52 Documents in 52 Weeks #36 – Etta Westra’s Declaration of Intention

Etta Westra, circa 1963

Person of Interest: Etta Berendine (Pauw) Westra
Relationship: Maternal grandmother

Source Citation: Newton, New Jersey, Sussex County Clerk’s Office, Naturalization Record Book 1205-1234:1217, Etta Westra, 17 July 1941, declaration of intention; Hall of Records, Newton.

Background on the naturalization acts: At the time my grandmother arrived in the United States on 04 March 1928, the Immigration Act of 1924, also known as the Johnson-Reed Act, was the current immigration law. This act limited the number of immigrants allowed entry into the United States through a national origins quota. Via the quotas, immigration was limited to 2% of the total number of people of each nationality as shown in the 1890 federal census and completely excluded those from Asia. A previous act,  the 1917 Act, had implemented a literacy test that required immigrants over 16 years old to demonstrate basic reading comprehension in any language. In addition to the literacy test, the 1917 Act increased the tax that each immigrant had to pay to enter and further gave the officials more discretion on deciding who to let in and who to exclude. Even with the literacy, higher tax rates, and greater discretion given to the officials, it was felt immigration was still too high. Thus, the Immigration Act of 1924 was passed. Overall quotas for total immigration were reduced and the basis for the quota calculation was changed. According to the Office of the Historian (click on the link above for full article):

“The quota had been based on the number of people born outside of the United States, or the number of immigrants in the United States. The new law traced the origins of the whole of the U.S. population, including natural-born citizens. The new quota calculations included large numbers of people of British descent whose families had long resided in the United States. As a result, the percentage of visas available to individuals from the British Isles and Western Europe increased, but newer immigration from other areas like Southern and Eastern Europe was limited.”

Asians were still excluded and the 1924 Act now caught many previously allowed Japanese in the exclusion net too. The 1924 Act was further revised in 1952.

Before 1952, an applicant for naturalization had to file a declaration of intent to naturalize (first papers) and become a U.S. citizen before they could actually apply for naturalization. Further reading on the process: https://www.archives.gov/research/naturalization/naturalization.html#records

Document Description: This is a copy of the naturalization papers found at the Sussex County Clerk’s Office. In addition to my grandmother’s Declaration of Intent (known as first papers), her documents included a Certificate of Arrival and a Petition for Naturalization (second papers). I have a copy of the 8-1/2 by 11 inch document which I suspect is also a copy. In fact, the document says “triplicate” in the top lefthand corner. Some areas are a bit murky as the typing from the backside of the sheet bleed through to the front of the Declaration of Intent. It is still readable though. Full disclosure: The copy on this blog has been altered to hide the birth dates of living individuals.

Document Scan/Transcription:
At the top left: Triplicate (To be given to declarant when originally issued; to be made a part of the petition for naturalization when petition is filed; and to be retained as part of the petition in the records of the court)

Heading: United State of America
Declaration of Intention     No. 1342
(Invalid for all purposes seven years after the date hereof)

Body: State of New Jersey, County of Sussex, in the Common Pleas of Sussex County at Newton, N.J.
(1) My full, true, and correct name is Etta Westra
(2) My present place of residence is R.D. #2, Newton, Sussex, N.J.
(3) My occupation is Housewife
(4) I am 39 years old
(5) I was born on July 9, 1902 in Ochtelbur, Germany
(6) My personal description is as follows: Sex – Female, color – White, complexion – Fair, color of eyes – Blue, color of hair – Blonde, height – 5 feet 3 inches, weight – 145 pounds, visible distinctive scars – None
(7) I am married; the name of my husband is Albert Westra, we were married on June 3, 1928 at Little Falls, N.J.; he was born at Dronryp, Holland on March 13, 1908; and entered the United States at New York, N.Y. on March 13, 1927 for permanent residence in the United States; and now resides at Newton, R.D. #2, N.J.
(8) I have 3 children; and the name, sex, date and place of birth, and present place of residence of each of the said children who is living, are as follows: JOHN, (m) Apr. 21, 1929 at Little Falls, N.J.; EWALD (m) Mar. 5, 1933 at Newton, N.J.; Martha (f) [redacted for privacy purposes] at Newton, N.J.; all now residing at Newton, N.J.
(9) My last place of foreign residence was: Dronryp, Holland
(10) I emigrated to the United States from Rotterdam, Holland
(11) My lawful entry for permanent residence int he United States was at New York, N.Y. under the name Etta Berendine Pauw on March 4, 1928 on the SS Ryndam
(12) Since my lawful entry for permanent residence I have not been absent from he United States for a period or periods of 6 months or longer, as follows:
[All spaces here are blank]
(13) I have not heretofore made declaration of intention: [Rest of spaces here are blank]
(14) It is my intention in good faith to become a citizen of the United States and to reside permanently therein.
(15) I will, before being admitted to citizenship, renounce absolutely and forever all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty of whom or which at the time of admission to citizenship I may be a subject or citizen.
(16) I am not an anarchist; nor a believer in unlawful damage, injury, or destruction of property, or sabotage; nor a disbeliever in or opposed to organized government; nor a member of or afflicted with any organization or body of persons teaching disbelief in or opposition to organized government.
(17) I certify that the photograph affixed to the duplicate and triplicate hereof is a likeness of me and was signed by me.
I do swear (affirm) that the statements I have made and the intentions I have expressed in this declaration of intention subscribed by me are true to the best of my knowledge and belief: SO HELP ME GOD.

