Thursday, February 19, 2015

Finding New Jersey County Naturalization Records

My mother-in-law's family arrived in Woodbine, New Jersey, soon after its founding in 1891. I have written about the naturalization of her father, Max Levitt, and her great-grandfather, Simche Siegel, both in Cape May County, New Jersey.

An ongoing project is to clean up my source citations in Family Tree Maker. I had found another naturalization record, for Simche's son-in-law, Wolff (or William) Siegel, at in the New Jersey, Cape May County, New Jersey, County Naturalization Records, 1749-1986 and wanted to make sure my source citations were consistent for these three. I then realized that I had received Simche Siegel's records from a Seigle/Segal cousin, and had used a different (not very complete) citation. In order to make these citations consistent, I explored FamilySearch's Cape May County Naturalizations again, looking for Simche.

To summarize what I found:
Wolff Siegel's petition number is 99, and his records can be found on images 1496-1500.
Simche Siegel's petition number is 120, and his records can be found on images 1614-1618.
Max Levitt's petition number is 186 1/2, and his records can be found on images 2311-2320.

I made a few interesting observations while looking through these images (there are a total of 2,742, but I haven't looked at every one and I'm sure there are other relatives to be found).

There were many Woodbine men who declared their intention to become a U.S. citizen on November 1, 1892. (Remember, at this time, only men applied for citizenship; women's citizenship was based on her father or her husband.)

And many of those men subsequently became a citizen on January 8, 1900, or January 29, 1900.

Some of the records include several extra pages, which can include much later correspondence from the individual or a descendant looking to confirm citizenship status, so if you're looking at these, be sure to view the next record (and previous record) until you're sure you've found all of the images that pertain to your ancestor.

Cape May County, New Jersey, Naturalization Records, 1749-1986.
Petitions for naturalization and petition evidence 1805-1906. Digital images,,
Petition No. 99, image 1500, record for Wolff / William Siegel.

This image is the last page of Wolff Siegel's record. The top shows that Fred Schmidt, a U.S. citizen who is well acquainted with Wolff Siegel, is witness to the naturalization. (He also appears on the naturalization page for Simche Siegel on January 29, 1900, and for Max Levitt on September 30, 1903.) In fact, I noticed that Fred / Frederick Schmidt, a German-born farmer/gardener in Woodbine, appears as witness on many of the naturalizations in this time period. He was born in the 1840s and had arrived in the U.S. and became a citizen many years before.

Wolff (who signs his name William Sigial) swears that he renounces his allegiance to the Czar of Russia, and by order of the court, he becomes a citizen of the United States on January 8, 1900. (On the earlier Declaration of Intention, he signed with his mark, meaning he couldn't write his name at that time in 1892.)

By 1920, William and his family had moved to Philadelphia, where he continued in the clothing business. (He was a tailor in Woodbine.) He appears with the name William Siegel (or a variation of the spelling) in later records. He died in 1941 as a result of injuries suffered by being hit by a car. (See his tombstone here.)

Searching these naturalization records can be tedious because they are not usually indexed, but it's great when you can find your ancestor. Although most only provide a country of birth (Russia, Austria), occasionally you will find a town name. Also, after 1906, the naturalization paperwork provides a great deal more information, including town of birth and all family members.


  1. Good find! Too many people are intimidated when they see that a FamilySearch collection has not been indexed. But, many times (as you have found) the search is worth the effort.

    1. Yes, I'm intimidated too, but sometimes determination wins out (because I knew Max Levitt must be in there) and found that it really was worth the effort!

      Thanks for reading and commenting.