When researchers think about immigrant European ancestors their thoughts usually turn to Ellis Island and various other ports of arrival on the eastern seaboard. Careful searching may have yielded the name of a ship and the date of arrival. Later searches of census records may have turned up entries noting that particular filed naturalization papers in a given year. The problem comes when trying to track down those naturalization papers.
Normally, those papers would have been filed in one of the counties where your ancestor lived—but which one? The migration route your ancestor traveled may provide a clue, especially if they lived in Missouri for any length of time. Missouri is the focus of this article because so many of our ancestors moved west and many of them went through the state of Missouri on their migrations.
From roughly 1828 to 1906, the law required a one-year residence in a state, and five years in the U.S. (There are multiple exceptions to the five-year rule.) If your ancestor lived in Missouri, there is now a database online that may lead you to those all important naturalization papers.
In the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) indexed all the naturalization papers filed in with the St. Louis City Circuit Court. Volunteers from the St. Louis Genealogical Society (STLGS) have taken those index cards prepared by the WPA and created an online searchable database for 93,000 records from 1816 to September 1906. According to The STLGS, the project was a collaborative effort of the society, the Missouri Archives, and the Office of the St. Louis Circuit Clerk. You will find this free index at:
If your ancestor is listed on a card, it will provide the naturalization date, the specific court, the volume and page number for the original records, the country of origin and the witness(es) named on the original records. The listing will include a link to the microfilm numbers and specific court records for the papers you want. Check the microfilm lists carefully. There are two lists. Don't confuse the microfilm list of index card records with the microfilm list of naturalization papers.
Copies from microfilm of the original documents may be obtained from St. Louis Genealogical Society, St. Louis County Library, Missouri Archives, or the Family History Library.