Name Index to Bureau of Naturalization Correspondence
Name Index to Bureau of Naturalization Correspondence Files, 1906-1944
NARA Microfilm Publication A3388 (NARA ARC Identifier 1593296 / MLR Number A1 26-B)
The Name Index to Bureau of Naturalization Correspondence includes images of over 140,000 index cards on 19 rolls of microfilm. The cards index correspondence related to questions of nationality or citizenship sent to or received by the Naturalization Service during the years 1906-1944. The Bureau of Naturalization filed correspondence in several different file series and thus the index references several different types of records, some of which may now be found at the National Archives and others that must be requested from USCIS. The index is arranged by surname groups and chronologically within those groups. It is currently available from the National Archives as microfilm publication A3388 and may also be viewed at the USCIS History Library in Washington, DC.
Because the index is arranged by name it is an excellent resource for family historians and other researchers who are interested in information about particular individuals. Researchers interested in specific subjects should consider consulting the Subject Index to Correspondence and Case Files of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (NARA microfilm publication T-458).
Who is in the Index
Anyone who corresponded with the Naturalization Service about any subject related to nationality or citizenship, or anything having to do with the Service’s functions, during the years 1906-1944 may be included in the index. This includes, but is not limited to, many naturalized citizens. For example, a naturalized citizen who wrote the Bureau of Naturalization with a question about a changed name is included in the index. Other examples include individuals who had questions about the status of their case, lost their naturalization certificate, or were unsure of their citizenship status. The index also includes many individuals who never naturalized. For example, someone who derived citizenship and wrote the Naturalization Service with question about his or her status would be included. Concerned citizens with suggestions for better policies, attorneys with legal questions, and individuals doing business with the Service are other examples of non-naturalized individuals who may appear in the index.
In 1917 Sam Cohn wrote his Congressman about his desire to naturalize under a changed name. The Congressman forwarded the letter to the Naturalization Service. Because of this correspondence Mr. Cohn is listed in the index under his new name as well as the old one (Kohnovalsky). The original letter is now in file 106968/339 of the Bureau of Naturalization Correspondence series at the National Archives. See a copy of the correspondence.
NOTE: While the Name Index to Bureau of Naturalization Correspondence does include references to some Naturalization files it is NOT an index to all naturalizations. The index references correspondence related to nationality and citizenship, NOT naturalization files. Individuals who merely had a question about their citizenship status, but never naturalized, may be included in the index. Likewise, individuals who naturalized but never corresponded with the Naturalization Service will not be found in the index
Organization of the Index
The Index is organized alphabetically using a system that groups entries together by the first several letters of the subject’s surname. For example, the sample card below contains names in the CHA-CHAD range. Cards in this range could include the names Chad, Chandwick, Chackstaras, Chabaravsky or any name, no matter the length, for which the first letters fall between CHA and CHAD.
Within each name-group names are listed roughly chronologically by file-creation-date, with the date for each file listed on the right-hand side of the card. On the sample below the file for Peter Chabina (23/2909) was created on December 10, 1925. Some of the earliest cards lack date information.
Researchers should first locate the appropriate name group and then scroll to range of dates that most-likely includes the subject. If no approximate date is known, researchers may start at the first card in a name grouping, which will be the latest date chronologically (usually about 1945-46), and scroll back in time to the beginning of the group. Cards within a name-group are numbered in the upper right-hand corner. The cards appear on the film in reverse order, starting with the latest card and counting down to the earliest (the example is card 4 of 34).
A sample card from the Bureau of Naturalization Name Index. For more information about file numbers see the chart below.
NOTE: Common names are often assigned their own cards and placed after the name grouping that would normally include them. For example, after the cards for COH-COHK there are several dozen cards for the name Cohen.
Common Names like Cohen are listed on separate cards. Some surname cards, like the example here, are organized alphabetically by first name. Most cards, however, are NOT sorted by first name.
Records Referenced by the Index
The majority of the files in the Name Index to Bureau of Naturalization Correspondence Files are part of the Bureau of Naturalization Correspondence Files now available from the National Archives in Washington, DC. The index does, however, include references to other INS files, some which need to be requested from the USCIS Genealogy Program. Below is a chart of sample file numbers and location information for the most common file types found in the index:
Sample File Number(s)
Record Series and Location
500/2, 23-54467, 106799/500
Bureau of Naturalization Correspondence Files, 1906-1946 [RG 85, Entry 26 and additional entries]. Archives I, DC
NARA ARC ID: 563066
INS Petition Files (P) and INS Declaration Files (D)
Filed in an INS C-file if naturalization was granted.
Court numbers (to the left of the P or D) may help researchers locate the court copy of a declaration or petition (e.g. court 2551 = The Court of Common Pleas at Cleveland, OH).
Court number translations are available on the NARA microfilm publication M203: Directories of Courts Having Naturalization Jurisdiction, 1908-1963.
Files for 1906-1956 available through the USCIS Genealogy Program.
Files numbered below 8 million (A8000000) and documents therein dated prior to May 1, 1951 available through USCIS Genealogy Program. A-Files above 8 million may be requested from the USCIS FOIA Program.
Some A-Files for subjects born more than 100 years ago are now available from National Archives at Kansas City, Missouri.
NARA ARC ID: 4488912
These numbers show that an individual filed an application with the Naturalization Service. Today, however, the application number cannot be used to locate a record.
If the application was unsuccessful or did not result in further action it was likely destroyed.
If the application led to a naturalization, issuance of a derivative certificate, or some other action, it may be found in the resulting C-file.
Because the existence of the application number suggests some nationality activity by the individual listed in the index, researchers should consider filing an Index Search Request with the USCIS Genealogy Program to determine if a file exists.