William Yensull (also spelled Yensule or Yencule) became a Naturalized Citizen of the United States on April 20th, 1896. Based on his Naturalization Certificate, issued in the Illinois county of Christian, he was previously a citizen of Russia and it has been documented as his place of birth.

It is estimated that he was born in 1875 based on an Illinois Miners Certificate, issued on the 1st of October 1915, and the Naturalization Certificate. He married Kazy Kaserovich (aka Cassie Zelenski) in Saint Louis on the 27th of October 1914.

William lived in Illinois for at least 20 years but died in Ohio the 7th of January 1934. I'd like to find information on his parents (or other relatives), but mostly, any information that allows tracking him from Russia to America.

To complicate William's lineage further, there is talk that his mother was of Navajo descent and, though William was born in Russia, his father had met his mother in America and brought her to Russia.

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    Actually, that doesn't, since I already had that information and there were questions on the validity of it (yes, the census information can be wrong) I only included the information I could validate in my question. His wife has been validated as being from Lithuania, but they didn't come to this country together. When,Where and How he came to America hasn't been established. Clearly he was in America between 1896 and 1920, yet the two census records one would assume he'd appear in are coming up empty. May 1, 2013 at 18:55
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    Simply put, Cassie has been confirmed by living relatives. There is the possibility that's wrong as well since the two census are after 1918 and it may have been the thing to do (claim nationality of a now independent nation). But to keep things in scope of my question, where Cassie is from is not relevant. May 1, 2013 at 23:58
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    As you probably know, his birthplace is transcribed as "Austra Lituanian" (it would be useful to see the image) on the death of an infant son in 1921. If he's claiming to be Lithuanian but is actually Russian he's at least being consistent. I don't see any evidence that suggests he's faking it though.
    – Rob Hoare
    May 2, 2013 at 6:01
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    @LennartRegebro, I like the thought of attempting to find him in passenger lists, but which route he took and when is still a hurdle. If his mother truly is Navajo, and she traveled to Russia, then there are multiple lists I'd like to find. As I come across new information I'll update the question until there is a firm answer. Thanks Sep 18, 2013 at 18:49
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    Have you found a WWI Draft Registration card? archives.gov/research/military/ww1/draft-registration "The third registration was held on September 12, 1918, for men age 18 through 45." Someone born 1875 would have been 43 in 1918.
    – Jan Murphy
    Nov 29, 2013 at 19:38

3 Answers 3


One possible avenue of research is to look for Naturalization records. You have the certificate and you know the court which issued it.

The National Archives' introductory section on finding Naturalization records is here: http://www.archives.gov/research/naturalization/#find

For records prior to 1906, they say: "Contact the State Archives for the state where the naturalization occurred to request a search of state, county, and local courts records."

The Illinois State Archives has regional depositories for local records which have been turned over to the state archives:


Illinois Regional Archives Depository (IRAD) System

The State Archives administers a system of Illinois Regional Archives Depositories (IRAD) to manage the archival records of local governments. Local governments which have transferred records to the regional depositories include counties, townships, municipalities and school districts. Located on seven state university campuses, regional depositories house and service those records of local governments which have been appraised as having long-term values and have been transferred to the Archives. Records include: naturalization records, including declarations of intent

If you can find the "second papers" or Petition for naturalization, those papers might have the information about his arrival in the US, which would narrow down the search for any passenger lists that might be available. (In my own research, we have notes that came down through the family about the arrivals -- the arrival dates were not accurate, but the ship names were correct.)

The best process for searching the manifests will depend on the arrival date, but I recommend the One-Step Webpages by Stephen P. Morse at http://stevemorse.org/ .

Since this answer was first written, a court record about his Naturalization has been found -- see Naturalized in 1896, but cannot be found anywhere in the US 1900 or 1910 censuses?. It did not list his arrival, but there is other information that could be clues to further research.


I'd like to throw a possible scenario into the mix, that may be impossible to prove or disprove.

Russia "owned" Alaska until 1867 (Alaska Purchase).
The Aleut and Yup'ik live in the Aleutian Islands and western Alaska. They had early contact with Russians.
The Trans-Siberian Railway was built 1891 to 1916.
The Navajo live primarily in Arizona and New Mexico.

For William Yensull's mother to be a Navaho, his FATHER must have been in the U.S. before William's birth in 1875 (very unlikely that a native American woman would travel to Russia on her own at that time). He could have entered the U.S. from Siberia, either overland from Alaska or through a California port. California would be closer to Navaho territory, but Alaska would make sense because of earlier Russian colonization. If the father had been in Alaska, a Alaskan native as William's mother (not Navaho) would be more likely and no need for the father to enter the continental U.S. at all.

The 1915 miner's certificate and a theoretical Alaskan connection suggest William could have taken part in the Alaskan gold rushes of the 1890s and early 1900s. This could explain why he was not found in 1900 and 1910 censuses in Illinois. It may also be possible that William himself entered the U.S. from the west coast instead of using the more common Atlantic ports.


Mother said her Grandfather, was supposed to have been here in the United States during some kind of fighting w/the Indians in the West. Now he either captured her or married....my late older brother was telling me this. My Mother said that her Father's Father was a Swede & that her Father's Mother was a Navajo Indian. This is what her Father, William , had told her. Now we figured they may have gone up the coast to Alaska & crossed over to Russia. The census of 1910 state he, my, Grandfather (William), was from what they used to call Little Russia in those, which is now Lithuania. Cassie was my Grandmother , which I new as I was growing up....her English was not very good. She was married 4 or 5 times & came in the East side. Her 1st husband was here already & saved money for her passage to the States. He came down w/pneumonia & heere she was unable to speak English. William was her 4th? husband, there was quite a difference in the ages...like close to 30 years difference. We have no pictures of him. Mother said that he would not allow pictures to be taken of him. The 1910 census states that my Grandfather was not in any wars (not a veteran). Have not found a 1900 census yet. The 1910 census ...all the dates & area match up BUT someone that took the census made the Y appear to be a J by the way they wrote & then someone typed it & made it into a J instead of Y. If you look at that letter it can be deciphered as as either.

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