Michael Preston (1792-1849) was born in New Hampshire; his first wife, Mary Merrill, was born there in 1795. This couple removed to Canada not long after their marriage, ca18 June 1816. Most or all of their five known children were born at Canada:

  • Caroline Preston (1819-1839)
  • Michael Merrill Preston (1821-sometime aft 1845)
  • Joseph William Preston (1826-1893)
  • Lemuel Keyser Preston (ca1828-ca1881)
  • Ellen (Preston) Crawford (ca1831-1852)

Michael Preston returned to New Hampshire some time before 1840, but there are few traces of his children before 1850 and for some, still later. For the most part, the children are adults by the time I have located a record about them, and by then, they are residing in the US.

In 1830-1850, would these children have needed to be naturalized after they immigrated to the United States? What if they immigrated after the age of 18? 21? Would it have mattered if one or both parents had been born in the United States?

Update: At about age 22, Michael Merrill Preston (eldest son) married 1843 at Connecticut. He naturalized 16 May 1851 at Boston ("Index to New England Naturalization Petitions," Ancestry.com; card P623).

  • 2
    Have you seen the US passport application for Michael Merrill Preston in 1851 age 30 (Ancestry)? On that, "citizen" is crossed out and replaced with naturalized.
    – Rob Hoare
    Oct 30, 2012 at 0:32
  • Really great, @RobHoare. He married at Connecticut in 1843 (he would have been about 22). Seems this Michael naturalized 16 May 1851 at Boston (Ancestry.com; "Index to Naturalization"; card no.P623). I'll add this to the question as an update.
    – GeneJ
    Oct 30, 2012 at 6:49

1 Answer 1


Starting in 1790, children received derivative citizenship from their father (or mother in some cases). Derivative citizenship is defined as getting one's citizenship from another person. When the child's father became naturalized, his children under 16 (or 18, depending on the year) automatically became citizens. No paperwork was created. To prove his or her citizenship, the child would need his or her father's certificate of citizenship (or certificate of naturalization).

from https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/United_States_Naturalization_and_Citizenship#Exceptions_to_the_Naturalization_Process

On that basis, if any of Michael Preston's children could prove (a) that he was born a US citizen and (b) that he was their father then they should have been recognized as a "natural born citizen" even though their birth was outside the country.

The fact that Michael Jr was naturalized after his father's death suggests that he was unable to produce satisfactory documentation to support the claim. Perhaps lodging his own petition was the least difficult way to recover his nationality so that he could travel overseas.

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    My hypothesis is that Michael Preston (the father) having been born in the United States, probably did not naturalize; having never given up his citizenship. That Michael Merrill Preston (the son), did naturalize suggests to me that he was older than 21 at the time he removed to the US. In theory then, Lemuel Keyser Preston (younger son) likely did not naturalize because he was probably a child when the family returned to the US.
    – GeneJ
    Nov 12, 2012 at 15:22

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