Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Naturalization Records at the RI Supreme Court Judicial Records Center

The Rhode Island Supreme Court Judicial Records Center has naturalization records from all Rhode Island county courts, including District and Superior courts in all five Rhode Island counties, Kent, Newport, Providence, Bristol and Washington. Some of the earliest naturalization records are from Newport and Providence Counties.

There is a gap in Providence County Court records. The District and Superior court records from about 1894-1917 are found at the NARA Northeast Regional Center in Waltham, Massachusetts. All the other counties have continuous records with no apparent gaps. The last records date to about 1982 when the Reagan administration changed the rules regarding naturalization record keeping.

There are typically three kinds of naturalization documents found at the Rhode Island Supreme Court Judicial Records Center; declarations of intentions, petitions for naturalizations and certificates of immigration. There are no certificate of naturalization stubs archived here.

The earliest document that I saw was from Providence County, a naturalization petition for John William Larrant of France from 1793, but I can't find the copy I made. The main components of the  petition were as follows: the name of the petitioner, his address and occupation of “gentleman”, the court petitioned, his country of origin and date of application, as well as a description of his residency in the United States. There is little information beyond that he has been “demeaning himself as a good and peaceable inhabitant of the said United States.” 

More detailed record keeping of naturalizations developed over time, and as I was researching my fascist grandmother's first papers, I checked out a bunch of the Declarations of Intentions (often referred to as "first papers") for the Superior Court of Kent County in the 1920's.
Box from RI SCJRC, Declarations of Intention, Pawtucket, RI
These bound volumes contain a single document for each person who declared they wanted to be naturalized. The information they contain includes the person's name, a physical description, date and place of birth, from where and when they emigrated, their spouses name and birthplace and a signature or mark.

While I didn't find my fascist grandmother's Declaration, I did find her mother's. My great-great-grandmother, Dorotea Marinelli, filed a declaration of intention at age 85 in 1942. There was a lot of pressure following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor for Italian immigrants to avoid discrimination by applying for citizenship.

Declaration of Intention for Dorotea Marinelli
I love these documents, because even if the individuals didn't follow through to become a naturalized citizen, there is a lot of really great genealogical information to be found on the first papers.

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