The National Archives at Atlanta

Nation­al Archives South­east Region­al Branch, Mor­row, Geor­gia (Pho­to cour­tesy NARA web­site, under fair use)

On my way South and West to attend the Insti­tute of Genealog­i­cal and His­tor­i­cal Research, I took time out to stop into the Nation­al Archives  South­east Region­al Branch in Mor­row, Geor­gia (near Atlanta). This branch serves the states of Alaba­ma, Flori­da, Geor­gia, Ken­tucky, Mis­sis­sip­pi, North Car­oli­na, South Car­oli­na, and Ten­nessee and pro­vides doc­u­men­tary records (tex­tu­al records, maps, pho­tographs, and archi­tec­tur­al draw­ings) relat­ing to the con­duct of nation­al gov­ern­ment oper­a­tions in those states. It also has exten­sive micro­film col­lec­tions

I want­ed to take a look at the immi­gra­tion and nat­u­ral­iza­tion records avail­able at the South­east­ern Branch of the Archives.

U.S. nat­u­ral­iza­tion records at the branch begin in 1790. The records are orga­nized by court and then, with­in date ranges, alpha­bet­i­cal­ly by peti­tion­er.

I exam­ined the peti­tion for cit­i­zen­ship of Louis Nicholas Allard.

The two-page doc­u­ment says that he was a native of St. Domin­go and a sub­ject of the Repub­lic of France. (San­to Domin­go, Domini­can Repub­lic, was a colony of France between 1795 and 1801 and (after a slave rebel­lion) between 1802 and 1809.) The peti­tion says that he arrived in the Unit­ed States on 15 May 1793, and cur­rent­ly resides in Savan­nah, Geor­gia, where he has lived for four years with his fam­i­ly.  His age at the time of the peti­tion (12 Decem­ber 1798) is record­ed as 42. He says that he has “no pro­fes­sion or occu­pa­tion, but was for­mer­ly a planter.” He was admit­ted into cit­i­zen­ship on 12 Feb­ru­ary 1799.  All in all, this is a fair amount of data to find in the cou­ple of pages of an immi­gra­tion file of the Fed­er­al peri­od.

Gus­tav Hein­drick Richter

I also looked at the dec­la­ra­tion of inten­tion (to become a cit­i­zen of the Unit­ed States) for, Shel­by Coun­ty, TN. He applied for Amer­i­can cit­i­zen­ship on 3 Decem­ber 1906. In the doc­u­ment, he declares that he was  born 26 Novem­ber 1872 in Cit­tau, Ger­many (now Zit­tau Ger­many, as far as I can fig­ure). The doc­u­ment notes that he arrived in New York “on or about” 13 August 1903. In lat­er records such as this one, we usu­al­ly find not only the date but also the port of entry.

But the real trea­sure trove are the most recent immi­gra­tion doc­u­ments. For exam­ple, I pulled the dec­la­ra­tion of inten­tion and ancil­lary doc­u­ments for Sam Wahl (Sam Wakd­of­sky) of Shel­by Coun­ty, Ten­nessee. This suite of doc­u­ments includes a peti­tion for nat­u­ral­iza­tion, an oath of alle­giance, a cer­tifi­cate of arrival, and a dec­la­ra­tion of inten­tion (with a signed pho­to­graph of the appli­cant).

There are also affa­davits of two wit­ness­es as to the verac­i­ty of the state­ments Sam Wahl has made, and whether they would rec­om­mend him for cit­i­zen­ship. It is an amaz­ing­ly detailed doc­u­ment, with detailed phys­i­cal descrip­tions of the appli­cant (Male, white, blond com­plex­ion, blue eyes, light hair, 6 feet, 160 pounds, with “very curly hair”). It also includes the name of his wife, her date and place of birth, and the date and place of their mar­riage, as well as the date and place of birth of their chil­dren.

I can hard­ly wait to get such a doc­u­ment for my wife’s grand­moth­er, to try to untan­gle that Ser­bian fam­i­ly.

About the Archives, I will also note that records in the archival doc­u­ment room are easy to get. The staff is friend­ly and help­ful, and even took time out to help me put my requests in. The pull doc­u­ments as request­ed, and will bring in mul­ti­ple box­es at a time, though they ask you to work on only one box at a time, and one file in that box at a time, to help ensure cor­rect re-fil­ing.

There is no wi-fi on the premis­es, and though there are open com­put­ers, they are for ded­i­cat­ed research use at des­ig­nat­ed sites. They are in the process of putting togeth­er a wire­less net­work, but, in the mean­time, you can get your Inter­net fix (or your trail­ing spouse can, across the street at the Dunkin’ Donuts.)

I’m look­ing for­ward to using this facil­i­ty, and the Geor­gia Archives next door, many times in the future.

U.S. Dis­trict Court, South­ern Dis­trict of Geor­gia, Savan­nah Divi­sion, Records of the U. S. Dis­trict Courts of the Unit­ed States, 1685–1991. Record Group 21. Nat­u­ral­iza­tion Case Files, 1790–1861, A‑E. Acc. 55A0024, Box 1. Nat­u­ral­iza­tion Papers, Louis Nicholas Allard, 1799.

U.S. Dis­trict Court, West­ern Dis­trict of Ten­nessee, Mem­phis Divi­sion, Records of the U. S. Dis­trict Courts of the Unit­ed States, 1685–1991. Record Group 21. Nat­u­ral­iza­tion Dec­la­ra­tions, Vols. 1–3, Decem­ber 1906-Feb­ru­ary 1917, Nos. 1–677, Box 1, Vol. 1, p. 1. Nat­u­ral­iza­tion Dec­la­ra­tion, Gus­tav Hein­drick Richter, 1906.

U.S. Dis­trict Court, West­ern Dis­trict of Ten­nessee, Mem­phis Divi­sion, Records of the U. S. Dis­trict Courts of the Unit­ed States, 1685–1991. Record Group 21. Nat­u­ral­iza­tion Peti­tions, Vols. 11–13, March 1938-Novem­ber 1942, Peti­tion Nos. 1545–2016, Box 2. Nat­u­ral­iza­tion Papers, Sam Wahl, 1935.