The Weekly Photo Challenge theme is Foreign.

My grandmother, Carmen, was born in Mexico but she was a permanent resident of the United States.

I was happily surprised when I discovered my mother had some of my grandmother’s Certificates of Registration for the U. S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

The certificate is commonly called a “green card.”

This is the oldest one, dated November 12, 1935.

There is a lot to be learned from this little green card!


The title of the card has a strike-through changing the department name from the U. S. Department of Labor Immigration Services  to Immigration and Naturalization Service.

I was curious about this so I ran an on-line search.

According to the US Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS)  web site the Bureaus of Naturalization and Immigration were merged into a single entity in 1933, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

Why didn’t she have a card dated in 1933?

Information traveled slowly in 1933 so perhaps my grandparents didn’t realize they needed to register.  It’s also possible that the law required everyone to register by a given date, so this may have been within the initial registration period.  This is speculation, but also one reasonable explanation.


What else can be gleaned from the small green card?

My grandmother was 29 years old at the time she registered.

She entered the country through El Paso, Texas on September 15, 1916.  Prior to seeing her green card I only knew the general timeframe.

She registered in Los Angeles, California.

My grandmother was required to check-in with the INS every year.  You can see signatures and hand-stamped dates along the edges.  These were placed by the INS agents reviewing and approving the documentation.

The card expired after seven years. The next card in my grandmother’s papers is dated 1942.  It expired only after one year.


Here are a couple of additional facts about my grandmother that can be discerned:

  • The 1942 card states my grandmother had a burn on her right arm.   I remember asking her about it when I was a child.  She burned it in a kitchen accident. The skin was taught and smoothed with a speckled coloration. Even though it covered about a third of her right forearm it did not seem to limit her.
  • My grandmother had a surgery to remove a tumor behind her left eye.  My mother commented how the tumor must have been developing as early as 1935.  The left eye looks larger than the right but it’s the tumor pushing against the back of her eye. Early pictures of her don’t show this.

Just as many of us carry a driver’s license or other form of identification, my grandmother was required to carry her card everyday.

On a personal note, these cards show my grandmother’s history in a country where she was a resident for more than eighty years.  They show my grandmother as she aged; her clothing  and hair changing over time.

This is a personal history that I’m just beginning to explore.

My grandmother’s cards and other artifacts have sparked my curiosity.  This is a history that is in many respects foreign to me.  I’m looking forward to discovering more of the story as I continue to make my way through family documents.


To see additional posts featuring my grandmother see Simple and Carmelita.


I've always enjoyed writing and finally decided it was time to blog! As part of my profession I write every day, but I'm now trying to take the time to write creatively. My family and friends have been very encouraging as there is little that is written down in the way of a family chronicle. This is a favorite topic of mine! In addition to family history, I write about life, family, friends and faith. My husband is a full-time parent to our special needs daughter. I’ve explored this topic, too. I also enjoy music, crocheting, reading and relaxing with my family. I hope you enjoy what I have to offer!

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Posted in 2012, Family history, Personal, Uncategorized
16 comments on “Foreign
  1. Fergiemoto says:

    Interesting! It’s a treasure to have family records like this!

  2. eof737 says:

    Truly wonderful sharing… Thank you Cathy! 🙂

    • Cathy G says:

      Hello – pleased to meet you! Yes,it’s definitely one of a number of treasures that I’ve discovered. If you’d like to see more of the items that my mom had stored away, please see the following post!

      Also, I just hopped on over to your site. I really like the way you expressed your theme. I’m looking to viewing more! 🙂

  3. Glenn Z says:

    Wow Cathy, it’s incredible what you’ve achieved with this blog! CoNgratulations and thank you!

    • Cathy G says:

      Hola Glenn! When I mentioned to you that I was going to be conducting research at my mom’s house I had no idea what I was going to find! AMAZING!! Also…you and I discussed tagging photos…I’ve taken up the challenge and am starting to incorporate more of this – appreciate the pointers! Thanks!!

      • Glenn Z says:

        Just fantastic work Cathy. Mom and I were looking at it on her TV on Monday night, she really loved it.

        2 suggestions on the photos: Alt Description & Caption

        It looks like you used ALT the same as your Photo Title – which isn’t bad since most peeps just leave ALT blank, but it’s not really the best.

        By having an ALT description you do 2 great things: 1 nice for you, 1 nice for others.

        Unlike the “Caption” which might be “I can’t believe Bob beat me again!” the ALT should describe what is in the image, like “Robert Hernandez in running shorts standing on the top of a small hill on a sunny day with a cloudless sky.”

        This ALT info does 2 things — for the visually impaired, their screen reader can read the alt text for them, so this simple act makes your site much more accessible to people. And your bonus for doing it is that the other “eyes” that need help are the eyes of search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc, so your “bonus” for making your site more accessible is that you also make it more search engine friendly and more people looking for Bob or Carmen or peeps standing on the top of small hills will find your work.

        The other thing that’d be great would be Captions. Yes, of course we SHOULD devour every word of your text, but when scrolling through your many awesome posts on mom’s TV, she constantly wanted to check who that old photo was of, and we had to dig a lot to find the names. Yes, haha, clever way of enforcing reading, but I think these images might be more useful / user friendly if it had a caption under, similar to your titles actually, with name and year and perhaps a location.

        Congratulations on all the beautiful work and much deserved accolades!

      • Cathy G says:

        Hi Glenn! Thank-you for the detailed feedback! I really appreciate it. I was wondering what the difference was between the caption and ALT. The concrete example is just what I needed to know!

        I also appreciate the feedback about your mom wanting to know more about who was in the photos. This is a good reminder to remember all who may be in your audience!

        When I’m writing a blog I don’t typically mention my line of work…however, I’ll make an exception today! Much of what I do involves process improvement…and your feedback gave me this! Paying attention to the details you’ve described can improve the quality of what is produced, so kudos to you for sharing these pearls of wisdom with me, and also with all who would read my blog!
        Thanks, again! p. s. Please tell your mom I said hello!

  4. Wow – what an amazing thing to have and be able to research!

  5. Thanks for sharing your family history. I believe it is important to know where we came from and the struggles our ancestors did so their children can have a taste of a better life. I am also keeping my green card so one day, I get to tell my son and grandkids the journey me and my wife did. Our humble beginnings guides how we live today. Have a great week.

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