Etta Westra [signature]

[To the left of this is Etta’s picture and her signature again] Subscribed and sworn to (affirmed) before me in the form of oath shown above in the office of the Clerk of said Court, at Newton, N.J. this 17th day of July, anno Domini 1941. I hereby certify that Certificate No. 2765529 from the Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization, showing the lawful entry for permanent residence of the declarant above named on the date stated in this declaration of intention has been received by me, and that the photograph affixed to the duplicate and triplicate hereof is a likeness of the declarant.

Arthur L. Wilcox [signature], Clerk of the Common Pleas by David W. Goble, Jr. [signature of deputy clerk]

Form N-315
U.S. Department of Justice
Immigration and Naturalization Service
(Edition of 1-13-41)

The back of the document has a box with this notice:
Not less than 2 nor more than 7 years after the date of the original of this declaration was made and after you have lived in the United States for at least 5 years and in the State for at least 6 months, you may file a petition for naturalization (or second papers). You will not be notified by the Government or the clerk of the court to file such petition. It will be necessary for you to make application, in person or by letter, to the nearest clerk of court exercising naturalization jurisdiction or to a representative of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, for an application Form N-400. Your should not wait to do this until near the close of the 7-year period, because if you do not file your petition with the court before the end of the 7-year period it will be necessary for your to file a new declaration of intention and wait at least another 2 years thereafter before you can file your petition of naturalization. However, a petitioner for naturalization who is married to a citizen of the United States is not required to make a declaration of intention as a basis for filing a petition for naturalization.
Applicants for naturalization, before being granted citizenship, must satisfy the judge of the naturalization court that they believe in the principles of the Constitution of the United States. The Immigration and Naturalization Service has prepared a citizenship textbook about the Constitution and Government of the United States which may be used by persons who have declared their intention to become citizens and who attend citizenship classes in the public schools. This book and the classes will help applicants to prepare themselves for the duties and responsibilities of American citizenship.

Analysis: Just like most documents in people’s lives, this one is based in law. It was part of the process that my grandmother had to go through in order to become a citizen of the United States.

This Declaration of Intention is rich in genealogical detail and a short biographical sketch for Etta can be constructed from it:

Etta Berendine Pauw was born on 09 July 1902 in Ochtelbur, Germany. She emigrated to the United States from Rotterdam, Holland, on the SS Ryndam arriving at the port of New York, New York, on 04 March 1928. She was issued certificate no. 2765529 when she arrived under her maiden name. She was married to Albert Westra on 03 June 1928 in Little Falls, New Jersey. Her husband Albert was born on 13 March 1908 in Dronryp, Holland. He preceded Etta to the United States when he arrived at the port of New York, New York, on 13 March 1927. At the time of her declaration of intention (no. 1342) to become a citizen of the United States, she and Albert were residing at R.D. #2, Newton, New Jersey.  On the day of the declaration, 17 July 1941, they have three living children: (1) John, male, born 21 April 1929 in Little Falls, New Jersey; (2) Ewald, male, born 05 March 1933, and  (3) Martha, female, born [date redacted] in Newton, N.J. Her physical description shows that she is blonde-haired, blue-eyed, 145 pound woman of fair complexion and all of 5 foot 3 inches in height. 

While I’m happy that there is a picture attached to this document, the quality leaves something to be desired. It’s a good thing this isn’t the only known picture of Etta!

This is an original source as it is Etta’s triplicate record of Declaration of Intention filed with the Court of Common Pleas in Newton, New Jersey. The digital copy presented for this blog is derivative since I’ve redacted some information for privacy purposes. The information found within the document is a mix of both primary, secondary or undetermined information. Each piece of information must be evaluated separately to determine into which bucket it should be placed.  The evidence is a combination of direct (explicit) or indirect (needing further support) depending on the research question to be asked.


Naturalization documents can be tricky to track down as they were almost always filed in the local court where the immigrant resided at the time. As noted in the box on the back of the document, your ancestor could have also presented his application to a representative of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. If your ancestor moved around, locating them and their naturalization documents could be a challenging task. Preparing an ancestral timeline with dates and locations could be a helpful activity. Do your homework: Read up on laws, plot your ancestors movements on a map, and good luck with your hunt!


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