I was looking through the recent Chicago Genealogical Society Newsletter (December 2015) and saw there was a small article authored by Ginger Frere, a librarian at the Newberry and a frequent speaker at our genealogy programs. She wrote an article that stated that a new online database was available at FamilySearch that could have much use for those of us doing Chicago-area research on naturalizations.
The database title is “Illinois, Northern District Petitions for Naturalization, 1906-1994”.
You can access this free database at https://familysearch.org/search/collection/2212212
I do not see the name of the database above in the list of the 68 existing databases noted for Illinois. That is because those databases are all searchable. This database is visible in a list of those databases that FamilySearch has for Illinois that are at this time still only browseable.
One big caveat initially is that the data is un-indexed. You cannot yet search it for names of any individuals that filed these petitions. Images are available to browse through and are based on a year-by-year entry. There are over 2 million images. You can select sub-files for Cook County, IL that are identified such as “Petitions, 1906-1908, v. 1, no. 1-50″ or Petitions, 1912, v. 17, no. 1501-1600”. Cook County is the only county noted at this time in this file.
It was in 1906 that Naturalizations started taking place under the Federal government as opposed to being done within local non-Federal courts. The good news from this is that the process was very well documented by the officials. Great details were often provided by the person petitioning for naturalization. Prior to 1906 naturalizations were done in local courts with very little personal detail provided in the documents. You might just see that the person renounces allegiance to the King of “XXXXX” with no other information noted such as when immigrated, from where etc.
If you had an ancestor for whom you either know of a year of naturalization that was after 1906 and who lived in the Chicago area then perhaps it might be worth your effort to look through some of the images for a particular year. Look for an image at the beginning of one of the “books” that is an index of surnames. These are generally in alphabetical order, sometimes only by first letter of the surname. Find your surname and note the associated page where the document can be seen. Then just try to find the page you need by entering in a guestimate image number. Just keep checking this way until you find the “page number” on the right “image number”.
The details are very impressive of what exists. You might even discover the exact birth town location of this ancestor. I saw many of these noted in just browsing through some of the images. You may see what ship they arrived on into which port. So while this data is not indexed it can be helpful to you if you can narrow down a naturalization year after 1906 you may have discovered via a census record or some other family documents you may have.
It is likely that at some point in the future this data will become indexed and searchable.
It is well worth browsing through a few of these images just to see what information you can capture. I wish I had some ancestors that I could discover here. My ancestors were all naturalized pre-1906 in local Chicago courts.
Schaumburg Township District Library