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?)

  • 1
    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
    Commented Nov 3, 2019 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
    Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 16:10
  • 1
    @JanMurphy Thank you for your comments! I have edited the original question to address them.
    – nibot
    Commented Nov 4, 2019 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
    Commented Nov 5, 2019 at 7:11
  • @JanMurphy I picked a random card from the database to use as an example. Is that kosher?
    – nibot
    Commented Nov 5, 2019 at 17:31

1 Answer 1


This is a stub of an answer to address the question about the index card. NARA's catalog identifies it as coming from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York and cites Microfilm Publication roll 6, online at fold3.

The descriptive pamphlet (DP) available through NARA's microfilm ordering catalog is a roll list and gives no other information. Fold3's information is general because it addresses several different naturalization indexes.

FamilySearch's catalog page for New York, Western District, Naturalization Index, 1907-1966 says:

Card index to approximately 48,000 petitions for naturalization in the Western District of New York. The District Court of the Western District of New York was located in both Buffalo and Rochester, New York. The cards are arranged alphabetically by the surname and given name, and contain the petition number, date of petition, and sometimes the A.R. (alien registration) number. NARA publication M1677: Alphabetical Index to Petitions for Naturalization of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, 1906-1966. Index supplied by fold3.

They refer us to a corresponding article in the FamilySearch Wiki: New York, Naturalization Indexes - FamilySearch Historical Records.

At the very bottom of the Wiki article, there is a list of related records from the Family History Library and FamilySearch Historical record collections. Nothing is listed for the Western District. However, if you do a catalog search for the court on FamilySearch, some earlier petitions are available: New York, Western District petitions for naturalization and lists of granted, continued or denied petitions, 1903-1991

The film notes say:

Digital capture of original records at the National Archives, New York City.

For privacy reasons, it seems unlikely that the petitions from 1961 will be online. To find the petitions from the 1960s, you could make the following inquiries:

  • contact the court directly and see if they still hold petition files for naturalizations from 1961
  • contact NARA to determine the end date of the petitions held by NARA

The number '232-257' seems too short to be an alien registration number.

I chose a file at random from the Petitions on FamilySearch, where the digital folders of records from this court show petitions up through the late 1930s. for Ignatius Ledwon. His index card at fold3 reads:

Pet. 7797 Mar 10, 1925 77-97

The Film/Digital Note for this file says:

WDNY, Petitions for Naturalization|RG 21|NY-1153|NAID 5710001, 7701 - 7800; Vol 77, 21 Jan–11 Mar 1925

From this we can see that the first number in the index is the volume number. The following number, 97, is the page number, which you can see on the top right of the front page of the petition (film 106890850, image 380).

For your main question, I would recommend consulting a professional genealogist who specializes cases where people want to establish dual citizenship or reclaim citizenship from their heritage.

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