I have asked an earlier question relating to my fourth great grandfather Hugh Sillars/Sellars: Finding evidence for divorce of Hugh Sillars and Agnes Macculloch in mid-19th Century Scotland? who appears to have migrated to the United States from Scotland prior to 1855 because he appears in the 1855 New York State Census:

Hugh Sellars 52, Ship Carpenter, born in Scotland, living at Albany City, Ward 6, Albany, New York, USA with his wife Mary Sellars 50 (born in England) and four others Harriet Martin 32 Moody M Hale 54 Elizabeth A Hale 18 and Elick Crawford 26

He appears to live in Albany until 1872 because the:

  • 1860 Federal Census Index has him at 9 W. Albany City (Hugh Sellers)
  • 1862-63 Albany Directories have him with a Variety Store and house at 287 Washington Ave
  • 1864 Albany Directory has him with a Variety Store and house at 311 Washington Ave
  • 1866-72 Albany Directories have him with a Variety Store and house at 311 Washington Ave

When and where Hugh died is not known but I suspect it was soon after 1872 and in Albany, because I have found no later records for him, either there or in Scotland.

Is it likely that someone who lived and worked in Albany for at least 17 years (1855-1872) would not have applied to be naturalized? If so, where would a naturalization record most likely be found?

I have located an 1865 New York State Census record:

Hugh Sellars 60, Ship Carpenter, born in Scotland, living at Albany City, Ward 6, Albany, New York, USA with his wife Mary Sellars 60 (born in England) and two others: William H Hall, aged 8, recorded as Hugh's son (?) and Caroline R Foster, aged 7, a Boarder.

Hugh was recorded as having been naturalized which suggests to me that he not only declared his intent but completed the process.

I have also located an 1870 United States Federal Census Record which is very faint but has:

Hugh Sallon(?), Variety Store, aged 67, born in Scotland, with real estate valued at $700, a citizen of the US, living in Albany Subdivision 335, Albany City with his wife Mary, Keep House, aged 66, born in Scotland, with Caroline Foster, At Home, aged 12, born in New York and Henry R. Elliott, Carriage Maker, aged 25, born in England, with personal estate of $100.

This further confirms that he was Naturalized.

  • I checked all the other entries for Albany in the FamilySearch catalog and the entries for the final papers and other proceedings all are on microfilm (no online copy). I just found some records for my own research in Massachusetts (digital copies only, no film) so for some areas it's possible to have some records as film only and some as digital images only. My advice: cross-check the FS Catalog and keep an eye on the updated collections list for your geographical areas of interest -- new material gets added all the time.
    – Jan Murphy
    Oct 21, 2014 at 22:42
  • Even though the Petitions have more information, look for the first papers, too. Some of the Petitions I've found recently were filed in different courts than the Declarations, and there are notations which say at which court the first papers were filed.
    – Jan Murphy
    Oct 25, 2014 at 5:13

2 Answers 2


Use the index record given at the website as a pointer to the appropriate film at the Family History Library, as in my related questions about FHL microfilms.

Your index entry is:

(Book No:) 13 Sellers Hugh (Page No:) 506

  1. Go to FamilySearch.org, select Search, and select Catalog from the drop-down menu.
  2. Enter one of the given film numbers, or enter the title, to pull up the catalog entry for Declarations of intention, 1827-1895.
  3. Read the table to find the appropriate film for Book 13, Page 506. This appears to be Declarations of intention v.13(p.360 to end)-15(p .1-595) 1856-1864 which is the next-to-last entry in the table, film 1301575.
  4. Click on the link for that film number and it will send you to the order form so you can view the film at your local Family History Library.

If you were planning a trip to the US, another option might be to consult the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Here's their guide to finding Naturalization Records.

Records before 1906 were filed with the local courts -- we know from the entry at the FamilySearch Catalog that the record you want was created by the New York. Justices' Court (Albany). After that, copies were filed with the federal government. So you have two possible avenues to find the records. NARA says:

  • Contact the State Archives for the state where the naturalization occurred to request a search of state, county, and local courts records.
  • Contact the NARA regional facility that serves the state where naturalization occurred to request a search of Federal court records. For your record, that is the New York Office.

As far as I can tell, the records for your period from the local courts are not online. Fold3 and Ancestry's catalog entries list records filed with the District Courts. The New York State Archives' Naturalization Pathfinder sends us back to NARA, which has holdings for the District Courts, but not the local courts. So let's go back to Albany County, New York.

A search at the Albany County Court for Naturalizations gives us these results.

