Naturalization is the formal process of granting citizenship to foreign-born residents. The first United States naturalization act was passed in 1790 and provided that individuals could be naturalized in any federal, state, or local court. Immigrants typically applied for naturalization at the courthouse nearest to their home so finding their initial place of residence is important. Naturalization records consist of two separate documents: the Declaration of Intention and Petition. These documents could have been filed in separate locations.
After living in the U.S. for a period of time (generally three years) an immigrant filed their first papers known as their declaration of intention. This declaration renounced their allegiance to their former country. After waiting an additional period of time (generally two years), an immigrant could ‘petition’ for their final naturalization papers. Both documents are typically kept together with the final petition.