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Tracing the records of the first Hispanic settlers in Delaware starts with the naturalization records housed in the Delaware Public Archives.  The language barrier resurfaced many times while examining various records during the research. For example, the original name of the first citizen from Spain naturalized in Delaware was not clearly documented due to the fact that the individual was not able to write or read to confirm the name written by the clerk. This challenge led to the adoption of the new name of “John Spanish.”

While naturalization and census records can provide clues and answers for many genealogical issues, the research also includes other materials to illustrate the roots established by the Hispanic settlers in Delaware.  This page highlights numerous records containing information about the settler’s age, birthplace, parents, education, occupation, employer, address, children and more.

As with any genealogical search, the first step is to gather and organize information available at the Delaware Public Archives and then turn to the ever-growing collections of records that are available on Ancestry.com.


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Naturalization Records | Marriage Records | Census Records | Residence Records | Death Records


Our Settlers

John Spanish

(1822-1873)
  • Born in Spain
  • Lived in Seaford and Nanticoke
  • Other Names: Tomas or Thomas Clairmonte, Claramonte

Joseph Fernandez

(1853-1906)
  • Born in Spain
  • Lived in North Murderkill, Milford, and Wilmington
  • Other Names: José Fernández, Farnandeez, Farandeez, Fernandeez, Furnandez

Edward Lekens

(1862-1940)
  • Born in Uruguay
  • Lived In Wilmington
  • Other Names: Lenken, Liken, Lakins, Laken, Leken

Naturalization Records

The first naturalization law was enacted in 1790. Over the years, naturalization laws changed numerous times, but generally speaking, the process required a Declaration of Intention and a Petition to be filed to become a citizen (Except during the years 1798 to 1828).

According to the National Naturalization Records webpage, of the foreign-born persons listen on the 1890 through 1930 censuses, 25% had not become naturalized or filed their “first papers.”

Requirements:

  • The immigrant had to be a resident in the United States for 5 years and a resident of the State for 1 year, before becoming a citizen. In 1795, there was a 3-year waiting period, later changed to 2 years in 1824, between filing the declaration and the petition.
  • The naturalization process is completed in a court of law.

The process usually required several steps to complete and various documents related to naturalization may be found in the court records described below. The typical naturalization process involved three steps:

  1. Declaration of Intention
  2. Petition
  3. Certificate


John Spanish

Image 1: Naturalization Petition papers indicating that William Walton has known “John Spanish” for seven years. This is the first indication Thomas Clairmone was otherwise known as John Spanish and that could not write even his own name. See the X mark as signature. RG 1217.264.

Image 2: John Spanish’s final naturalization papers signed on october 22, 1844.


Edward Lekens

Image 1: Naturalization Certificate for Edward Lekens (Lekins). RG 1217.031 Vol 4, p. 17.

Image 2: Naturalization Petition for Edward Lekens. This is the first reference of Uruguay as the place of birth for Lekens. RG 1217.031 Vol 4, p. 17.


Joseph Fernandez

Naturalization Petition for Joseph Fernandez signed by petitioner with an X mark and signed on October 18, 1892. RG 1217.079 Vol. 2, page 140.


Marriage Records

John Spanish

The marriage bond confirms the name of Sarah Richardson as the bride of John Spanish and the date of document. RG 1325.004 Vol 22, p. 298

Joseph Fernandez

Marriage records providing information about Lenken and his spouse’s place of birth, race, age, address in Delaware and occupation. RG 1325.004 Vol 62, p. 110

Edward Lekens

Record shows the name of Laura L.Colewright as the spouse to lawfully unite in marriage to Joseph C. Fernandez (Farnandez). RG 1325.004 Vol 62, p. 110


Census Records

John Spanish

1850, 1860 & 1870 U. S. Federal Census Documents provided in association with the National Archives & Records Administration / Ancestry.com.

Edward Lekens

Record showing South America as Edward Lekens’ place of birth. Also shows the place of birth of his parents. Provided in association with the National Archives & Records Adminsitrat

Joseph Fernandez

1880 U. S. Federal Census indicating Spain as birthplace and North Murdekill, Kent County as residence for Joseph Fernandez. Provided in association with the National Archives & Records Adminsitration / Ancestry.com.


Residence Records

Edward Lekens

Image 1: 1892 Wilmington City Directory listing Edward Leken’s address at 301 Pine St. and occupation as machinist.

Image 2: Map view of 301 Pine St.

Image 3: Current View of 301 Pine St.

Image 4: Page 395 of the 1940 Wilmington City Directory reflecting Edward Lenken address at 1832 West 4th St.

Image 5: Current Map View of 1832 West 4th St.

Image 6: Current street view of 1832 West 4th St.

Image 7: A Wilmington map from the State Map Collection from 1895 to illustrate the location of Edward Lekens addresses in Wilmington, Delaware (301 Pine Street and 1832 West 4th St.) RG 1325.000.003

Joseph Fernandez

Image 1: Page 320 of the 1901 Wilmington City Directory reflecting Joseph Fernadez’s (Fernadeiz) address at 321 S. Townsend St.

Image 2: Map view of 321 S. Townsend St.

Image 3: Current View of 321 S. Townsend St.

Image 4: A Wilmington map from the State Map Collection from 1895 to illustrate the location of Joseph Fernandez address in Wilmington, Delaware (321 S. Townsend) RG 1325.000.003


Death Records

John Spanish

Image 1: Death record of John Spanish’s wife Sarah Richardson.

Image 2: St. Johnstown Methodist Church Cemetery main entrance. Old Kings Hwy. about 1 mile east of Greenwood, Sussex County.

Image 3: Image of John Spanish tombstone at St. Johnstown Methodist Church Cemetery.

Edward Lekens

Image 1: Cathedral Cemetery main entrance. 2400 Lancaster Ave, Wilmington.

Image 2: Record includes Edward Lekens’ birthplace, date of birth, last known address, site of burial, occupation and employer. RG 1500.092

Image 3: Record indicating that Edward Lekens had a child who died at age of 9 in 1901.

Joseph Fernandez

Image 1: Newspaper obituary indicating the last known address of Joseph Fernandez and site of burial. This record also indicates that Fernandez was previously a resident of Milford. U. S. Find A Grave, Memorial #135505594.

Image 2: Image of Joseph Fernandez tombstone at Silverbrook Cemetery and Memorial Park, 3300 Lancaster Ave, Wilmington.


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