Maryland Genealogical Society
Maryland Genealogical Society
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Naturalization is the process of becoming a citizen. Through much of our history, it was a two-step process taking at least five years. The Declaration of Intention or "first papers" could be filed after two years of residency. Naturalization and the Oath of Allegiance could be taken after an additional three years of residency.
From 1790 through much of the 20th century, an alien could become naturalized in any court of record. Thus, most people went to the court most convenient to them. These included municipal (city or county) courts, state courts or Federal courts. In addition, they may have filed their Declaration of Intention in one court and been Naturalized in a different court.
Before 1906, the processes used by the various courts for documenting naturalization varied greatly. Many jurisdictions retained very little paperwork, especially after the naturalization was complete. The result is that many naturalization records from before 1906 are difficult to find and have little genealogical information if you find them. A Federal Law passed in 1906 standardized many naturalization rules and record keeping was generally better after that.
For most of our history, wives and minor children became automatically naturalized when the husband/ father was naturalized.
Starting in 1862, Army veterans could petition for Naturalization without having filed a Declaration of Intention and with only 1 year of residency.
Naturalization records from Baltimore City and various county and state courts in Maryland are generally at the Maryland State Archives. Naturalization records from Federal courts in Maryland are at the National Archives regional facility in Philadelphia.
Detailed articles on the history of naturalization processes and records can be found at:, and at