Naturalization Records
Table of Contents

Which Court?

According to the U.S. National Archives (NARA):
On March 26, 1790, Congress passed an act (1 Stat. 103) that allowed any individual seeking citizenship to apply to any court of record in a state where he or she lived for one year.  Before September 27, 1906, an alien could seek citizenship through any Federal, state, or local court.  As a result, you need to know to which court your ancestor submitted the application for naturalization. Congress passed an act on June 29, 1906, which established a Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (32 Stat. 596). The bureau was to "provide for a uniform rule for the naturalization of aliens throughout the United States."
Various local and federal courts processed naturalization requests in California from 1850 to the present. These included County Superior Courts, State Circuit and District Courts, Supreme Courts, and U.S. Circuit and District Courts. For a good introduction to which federal courts processed naturalization records in California, take a look at the National Archives M1744 Pamphlet. According to NARA:
Records of naturalization proceedings in Federal courts are usually among the records of the U.S. District Court in which the proceedings took place.  These records may still be in the custody of the court, or they may have been transferred to one of NARA's regional archives as a part of the Records of the District Courts of the United States.

These California naturalization records are available at the NARA Pacific Region facility:

  • U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco), 1851-1971
  • U.S. Circuit Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco), 1855-1911
  • U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California (Sacramento), 1917-1958
  • County Superior Court, Marin County, California, 1871-1957
  • A list of which naturalization records are available from local California counties in the California State Archives can be viewed here.

    FamilySearch has the following available online:

    Great Registers

    A great resource for locating which court an ancestor was naturalized are the Great Registers. These were the voting registers for California, and will often tell you the exact name and location of the court that did the naturalization as well as the naturalization date.


    The NARA also has an interesting article about Women and Naturalization, ca. 1802-1940.


    For those individuals processed in the federal courts, the records may be available at the National Archives (NARA) center in San Bruno, California. The records cover from 1852 to 1989.

    If you are looking for naturalization records after 1989, contact the U.S. District Court:
    San Francisco Restoration of Record of Naturalization

    Records for those processed in the San Francisco Superior court before 1906 were lost in the 1906 disaster. After the  disaster, the Superior Court of the State of California, in and for the City and County of San Francisco began to "restore" records. Approximately 10,752 records were gathered from 25 May 1906 through 23 September 1964. The records (declaration of intent, petition, certificate and supporting documentation) have not been microfilmed yet and are available through the Superior Court.

    The Record of Naturalization only includes this information: Name, initial date of naturalization, date of restoration, country of nativity, and two witness names.
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