Index to Declarations of Intention
Filed in Denver District Federal Court, 17 April 1877 to 3 December 1929
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The records indexed in this publication are designated as "Declaration of Intention" and were extracted from Entry 47 of the National Archives-Rocky Mountain Region’s Preliminary Inventory of Records of the US District Court of Colorado. The records are dated from 17 April, 1877 (although there is only one small volume dating before 1906), through 3 December, 1929, and they were filed in Denver District Federal Court. The indexed names were extracted from Declaration Volumes 1 through 25 (from Volume 25 only records from 1929 are included), a part of Record Group 21, currently housed at the National Archives and Records Administration, Rocky Mountain Region, at Building 48 of the Denver Federal Center. These "Declaration of Intention" petitions were completed by the Clerk of the District Court; they were among the first documents filed in the naturalization process.
The first naturalization act, passed by Congress in 1790, provided that any free, white, adult alien, male or female, who had resided within the jurisdiction of the United States for a period of 2 years was eligible for citizenship. In 1795, Congress increased the period of residence required for citizenship from 2 to 5 years. It also required applicants to declare publicly their intention to become citizens of the United States and to renounce any allegiance to a foreign sovereignty 3 years before admission as citizens. These actions could be taken before any court of any State or Territory, or before a Federal circuit or district court of the United States.
In 1802, Congress passed an act that directed the clerk of the court to record the entry of all aliens into the United States. The clerk collected information from each applicant, but each court used its own forms and format. Other minor revisions were made to the process during the 19th Century, but the most important ones occurred in 1855, when citizenship was automatically granted to alien wives of U.S. citizens, and in 1870, when the naturalization process was opened to persons of African descent.
On June 27, 1906, Congress passed an act that standardized the paperwork recorded for the naturalization process. The procedure began with the filing of a declaration of intention, which recorded the applicant's oath to the clerk of the court that it was his or her to become a citizen of the United States, to reside permanently therein, and to renounce all allegiances to other nations. Within a period of 2 to 7 years after filing the declaration, the applicant could petition the court for citizenship, presenting at this time the affidavits of two witnesses with personal knowledge of the applicant, stating that the applicant had resided in the United States for at least 5 years and possessed a good moral character. The petition then became the subject of an investigation and hearing before a judge; if the judge found the findings favorable, the judge would issue an order of admission to citizenship and grant the applicant a certificate of citizenship. Children of successful applicants, if under 21 years of age, automatically became citizens too.
A major change in this procedure occurred in 1952, when the filing of the declaration of intention was eliminated. It should be noted that in 1922 Congress enacted a law that changed the naturalization procedure for married women. Before that date, women who were married to a U.S. citizen or naturalized citizen automatically became U.S. citizens by reason of the marriage, and normally no record was formally issued. The new law required that any woman married after September of 1922 who desired to become a citizen must meet the requirements of the naturalization laws. No declaration of intention was needed, however, and the period of required residence was reduced from 5 years to 1 year.
The Declarations of Intention indexed by this project contain varying forms and information, as the Immigration Bureau often updated the forms used. Additionally, this series only indexes Declarations that were filed in federal courts. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, many individuals were naturalized in state or local courts instead of in federal courts. Records of naturalizations, including Declarations of Intention, filed in state or local courts should be held by the clerk of the court or by the state archives or similar agency. Researchers should inquire with the Colorado State Archives (http://www.colorado.gov/dpa/doit/archives/natural/) or the county clerk’s office.
To order a copy of a Declaration of Intention found in this index, please e-mail the National Archives-Rocky Mountain Region at firstname.lastname@example.org or you may write to them at NARA, Archival Operations, P.O. Box 25307, Denver, Colorado 80225. Their phone number is 303-407-5740. There is a $10.00 mail order fee for copies. Microfilm copies of these same declarations are also available for research in their Microfilm Research Room. Self-service copies of this microfilm can be made at a cost of $.30 per page. The Archives have declarations through 1953, although this index only goes through 1929.