Monday, July 23, 2012

Why Some People were granted US Citizenship Twice

It all started with two legal documents that seemed to attest to the same event. And this event was John Ulrich Kreis’ US naturalization.

 The first document was his Certificate of Naturalization, issued by the 2nd District Court of New Orleans, LA on 10 Oct 1878:

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The New Orleans Public Library offers a clear and comprehensive guide to naturalization.

How I came to have this document in my possession is important to all who study genealogy. My good friend, Gary Kriss, the co-administrator of the Kriss/Krise/Kreis/Kries DNA Surname Project, found it on Ancestry.   This is an example of the reason for every genealogist to build a   community of fellow researchers.You will benefit when you share information with others, help others with their brick walls, and follow the thinking processes of those in your circle.

A few months after John’s 1878 Certificate of Naturalization from New Orleans came into my possession, I had another piece of luck. Once again a genie friend led me to a great discovery. We found John Ulrich Kreis’ granddaughter, J.D., by his second wife, Henrietta Hausmann Williams Kreis, living in Essex County, NJ. I discussed this wonderful experience in my post of March 16, 2012.

It is through J.D. that John Kreis’ second citizenship document came to me. J.D. sent me a document titled “Certificate of Citizenship” and issued by the United States Bureau of Naturalization (under the Department of Labor from 1913-1933), dated September 26, 1931,which bestowed US citizenship on John U. Kreis for a second time in 53 years. This was very puzzling.

I sought guidance from a wise friend in NJ on this puzzle. I was thinking of checking with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) but had been procrastinating. My friend suggested contacting Homeland Security. I had not even thought of that. But that is after all where naturalization is handled now. I went to the main Homeland Security website and at the bottom of the page found the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) link. At first glance didn’t find anything about naturalization history (if I had scrolled down to the bottom of the page, I would have seen “genealogy” listed in the topic area.) But when I clicked on “About US”, I saw “History” on the left column and clicked on that. And here is where I got lucky. In the right-hand column appeared: USCISHistorical Reference Library.

Now as we genealogists all know, libraries are wonderful resources.

I e-mailed the library asking why a person would seek US citizenship a second time after having been naturalized. This is the response I received:

“Your great-grandfather had an “Old Law” Naturalization Certificate. 

The Federal government did not start keeping copies on naturalization records until Sept. 27, 1906.  Before that date, only the naturalization court had copies of the naturalization record and the court gave the original naturalization certificate to the new citizen.  Many certificates were lost, stolen, damaged, or destroyed, however, creating an issue for the naturalized citizens (and courts trying to confirm the proper holder of a certificate – There were no pictures in the records).

To correct these problems, the Registry Act of March 2, 1929 authorized INS to issue "Old Law" Naturalization Certificates to replace naturalization certificates which were lost, destroyed, or mutilated, where the original naturalization certificate was granted under the procedure in effect prior to the Act of June 29, 1906…”

I had my answer! And there on the USCIS on-line genealogy brochure  was the same newly re-issued “Old Law” Naturalization Certificate as John Ulrich Kreis had.

But the library staff did not stop with just this explanation of why two citizenship certificates were granted to the same person from different government agencies. I was given directions on how to locate John’s naturalization file:

“Before 1956, issuing of an Old Law Naturalization Certificate created a (Naturalization) Certificate File (“C-File”).  Although most C-Files are numbered “C-########,” your great-grandfather’s Certificate Number is “OL-1241” (for “Old Law”). 

Use this number to request the C-File from the USCIS Genealogy Program.  See  You can skip the “Index Search” Request (1st Step) because you have the number, and submit a “Record Copy Request.”  The records should cost Thirty-Five Dollars ($35.00).”

I sent away for the file and will share what I learn in a future post.

What I learned from this process (solving the puzzle of why a person would apply for citizenship once he had already been naturalized) is:
1.     how important it is to build and use a community of genealogy friends and mentors
2.     how key libraries are in supporting your genealogical research

Categories: US citizenship, US Agencies

1 comment:

  1. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles.

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