Treasure Trove Thursday: US District Court – Newark, NJ [NARA RG21 M2123, 1914-1945]

A new Historical Records Collection at FamilySearch

An announcement in the June 26, 2016 edition of Nu? What’s New? The E-zine of Jewish Genealogy from Avotaynu (Volume 17, Number 25), alerted researchers that there were newly digitized naturalization records for U.S. District Courts in Newark and N.Y.C. Today, we’ll be looking at how to access these new online images.

Naturalizations in Federal Court
For those who are tracing their immigrant ancestors in New Jersey, you are often instructed to gather your information from local sources, and then expand to county and state-level records.  However, there are times when you’ll find yourself needed a federal-level record for your immigrant. Normally, those seeking citizenship began and finished the process at their local County Clerk’s Office by filing the paperwork in the Court of Common Pleas.  This began to change with the enactment of the Basic Naturalization Act of 1906.  The new legislation encouraged state and local courts to give up their naturalization jurisdiction to federal courts (aka U.S. District Court) and instituted standardized naturalization forms.[1]

By the early to mid-20th century those U.S. District Courts began to hear a larger number of citizenship cases and increases the potential for you to seek out naturalization records within this record group.  This is especially true when you cannot locate your ancestors in the appropriate County Clerk’s records.  Also, you’ll find ancestors who are exceptions.  They may have started the process – filed the Declaration of Intent – in the county Court of Common Pleas, but chose to complete the process at the local U.S. District Court.

Today, New Jersey is comprised of three districts[3]:

  • Camden Division comprises the following counties: Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem.
  • Newark Division comprises the following counties: Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Northern Middlesex, Passaic, Sussex, and Union.
  • Trenton Division comprises the following counties: Hunterdon, Mercer, Monmouth, Ocean, Somerset, Southern Middlesex, and Warren.

Using the US District Court – Newark, NJ Naturalizations
mlk_court[2]Your family story is that your ancestor was naturalized in Newark, and you can’t find them in the Essex County Court of Common Pleas indexes for Declarations of Intent or Petitions for Naturalizations.  Your next step should be to consult the USDC-Newark Petitions for Naturalizations online index. These Petition indices were transcribed and are hosted online by the Italian Genealogy Group (IGG) & German Genealogy Group (GGG) within the Naturalizations database.

Note:  You’ll want to familiarize yourself with when the local Court of Common Pleas ceased processing citizenship cases.  For example, Essex County (Newark) records end in 1931.

Armchair Research:  Finding the Digitized Documents
First, it is important to know that the arrangement of NARA microfilm collection M2123 is by the Petition for Naturalization number. It does include a certificate of arrival and the corresponding Declaration of Intent for the petitioner, but won’t have Certificates of Citizenship.

Step 1:  Access the Naturalizations Index at IGG/GGG and complete the Database Search Form.  Depending on the popularity of the surname, you may want to select a specific court or not.
Naturalizations Records Search Tilly Steele 1945 #1
Step 2: From the search results, note the Petition Number and year.[4]
Naturalizations Records Search Tilly Steele 1945
Step 3: In a new browser tab, access the Petitions for naturalization from the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey at Newark, New Jersey, 1914-1945 : NARA RG21 M2123, 1914-1945 from the FamilySearch catalog.  Scroll down to the corresponding Petition Number and open the digital folder by clicking the camera icon.
Naturalizations Records Search Tilly Steele 1945 #2
Step 5: Based on the Petition number, scroll forward using the Image page counter in upper left corner.
Naturalizations Records Search Tilly Steele 1945 #3
Step 6:  Click on image to view documents for Petitioner.
Note:  You can download the images to your computer or attach to your Family Tree file at FamilySearch.

Suggested citation:
Petitions for naturalization from the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey at Newark, New Jersey, 1914-1945 : NARA RG21 M2123, 1914-1945, FamilySearch, imaged collection (https://familysearch.org/search/catalog/1332882?availability=Family%20History%20Library : accessed *date*), Petitioner Name, Petition of Naturalization #___, Digital Film #___, Image # of #.

Blogger’s Note:
While the Naturalizations search lists a researcher’s note that the database contains only the USDC-Newark Declarations, the above example shows that the IGG/GGG database appears to be complete for USDC-Petitions of Naturalizations, 1914-1945.

Related FamilySearch Historical Records Collections:



[1] Overview of INS History – USCIS, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, PDF document, (https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/History%20and%20Genealogy/Our%20History/INS%20History/INSHistory.pdf : accessed 12 July 2016).

[2] MLK Courthouse, U.S. District Court – Newark, New Jersey, image, (https://www.justice.gov/usao-nj: accessed 12 July 2016).

[3] United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, Organization of the court, Wikipedia entry, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_District_Court_for_the_District_of_New_Jersey : accessed 12 July 2016).

[4] “Naturalizations”, database, Italian Genealogical Group (http://italiangen.org/records-search/naturalizations.php: accessed 12 July 2016), Tilly Steele entry, USDC-Newark Petition #82267 (1945).

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One thought on “Treasure Trove Thursday: US District Court – Newark, NJ [NARA RG21 M2123, 1914-1945]

  1. Pingback: Genealogy Hints – Naturalization of your Ancestors | Nonna's Mulberry Tree

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