Friday, September 12, 2014

Gerald John Niehaus - An Alien Enemy? -- 52 Ancestors Challenge

Gerald John Niehaus,  1874 - 1918
    I had heard stories from Niehaus relatives over the years that Uncle Joe had to register with the government during World War II because he was German and not a citizen. They mentioned he was required to report on his whereabouts.  I filed this information in my family history memory bank.  As I learned more through the years of research, I still had a few questions. How many of the eight immigrant brothers, and maybe sisters, also had that obligation?  Was that World War I and II?    It's one of those stories I wanted to complete at some point. 
     But then, my fellow family researcher cousin, Patsy (Niehaus) Cracraft, sent me photos of Gerald Niehaus's "Alien Registration" dated 1918.  Gerald was her grandfather and Joe Niehaus's brother and my grand uncle.  He was the first born of the Niehaus children who immigrated to Indianapolis from Germany with their parents in 1886.  He died at the young age of 44, leaving his widow, Amanda, with four young children and one on the way.  Evidently, he never became a citizen of the United States.  His face and fingerprint were now calling me to investigate.  I soon found more of Gerald's alien enemy story.
     When Woodrow Wilson declared war against Germany in April of 1917, Gerald John Niehaus was the quintessential "alien enemy."  WWI proclamation pg 3He was classified within the group of "all natives, citizens, denizens, or subjects of Germany, being males of the age of fourteen years and upwards, who shall be within the United States and not actually naturalized, who for the purpose of this proclamation and under such sections of the Revised Statutes are termed alien enemies."  This is a section of Presidential Proclamation 1364 of April 6, 1917, by President Woodrow Wilson declaring war against Germany, 04/06/1917.   You might want to read the proclamation later. The link's at the bottom of this post.  For now you can see the page about alien enemies on the right. 
     Six months after the definition of alien enemies within the declaration of war, there was another proclamation that required those folks to register with the federal government,   (Presidential Proclamation of November 16, 1917).  Provision #19 of this proclamation reads:
All alien enemies are hereby required to register at such times and places and in such manner as may be fixed by the Attorney General of the United States and the Attorney General is hereby authorized and directed to provide, as speedily as may be practicable, for registration of all alien enemies and for the issuance of registration cards to alien enemies and to make and declare such rules and regulations as he may deem necessary for effecting such registration; and all alien enemies and all other persons are hereby required to comply with such rules and regulations; and the Attorney General in carrying out such registration, is hereby authorized to utilize such agents, agencies, officers and departments of the United States and of the several states, territories, dependencies and municipalities thereof and of the District of Columbia as he may select for the purpose, and all such agents, agencies, officers and departments are hereby granted full authority for all acts done by them in the execution of this regulation when acting by the direction of the Attorney General. After the date fixed by the Attorney General for such registration, an alien enemy shall not be found within the limits of the United States, its territories or possessions, without having his registration card on his person.
     I now know that Gerald complied with this requirement on  February 15, 1918.  Each person completed an affidavit giving background information.   According to his personal record shared by my cousin, Patsy, he registered with Police Precinct No. 3 in Indianapolis, having his photo and fingerprint taken.    These are the copies of that "registration card" that he carried on his person.
Enemy Alien Registration, Gerald Niehaus, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1918Enemy Alien Registration, Gerald Niehaus, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1918

     When he wanted to change his residence one-and-a-half miles south from Chadwick Street to R. R. E, Box 91, Gerald was granted permission by Sergeant Harry Howard on March 26th, 1918.  Here's another provision of the November, 1917, proclamation containing that requirement:
           "…An alien enemy shall not change his place of abode or occupation or otherwise travel or move from place to place without full compliance with any such regulations…."
     Also I want to talk about the piece of this proclamation that relates further to this family history.  The registered people were required to report to the federal government.  This was true in World War 1 for Gerald, and his brother, Joe, and others as well.  Here is that reference within the proclamation we've been looking at for November, 1917:  
           "…such regulations concerning the movements of alien enemies as he may deem necessary in the premises and for the public safety, and to provide in such regulations for monthly, weekly or other periodical report by alien enemies to federal, state or local authorities; and all alien enemies shall report at the times and places and to the authorities specified in such regulations."
     Not many of these records of alien enemies survive today.  The affidavits completed included questions on the person's residence, involvement in military or anyone in their family who may have taken arms for or against the United States, and other personal information.  No one knows for sure, but the Indiana records haven't surfaced in any institution.   By the way, women were also required to register, so the sisters weren't disregarded.  The National Archives has posted online some examples of the existing affidavits in other states.  (Link below.)
     I'm grateful to Patsy Cracraft for sharing this rare record created by Gerald Niehaus.  Maybe there are a few more in the boxes in the attic of other cousins.  There is a sad and ironic ending to Gerald's story.  He died suddenly of a heart attack approximately six weeks after moving to his new residence in Indianapolis in 1918.  We don't know if he would have become a citizen and avoided the same enemy alien registration that occurred during World War II.  We know that immediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt issued a proclamation authorizing detention of potentially dangerous enemy aliens.  So, there is a lot to this story passed along in the Niehaus family! 
     Thanks for visiting Indiana Ties.  Please leave me a comment if you want to add to this story!
More about Gerald Niehaus's life at this post: Gerhardt "Gerald" John Niehaus: The Eldest Child of Joseph and Gertrude
For further reading on the alien enemy topic:
Presidential Proclamation 1364 of April 6, 1917, by President Woodrow Wilson declaring war against Germany, 04/06/1917.  (
Presidential Proclamation of November 16, 1917, pertaining to "the movements of non-naturalized males of German origin, 14 years of age and older." :
National Archives records:
Following the onset of hostilities during World War I, non-naturalized "alien enemy " by definition, were required to register with United States authorities as a national security measure. Under the provisions of a Presidential Proclamation of April 6, 1917, non-naturalized female aliens were likewise registered as an additional national security measure that included those women of American birth that were married to enemy aliens. Registration affidavit include questions about whether any male relatives have been in arms for or against the United States or its allies.  Also, have you been registered for draft.  Have you declared intent to be citizen.
Here's an blogger who wrote an excellent overview on the topic: The Legal Genealogist blog: An Alien Notion,  16 Nov 2012 -
Note on 52 Ancestors Challenge:  I am participating in the 52 Ancestors Challenge being led by Amy Johnson Crow at  She's bringing together family history writers who share ancestral stories throughout 2014.  There's a wide variety of stories each week written by people everywhere and about people from everywhere.  Visit Amy's blog to read some interesting histories.
Copyright 2014 © Nancy Niehaus Hurley

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