Have you ever wished that you were someone else? That your life could be different? I know I sure have. In fact, I am accidentally Italian, and I am seeking citizenship on purpose.
I like to think of myself as a traveler, as someone who has an unquenchable wanderlust. I’ve already been to 48 states in the U.S. and 24 countries around the world, including in Europe, the Caribbean, North America, Central America, and Southeast Asia.
I went on a high school trip to Italy and Greece, and I fell in love with Italy. I have Italian blood, and when I was there, I felt like I belonged. Imagine my surprise when I found out why I felt like that.
Accidentally Italian By Blood
A few years ago, I discovered that I was eligible for Italian citizenship by right of blood or jure sanguinis. I was excited to hear this. I immediately began my research into how to get Italian citizenship.
It turns out that I’ve been an Italian citizen for my entire life! The problem is, however, that Italy doesn’t know I exist.
I told my youngest brother, Dan, about us being Italian citizens. When we were growing up, our brother, Tony, was so proud of having Italian heritage through our father. Dan may not have been quite as excited as Tony was, but he was excited.
I, on the other hand, wasn’t thrilled with the idea then. Sure, I love Italian food, or at least what passes as Italian food here in the United States. But I had an issue with accepting anything, including Italian heritage, from my father after he divorced my mother in 1979.
After he walked away, I felt abandoned. This feeling grew stronger the next year, 1980, after my brothers, my mother, and I were in a horrendous car accident. I was comatose with a head injury, so I wasn’t aware that my father had flown to Maryland to see us kids. He left before I woke up.
I heard from him two months later. He called while I was still in the hospital, but it was uncomfortable talking with him. Other than the usual pleasantries, the only thing I remember us talking about was when he casually mentioned that he had gotten married again the year before. That was the first I had heard of it.
Throughout my junior and senior high school years, my father kept in contact with my brothers but wanted nothing to do with me. Fine, I thought. You don’t exist to me anymore.
My Family Tree
Fast forward a few years. I grew interested in my family tree after talking with my maternal grandmother. She and I sat together and she filled in what she remembered from her family. I developed an extensive family tree based on what she told me.
However, I ignored the paternal side of my tree. For 25 years, I didn’t bother looking into that side of my family because of how I felt about my father, who was an only child.
Once I learned about jure sanguinis, I began research into his side of my tree. I used ancestry.com to find out what I could about my family tree.
At first, I had just a basic, free membership. I paid for membership so I could access the hints once I learned what the green leafs meant.
Best thing I ever did! I gained so much information about family members, and that info led me to other relatives. I found out so much information that I was able to add over 2,900 people to my family tree in total, so far. This number also includes my stepfamily, my in-laws and their families, and families of people who married into my family.
I guess I got carried away.
Gathering Documents, On Purpose
I joined several Facebook groups for Italian citizenship and Italian, the most comprehensive being Dual U.S.-Italian Citizenship.
That group contains files, many, many files, on what it takes to get someone’s inherent Italian citizenship recognized by Italy. I read through all the files and decided I could do the process myself. I let my brothers know what I had found.
Dan was excited to learn that we could get dual citizenship and get a second passport. Tony, on the other hand, wasn’t as thrilled as I had expected him to be based on how proud he was of our Italian heritage as a kid.
Dan and I decided to work together gathering the required documents, splitting the work and the costs. This is an expensive process, especially for those of us who are on a fixed income or have families to care for during this economic recession.
A person’s residence determines what documents are needed. Each Italian consulate, including the embassy in Washington, D.C., supplies a list of what documentation is required for the people who live in its jurisdiction. Dan lives in the jurisdiction of the Detroit consulate, and I live in the New York jurisdiction.
Luckily for Dan, his consulate required many fewer official documents with an Apostille than mine. An Apostille is like a notary for international use, but more official. He only needed Apostilles on the documents related to him and our father. On the other hand, I needed Apostilles for every document for every person in my line up to my great-grandfather. Dan offered to split the total cost for all the Apostilles that I needed as well as what we both needed.
