I love that thrill that comes when you find an ancestor in a database or record collection. Even after many years of researching, I still get excited. Iâ€™ll usually let out a little whoop, startling any dogs or cats that happen to be hanging around in my office, and perhaps do a little happy dance. My daughter will roll her eyes and give me that, â€œMy mom is crazyâ€ look, and Iâ€™ll just remind her it could be worse. Perhaps sheâ€™d like to see the dance I do when I make discoveries in libraries and other public places. Ahh, mortifying the teenager . . . good times.
Fortunately for her more and more of my happy dances can be done from home. Not only do we have indexes, we also often find original records online. Even when we canâ€™t, government agencies are finding it practical to make record requests easier through their websites by adding helpful information, indexes, and downloadable forms to submit with record requests.
Back in May, Ancestry posted nearly 2.5 million index cards to U.S. Naturalization Records, 1794-1995 to its Immigration Collection. On August 13th, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, formerly the INS), launched its Genealogy Program to expedite our requests for older records, including naturalization records. I wondered about the relationship between the naturalization indices at Ancestry and USCIS records, and so I contacted USCIS to learn more. They gave me some helpful information for those who have found their ancestors in the index entries and are ready to request the naturalization records from the USCIS.
What records do they have?
The USCIS offers five sets of records under their new program, the largest of which are their naturalization records, which begin 27 September 1906. These are known as â€œC-Files.â€ Some C-Files are in textual form, and others have been microfilmed. When you locate your ancestor on the index, youâ€™ll (hopefully–more on this later) find a C-File number. If the number is below 6500000, the record is on microfilm. If the C-File number is above 6500000, it will be a textual (paper) file. Textual files are a bit more expensive to order ($35) because itâ€™s more labor intensive to retrieve them and copy them, as opposed to the files that have been microfilmed ($20).
The USCIS also has an index to all of the C-Files ($20), and you can request a search of that index if necessary. In some cases this index will be a carbon copy of the court indexes that Ancestry has posted to its website. In other cases, the format may vary a bit. In most cases, the court index cards at Ancestry will include the C-File number that is necessary to order the naturalization file for your ancestor. Continue reading