What are Declarations of Intention?
Declarations of Intention are also known as First Papers and were usually the first papers to be filed by those who wished to become U.S. citizens.

What information is found on a Declaration of Intention?
All Declarations of Intention include the following information:

  • declaration number
  • name
  • age
  • occupation
  • physical description
  • birth city
  • birth country
  • birth date
  • current address
  • current city
  • departure location
  • vessel of departure
  • last foreign residence
  • arrival location
  • arrival date
  • signature
  • declaration date
*Most declarations also include marital status, name of spouse with birthplace and residence information.

Where do I find records filed before 1906 and after 1929?
For records filed before 1906 in Cook County refer to the following Clerk of the Circuit Court Archive web page:

http://12.218.239.55/?section=RecArchivePage&RecArchivePage=naturalization_search

After 1929, the local Cook County courts stopped granting naturalizations, and the task was given entirely to the Federal Courts. To find local naturalizations after 1929, please contact a local branch of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Chicago is served by NARA Great Lakes Region. You can find them here:

http://www.archives.gov/great-lakes/

Why can’t I find a certain individual?
In order to become naturalized most persons had to first file a Declaration of Intention. After a waiting period, the person filed a petition for naturalization. The person became a citizen when the judge of the court signed a court order and a certificate was granted. Large numbers of people filed Declarations, but did not return to file petitions.

It is also possible that a certain individual filed a Declaration, but that record has not been added to the database as yet. Records are uploaded to the database website weekly, so if your record does not appear, check back periodically.

Could women file a Declaration?
Yes, but that does not mean that they always sought to do so. Since women during this era could not own property, could not vote, and were not considered “persons” under the law, only widows and spinsters were expected to seek the protections and benefits that U.S. citizenship might afford. Women who did file Declarations were often labeled specifically “widow” or “spinster” on the Declaration itself.

Before 1906, wives and children were not named on the naturalization of their husbands or fathers, but they did receive derivative U.S. citizenship through these men. Immigrant women who married after March 1907 became U.S. citizens if either their husband was born in the U.S. or if their husband became a naturalized citizen. However, U.S. born women who married immigrant men also lost their citizenship, unless their husbands decided to naturalize.

However, after September 22, 1922, Congress passed the Married Women’s Act, which gave each woman a nationality of her own, regardless, the husband’s. After this time women had to file their own Declarations and Petitions.