Tuesday, September 24, 2013

--Ordering New York Naturalization Records--Genealogy Roadshow's Premier

Ordering New York Naturalization

Several weeks ago I was researching my wife's great-grandfather and trying to get more specifics about where in The Kingdom of Wurttemberg he might have come from or his parent's names.  I decided that I should further explore Naturalization Records.  Since he arrived in New York in January 1848 from La Havre, I decided to explore New York Naturalization Records.  I found the web site for the New York City Archives, found some possible matches and ordered copies.  I realized my chances weren't very good as his name was Frederic Schmidt--which is as bad or worse as researching John Smith in the U.S.  

Anyhow, I ordered three records and received them after about a month.  They were prints made from microfilm which provides white lettering on a black background.  For each of the three records I ordered, I received four sheets. The caption on each sheet was "Common Pleas N.Y. Co. Bundle XX Record No. YYY", with the X and Y's being numbers.  They were obviously from the Court of Common Pleas.  The first sheet was like a cover sheet with the individual's name and the date filed.  
First Page--Cover Page
The second page was an affirmation by the individual that it was his intention to become a citizen of the United States and renounced allegiance to his previous country of citizenship, in this case the King of Wurttenberg.
Second Page--Declaration of Intention
  The third page was the cover for the Certificate of Declaration and the fourth page was an affidavit by a friend that the individual had been in America for five years and was a good citizen and a signed statement by the individual swearing allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and again renouncing any allegiance to his prior country.  Although not stated on the document, this appears to be the "Petition".  It is similar to Petitions in "The Source--A Guidebook of American Genealogy" Edited by Loretto Dennis Szuchs & Sandra Hargreaves Luebking.
Third Page--Certificate of Declaration

Fourth Page-Petition

The documents are very difficult to read, in many cases requiring a magnifying glass to decipher the details.  

The only personal information of research value were the dates, his name and the facts he had applied and been granted citizenship.  There was nothing relating to his prior residence, other than the country, Kingdom, etc.; nor about his family.  Since I already knew he came from Wurttemberg, the documents would have been of little help in identifying a specific village or town. However, since all states do not use the same forms; others might be more helpful.  Additionally, I don't think any of the three were the Frederic Schmidt I was seeking. 

I realize it is difficult to read the document; but by showing them I hope to at least give you an idea what to expect.

I was disappointed in what I received; but did learn a few lessons.  My next step is to look at Indianapolis naturalization records, as I now realize that Frederic probably didn't reside in New York long enough to be naturalized there.   In 1795 Congress passed a revised naturalization law requiring five years of residency vice the two previously required by the First Naturalization Act passed in 1790.
Genealogy Roadshow's Premier

I just finished watching the premier of Genealogy Roadshow and must say that I was very impressed.  The title is copied from Antique Roadshow for good reason, that being the fact people bring in their family stories and/or questions about their ancestry and the experts, rather than estimating the value, provide answers to their questions about their family.  I may have lost track; but I believe that at least nine individuals from the Memphis area were featured during the one hour show.  It is important to point out that the questions from the participants were pre-submitted and the research had, obviously, already been completed.  Since the show is on PBS, there were no commercials; thus, much more can be covered in an hour that one might expect.  

Rather that try to review each of the cases that was covered in the show, I prefer to give some of my impressions and opinions.  The two genealogy experts who alternated exploring and explaining the answers to the guest's questions were Kenyatta Berry, President of the Association of Professional Genealogists and Joshua Taylor, Head of the Federation of Genealogical Societies.  In looking at Kenyatta's web site I found some interesting facts, which I think related closely to her role on today's program.  Following is a statement from her website: "In 2004, after years of researching, writing and lecturing I developed Discover Genealogy. Discover Genealogy is the first website to focus on ethnic genealogy. It is my personal goal to broaden the reach of genealogy and connect families to their past.  As part of that mission, I am working to develop slavegenealogy.com to make records related to slavery available online."

Kenyatta Berry
Kenyatta, who is a law school graduate, did narrate the cases of a couple individuals who were African American and whose past was connected with slavery.  This makes sense because researching African American genealogy is a specialty of hers and can be very difficult. 

I thought both Joshua and Kenyatta both did an excellent job, especially when you realize they are professional genealogists--not professional actors.

Joshua Taylor

I think having the crowd of onlookers involved in the show adds a lot, as you could observe how they shared the excitement and emotions of the featured individuals.

I liked the fact that the show demonstrated several times that "family lore" is often not true.  They are usually intriguing stories; but you have to look at them with a jaundiced eye until they are proven.  As was shown on this show, we can't all be related to Davy Crockett or George Washington.  

I think that the show has to capability to become more popular that Who Do You Think You Are.   I say that for a couple reasons.  More time is spent actually revealing the results of research and telling the story than showing where and how the research is done.  The program takes place in a single setting, in this case a historic southern mansion.  I think the audience gets to observe in an hour more of what you can discover doing genealogy than is revealed in one-hour of it's "sister" show WDYTYA.  Thus, there is more of a "WHOW" factor!  Also, there are multiple stories about featured individuals covered in the hour, rather than just one.  In fact, one of the individuals had questions about being related to four different individuals and all were explored.  As you might expect only one of the four turned out to be true.  

The show is on PBS on Monday nights and I highly recommend it (those of you who can't miss Monday Night Football can do like I did--tape it and watch it the next day).