Tuesday, August 5, 2008

7 Days, 7 Requests - Immigration Files

On September 12 of 1906, my great grandfather, Leo Schrader, signed a Declaration of Intention stating that he intended to become a citizen of the United States. Five months earlier, Leo, his wife, Emma and his two young sons, Willi and Max had disembarked from the SS Amerika at Ellis Island. The declaration was the first in a series of steps leading to US Citizenship.

Changes made on September 27, 1906 may have created impediments to Leo’s completing the naturalization process. As far as we know, this is where Leo’s path to citizenship ended.

In 1940, with the threat of global conflict, the Alien Registration Act of 1940 was enacted. It required registration and fingerprinting of all aliens 14 years old and older. Almost 5 million people were registered and fingerprinted at their local post office from August 27, 1940 to December 26, 1940.

As a direct result of the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, President Roosevelt issued a proclamation requiring further registration of all aliens, fourteen and older, from enemy nations – Germany, Italy and Japan. Leo and Emma were among those required to register in the month of February 1942.

Information on the 1940 form included:

1. Name (maiden names for females as well as any other names the individual had used)
2. Current Address
3. Birth date and Birth place
4. Country of Claimed Citizenship
5. Marital Status, Sex and Race
6. Physical Characteristics
7. Information on the last port of arrival in the US
8. Length of time in the US
9. Occupation
10. Membership in clubs and organizations
11. Any Previous Military or Naval Service
12. Names of relatives living in the US
13. Any arrests
14. Any political affiliations in past 5 years

While Leo and Emma were required to register twice, it is important to know that if your ancestor was living in the US in 1940 and was not a US citizen, he or she would have been required to fill out an Alien Registration form regardless of their country of origin. If that is the case, there is a file out there waiting for you to view.

The request must be made in writing and to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Taken from the USCIS website, you will find the four steps needed to make the request:

1. On your written request, include a daytime phone number so that we may contact you. Fees in searching, copying and reviewing records may apply, see below.

2. Provide as much information as possible on the subject matter. This will help expedite the search process.

3. Verification of Identity, Guardianship, Accompanying Persons, and Amendment requests are requirements for making a request for records of a personal nature. Requests for disclosure of records on individuals other than yourself require consent or proof of death.

4. Mail requests for USCIS records to the National Records Center, FOIA/PA Office, P. O. Box 648010, Lee’s Summit, MO 64064-8010.

The USCIS website goes on to state:

Requests are deemed to constitute an agreement to pay any applicable fees that may be chargeable up to $25.00 without notice. Most requests do not require any fees; however, if fees exceed $25.00, we will notify you beforehand. Do not submit fees with initial requests.

You can download and use a form G-639 to make the request.

Because my great grandparents are deceased, I had to furnish proof of death, which for Leo was an obituary and for Emma a copy of her death certificate. I requested their complete immigration file, including but not limited to their alien registration forms. The requests went out in yesterday’s mail.

Two letters, two requests – Boo Yah!

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