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I am pursuing recognition of German citizenship through descent. My grandparents and my father (born 1950) emigrated to the United States in 1952, with my grandfather holding German nationality. My grandparents applied for naturalization in the US in 1961, when my father was 10 years old.

They key question is, how did my father attain US citizenship? If he applied for naturalization, or if his parents applied for his naturalization on his behalf, then that would have terminated his German nationality. However, if he received US citizenship "automatically" then his German nationality (and thus mine) would remain intact.

I looked up the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 to try to discover the routes by which he could have attained US citizenship. The law seems to indicate that a child received ("derived") citizenship automatically when both parents attained citizenship (INA 321, "Child born outside of United States of Alien Parent; conditions under which citizenship automatically acquired"). The following section (INA 322) covers "child born outside of United States; naturalization on petition of citizen parent". It appears that this route is only available if the parent is already a US citizen. Thus I think my father must have automatically acquired citizenship when his parents naturalized in 1961.

Searching the National Archives database I was also able to find records of naturalization petitions for my grandfather and grandmother, both dated the same day in 1961, but nothing for my father, which I think lends credit to this theory.

Can anyone suggest how I may determine, and obtain evidence of, whether my father was "naturalized" or derived citizenship automatically when his parents naturalized? Would he have received a "Certificate of Citizenship," as distinct from a "Certificate of Naturalization" in the latter case? (Were those issued back then?)


Following up on comments I received on this post.

The record I found in the National Archives is an index card resembling the following. I actually found it via ancestry.com's database titled "U.S. Naturalization Record Indexes, 1791-1992 (Indexed in World Archives Project)" but the same record is available directly from the national archives catalog at https://www.archives.gov/research/catalog and entering the person's name in the search box.

Further questions:

  1. Can I get the full petition that that this references? ("Petition 58057" in this example.)

  2. What do the numbers "232-257" indicate?

This particular card may be found at https://catalog.archives.gov/id/57714002. There is considerable metadata available too.

Index card representing naturalization petition


Regarding the Immigration and Nationality Code of 1952, the complete text is available here: https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/STATUTE-66/pdf/STATUTE-66-Pg163.pdf The only section I have looked at is "Chapter 2 - Nationality through Naturalization," which begins on page 239.

I was hoping to find in Section 311 "Eligibility for Naturalization" the requirement that an individual be at least 18 years old to naturalize, but I have not found that explicitly spelled out.

Section 321 covers "child born outside of United States of alien parent; conditions under which citizenship automatically acquired," which is the section under which I hypothesize that my father received citizenship. (Is there any other possibility? How would I prove this?)

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    Hello, welcome to G&FH.SE! I am somewhat familiar with US naturalization policy but I have not done any research in the 1950s or 1960s so I am less familiar with the forms and policies. If you have links for any of the policy materials you looked up, could you add those to your question? Where did you find the statute where you read the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952? – Jan Murphy Nov 3 '19 at 16:56
  • I'm not sure what you mean when you say you searched "the National Archives database". Did you search NARA's catalog, where records are sometimes attached to their catalog entries? Were digital objects (images) attached to the entry, or did you only read a catalog description? – Jan Murphy Nov 4 '19 at 16:10
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    @JanMurphy Thank you for your comments! I have edited the original question to address them. – nibot Nov 4 '19 at 21:59
  • Thanks for the edit! Just a reminder -- we do have a privacy policy which you can find in the help center -- so if your relatives are still living, you should redact the name on the index card. genealogy.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic – Jan Murphy Nov 5 '19 at 7:11
  • @JanMurphy I picked a random card from the database to use as an example. Is that kosher? – nibot Nov 5 '19 at 17:31

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