Casefile Clues

27 December 2012

A Joseph By Any Other Name...

Soundex Index to Naturalization Petitions for the United States District and Circuit Courts, Northern District of Illinois and Immigration and Naturalization Service District 9, 1840-1950 (M1285); Microfilm Serial: M1285; Microfilm Roll: 176; obtained digitally on at

This is the index card for the naturalization record of Joseph Watson from the Soundex Index to Naturalization Petitions for the United States District and Circuit Courts at This card is meant as a finding aid to the actual record. It is not meant to be the actual record. makes it easy to "tie" these cards to people in your tree. A little too easy. The problem is that it takes a little work in order to determine whether or not the person on this card is the same as the person in your tree. And that work often requires information not contained on the card itself along with an analysis of that information. Don't connect a document to your ancestor just because the name is the same or someone else has already connected them.

Where to go next with this card?

Obtaining the actual naturalization record is advised. It may contain more information than is on the card which will assist in identifying exactly which Joseph Watson this is. These records may be available in microfilm format through the Family History Library.

Searching for Joseph in the 1900 census. Joseph likely is in the Cook County area in 1900. It would be unusual for him to Joseph been naturalized in an area where he had lived for only a few months. The address of the witness may be helpful in eliminating some Joseph Watsons from consideration.

Search city directories for 1895-1905 (for starters). This may also help in determining if there are other Joseph Watsons in the area that somehow missed the enumerator.

Joseph was white (probably). While it is not stated on the card, Joseph most likely was Caucasian. Connecting this card to someone who was of another race wouldt need to be done with some justification. Not saying that it is not possible that he was non-Caucasian, but the fact that he was naturalizing and was from Great Britain makes it highly probable that Joseph was white.

How do I know that "my" Joseph is this Joseph?

Information on "your" Joseph should match what is indicated about the Joseph on this card. This Joseph, given that he naturalized in Chicago, Illinois, had probably lived  there for several years and was living there in 1900. He likely lived near the address given for his witness. Joseph also would have been twenty-one at the time of the naturalization because minors could not naturalize. Joseph probably was actually over the age of twenty-one as he would have filed a declaration of intent a few years before this document and minors could not declare intent either. Joseph was likely at least twenty-three years of age at the time he was naturalized. If determining Joseph's age is crucial, then state and federal law should be referenced to determine the waiting time between declaring intent and naturalizing.

[note: The original version of this post confused the first name of Joseph with James. That was a complete  and total mistake on my part. This Joseph is Joseph and the reference to James was an oversight. There are other Jameses in the family, but this Watson was Joseph.]