Skip to main content

Cook County Naturalization: Stories from the Chicago Tribune

Many years ago, I remember seeing a picture of newly naturalized citizens in our local upstate New York newspaper. They were smiling, maybe even holding flags, and I sensed that they had just done something meaningful and significant.  I've always thought of my naturalized ancestors approaching the process in the same sort of way.

It wasn't until I did a search for "naturalization" in the Chicago Tribune Historical Archives that I realized there might be more to the story than a person's driving desire to become a citizen.

In October 1858, for example, the Chicago Tribune was encouraging two groups of individuals to naturalize--men of age who had arrived under the age of eighteen five or more years previous (they could naturalize immediately without filing first papers) and men who had filed declarations two or more years previous so that the waiting period to file the final papers had passed.

Why? Because the 1860 presidential election was coming up and the paper was eager to enroll more Republican voters. "Those who intend to vote the Pro-Slavery ticket need not apply for our assistance," the paper wrote. [1]

So what have I learned from the newspaper about the naturalization process in Cook County and what does it have to do with family history research?

1. Political parties encouraged aliens to naturalize as a way of increasing their voter pool. An October 1880 newspaper tells the story of an 81-year old Irish man who completed the naturalization process forty-nine years after he took out his first papers. The newspaper suggested that political party members "drew the octogenarian from his home and coax him to become a citizen so that he may help to diminish by one the minority for Hancock." [3] If your ancestor naturalized long after he was eligible, he might have received a little bit of outside encouragement.

2. If your ancestor naturalized in October, he might have been caught up in "The Naturalization Mill." In October of 1873 the Criminal Court was "working out citizens faster than a sausage-machine turns out sausages." [2] In October of 1880 the newspaper wrote, "the work of converting the subjects of foreign Kings, Emperors, or other potentates into citizens of the Great Republic is being very briskly carried on in all the courts of the city." [3] There were four courts that handled naturalization in Cook County early on--Circuit, County, Criminal, and Superior--and they sometimes held evening hours in order to accommodate the large numbers of people hoping to naturalize. If you look at the indexes (available on Family History Library film) you can see the entries swell during fall voter registration pushes.

3. The laws were sometimes bent. An 1873 article suggests "perjury is practiced with impunity" and that many of the men who naturalized were "no more entitled to vote than a citizen of Timbucktoo." [2] If you find  a naturalization record with a date that seems to be too soon after the arrival date for your answer, don't rule it on on that basis alone. It also seems that many found it convenient to state that they had arrived a minors to avoid filing first papers. An 1880 article states "A very singular feature was that so many of the applicants claimed to have come to this country while minors under 18 years of age. It would seems as though Ireland, Norway, Sweden, and Germany must have lost all their boys about six or seven years ago." [4]

4. And then there was downright fraud.  In December of 1873, a man who worked in the Criminal Court office, was convicted of issuing fraudulent naturalization papers to allow a fellow saloon-goer to vote. In this case, however, the man with alien status had no desire to vote illegally--it was the clerk who had initiated the process for him--and it was the clerk who was arrested. [5]

The Chicago Tribune published numerous articles on naturalization in the early years and if the subject interests you, I'd encourage you to browse the newspaper on the topic. If you come up with a find worth sharing, please post a comment.

_____________________________________

[1] ""Get Naturalized this Week." Chicago Press and Tribune (1858-1860): 0_1. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Chicago Tribune (1849-1987). Oct 27 1858. Web. 27 Oct. 2011 <http://search.proquest.com/docview/168720474?accountid=6327>.

[2] "Local Politics." Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922): 4. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Chicago Tribune (1849-1987). Oct 30 1873. Web. 27 Oct. 2011 <http://search.proquest.com/docview/171440065?accountid=6327>.

[3] "Naturalization Papers." Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922): 6. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Chicago Tribune (1849-1987). Oct 27 1880. Web. 27 Oct. 2011 <http://search.proquest.com/docview/172289066?accountid=6327>.

[4] "Naturalization." Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922): 6. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Chicago Tribune (1849-1987). Oct 28 1880. Web. 27 Oct. 2011 <http://search.proquest.com/docview/172275293?accountid=6327>. 

[5] "Fraudulent Naturalization Papers." Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922): 3. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Chicago Tribune (1849-1987). 1873. Web. 27 Oct. 2011 <http://search.proquest.com/docview/171460741?accountid=6327>.

Comments

Jennifer Holik said…
Very interesting. I'll have to do a little ProQuest searching myself and see what I find.

Popular posts from this blog

Chicago Lying-In Hospital Birth Records

When I look at birth certificates, I focus on names and dates and places--information I can add to a family tree. When I look at hospital records, I come face to face with the realities of giving birth. I think the records from the Chicago Lying-In Hospital and its satellite clinics provide fascinating and important family history details and I believe they merit a closer look. The hospital records are listed in the Family History Library Catalog (FHLC) as Chicago, Illinois birth records, 1896-1933 . The added author is Northwestern Memorial Hospital and I think the originals are most likely held by the Northwestern Memorial Hospital Archives . These hospital books document services provided by four clinics connected to Dr. Joseph Bolivar DeLee, the physician who founded the Chicago Lying-In Dispensary at Maxwell Street and Newberry Avenue in 1895. D r. DeLee was interested in improving birthing conditions and his clinics offered care to needy women while providing train

Chicago Telephone Books, 1878-1971

This morning my husband and I drove down to the Harold Washington Library at 400 S. State in Chicago so I could explore the resources available at the library for Chicago research—specifically telephone books and newspapers other than the Chicago Tribune . There was a public parking lot just around the corner from the library and the all-day weekend fee was $10.00. Not bad. (During the week parking would cost about $21 but it's easy and inexpensive to get to the library by public transportation, too.) This blog post will focus on telephone books. The first Chicago telephone book appears to be The Telephone Journal , vol. 1, no. 1, published in October 1878. (For a short history of the telephone in Chicago see FundingUniverse.com's page for Illinois Bell Telephone .) The first book includes information about the telephone service along with a three-page “List of Subscribers”--names of businesses and a few individuals along with an address and numbers for “wire” and “call.”

Illinois Residents: Consider Supporting a Bill to Make Coroner's Records Available for a Reasonable Fee

Just got an email from the Chicago Genealogical Society with information that's relevant to Chicago/Cook County genealogical researchers. In short, there's a bill coming up that would reduce the cost to obtain a coroner's inquest record from the current exorbitant fees (it can run hundreds of dollars to get a file) to an affordable rate. If you are an Illinois resident, consider voicing your opinion on the issue. Information about the bill can be found here: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocNum=4210&GAID=15&DocTypeID=HB&LegID=123197&SessionID=108&SpecSess=&Session=&GA=101 And, this form can be used to submit comments: http://my.ilga.gov/WitnessSlip/Create/123197?committeeHearingId=17574&LegislationId=123197&LegislationDocumentId=156293