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Don’t overlook the laws!

It’s a natural enough thought that even The Legal Genealogist has: when we want to find naturalization records, we look to the court records of the day.

Right?

Um…

Maybe not.

Or at least not for everything.

Case in point:

On the 25th of March 1735, the Pennsylvania provincial legislature passed a statute to allow a number of individuals “all rights, privileges and advantages of natural-born subjects as fully to all intents, constructions and purposes whatsoever as any of the King’s natural-born subjects of this province can, do or ought to enjoy.”1

The statute explained that “by the encouragement given by the Honorable Wil11am Penn, Esquire, late Proprietary and Governor of the Province of Pennsylvania, and by the permission of our present Sovereign, King George the Second, and his predecessors, Kings and Queens of England, &c., divers Protestants who were subjects of the Emperor of Germany and other foreign princes in amity with the Crown of Great Britain transported themselves and estates into the province of Pennsylvania, and since they came hither have contributed to the enlargement of the British Empire and to the raising and improving sundry commodities fit for the markets of Europe, and have behaved themselves peaceably and paid a due regard and obedience to the laws and government of this province.”2

And, the law went on, many of those divers Protestants “have qualified themselves by taking and subscribing the several oaths and declarations or solemn affirmations directed to be taken and subscribed by several acts of Parliament made for the security of the King’s person and government and for preventing the dangers which may happen by Popish recusants, &c., and thereupon have humbly applied to the governor and the representatives of the freemen of this province in general assembly met setting forth their great desire of being made partakers of those privileges which the natural-born subjects of Great Britain do enjoy within this province.”3

So the legislature made them citizens — it naturalized them by legislative act, declaring that they “be and shall be to all intents and purposes deemed, taken and esteemed the King’s natural-born subjects of this province of Pennsylvania as if they and each of them had been born within the said province.”4

And the list of names is pure genealogical gold:

From the city of Philadelphia: John Diemer, David Scholtze, Peter Hillegas, (Wilhelm) Ziegler, Paulus Kripner, Jacob Seijl, George Scholtze, Ulrich Aller, Caspar Ulrich, Henry Van Aken, (John) Iden, (Adam) Klamter, and Anthony Benezet.

From the county of Philadelphia: Anthony Bohm, Conrad Bensell, (Adam Romich, Frecirick Reymer), Joseph Graff, Henry Slingloff, Michael Berger, George Souber, Alexander Dihl, Jacob Bowman, Gottlieb Herger, Daniel Schoner, Adam Galar, Nicholas Leisher, Junior, Peter Souber, Conrad Reble, Hans George Weigert, Christopher Mink, Johannes Zirwer, Sebastian Reiff Schneider, Jacob Kemp, Jacob Hill, John Souber, Abraham Zimmerman, Christian Weber, Nicholas Keyser, Martin Pitting, Conrad Keer, Conrad Kustor,Jacob Dubre, Anthony Zadouski, Hans Pingeman, Andreas Kraver, and Lodwick Pitting.

From the county of Bucks: John George Kinkner, William Morey, Peter Schneider, John Joder, Christian Klimmer, John Joder, Junior, Joseph Eberhart, Michael Eberhart, John Brecht, Henry Schneider, George Zeiwizt, Michael We(i)ber, Ulrich Rubel, Jacob Kangweer, Diter Gauff, and Henry Rinker.

From the county of Chester: George Donatt and Garratt Brownback.

And from the county of Lancaster: John George Beard, John Casper Stover, Michael Weidler, Fredrick Elberschidt, Peter Entzminger, Jacob Kersberger, Jacob Byerly, Jacob Leman and Michael Byerly.5

Now there may very well be more documents, in and out of Pennsylvania’s courts of the time. Those “several oaths and declarations or solemn affirmations” are well worth looking for.

But this is one more example of why we need to look to the laws of the time and place when we’re doing our genealogical research.

Because, in 1735 Pennsylvania, it was the legislature that made these men citizens, and not the courts.


SOURCES

  1. Chapter 339, Acts of 1735, Pa. Statutes at Large 4: 283-285; Pennsylvania Legislative Reference Bureau (http://www.palrb.us/default.php : accessed 28 Nov 2017).
  2. Ibid., 283
  3. Ibid., 284.
  4. Ibid., 285.
  5. Ibid., 284-285.
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