Illiteracy and Naturalization

Over 25 million Italians have emigrated between 1861 and 1960 with a migration boom between 1871 and 1915 when over 13,5 million emigrants left the country for European and overseas destinations.
jennabet
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Illiteracy and Naturalization

Postby jennabet » 31 Jul 2010, 21:50

Can anyone post advice on the rules for Naturalization regarding Literacy between between 1890 and 1920?

The immigrant in question marked an "X" instead of his written signature on his son's marriage certificate in Cameron County, PA in 1912. This indicates to me that he was illiterate, and incapable of reading and writing English OR Italian. He did file a Declaration of Intent but I think many immigrants did so with the intention of learning to read and write but they never followed through and therefore were never naturalized.

However, we have received a letter from someone who claims that prior to 1890, Literacy was not required for Naturalization.

Also, in 1912 in Cameron County, PA, why would a resident alien have to "sign" a marriage certificate for a son who was 19 years old? Isn't the age of consent 18 years?

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johnnyonthespot
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Re: Illiteracy and Naturalization

Postby johnnyonthespot » 31 Jul 2010, 22:37

I am having difficulty finding anything solid on the question of literacy, but I think for starters we need to distinguish between the ability to read/write (in any language) versus something called "cultural literacy."

Using these questions as an example ( http://www.texancultures.utsa.edu/newte ... teracy.htm ) does the applicant know the colors of the US flag? Can he name the three branches of government? Who is the current president of the US?

If you think about it, none of these questions absolutely requires the ability to read or write; the test can easily be given 100% orally.

To the other question, 18 has not always been the age of majority in the US and it almost certainly varied by locale until fairly recent times. How old was the bride? Perhaps the groom's father had to approve marriage to a paricularly young bride?

Was Cameron County, at that time, Quaker country? Could possibly have an impact on local rules.
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Re: Illiteracy and Naturalization

Postby jennabet » 31 Jul 2010, 23:40

Hi Carmine, groom and bride were both age 19 and both born in Italy. The Bride's father had to sign as well and also marked an "X".

I know from my own family situation that my grand-mother on my mother's side was totally illiterate. She was born in 1882 and came from a small farm hamlet in Abruzzo where apparently the girls were not educated but the boys were. She eventually did become naturalized in 1974 at the age of 92 when she still could not read or write but our current Vice President, Joe Biden, as a young Senator made an exception for her and personally administered her the oath of citizenship in her own home. Her husband, my grand-father, was naturalized through normal procedures in 1960 but he probably also was just asked the rudimentary questions that you mentioned. I specifically remember the family discussing it at his citizenship party and that we all chucked at the way he pronounced the word "Congress" in broken English.

So you are probably right and now I'm thinking that the immigrant in question was probably a minor and automatically naturalized when his father took the oath even though his father was illiterate and had to mark an "X". Thanks for the good insight.

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Re: Illiteracy and Naturalization

Postby johnnyonthespot » 01 Aug 2010, 00:44

The Cameron County Historical Society might be able to answer questions concerning early 20th century marriage practices. See http://www.thelittlemuseum.org/

Alternatively, this office ( http://www.cameroncountypa.com/Cameron_ ... notary.htm ) is responsible for issuing marriage licenses; they can tell you what the current policy is and possibly explain the earlier (?) policy as well.
Carmine

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Re: Illiteracy and Naturalization

Postby jennabet » 02 Aug 2010, 00:26

Hi Carmine, thanks for the Cameron County websites. We found some info there that pertains to our case.


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