Saturday, October 12, 2019
Naturalization Records for New York
I'm back to my old haunts once again, indexing New York City naturalization records at FamilySearch.org. Although I've been most recently doing research on my Polish ancestors in scary foreign-language websites in a cloud far, far from home, I don't have the guts to try my hand at transcribing any of those documents for my monthly indexing project. I reverted to my old hang for one simple reason: no matter where they came from in Europe, most of my immigrant ancestors did come through the port at the Big Apple.
Not that this is an easy slog. I've done easier in my many forays into volunteer indexing. Though the forms are mostly typewritten—no struggles with ambiguous handwriting there—they are sometimes digitized in such a way as to cause frustration. Overlays on top of unrelated forms—which one to pay attention to?—or instructions which don't seem to fit the form I'm viewing, or attempts for a one-size-fits-all instruction sheet for multiple types of forms can sometimes add to a volunteer's frustration.
However—and that is a big forever, spoken with a deep sigh—it is this record set upon which so many researchers rely to trace their family lines back to the "old country." Many of these documents divulge the exact village where immigrants were born, or where they lived just prior to boarding their ship for passage to America. Though not all of the information given on the naturalization forms is transcribed via the indexing process—thus my perennial warning to look at the document, not just the cover information—there can be a wealth of resources naming each of the children in a family, their dates of birth, sometimes even the specific place where each of them was born.
Thus, the treasure trove which many researchers would love to stumble upon. Only, until those digitized documents are transcribed into a computer-searchable format, we'd still have to hand-crank through microfilmed versions of these records. The indexing process is what makes searching for ancestral records on a website like FamilySearch seem almost magical—or at least instantaneous. Although the hunt and peck and wait-for-snail-mail routine of the decades pre-Internet may have developed a researcher's virtue of patience, we can now simply speed ahead and conquer multiple generations in the time it once took to discover, to our dismay, that we just sent our stamped, self-addressed envelope and cashier's check away for documentation on the wrong Johann Schmidt.