Naturalization Witnesses and Record Book Titles

James Corbin was the witness on the naturalization of Samuel Neill in Hancock County, Illinois, on 14 September 1880. Witnesses on naturalizations can be clues as to ancestral associates and tracing their background can lead to information on the actual person of interest. I need to determine who James Corbin was and see if he has a potential connection to Samuel. The 1880 census enumeration for James Corbin finds him as the thirty-seven year old Illinois native who was the Hancock County Treasurer. He was the only person by that name living in Hancock County. It seems reasonable that he was the same James Corbin who was Samuel’s “naturalization witness.” What I might want to do (and what I have not done yet) is to see if other county officials were witnesses on other naturalizations during the same time period. In the case of Samuel it does not seem that his “naturalization witness” is any clue as to his ancestral origins. The search for a connection should not only focus on the men as both Samuel Neill and James Corbin were married and their “connection” could have been between their wives. Note: Anna R. Corbin, wife of James, like her husband was an Illinois native. Neither of the Corbins had an Irish parent based upon their 1880 census enumeration. Both Neill and his wife, Annie Murphy, were Irish natives.

The title of the volume as given in FamilySearch is “Petitions for naturalization 1876-1903, volume A.” The book does contain petitions for naturalization, but that’s the content of the item not the actual title. The title on the actual spine of the book (which was originally microfilmed and is now digitized) is actually “Naturalization Record (Final).” It’s a small distinction, but still a difference. Using the actual title allows me to know exactly what I searched if ever am able access the original copies of local records. It also tells someone exactly what I used when I share my research with someone else. I should include in my notes for this item the actual title on the spine of the volume and how FamilySearch catalogs the item.

Those titles are different from the index FamilySearch has for county naturalization records in Illinois. There’s three titles that are involved in finding Samuel if we used the FamilySearch finding aids to find him:

  • Illinois, County Naturalization Records, 1800-1998:” the database at FamilySearch that contained a reference to Samuel Neal and a link to an image of his naturalization from 1880 in Hancock County, Illinois.
  • “Petitions for naturalization 1876-1903, volume A:” the title of the record book containing Samuel’s naturalization.
  • “Naturalization Record (Final), volume A:” the actual title of the actual record book as stamped on its spine.

My citation to the actual image of Samuel’s naturalization will not reference the database at FamilySearch. That item was only a finding aid that lead to the actual record. I will use the actual title of the book and indicate that it was obtained as a digital image on FamilySearch. It’s that simple because that’s where I obtained the image. I will add a comment how FamilySearch titles the book differently from how the book is actually titled.

The page for Samuel in the original volume of naturalization records is actually page 72. The image number of 61 refers to the image within this specific set of images at FamilySearch. I choose not to utilize the image number in my citation.


3 thoughts on “Naturalization Witnesses and Record Book Titles

  1. I have run into this issue with rebound items in libraries, with the spine title differing from the title page, maybe especially periodicals. It’s understandable, when the actual title can be long, but it has caused me trouble when I tried to find the same volume later. Sometimes several short publications are bound together in one volume with a more general cover or spine title. Now I scan the spine (and try to include the cover) as well as the title page.

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