Research: Topics: Genealogy: Naturalization Records

II. Naturalization and Denization in the Colonial Period

Naturalization is a grant of the full legal rights and privileges of a native-born individual to a non-native foreigner. In England, in the American colonies, and in the United States, naturalization has been granted by special legislative act, or by court proceedings authorized by legislation. The Assembly of New York Colony occasionally passed acts naturalizing aliens. In addition, under a British statute of 1740, an alien who had resided in a colony for at least seven years could be naturalized by swearing an oath of allegiance before a local magistrate. (It should be noted that immigrants from England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland were not considered aliens, because they were already subjects of the British crown.)

During the early colonial period denization was employed to grant to an alien some, but not all, of the rights of a native-born individual. Typically the denized individual could buy and own land, but could not inherit or devise (transmit by will) title to real property. Denization was granted by letters patent of denization (issued either in London or New York); there were no such letters issued in New York after 1708.

Information on persons naturalized or denized during the British colonial period is abstracted in Kenneth Scott and Kenn Stryker-Rodda, comps., Denizations, Naturalizations, and Oaths of Allegiance in Colonial New York (Baltimore: 1975). Scott abstracted data from a variety of published and archival sources, among them two record series in the State Archives: Deeds ( Miscellaneous Records ) (series A0453) and Letters Patent (series 12943; formerly A0450). The Archives can supply photocopies of naturalization documents in these series, but needs the citation from Scott to make the search. Assembly acts naturalizing aliens, either collectively (1683, 1715) or individually (1718 and after) are found in Colonial Laws of New York, 5 vols. (Albany: 1894), and are indexed in Scott.

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