Back in March, I wrote about the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the types of records you can get from them.
I also mentioned that I had sent for a genealogy index search for my 2x great-grandfather, John Michael Stalmacher. Yesterday, I received this glorious letter in the mail:
So I immediately filled out a request for the information!
That was about a 90-day wait to get the letter that states that yes, they have his file. Now I have another 90-day wait for the file. I did ask for it by email, which was cheaper and I’m hopeful that it will be faster as well.
Getting the Information
First – Search Request
So, how do you go about getting all of this information? First, I filled out the search request (first box on the page) for the index search request. I did not have a file number for John Stalmacher, so I had to have them search for one. The cost is $20 just for the search, and no, you can’t go there yourself to do the searching.
You’ll need this information:
- Name of immigrant
- Immigrant’s Country of Birth (you can choose other to type in a country)
- Immigrant’s date of birth and then you indicate if that is the estimated birth or exact (if estimated, you’ll get a warning that if the DOB is less than 100 years, proof of death would be required to release information)
- Immigrant’s Date of Arrival – either the exact date or date range
- Where did the immigrant live in the US and when – you can put a range for the possible dates if unknown (I used census information and draft cards to help fill this in)
- Optional information that include a maiden name of immigrant, other names, or names of other family members as well any other information that can help a search. For this part I filled in that in 1920 he was an alien and in 1930 he was naturalized according to census records.
Then you wait. Sometimes it can come in 3-4 weeks but it could (like mine) take up to 90 days. Be forewarned, I got a letter within a week from them and got very excited. Then I opened it to find it was just the confirmation that they got my request and gave me my case number. That case number is important though as you use it to check your status.
Once the status shows the search is completed, wait for about 6-7 days to get your letter that looks like the above.
Second – The File
Once you get that letter, you can then request your file! Check out my previous blog post about the USCIS (link in the beginning) to read what kind of files you can hope to get. The file for my ancestor is a C-File or Certificate File. I am hoping it will have when he arrived in the U.S. as well as his place of birth. It says Russia on the letter but he also says Poland in other records (which is also where his younger brother was born). So having a city could help me to see where exactly and then look at the border changes that happened when he filled out certain forms. Plus, that will lead to possible baptism records, which could lead to parents, etc. etc.
Don’t Forget to Check Your Local Court Records!
Now, if you happen to live in an area where your ancestor applied for citizenship, you don’t necessarily need to go through all of this. You could just go get them from the court indicated in the letter. They may not have the information, that’s always a possibility you should be aware of. Of course, calling ahead of time (or checking out the website) can help you to find where the information is held and what kind of information they have and I’d highly recommend doing that before heading over.
For me, the cost of gas for such a visit is well over the cost of the emailed information. Of course, not waiting may have been worth it… but I can’t schedule in a visit during the week for a few months anyway so this is the course I’m taking.
Do any of you have successful or not successful stories about searching for naturalization records? Share below or on Facebook!