In 1917, my maternal grandfather, Kostanty Niedzialkowski, filed his Declaration of Intention to become a citizen of the United States.
The Declaration of Intention was the first document an alien had to file in order to become a citizen. For that reason, the Declaration of Intention is sometimes referred to as “First Papers”, and it states that the signer renounces forever his or her allegiance to any foreign power and that he or she intends to become a citizen of permanently reside in the United States of America.
At the time Kostanty arrived, and at the time he filed his first papers, the following regulations were in effect:
- Applicants could file a Declaration of Intention after residing in the United States for two years
- Applicants had to be at least 18 years of age to file a Declaration of Intention
- Applicants had to wait for three years after filing a Declaration of Intention before filing a Petition for Naturalization
- Applicants were required to complete the naturalization process within seven years of filing a Declaration of Intention
- Applicants must have arrived in the United States legally and this fact was generally acknowledged with a Certificate of Arrival
Konstanty filed his Declaration of Intention in the Superior Court of Massachusetts. Three copies of the Declaration of Intention were prepared. The Original was filed with the naturalization court records, the duplicate was filed with the INS Naturalization Certificate Files (C Files), and the triplicate was provided to the applicant. I have copies of the original copy and the triplicate copy of the Declaration of Intention for Kostanty. I obtained the original copy of Kostanty’s Declaration of Intention from the microfilm records at the Family History Library, and I obtained the triplicate copy from my cousin Susan, who has access to some of my grandfather’s original papers. I can obtain the duplicate copy as part of the Certificate File from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services under the Freedom of Information Act.
The information Kostanty provided in his declaration included:
- He was 24 years old and unmarried when he filed on June 2, 1917
- He was working as a machinist and the first three fingers of his right hand were injured
- He was white, light complexioned, 5 feet 9 inches tall, 175 pounds, with light hair and blue eyes
- He was born in Pomawski, Poland, Russia on October 28, 1892 and his last residence was Pomawski, Russia
- At the time of filling, he was living at 39 Seymour Street in Worcester, Massachusetts
- He emigrated from Rotterdam, Holland on the vessel The Ryndam and arrived at the port of New York on May 24, 1910
- He renounced allegiance and fidelity to the present government of Russia
Information of immigration and naturalization can also be found in U.S. Federal Census Records. The 1890 United States Federal Census was the first census to ask about the naturalization status of the respondents. If an individual was born in the United States, no entry was made. If the individual was an alien, the letters “AL” were entered. If the person had filed a Declaration of Intention, the letters “PA” (papers) were entered. Finally, if the person had completed the naturalization process, the letters “NA” were entered. The 1890 Federal Census was mostly destroyed by fire, but the 1900, 1910, 1920, and 1930 Federal Census records all provide information about the naturalization status of an immigrant.
Tomorrow: Konstanty obtains a Certificate of Arrival and files a second Declaration of Intention
Copyright © 2006 by Stephen J. Danko