On the Genealogy: How to Research Page it says:

The Archives staff will assist all researchers whether in person or by mail. If the research is done by mail request, there is a $20.00 per hour search fee. The only charges for research on site is for paper copies of records (50 Cents per page) or for written certification that the record is a copy of the original ($4.00). You may print out a research request form by clicking here.

I searched for Hugh Sellers in their online index, but I could not get a search result that matched the information you got from the index posted at http://www.naturalizationrecords.com/usa/ . I tried searching for anyone named Hugh, any name containing Sel, anyone who came from Scotland or England, and any location containing Albany. However, in the search results I did get, I did not see any entries for Book 13, so it may be that the Albany County site is missing part of the index in their own online search.

It would be cheaper to order the FHL microfilm than to pay the research fees at Albany County, but looking at the Albany County site is still worthwhile. Their description of the records says:

  1. Declaration of Intention and Naturalization (1827 - 1991) These records are for Albany County only. The Declaration of Intention includes name of alien, age, homeland, port of departure, two references, intended settlement, an oath to support the U.S. Constitution and to renounce allegiance to their former ruler. The Naturalization record is a statement of a person's required residence and good character, petition to become a citizen and the court's ruling to admit him or her as a citizen. Some of the petitions record the name of the ship the person sailed on and the name of other family members. By the mid Twentieth Century, naturalizations included Ellis Island certificate of admission and an identification photo. Note: until the early 1900's naturalization proceedings were not required for married women, who were automatically naturalized when their husbands were, or children. Naturalizations do exist for unmarried women.

For more information about naturalization proceedings for Women, see these articles at NARA:

A Google image search for "Declaration of Intention" will yield results from many different eras, but generally the Declaration is a one-page form, which sometimes included a photo. Microfilmed images are likely to be two pages, one for the front side of the form, and one for the reverse, as you can see from the Declaration of Intention for Greta Garbo at NARA. This is a federal form from a much later period, but the earlier examples I've seen via Google also seem to be one sheet forms.

NARA's research guide for Naturalization Records gives an overview of the entire process in the United States. In some cases, you may not be able to find a Declaration of Intention. A FAQ at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Why Some C-Files May Lack a Declaration of Intention, explains some of the exemptions. In the sidebar, they also say that a person may have filed a Declaration and never finished the process, so just because you find a Declaration, that by itself won't guarantee the existence of a Petition or a Naturalization Certificate. Unfortunately, USCIS destroyed their copies of expired Declarations, so any surviving copies will be in the court files.

One other note: if you did not have the index record from the FHL film which told us which court the records came from, I would have suggested searching the surrounding counties as well as Albany County.

Another thing to watch out for: if you find a record which has a bundle of documents, sometimes the outside folder which bears the file number will be at the end of the image group. So if you find what appears to be the cover or file jacket for Hugh Sellars and the next image on the roll belongs to a different person, go through the images backwards until you find the next file jacket.

Further reading:

  • Many thanks for all that info. I think I'll look into ordering the FHL microfilm and work out my next steps from there. One of your quotes clears up for me why Hugh's wife (I believe his second) did not submit a Declaration of Intent at the same time (even if she was still alive, of which I am uncertain).
    – PolyGeo
    Oct 18, 2014 at 7:41
  • 1
    @PolyGeo I've fixed an error at the end of the answer, and added links to USCIS and to the two articles at NARA about women and naturalization.
    – Jan Murphy
    Oct 18, 2014 at 19:07

I just used Google to search on 'albany naturalization' and found my way to the INDEX TO DECLARATIONS OF INTENT 1827-1895, BOOKS 13 - 15 Oct. 1856 - Nov. 1895, Source: FHC Film 1301572 Item 3 Declarations of intention, 1856- 1895 New York which lists:

(Book No:) 13 Sellers Hugh (Page No:) 506

It says:

This index is for Declarations of intention, 1856 - 1864? New York. Justices' Court (Albany) Books 13-15. (Microfilm of original records in the Department of Human Resources, City Hall, Albany, New York)

Once you find your ancestor's name on this index, you must consult Declarations of intention v. 13 (p. 1-360), Oct-Dec 1856 FHL US/CAN Film 1301574 Item 4; Declarations of intention v.13 (p.360 to end) - 15 (p .1-595) 1856-1864 FHL US/CAN Film 1301575; Declarations of intention v.15 (p.595 to end) FHL US/CAN Film 1301678 Item 1

and I am now trying to understand what this means, and whether there is an image of that Declaration of Intention available anywhere.

I'm reading up at http://www.naturalizationrecords.com/usa/.

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