My ancestor was a US citizen (naturalized in 1920) who travelled to [then-]Poland (where he was originally from), and got married to a non-US citizen and had a child with her while he was abroad. He returned to the US with his wife and young child in 1925.

Would he wife and child have required any pre-authorization to be included on the husband's/father's passport, or generally to come to the US as US citizens in 1925? Or would they have just taken the word of my ancestors that they were married or asked to see a marriage document on the spot? The family all appears on the "List of United States Citizens" on the passenger list (see image below).

I am aware that there is a collection on Ancestry.com "U.S., Consular Reports of Marriages, 1910-1949", but there are very few records in this collection, both generally and for Poland. Is there any other place marriage reports from Americans marrying overseas in this period (circa 1920-1923) would be? Here is a webpage from the US National Archives about State Department files, including marriage reports.

I am following this route because many vital records from the area of my ancestors in then-Poland (previously Russian Empire, and presently Ukraine) - specifically the Volhynia area around Lyuboml/Liuboml - did not survive World War II, particularly for the Jewish community (of which my ancestors were part). No vital records can be found locally for these ancestors.

Would the wife and child have needed Polish passports to leave Poland? If so, are these archived anywhere that can be searched?

Passenger list excerpt

According to USCIS: "Prior to September 22, 1922, women gained the citizenship of their naturalizing husbands."

Here is a list of documents I have access to:

  • Ancestor's petition for naturalization (April 1920) - states he is not married
  • US passport application for ancestor (13 April 1922) - intends to leave USA on 22 April 1922 and doesn't mention wife/child/marriage
  • Passenger list for ancestor's return to NY, USA alone (28 March 1924)
  • US passport application for ancestor (25 February 1925) - intends to leave USA on 10 March 1925 and mentions going to visit wife and child but does not say will be accompanied by wife or child on passport application
  • Passenger list for ancestor's return to NY, USA with wife and child on list of US citizens (24 July 1925) - image in post is from this list
  • John, could you add to your question a brief list of the sources you already have on hand, arranged in chronological order of the documents? I don't remember exactly what the rules are about visas and it would be useful to know the exact date of the arrival, not just the year. I am guessing you've already checked the US Passport Applications on Ancestry and your ancestor is there (and single) but it would be useful to have that stated explicitly in the question.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Apr 30, 2020 at 17:05
  • Hi Jan, I have added a list of sources at the bottom of the post - thanks!
    – John
    Commented May 1, 2020 at 11:11
  • "(25 February 1925) - intends to leave USA on 22 April 1922" <- typo alert! He can't be applying for a passport in 1925 intending to leave in 1922.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented May 2, 2020 at 6:40
  • 1
    Thanks, Jan! I have corrected this typo -- I accidentally switched the intended travel dates for the two passport applications
    – John
    Commented May 2, 2020 at 13:26

1 Answer 1


This is a stub of an answer and will be added to as I find more information.

According to USCIS: "Prior to September 22, 1922, women gained the citizenship of their naturalizing husbands."

For a fuller discussion of the Cable Act, see this two-part article by Marian L. Smith in NARA's Prologue Magazine:

In Part 2, Smith writes:

It was not until 1929 that women who gained citizenship through their husband's naturalization after marriage could obtain a "Certificate of Derivative Citizenship" from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). And it was not until 1940 that INS could issue certificates to women who gained citizenship by marriage to a man already a citizen. While not in themselves proof of citizenship for legal purposes, proof of marriage to a U.S. citizen occurring prior to September 22, 1922, and proof of the husband's U.S. citizenship, remain as the foundation for legally documenting a foreign-born woman's citizenship.

As I understand the timeline:

  1. Your ancestor naturalized in 1920 (presumably he was single).
  2. Your ancestor travels to Poland (as it was then). When?
  3. Your ancestor marries? When?
  4. Your ancestor returns with his wife and child in 1925 (when)?

The 1925 Passenger list says that his wife is naturalized by marriage and the child is a US Citizen by virtue of being a child of a U.S. father. This suggests that the marriage took place before September 1922, but until we see the record, we can't know for sure. You have a passport number: have you looked for a passport in the U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 at Ancestry?

An index search at USCIS (expensive now, I know) for the wife's name and for the child's name might tell you whether either the wife or the child applied to the agency for a Certificate of Derivative Citizenship later in life. Note that Smith says the wife couldn't have gotten a derivative certificate until 1940, so if your ancestor's wife died before then, there might not be any correspondence.

Looking for the passport noted in the passenger list is cheaper and easier than asking USCIS to search their records and should be your first step.

You could also narrow down a possible marriage date by looking for clues in other United States records. See Clues in Census Records, 1850-1930.

  • 1. Correct - ancestor naturalized in 1920 and was single at the time; 2. My ancestor travelled to [then] Poland (was granted passport in April 1922 and returned to US in March 1924); 3. I suspect my ancestor married while visiting Poland sometime between April 1922 and March 1924; 5. Ancestor returned with wife and child in July 1925.
    – John
    Commented May 1, 2020 at 10:54
  • I have access to both passport applications my ancestor made to obtain passports for both trips to [then] Poland mentioned above. The second application says he is going to visit his wife and child in Poland, but not that he will be accompanied by them. I also have the passenger manifests from both trips. Finally, I did do a USCIS search some years ago for my ancestor's wife's name but there was no record of any document for her and in that response USCIS advised that she was likely a US citizen by virtue of being married to a US citizen.
    – John
    Commented May 1, 2020 at 10:59
  • 1
    @John Just checking -- if their marriage was before Sep 1922 then she would have had citizenship by marriage, and that's what your passenger list snippet says. But sometimes people did need documentation later on (e.g. to get a job during WW2 that required you to be a citizen) so sometimes you can get a lucky dip. Good thing you did that search while it was still affordable.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented May 2, 2020 at 6:44
  • Do you have any specific ideas of where I could look for such records/documentation practically - things that might require this kind of documentation other than getting a job during WW2? Thank you!
    – John
    Commented May 2, 2020 at 13:28
  • 1
    I understand why people use a child's birth date as an estimate for the marriage date but in some cultures if you make that assumption you will never find the date of the marriage. Couples sometimes have several children before they marry, for example in Germany where one had to get permission to marry. People carried on with their lives and married later.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented May 5, 2020 at 17:48

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