When I was in Salt Lake last May, one of my goals was to search for some declarations of intent and other naturalization documents on a few of my ancestors.
Like other documents, declarations of intent to become a citizen can vary greatly from one location to another and from one time period to another. Those familiar with naturalization research and history realize that records before 1906 are less detailed and less uniform than records after the 1906 reform.
There are two declarations of intent included in this post. The first one comes from Adams County, Illinois in 1856. Bernard Dirks is simply stating his intent to naturalize. It is not known (yet) when he immigrated, but it was likely close to the time this declaration was filed in April of 1856.
The second declaration of intent (partially shown in this post) comes from 1853 in Hancock County, Illinois, just north of Adams County. This form is significantly more detailed than the 1856 form for Bernard Dirks. In this declaration, George Trautvetter indicates his date and place of birth in Germany and his date and place of landing in the United States. His declaration was filed on 4 January 1855, a year and a half (approximately) after his immigration in July of 1853. Why the delay is not known. George did settle in Hancock County, Illinois, pretty much immediately after his arrival in the United States as he is listed as a resident of Hancock County, Illinois, when he purchased property in the fall of 1853.
Unfortunately, declarations of intent are not always preserved at the county level and as we have seen here there can be inconsistencies in how much information they contain. However, they should still be included as a part of any research plan for immigrant ancestors. And don’t forget that before 1906, any court of record could naturalize.