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Citizen Gain
5/1/2008
Want to come out ahead in your genealogical research? Follow this four-part formula for finding your ancestors' naturalization records.
 
Albert Einstein probably had an easier time discovering his general theory of relativity than he did acquiring and keeping his US citizenship. The FBI, suspicious that the German-born scientist had communist connections, amassed a 1,800-page dossier on Einstein after he immigrated in 1932. Even once he was naturalized in 1940, the Immigration and Naturalization Service carried out its own investigations in an attempt to revoke his citizenship and deport him. That scrutiny was certainly problematic for the Nobel Prize winner, but not for his descendants — just think of all the wonderful records to be discovered in his file.

Although your ancestors likely didn't have as much difficulty becoming American citizens as Einstein did, their records still hold a boatload of information for you: Depending when your immigrant ancestors sought citizenship, naturalization records can give you the precise date and port of arrival, the name of the ship, the port of departure, and the birth date and place. Fortunately, you don't have to be a genius to figure out how to get your ancestors' naturalization papers. Our formula for tracking those documents is as simple as remembering E=mc2.

1. Learn immigration history.

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