Jan-Feb 2009

Becoming a Citizen

In doing research over the years I have been aware that Naturalization documents can give a good amount of personal information about an immigrant. Though I have tried to access such documents, I had never found any pertinent to the Douglass family. I knew that the reasons for difficulty in finding them were several. The naturalization process occurred over a period of years, the person having first to register a Letter of Intent to become a citizen and then wait a period of time before completing the process. In the interim, they may have moved, the process for naturalization may have changed, the court that did the processing changed, or any number of difficulties could have made the documents not readily available. The letter of intent may have been filed in one court, district or circuit, in one State and the final Naturalization documents filed in a different court in another State.

This is what happened in the case of William Somerset Douglass. Here is a transcript of his Naturalization documents. The italicized words are those that he (or the clerk) filled in the blanks on the documents.

Declaration of Intention

State of South Dakota, Minnehaha County, Circuit Court

I, William Somerset Douglass, age 32 yrs, occupation salesman, do declare upon oath that my person description is: color white, complexion dark, height 6 ft — in, weight 185 pounds, hair brown, eyes blue, other distinctive marks none. I was born in Port Elgin, Canada on the 10 day of March, anno Domini 1879. I now reside at Sioux Falls, Minnehaha County, S.D. I emigrated to the United States of America from Sarnia, Canada on the Grand Trunk Railway; my last foreign residence was Port Elgin, Canada. It is my bona fide intention to renounce forever all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, and particularly to George II, King of Great Britain and Ireland of whom I am now a subject. I arrived at the port of Port Huron in the state of Michigan on or about the 3 day of October 1896. I am not an anarchist; I am not a polygamist nor a believer in the practice of polygamy; and it is my intention in good faith to become a citizen of the United States of America and to permanently reside there. So help me God.

Signed William Somerset Douglass, 29 April 1911.

_____

Petition for Naturalization, US District Court, Eastern District of Washington

(US Department of Labor/Naturalization Service letterhead)

The petition of William Somerset Douglass, respectfully filed showeth:

First: My place of residence is: 403 East D St., North Yakima, Wash.

Second: My occupation is Merchant

Third: I was born on the 10 day of March, anno Domini 1879 at Port Elgin, Canada

Fourth: I emigrated to the United States from Port Elgin, Canada, on or about the 2 day of October, anno Domini 1896, and arrived in the United States at the port of Port Huron, Mich. on the 3 day of October anno Domini 1896, on the vessel Grand Trunk R.R.

Fifth: I declared my intention to become a citizen of the United States on the 29 day of March, anno Domini 1911 at Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in the Circuit Court of Minnehaha County.

Sixth: I am ….married. My wife’s name is Margaret. She was born in Emmitsburg, Iowa, and now resides at North Yakima, Wash.

Seventh: I am not a disbeliever in or opposed to organized government or a member of or affiliated with any organization or body of persons teaching disbelief in or opposed to organized government. I am not a polygamist nor a believer in the practice of polygamy. I am attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and it is my intention to become a citizen of the United States and to renounce forever all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty and particularly to George II, King of Great Britain and Ireland, to whom at this time I am a subject and it is my intention to reside permanently in the United States.

Eighth: I am able to speak the English language.

Ninth: I have resided continuously in the United States of America for a term of five years at least immediately preceding the date of this petition, to wit, since the 3 day of October, 1896 and in the state of Washington, continuously next preceding the date of this petition, since the 5 day of January, anno Domini 1913, being a residence within this state of at least one year next preceding the date of this petition.

Signed: William Somerset Douglass

Declaration of Intention ……. filed 28 day December, 1917

Note to Clerk of Court: If petitioner arrived in United States on or before June 29, 1906, strike out the words reading “and certificate of arrival No. ….from Department of Labor.

—-

This was followed by Affidavits of Petitioner and 2 Witnesses

Charles H. Douglass, Merchant, and Fred T. Moore, Merchant, both residing North Yakima, Wash. swore that William Somerset Douglass was known by them to be who he said he was, that he had lived in the US continuously since the 31 January 1912 and in the state of Washington since 5 January 1913 and that they had personal knowledge that the petitioner was a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States and in every way qualified in his decision, to be admitted a citizen of the United States.

Both signed and the affidavit was recorded by the court clerk. 28 December 1917

——

Some of the information about William Somerset Douglass I had teased out on my visit to Yakima, WA, several years ago. While I knew that his brother Charles had preceded him to Yakima, I did not know when William came to the States. Charles had emigrated from Canada to Chicago where he married in 1903 and then moved to Yakima with his father-in-law and family. I now know that William emigrated in 1896 at Detroit, wended his way west, probably by railroad to Emmitsburg, Iowa, where he married Margaret McCormack in 1906, then westward again to Sioux Falls, SD, where he registered his letter of intent to become a citizen in 1911. The earliest I found William in Yakima was in 1913 as a VP in the mercantile business that his brother Charles and partners had there. I suspect that he bought out the interest of a retiring partner. It was while he was in Yakima that he finished the Naturalization process. His brother and Fred T. Moore, who vouched for him on the naturalization affidavits, were his partners in the Emporium Department Store in Yakima.

So I know a little more about William Somerset Douglass now that offers avenues for exploration. He was likely a merchant or connected to the mercantile business in Sioux Falls too. A telling bit of info regarding the status of women – the Naturalization petition wanted to know nothing about William’s wife except her first name and where she was born, and oh, yes, was she living with him. Most immigrant women received their naturalization through their husband’s if they had any at all.

For my former musings about William and his brother, Charles, see my July 2005 Digest Excerpt in the Archives.

(William’s lineage: William S.-5, William-4, Robert-3, John-2, Alexander Douglass-1)

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