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.