TABLE OF CONTENTS
Jefferson County (Tex.) District Clerk:
An Inventory of Jefferson County District Clerk's Office Naturalization Records at the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, Texas State Archives, 1885-1941, bulk 1894-1906
The Congress of the Republic of Texas created Jefferson County in 1836, and it was organized the following year. A town of the same name originally served as the county seat and had been named in honor of Thomas Jefferson. Beaumont became the county seat in 1838. Jefferson County is situated in the Coastal Plain region of southeastern Texas, bordered by the Gulf of Mexico to the south and surrounded by Orange, Hardin, Liberty, and Chambers counties. According to the 2010 census, the county's population was 252,273.
Each of the Texas constitutions since the Republic has established the judicial system and original jurisdiction of Texas courts, including district courts. The Constitution of 1876 established the state's current judicial system. Pursuant to Article V, Sections 7 and 8, district courts in Texas are the trial courts of general jurisdiction in law and equity. This classification includes criminal cases of the grade of felony and misdemeanors involving official misconduct, divorce, cases involving title to land, election contests, and civil actions where the amount in controversy is more than $500. In probate cases, the district court has appellate jurisdiction over the county court. In addition, the district court supervises the county commissioners court and has appellate jurisdiction over it.
The office of district clerk has been provided for under each of the Texas constitutions. The office in its current form was established by Article V, Section 9 of the Constitution of 1876, and the duties and powers are enumerated in Texas Government Code, Section 51.303. The district clerk serves as the clerk and custodian of all records for the district courts; indexes and secures all court records, collects filing fees, and handles funds held in litigation and money awarded to minors; coordinates the jury panel selection process; may collect and disburse child support payments; processes passport applications; and manages court registry funds.
Under federal law in effect when Texas became a state, both county and district courts were able to conduct naturalization proceedings. A 1906 act of Congress confined this authorization among state courts to those of unlimited original jurisdiction; in Texas this meant that only district courts could conduct the proceedings.
(Sources include: Womack, Paul. "Judiciary," Handbook of Texas Online; Article 5. Judicial Department and Government Code, Section 51.303, The Texas Constitution; "About County Records", Texas State Library and Archives Commission website; all accessed March 6, 2017.)
Jefferson County District Clerk's Office naturalization records reflect the district clerk's duty to serve as the clerk and custodian of all records for the district court that pertain to proceedings for the naturalization of immigrants. Included are declarations of intention, petitions of naturalization, and surname indexes to the proceedings, in bound and unbound form. The records date from 1885 to 1941, with the bulk dating from 1894 to 1906. Information within the records dates from 1851 to 1939.
The records include two unbound indexes, additional unbound documents, and three bound volumes. The unbound indexes record immigrant names, references to proceedings in the district court records, country of birth or allegiance, birth date or age, and dates and nature of the proceedings. The unbound Naturalization Records Index of Takeoff Cards was compiled in 1941 and was apparently created by transferring information from the original records to cards ("takeoff cards") and then transferring the information from the cards to the index.
Additional unbound documents include declarations of intention and petitions of naturalization. A declaration of intention was the first in a two-step process for an immigrant to become a citizen, and generally documents the immigrant's name, country of origin, age, and port of entry. Records include declarations filed in other jurisdictions in Texas using different forms; thus the information included in these records may vary. A petition for naturalization was filed at least three years afterward and included the immigrant's oath of allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and witness affidavits testifying to the immigrant's good character and residency.
Two bound volumes contain additional declarations of intention. The bound naturalization record also includes the order of the district court granting or denying citizenship. These records document the immigrant's name and country of origin, date and jurisdiction of the declaration of intention, and the date of citizenship.
Restrictions on Access
Materials do not circulate, but may be used in the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center reading room. Materials will be retrieved from and returned to storage by staff members.
Restrictions on Use
Most records created by Texas county agencies are not copyrighted. County records also include materials received by, not created by, county agencies. Copyright remains with the creator. The researcher is responsible for complying with U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17 U.S.C.).
Some materials are too fragile or too large to be photocopied. Please see Archives staff for assistance.
(Identify the item), Jefferson County District Clerk's Office naturalization records. Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Accession numbers: 1981.029, 1984.072
These records were transferred to the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center by the Jefferson County District Clerk on July 28, 1981 and by the Jefferson County Chief Deputy District Clerk on June 25, 1984.
Processed by Sam Houston Center staff, date unknown
Updated by Lisa Meisch, July 2016
EAD encoding by Caitlin Burhans, December 2016
A number of Jefferson County records have been microfilmed. These records reside at the Sam Houston Center. Microfilm reel 1398883 contains (Naturalization) Declarations Of Intention, 1894-1906, and Naturalization Petitions, 1898-1906. (See https://www.tsl.texas.gov/arc/local/aboutrecords.html and https://www.tsl.texas.gov/arc/local/jefferson.html for more information on county records at the Archives and other Jefferson County records on microfilm.)