Wednesday, July 4, 2012

More Information on Jean Wessman's Loss of United States Citzenship

Long ago I told the story of Jean Wessman's citizenship. ("The Curious Story of Jean Wessman's Citizenship.") When Jean Hayward married a Swedish national, Henry Wessman, she lost her citizenship under the laws of the United States at the time. 

I don't know what the Swedish naturalization laws were. Did she become a Swedish citizen when she married Henry? Was she a woman without a country?

I was recently contacted by someone writing an extensive article about natural-born and native-born citizens, interested in using the example of Jean Wessman to illustrate some of the quirks of immigration and naturalization law. During the ensuing discussion, I decided to follow up on the hint left by a reader on the "Curious Story" post (thanks, kuzzuns!) on how to locate the immigration records in the National Archives. I am in the process of ordering information for Henry and Jean Wessman, if any exists. Did Henry ever become a citizen? Did Jean go through the legal process to restore her citizenship?

Meanwhile, here is some additional information. The two documents shown here are from Henry Wessman and his brother Joseph. They went to the Third District Court in Salt Lake County on the same day in June 1917, perhaps in response to current events, and filed paperwork stating their intent to become citizens.

Henry Wessman's Declaration of Intention

Joe Wessman's Declaration of Intention

Here are some additional links with information about Jean's citizenship situation, courtesy of John Woodman:
  • A copy of the text of the 1936 act which provided a path back to citizenship. (1936 Act.)
  • A copy of the 1940 Nationality Act (pdf download, see pp. 1146-1148.)
  • Jean's restoration of citizenship would not have been automatic. She would have had to take an oath of allegiance. Here is some amended information from 1940. (§ Sec. 324.4)
The text of the 1940 Nationality Act does raise some questions about the citizenship of the Wessman children, including Henry and Jean's eight sons who served in the armed forces during the Second World War:
Sec. 319. (a) A person who as a minor child lost citizenship of the United States through the cancelation of the parent's naturalization on grounds other than actual fraud...may, if such person resided in the United States at the time of such cancelation and if, within two years after such cancelation or within two years after the effective date of this section, such person files a petition for naturalization or such a petition is filed on such person's behalf by a parent or guardian if such person is under the age of eighteen years, be naturalized upon compliance with all requirements of the naturalization laws with the exception that no declaration of intention shall be required and the required five-year period of residence in the United States need not be continuous...
Did any of the children encounter any problems due to this tangled law, or were they citizens due to the fact that they were born in the United States? The situation was complicated and so are the answers!

[Update 7/6/2012: according to two expert opinions and the provisions of the Constitution and section 201 of the 1940 Naturalization Act, it looks like all of the Wessman children would have been citizens of the United States since they were born in the United States. Although their mother lost her citizenship, they did not.]

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