24 April 2014

The Naturalization Puzzle

UPDATE:  Judy Russell, The Legal Genealogist, was kind enough to answer my questions regarding the status of Elizabeth Hobrock Borgstadter's citizenship.  Scroll down and read her comments.  Thank you Judy!

I recently wrote about my 2nd great grandfather Fred Borgstadter and my quest to determine whether he became a U.S. citizen before he died in 1929.  You can read about it HERE.  Go ahead and click over and read the short post so you are up to speed and can follow along with my new puzzle.

The other day, I came across a post from Jennifer Holick who shared a story from the Los Angeles Times about a man who is trying restore his grandmother's U.S. citizenship posthumously because it was taken away from her  when she married a man who was not a U.S. citizen.

After reading the article I wondered if my 2nd great grandmother, Fred's wife,  had her U.S. citizenship restored before she died in 1932.

Here is what I know for certain:

  • Elizabeth was born in Beardstown, Cass County, Illinois.
  • Fred Borgstadter filed a Declaration of Intent in 1880 in Cass County, Illinois
  • Fred married Elizabeth Hobrock in 1881 in Cass County, Illinois.  Fred filed his Intent the previous year but was not a U.S. citizen at this time.
  • Fred and Elizabeth Borgstadter BOTH had to register as enemy aliens in 1918 in Lincoln County, Kansas.  In the previous post, I showed Fred's file.  Below is a page from Elizabeth's.

Fred Borgstadter filed a Petition for Citizenship on 12 February 1921 and on 18 May 1921 signed the Oath of Allegiance and became a U.S. Citizen.  But what about Elizabeth?

The Expatriation Act of 1907 defines the citizenship of women married to foreigners. Women assume the citizenship of their husbands, and a woman with US citizenship forfeits it if she marries a foreigner, unless he becomes naturalized.

So in 1907 Elizabeth lost her U.S. citizenship.  Can you imagine what she must have felt when that law was enacted?  By 1907 she and Fred had been married for almost 30 years, had 4 children and had moved to Lincoln County, Kansas where they were farmers and well known and respected in their community.

Ten years later in 1917 - to add insult to injury - they are both required to report to the U.S. Marshall.  They fill out a long form, are fingerprinted, have a "mug shot" taken and are issued ID cards they they must carry on their person at all times identifying them as enemy aliens of the United States.

When Fred was naturalized in 1921, Elizabeth was legally an alien also.  Was her citizenship restored to her when Fred became a citizen?  Would there be a record of that somewhere?

The 1907 Expatriation Act was repealed in 1922 by the Cable Act.  This was also known as the "Married Women's Act," and three important changes were made:

1. Women no longer naturalized through derivative citizenship, but must apply for their own citizenship. If married, she did not need a declaration.
2. Women no longer lost citizenship through marrying an alien, unless her husband was ineligible to become a citizen.
3. Women who lost their citizenship to an alien eligible could be naturalized and did not need a certificate of arrival if she had lived continuously in the US

If Elizabeth had her citizenship restored to her through this act, there would have been a court record.  Women who lost citizenship by marriage and regained it under Cable Act naturalization provisions had to take the Oath of Allegiance and file it in any naturalization court--regardless of her residence.  

The Cable Act was amended in 1931, allowing females to retain their citizenship, even after marrying "aliens ineligible for U.S. citizenship.  So was her citizenship restored to her under this act?

So the questions I am looking to answer are:

Is there a record from 1907 showing that Elizabeth's U.S. citizenship was taken away from her?  

Was her citizenship restored when Fred became a citizen in 1921?  If so then would there be a document showing that?

If  it wasn't restored when Fred became a citizen, then when and under what law was it restored to her?

Elizabeth died in 1932.  I hope that she didn't die without her U.S. Citizenship rightfully restored to her.  

Judy G. Russell said...
>>Is there a record from 1907 showing that Elizabeth's U.S. citizenship was taken away from her?

It's called "a marriage certificate." Seriously. The instant she married a non-citizen, she automatically lost her US citizenship under the Expatriation Act of 1907 (34 Stat. 1228, section 3 ("any American woman who married a foreigner shall take the nationality of her husband").

>> Was her citizenship restored when Fred became a citizen in 1921?

Yes, automatically on his naturalization. Well, not exactly restored; she was considered naturalized (so it wasn't restoring her native-born citizen status).

>> If so then would there be a document showing that?

Nothing except his naturalization certificate.

There's a wonderful two-part article in Prologue, the magazine of NARA, written by Marian Smith of USCIS on this. It starts here  and is well worth reading.
Judy G. Russell said...
Let me throw in one more wrinkle here: the actual fact is that Elizabeth never did lose her citizenship. The courts eventually decided that the 1907 act only applied to women who married after 1907. But it was an open question for a long time, many people (including courts and government officials) interpreted it as applying to any woman who ever married a non-citizen, and Fred and Elizabeth may have simply assumed that Elizabeth also had to register as an alien. But in reality, given the way the law was ultimately interpreted, the fact is she never lost her citizenship.
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