24 April 2014

The Naturalization Puzzle

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.  


Diane B said...

Very interesting. Keep us posted if you learn more!

Jacqi Stevens said...

Wouldn't it all come down to that thin sliver of time between Fred's naturalization in 1921 and the Cable Act passage in 1922? That would still place her within the time period when the citizenship of the husband determined that of the wife.

What a sequence of events for someone who was born here, lived here and died here in the U.S.

Anne Young said...

What an interesting challenge. I was surprised to read that women's citizenship was removed if they married a man who was not a citizen even in the twentieth century when they had all sorts of rights over their own property for example.

Sheri Fenley said...

The more I learn about this whole thing the more it bothers me. It doesn't look like any documentation was created when in 1907 Elizabeth was stripped of her U.S. citizenship. But they knew she wasn't a citizen in 1917 when she had to register as an enemy alien. So how did they know that if there wasn't any paperwork? I would think that when the government does something that huge to a person there is paperwork somewhere? Argggghhh!

Jana Last said...


I hope that Elizabeth had her citizenship restored before she passed away.

I want you to know that your blog post is listed in today Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2014/04/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-april-25.html

Have a fantastic weekend!

Tracy Meyers said...

Sheri, you'd think that if her citizenship was stripped in 1907 that the government would have duly documented that fact.

But, to your question, of how in 1917 they would have known to require her to register as an Enemy Alien. Do we know for sure that she and Fred received an actual summons? The announcement could have gone out in all newspapers that any person(s) currently living in the United States who is not a naturalized citizen by birth; who is not a citizen by oath or who by virtue of marriage to an immigrant alien is not a citizen, should report to (insert office) on (insert date) at (insert time) to be duly registered. Failure to do so will result in (insert punishment / fine).

It maybe that Elizabeth and Fred being law abiding people reported as required. The government may have never physically contacted them. Just a thought. Look forward to learning what you find out.