Friday, July 5, 2024

First, the First Papers


In searching for more information on our immigrant Stevens ancestor in Lafayette, Indiana, let's start with the first step: the Declaration of Intention, or what is often called "first papers."

The idea of the Declaration was to formally have the immigrant state his or her intention to renounce any allegiance to the country of origin, and instead transfer that affiliation to the United States government. In order to assure that transference of allegiance, signing that Declaration became the doorway through which the immigrant stepped into a waiting room of sorts: the waiting period required before proceeding to the next step in the naturalization process.

In the case of Hugh Stevens, the possible brother of my husband's second great-grandfather John Stevens, his arrival in Indiana by 1852 meant a waiting period of two years.

What I've already observed by looking at various Declarations over the years for ancestors in various states is that the format used for that document was not a standard layout. Different time periods and different jurisdictions required different sets of information. In the case of Hugh Stevens' arrival just after John Stevens own immigration (and long before major changes to the process in 1906) tells me that, since they both filed in the same court, Hugh's record will likely contain much the same categories of information.

That an immigrant could file a Declaration of Intention in one court, then proceed to file the Petition for Naturalization in a different court—or never file one at all—is highly likely, compounding the problems with researching such material. In this case, I've already noted that Hugh filed his first papers at the Tippecanoe County courthouse, but I already know I have no guarantee of finding the rest of the paperwork at the same location.

I've already taken the first step to obtain a copy of Hugh Stevens' Declaration of Intention. While we're waiting to examine the details, we'll first explore what is now available online for Tippecanoe County. Next week, we'll revisit two websites which have provided ongoing assistance to me in my pursuit of Stevens family history.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...