Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Gambling with Genealogy Purchases

I attended the National Archives 2013 Virtual Genealogy Fair a couple weeks ago and it inspired me to do something that's long been on my to-do list.

I finally utilized the genealogy services of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

My great-great grandfather, Emile Bourgaux (1866-1948) and my great-great-great grandfather Michel Bourgaux (1840-?) were both naturalized citizens after immigrating from Belgium. Both went through the process in the 1890s.

I have index card records that say they were naturalized. I have birth dates. I have dates of naturalization. Those are important. What I don't have are file numbers.

Before I can request a file from this site, I have to request an index search to see if they're in the database and if they have file numbers. Those are $20 a pop, and there is no guarantee they'll find anything. That's where the genealogical gambling comes in.

I ordered an index search for both ancestors. I got an online warning for my third-great grandfather that it is very unusual for USCIS to find records for people born as far back as 1840. I soldiered on because I have a naturalization date for him and it falls within the website's parameters.

So now I'm out 40 bucks and in a holding pattern. If they find the naturalization file numbers--and that's a big IF--then they should deliver those to me via email. Only then can I shell out more dough and request their naturalization files.

I really help this goes through. I really want to know more about Michel Bourgaux.

Sometimes ordering genealogy records feels like throwing a bunch of money down a dark wishing well and hoping for the best. This is one of those times...


  1. Good luck! I understand how you feel. Been there done that with some newspaper articles a couple of years ago.

  2. My great-grandparents naturalized in the 1940s. I was able to get their naturalization records from their county of residence. Would a file from USCIS be any different than what is available at the county level? Now I'm really curious to know what could be in the files from the Feds vs. the county courthouse... Good luck!

    1. Leah, my guess is that they are the same files, but it is clearly a guess. I'll let you know when/if I get the files. Right now I'm just trying to get the numbers so I can ask for the files.

      I tried to do this at the county level. They told me to go to the state level. That wasn't successful based on the non-reply the librarian gave me. I shelved this search for a couple years until I just decided to try at the federal level. Seriously, these records have to be somewhere!

  3. I second Leah's question. And I hope you find a wealth of treasure at the bottom of that well!!

    1. Thanks! My guess is that these are the same as the county files, but I don't know. I'll keep you posted, but who knows how long this process will take. I'm still waiting for index results, then I have to hurry up and wait again for files.