1875 Citizenship

We have the original signed document granting citizenship dated 1875. The document shows State of New York, City and County of Albany at the top but states the Justice's Court of the City of Albany. Due to the age, there isn't a record number associated with it.

Would this fall under the citation format under 8.31 even though there is no document number or record book reference?



Submitted byEEon Sun, 10/06/2019 - 21:28

Carrie, you state "We have ..." but did not state where or how you obtained the document. As you describe it, it would seem to be a family artifact. If so, then you would cite as such, including the provenance by which it came to you. You would not attribute it to any government office or archive facility because no one else would find that document there.

Submitted byjadeeyes567on Mon, 10/07/2019 - 08:58

My apologies, it is a document that has been included with family papers.   Thank you very much for the feedback.  I was concerned because when I did a search on naturalization papers, there is a reference to a register book with the county which is understandable but since this is something that has been passed down through the family - I didn't know if I could document it like a family artifact.


Submitted byEEon Mon, 10/07/2019 - 10:31

Jadeeyes, it's natural instinct to look up a specific item, each time we find something different. But there are underlying principles that are missed that way; and then the examples aren't understood. EE advises new users to do the following:

1. Read the QuickStart Guide.

2. Read the first two chapters.

3. Skim every other chapter (each of which focuses on a different class of records), reading at least the introductory pages for that chapter and the discussions/explanations of quirks that appear before and citation models. Often those quirky situations appear within many different types of records. A citation issue we find in censuses, example, might also be encountered with a courthouse record. EE discusses each of those quirky issues the first time it's introduced in a model, but does not repeat each of them for every type of record.

Submitted byjadeeyes567on Thu, 10/17/2019 - 07:49

Followup question.

In reviewing the document to determine if the information would be considered primary or secondary, I have managed to hopelessly confuse myself.

As it is a naturalization certificate, the individual providing the personal details would be the informant.  The clerk would be recording said information onto the document, affixing the seal and signing the document as testimony for the approval of citizenship.

Does this make the information secondary as it was being relayed from the informant to the clerk who recorded it or would it be primary as it was being recorded and witnessed as the event was occurring?



When people give information on themselves to officials for recording purposes, that would be considered  firsthand  or primary information. Our usual problem comes with proving that the information was or was not given by the person involved. This uncertainty is less likely to be the case with a naturalization record than with, say, a passenger list for which the father of an immigrating family likely supplied the information for all family members. In a case such as that, then information he gave on (say) his wife's birthplace or age would not be firsthand info in many cases—a situation we deal with on censuses also.

This is not to say that the official who recorded the information did so accurately. He could have misunderstood the person. This is no different from (say) us witnessing an accident and giving a "firsthand" account that may differ from the account of another witness who saw things from a different angle.

While we evaluate information from the standpoint of primary vs. secondary (firsthand vs. secondhand), and we evaluate the source from the standpoint of original vs. derivative vs. a narrative combination, there is no label that we can slap onto a piece of information and thereafter say "I can believe this because primary is better than secondary and original is better than derivative." Any record can err. Those labels only speak to the odds of problems occurring. This is why reliable conclusions (i.e., "proof") requires

  • reasonably exhaustive research using quality sources
  • careful documentation so we know what information comes from which source and how reliable each source is likely to be
  • skilled analysis and correlation of the evidence
  • resolution of any conflicting evidence
  • a written conclusion that lays out the evidence and the reasoning