Cover of the 1893-1933; Petition for Naturalization

Becoming American: Declarations and Naturalization Records from Sevier County, Utah

Guest Author Digital Archives, Research

This blog post was written by Valeria T. Solano Rojo, a summer 2023 intern at the Utah State Archives and Records Services. She is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in History from Western Illinois University.

On July 4, 1776, the thirteen colonies declared independence from the British Empire to become the United States of America. The new nation turned into a destination for many immigrants from around the world, attracted by its opportunities and the promise of free land. After only 14 years into independence, the first Federal immigration law by the United States was enacted.1 The Naturalization Act of 1790 allowed free white persons who had been in the United States for at least two years to be granted citizenship.2

The naturalization process in the United States consisted of a three-record rule that involved a Declaration of Intention, Petition for Naturalization, and a Certificate of Naturalization in any State of the nation.3 The declaration of intention was usually signed two years before applying for naturalization, and showed that the immigrant would forsake their birthright citizenship to obtain American citizenship. When granted naturalization, their children (if any) under twenty-one years also acquired citizenship. Similarly, all children born after the naturalization were considered natural-born citizens.4

Declaration of Intention

In Sevier County, Utah, the Declaration of Intention records, or first papers as they are also commonly referred to, date from 1880 to 1896. Each document describes the state, county, and district court where the petition was submitted. The declaration also contains personal and physical information of the attestant like the name, age, occupation, color, complexion, height, weight, hair and eye color, home country, birth date, residency, former country of residency, the vessel and port in which they arrived, and the arrival date.5 The digitized records from this collection reveal that the nationalities of the majority of petitioners to Sevier county were  Danish  and English but the collection  also  includes petitioners from Australia, Cuba, Germany, France, Greece, Norway, Canada, Sweden, and Syria. It is important to mention that if, seven years after filing a declaration of intention, immigrants did not file for a petition for naturalization, the document then became invalid for all purposes.6

Preliminary Form for Petition for Naturalization

The Preliminary form for Petition for Naturalization was a document required prior to filing for naturalization. The form gathered essential information that was necessary in the event that an immigrant filed to become an American citizen. Most of the information that this form required was included in the Declaration of Intention. However, in the Preliminary form, the petitioners also stated their marital status; their children’s date of birth, whether they were able to speak English, whether they wished to change their name, the names of two American witnesses, where they met the witnesses, how often and in which place they saw the witness, and whether they ever left the United States since their arrival.7

Petition for Naturalization

Declaration of Intention dated October 28, 1895.
Found in Series 13476.
Petition for Naturalization dated June 21, 1916.
Found in Series 13476.

The Petition for Naturalization, also called the second papers, was filed three years after an immigrant had completed a declaration of intention.8 In this document immigrants attested to eleven points:

  1. Name
  2. Place of residence
  3. Occupation
  4. Date of birth
  5. Home country
  6. Intention to become American
  7. Marital status
  8. Loyalty to the United States and disapproval of polygamy
  9. Ability to speak English
  10. Permanent residence of five years in the United States
  11. Petition for citizenship

Both the petitioner and the witnesses were required to sign the document to validate their statements. The Petition for Naturalization process did not consist solely of the application itself. During this immigration process, the courts would evaluate both oral and written testimonies of the immigrant’s  worthiness to become an American citizen, as well as the certification of arrival. Once the immigrants were considered eligible for naturalization, then a Certificate of Citizenship was issued attesting to the new citizenship status of the petitioner.

Certificate of Naturalization

Once the American citizenship was granted, then a Certificate of Naturalization, otherwise Form 390, was issued to the newly-naturalized American. This document had a unique six digit number, and also described the person’s name, age, declaration of intention number, the clerk and court, the date, the marital status, plus their children’s names and birth dates (if applicable).

Certificate of Naturalization dated June 1, 1917. Found in Series 13475.
Certificate of Naturalization dated June 1, 1917.
Found in Series 13475.

Additional Sources Used:


  1. Erika Lee, “Immigrants and Immigration Law: A State of the Field Assessment,” Journal of American Ethnic History 18, no. 4 (1999): 88,
  2. “Major US Immigration Laws, 1790–Present,” Migration Policy Institute, accessed December 3, 2022,
  3. “History of the Declaration of Intention (1795–1952),” National Archives, accessed June 8, 2023,
  4. “H. R. 40, Naturalization Bill”
  5. “District Court (Sixth District: Sevier County) Naturalization record books,” Utah Division of Archives and Records Services, Series 13475.
  6. “District Court (Fourth District) Declarations of intention record books,” Utah Division of Archives and Records Services, Series 85169.
  7. “District Court (Sixth District: Sevier County) Declarations of intention record books,” Utah Division of Archives and Records Services, Series 13476.
  8. “History of the Declaration of Intention (1795–1952).”