In recent years, I have thought a lot about my immigrant ancestors. I stumbled upon this great hashtag that Rich Venezia at Rich Roots Genealogy started last year. The vast majority of us are descendants of immigrants – something we should remember and celebrate.
Our family tree (mine and my husband’s) is full of immigrant ancestors – some are more recent immigrants (my mother and mother-in-law!) and other ancestors immigrated to this young country before 1800. On this day 84 years ago – 8 May 1935 – my husband’s great-grandfather, Janos Babai, declared his intent to become an American citizen.
Naturalization records can provide a wealth of information about our immigrant ancestors. Janos Babai was born on 6 March 1871 in Žipov, Austria-Hungary, which was a part of Czechoslovakia in 1935 when he applied for citizenship, and today it is in the Prešov District of Slovakia. He was living in Jessup, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, and filed his Declaration of Intention in the U.S. District Court in Scranton. This document provides valuable details about John and his family:
- John married Anna (no maiden name) in April of 1895 in Žipov, and she was born in Egreš, Austria-Hungary.
- John and Anna had the following children:
- Anna born 29 September 1896 in Žipov
- John born 13 September 1898 in Žipov
- Mary born 10 January 1906 in Žipov (this is my husband’s grandmother)
- Elizabeth born 14 February 1908 in Jessup
- Jennie born 13 September 1910 in Jessup
- Susan born 27 January 1913 in Jessup
- John also reported that he arrived in the United States on 2 March 1906 in New York, but did not remember the name of the vessel that left from Bremen.
The best part of this naturalization record is the picture of John and his signature!
After immigrating, Janos consistently used the name John. The surname Babai has been spelled Babbi, Babbay, and Babbie. I am not sure why Babay is on his naturalization record, as the family continued to use Babai in other records. I wonder his surname was mis-typed and he signed what was typed. In his Petition for Naturalization that was filed in 1937, he was recorded as Janos Babai, but his signature was Janos Babay. I need to brush up on my Slovakian language skills, but do remember some interchange with the letters “i” and “y.”
John was in this country for almost 30 years before he began the naturalization process. I have not yet located the passenger list for John’s travel to the U.S. His wife and children arrived in July of 1906, traveling to meet John in Peckville, Pennsylvania. Searches for John in early 1906 find several Janos Babai/Babi passengers that are about the same age, and additional analysis is needed.
If you have not located immigration and/or naturalization records for your immigrant ancestors, I highly recommend searching for what might be available. These records could be found at the county, state or federal level. This FamilySearch page has links to records by state. The National Archives also holds naturalization records. What you can learn from these documents varies by time period, but still are valuable parts of your family history. Understanding how immigration laws have changed is important too – here is a link to for more information.
What have you learned about your immigrant ancestors?
 John Babay declaration of intention (1935), naturalization file no. 24405, Middle District of Pennsylvania; Records of the District Courts of the United States; Record Group 21; National Archives-Mid Atlantic Region, Philadelphia.
 Janos Babai petition for naturalization (1937), naturalization file no. 24405, Middle District of Pennsylvania; Records of the District Courts of the United States; Record Group 21; National Archives-Mid Atlantic Region, Philadelphia.
 “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 19 August 2016), manifest, S.S. Prinzess Alice, Bremen to New York, arriving 24 July 1906, p.138, line 3, Anna Babai, age 30; citing National Archives microfilm publication T715, RG 85, roll 0745.
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