I have a United States of America Petition for Naturalization dated June 20, 1940 from Gillespie, Macoupin, Illinois that is very hard to read. It came from a USCIS Naturalization Records Search Request and the response was a hard paper printout and labeled as being a Freedom of Information Act request. I'd like to find a legible form so I know what the fine print questions are that are being filled in with larger font.

The top of the form looks like this:

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The bottom left of the form looks like this:

enter image description here

It looks like the form might be a No. 5191, but searching the web gave me nothing. Where can I locate example historical forms that are legible to know what the fields are? I often face this issue and would love if there was a central location to find U.S. forms so that the standardized sections could be clearly understood, comparable to the Enumerations Forms at IPUMS.org for the US Federal Census.

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    This example is poorer image quality than I'm used to seeing. Have you browsed forward and back for other records, which would be close in time and space to this one? (The forms do vary and evolve). Have you checked other providers of this collection? This question is very similar to genealogy.stackexchange.com/questions/10493/…
    – bgwiehle
    Jun 16, 2017 at 18:55
  • Is there a reason you didn't bother to cite your source? We could have started working on the answer your question right away, but as it is, you've forced people to go digging for the source citation first.
    – Jan Murphy
    Jun 16, 2017 at 20:35
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    @JanMurphy I've added the source being USCIS Naturalization Records Search Request.
    – WilliamKF
    Jun 16, 2017 at 23:09
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    @bgwiehle This was a hardcopy mailed to me by USCIS, so no way to browse forward or backward.
    – WilliamKF
    Jun 16, 2017 at 23:12
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    If you have access to ancestry.com, try search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=61196 [Illinois, Federal Naturalization Records, 1856-1991] Your version of the petition form can be seen throughout; there is even a (different) Mary Podgornik. Not blank, but definitely more legible.
    – bgwiehle
    Jun 17, 2017 at 16:33

1 Answer 1


Some record groups use a particular form consistently and the repository or genealogy providers may provide a blank copy: FamilySearch will link to the collection's wiki page and Ancestry will have a "Download..." in the More help section. (eg. censuses, WW1 & WW2 Drafts)

However, the forms used in the U.S. naturalization process have changed over the course of the last 100+ years: in length, in order and numbering of information and what related records are included, or attached and referenced. Although it might be handy to have a condensed overview of the progression of required information in one place (as opposed to a whole database), I haven't run across any. Online record providers do include various aids -- in the collection description, in the individual record transcription and in the image navigation tools.

When an individual record is hard to read and the record provider's collection help is inadequate or unavailable,

if the record is online

  • browse forward and back for other records, which would be close in time and space to the problem record
  • check other providers of this collection, for alternate image processing or different record filming

if offline

  • check online providers for similar record sets.

In this case, the hardcopy of a Petition for Naturalization from Illinois and dated 1940, one would find similar examples in Ancestry's "Illinois, Federal Naturalization Records, 1856-1991" database

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