When tracing your U.S. family history to it’s origins overseas, one of the critical components to the puzzle can be naturalization documents. Naturalization was the process U.S. immigrants went through to become citizens. When Gustav Wrann came to this country circa 1881 there was a three step process. The first step was to file a Declaration Of Intention wherein the immigrant swore allegiance to the U.S. and renounced citizenship to their homeland. Gustav Wrann completed this step in 1882 – the documentation of which I wrote about here. The second step could only be completed after the immigrant had been a resident of this country for five years. This step was called the Petition For Naturalization and was the application to a local court for citizenship. The third and final step was the Certificate Of Naturalization with which the court designated the applicant a legal citizen of the United States.
Last year I stumbled upon a new website called Footnote that sold scans of a variety of old documents. One of the many series of documents available was an index to naturalization petitions for the New York County Superior Court. As most of my research into Wrann history has been difficult (to put it mildly) I wasn’t actually expecting to find anything. I typed in “Wrann” and up came:
M1674 Soundex Index to Petitions for Naturalizations Filed in Federal, State, and Local Courts in New York City, 1792-1906
“What’s this?”, I thought to myself. Who was Ferdinand Wrann? At this point all anyone knew was that our immigrant ancestor’s name was Gustav. I noted that his occupation was “Cigar Packer” which we knew from the City Directories we had found his name in. When I saw the address – the SAME address that appeared on Gertrude Wrann’s Birth Certificate in 1886, I knew this was the man who up to this point we had only known as Gustav.
Since the index card contained a bundle and record number I knew I could order his naturalization documents from the National Archives. I placed the order online through NARA’S website and for $10 I’d have copies of those records in a few short weeks.
The records arrived and I was disappointed to find that they contained nothing indicating where EXACTLY in Germany he was from or an exact date of arrival in the U.S. The following documents can be enlarged by clicking on them.
Declaration Of Intention (COPY)
The first document in the Naturalization packet is a handwritten copy of Gustav’s Declaration Of Intention which he had originally filed in 1882. Obviously since they didn’t have copy machines back then a “copy” was actually just the original document redone and signed by the court clerk verifying it’s authenticity. They even signed Gustav’s name on it!
Ferdinand Gustav Wrann's Declaration Of Intention (Copy)
Petition For Naturalization
The second document in the packet is the Petition For Naturalization dated October 8, 1886 (a little over a week prior to his daughter Gertrude’s birth). This is the document where Gustav renounces his allegiance to the Emperor Of Germany (at the time it was William I – King Of Prussia) and pledges he will support the U.S. Constitution.
This document is also signed by a Frederick Bohle who is confirming that Gustav has been in the U.S. for five years and has been a citizen of New York State for at least one year. He’s also vouching for Gustav’s moral character. Frederick is also a Cigar Packer so presumably they worked together.
The petition is signed by Gustav and what’s interesting is that it appears he attempted to sign it “F. Gustav Wrann”. The “F.” is crossed out and he’s then written out the name Ferdinand. This would indicate that he preferred going by Gustav instead of Ferdinand. Several months ago I posted my discovery to a German genealogical forum and someone responded with “Many Germans had a baptismal name and a ‘call’ name. In your case Ferdinand may have been the baptismal name but everyone used his middle or call name, Gustav. If he shared an entire name with his father he may have actually been called a third name which would not appear in any legal documents but may have been used in a ships manifest or census listing.” Food for thought…
Ferdinand Gustav Wrann's Petition For Naturalization 1886
Certificate Of Naturalization
The third and final document in the packet is the Certificate Of Naturalization. This document approves Gustav’s petition and declares him a citizen of the United States. The Certificate is dated the October 6, 1886, the same day he filed his petition. The naturalization bundle was filed with the NY Superior Court two days later on October 8, 1886.
In 1906 naturalization forms required more information so if my great great grandfather had arrived in the U.S after that year these documents would probably indicate when and where he arrived and possibly the exact town he was born in. Unfortunately these documents, while interesting, don’t bring us any closer to finding out where he came from.