10 September 2012

Did John Michael Trautvetter Vote Illegally?

Citizenship law is a fuzzy thing. It was even moreso in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

My ancestor John Michael Trautvetter, who died in 1917 in Hancock County, Illinois, likely voted at some point during his residence there. It is probably one of the few activities he engaged in that would have required him to have been a citizen. He never ran for political office, but might have voted. The problem is he might not have even been a citizen. John was born in the 1830s in Wohlmuthausen, Germany.

I have attempted to determine if he was a United States citizen and that's where I have come up short.

John Michael Trautvetter has no naturalization record in Hancock County, Illinois. While it is possible that he naturalized elsewhere, that seems doubtful considering his family settled immediately in Hancock County after their landing in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1853.

John Michael's father, George, filed a declaration of intent in Hancock County in 1855. But the problem is that George never completed the process. There is no final naturalization for him.

If John Michael had been a minor when George naturalized, John Michael would have been a citizen from that date on. My speculation is that John Michael (and his brothers) thought their father did naturalize and hence they were citizens as well. John Michael indicates he is a citizen in the 1900 and 1910 census records.

His brothers, George and Theodore, also indicate they are citizens. They have no naturalization records either.

There's a few more details, but that's the essence of the story. We'll have a longer follow up, complete with citations, in an upcoming issue of Casefile Clues.

I need to checking voter's records in Hancock to see if John Michael really voted or not.

And I'm pretty certain I know why father George never naturalized. But that's another story.