Gathering all the documents was hard. Dan lost contact with our father back in the 1990s, and since he offered to gather everything related to him, Dan had a bunch of research to do. We didn’t know where my father died; the last we knew, he was in Connecticut. But it turns out that he was estranged from his third wife and died alone in Florida.
Since I’m in upstate New York, I took care of gathering the needed documents from Connecticut. I took a road trip one day to Stafford Springs to get our grandmother’s birth certificate and grandparent’s marriage license. I then went into Hartford to get our father’s, mother’s, and my birth certificates, our grandparents’ death certificates, and our parents’ marriage license, all in duplicate except my birth certificate. Then I went to the Secretary of State’s office in Hartford for the Apostilles.
We hired someone who spoke Italian to get the birth certificates of our great-grandparents from Italy. Our great-grandfather’s paperwork noted that he had been married in 1904 to someone in Italy. Surprise! He married our great-grandmother in 1915 in West Virginia, and we thought that was his only marriage.
Dan’s Appointment in Detroit
Dan had his appointment in Detroit already, in October 2019. At his appointment, Pierluigi, the consulate officer, noted that Dan still needed the birth certificate for his recently-adopted son. The adoption had only been completed 9 days before his appointment, and the new birth certificate hadn’t yet been completed.
Pierluigi asked about the first marriage of our great-grandfather and suggested that Dan get information for the first wife but said it wasn’t required. It was more out of curiosity. It’s also possible that my consulate in New York may want that information, so we hired another Italian person, Francesco, to find out what he could.
Because of internal problems at our ancestral comune (town hall) in Italy, it took nearly 9 months to get the first wife’s birth certificate. We don’t know when or where she might have died since her death wasn’t recorded in the comune. I hope I don’t need that information for my appointment in November 2020.
A Slight Complication
Recently, I was double-checking all of my documents to be sure I had everything for my upcoming appointment. The following day, I received an email from the New York consulate with updated instructions because of the pandemic.
I will not go to my appointment at the consulate in person. Instead, I’m to mail in my paperwork. The new document checklist from my consulate has a few changes to it, and I will require even more paperwork and Apostilles.
New Requirements for the New York Consulate
I now need an official application with Apostille and a new translation of my parents’ divorce statement with a notarized statement from the translator that it’s an accurate translation. That statement needs to be certified by the county clerk and needs to have an Apostille.
I also need a new translation of the Certificate of No Appeal from my parents’ divorce with a notarized statement from the translator, but no Apostille is needed for this.
I sent off the certified 1930 census which shows my great-grandfather as an Alien for an Apostille from the U.S. Department of State. I requested and received a statement from the National Archives (NARA) that no record of naturalization for my great-grandfather exists. And I still need to talk to the county clerk in West Virginia for a marriage license, not a certificate like I have, for my great-grandparents.
With my county clerk office closed because of COVID-19, it’s going to be difficult to get one of the forms I need to get certified so I can send it off for an Apostille. I’ve already called and emailed the office several times but haven’t gotten a response yet. I may have to find another county to notarize and certify my document if I don’t get an answer from my county clerk this week.
Hoping for Success
Once I get these final documents, I’ll be able to organize all the paperwork into packets as the consulate wants. I need one packet for each person in my line (5 generations) plus a packet with the application, proof of residence, copies of my daughter’s and my passports, and the payment of 300 Euros as a postal money order in U.S. funds.
I’ll send my packet by certified mail, no return receipt requested (as directed by the consulate), and just have to wait. It can take up to two years for my application to be approved because the consulate has to check every place that each of my ascendants and I lived to be sure we did not renounce our Italian citizenship. I know I didn’t renounce because I didn’t even know I had Italian citizenship until two years ago.
Dan should be hearing his good news within the next year or so since his appointment was almost a year ago. Hopefully, my good news will come sooner than in two years. We have plans to move to Europe in two years after my daughter graduates high school.
But that’s a story for another day.
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