and minor children also became citizens (derivative citizenship).

The Immigration Act of 1907 required that a woman who married an alien or a married woman whose husband became a citizen of another country lost her citizenship in the United States.  This Act did not apply during World War I.

The passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States guaranteeing women the right to vote was passed by Congress on June 4, 1919 and ratified on August 18, 1920.  Now, for the first time, women actually had a reason to become a citizen.  Two years after the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, the Cable Act of 1922 repealed the provisions of the Immigration Act of 1907 whereby women lost their citizenship through marriage.  In addition, a woman no longer automatically became a citizen when her husband did.

Consequently, my grandmother, Helen (Chmielewska) Niedzialkowski, did not acquire derivative naturalization when Kostanty became a citizen.  She had to go through the whole process herself.  I haven’t yet obtained all of her papers, but I do have a copy of the Index Card to the Naturalization Records of Helen Niedzialkowski, which states her Petition Number (46714) and her Alien Registration Number (3179566).  This information provides me with enough information to order a copy of these documents from the Bureau of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  I also have a copy of the Certificate of Naturalization of Helen Niedzialkowski (clicking on the link above will bring up a PDF file, and clicking on the image below will bring up a JPG file).

Helen Niedzialkowski's Certificate of Naturalization

For an interesting article on Immigration and Naturalization Laws affecting women, see “Any woman who is now or may hereafter be married . . .” Women and Naturalization, ca. 1802-1940 in the Summer 1998 issue of Prologue Magazine, a publication of the National Archives and Records Administration.

Finally, here’s a little snippet of information you can toss into the conversation the next time you’re having dinner with a group of genealogists:  Ellis Island was named after a land developer, Samuel Ellis, who bought the island in 1782.

Copyright © 2006 by Stephen J. Danko

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