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Immigration and Naturalization

Unless your ancestors were Native American Indians, it's a pretty safe bet to say they emigrated here from somewhere else. From where? Now, there's the problem!

The principal groups that came to Iowa from the early 1800's to the early 1900's:

  • 1788-1810: The first European settlers in Iowa were French-Canadians, who worked in the lead mines near present-day Dubuque. 
  • 1833-1850: The Black Hawk Treaty of 1833 opened most of Iowa to white settlement. Southern Iowa immigration began as the American government negotiated treaties extinguishing the remaining Indian claims. Settlers came from other states, particularly Kentucky and Tennessee. Northern Iowa immigration came primarily from Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Middle Atlantic and New England States. 
  • 1850-60: The population of Iowa nearly tripled. Ohio and Indiana contributed more settlers than all other states and immigration from Europe increased. Many immigrants arrived from Germany, Ireland and Britain. 
  • Late 1800's: Many Scandinavians immigrated. 
  • Early 1900's: Small groups of Austro-Hungarians and Italians arrived. 

Many early settlers of Iowa came by way of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. The main steamboat route from the Middle Atlantic states and the Southern states followed the Ohio River and the Mississippi to Keokuk. 

The westward migration of Latter-Day Saints opened an overland trail from the Mississippi River to Council Bluffs which was still used by covered wagons long after the railroad first reached the Mississippi in 1854. 

Sometimes the migration of a family took a course of several years. For example, a family might leave Ohio, travel to Illinois and run out of money or supplies.  These, or other hardships, may cause the family to decide to stay in Illinois for a year or more before they can regroup and travel on. 

Until 1850 most overseas immigrants came through the ports of New Orleans or New York.  After 1850 most European settlers came through ports in New York or Canada. 

Naturalization and Citizenship

Naturalization proceedings in Iowa are handled primarily by district courts.  These records include declarations of intention, petitions for naturalization and certificates of naturalization and citizenship (final papers).  These records may give a person's age, country or city of origin, date and/or port of arrival and names of witnesses.  After September 1906, they may also contain birth date and birthplace, names of spouses and children with their birth dates and birthplaces, and the name of the ship.  Naturalization papers may be included with homestead land applications.

Before 1906, a man's wife and minor children were considered naturalized citizens when the man completed his application requirements, or even if the husband died during his waiting period. 

Men who fought in the Civil War were often given citizenship upon being discharged from service.   

The following district court index can be a useful source:

United States. District Court (Iowa: Central Division).  General Index to Declaration of Intentions and Petitions, 1909-1948; Declaration of Intentions, 1917-1936; Petitions, 1909-1936. Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1991.  On 11 FHL films beginning with 1769765 item 12; computer number 709141.

The National Archives-Central Plains Region (Kansas City, MO) has the records of the U.S. District Court in Keokuk for 1853-1874.  

List of Persons Naturalized, 1853-1874. Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1973. FHL film 928522 item 8; fiche 6046977; computer number 286156.

For records after September 1906, contact the National Archives-Central Plains Region (Kansas City, MO) or the local office of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Microfilm for Clinton County

The following microfilm is available through LDS Family History Centers. Some, if not all, are also at the Clinton Public Library. 

  • Index to naturalization records 1859-1877 & Naturalization records v.  1-2 1859-1877 -FHL film number 1005220 
  • Naturalization records v.  3-5 1877-1892 -FHL film number 1005221 
  • Naturalization records v.  6-8 1892-1906 -FHL film number 1005222 
  • Minors' naturalization records v.  1-4 1855-1903 -FHL film number 1005224 
  • Minors' naturalization records 1903 -FHL film number 1845835 Item 3 
  • Index to declarations of intention 1880-1930 -FHL film number 1845835 Item 4 
  • Declarations of intention v.  1-3 1855-1859 -FHL film number 1005225 Items 1-3 
  • Declarations of intention 1906-1909 p.  1-235 1909-1918 -FHL film number 1845835 Items 5-6 
  • Declarations of intention p.  235-end 1909-1918 v.  6-9 1918-1950 -FHL film number 1845836 Items 1-5 
  • Declarations of intention & petitions v.  4-7 1927-1937 -FHL film number 1845998 
  • Declarations of intention & petitions v.  8-9 1937-1954 -FHL film number 1845999 Items 1-2 
  • Declarations of intention & petitions v.  1 1904-1911 -FHL film number 1845836 Item 6 
  • Declarations of intention & petitions v.  2 1910-1919 -FHL film number 1845837 
  • Declarations of intention & petitions v.  3A-3B 1916-1927 -FHL film number 1845997 
  • Final papers 1855-1859 -FHL film number 1005225 Item 4 
  • Citizenship petitions denied and 1930-1955 recommended to be granted -FHL film number 1845999 Item 3 
  • Repatriations 1938-1953 -FHL film number 1845999 Item 4
  • Minors' naturalization records v.  1-2 1870-1886 -FHL film number 1005223 

The Clinton County Historical Society has most of the Naturalization books from the courthouse. Jan Hansen has indexed all of the names in the books.

Once you have found the records you need, you should be able to get a copy of the original document from the clerk's office listed below or from the Clinton County Historical Society.

County Clerk's Office
Clinton County Courthouse
North 2nd Street 
Clinton, IA 52732