Category Archives: Italian

Jus Sanguinis: You Want Me To Do WHAT?

[This is a continuation from the previous post.]

So, where were we? Ahh, yes.

Court Order for Birth Certificates
This sounds scary. I know. The good news is that you may not need to do this, but if you and your family come from New York City, much like me and my family, you probably will.
Let me make this perfectly plain: New York City will NOT release birth certificates to anybody unless they are the person who is named on the birth certificate OR one of the parents of the person who is named on the birth certificate; the ONLY way around this is by obtaining a court order.
And yes, it is definitely a normal reaction to want to pull your hair upon reading that sentence. Even more frustrating, the main rumor on the internet is that a lot of New York lawyers aren’t familiar with this procedure.
Fortunately, my friend’s mom is a lawyer in New York City, and she has agreed to speak with me about it: Unfortunately, we keep playing phone tag.
…That, and I’m kind of scared shitless of talking to her about it. I mean, I want to, but I’m shy around her…very shy.

The good news is that, in theory, I should be able to obtain the three other certificates I need (Mom/brother/me) by having my mom order them together. And yes, I do intend to fund the purchase. 🙂

Marriage Certificates
For my particular and unique situation, I need the following marriage certificates (in long formALL certificates, marriage and birth, need to be in long form):
1. Great-grandfather and great-grandmother
2. Grandma and Grandpa
3. Mom and dad

You can read about it more in-depth at: http://www.cityclerk.nyc.gov/html/marriage/records.shtml but this is the short version. If the marriage took place in New York (which all of them did, in my case):

Less than 50 years ago: You need to be one of the people who got married, have written permission from the person/people who got married, or an attorney who needs the certificate for evidence.
More than 50 years ago, but before 1929: The certificate is considered historic and is available to the public.
Between 1866 and 1929: You must obtain the record from the Manhattan Municipal Archives.

Each certificate I need is under a different category.
Why wouldn’t it be that way?

Anyway, the fee is $35.00 for each record from the City Clerk’s office (duplicates are $30.00). I printed two applications for 2 and 3, (BEFORE my printer decided to be difficult) and I intend to have my mom sign hers and copy her photo identification for me. I have yet to send these out, but plan to do so soon enough.

For 1, though, one must go here: http://www.nyc.gov/html/records/html/archives/geneology.shtml
Well…it’s not a must: Feel free to try the research room or send away through the mail.
I ordered through the website, and with my particular search parameters and the letter of exemption (and YES, you need that), it came to $26.00. Ordered March 13th, and the email confirmation stated that it should take four to six weeks to arrive in the mail.

Well, that’s about it so far.

Stay tuned.

Jus Sanguinis: Anything Can Happen

I officially began my jus sanguinis campaign on March 2nd, and let’s just say…it’s been interesting.

When I begin to research something of this nature (meaning, something highly complicated and bureaucratic), I check sources of ALL kinds: The companies who want you to pay them for things you could do on your own, the forums for people doing the same thing or who have done the same thing, AND official government websites. When sorting through all of these resources, it is very easy to become overwhelmed and stressed out. So, the first thing I did after digging through all of the information was figure out what documents I absolutely needed.

This sounds like a simple enough task, but haha, you’d be surprised at how incredibly difficult is it, especially when the Italian consulate you need to submit your materials to does NOT have a list of what you need in order to apply on their website. This, I learned, is paramount. It does not matter what other consulates require…it only matters what YOUR consulate requires. If I had followed what random people on forums or the websites who you pay to do the research and acquisitions FOR you said, I would’ve paid for at least six more documents (apostilled and translated, not to mention the court order cost) than I needed. I don’t know about you, but even entertaining the notion of a consulate official waving a dismissive hand at documents I didn’t need after going through THAT much to get them makes me want to scream. Save yourself the time, frustration, and money and check with your consulate first.

Something else I learned is that Italian government entities may move slowly. Being completely unable to obtain the official list of required documents from my consulate (I am under the jurisdiction of the Detroit consulate), I decided to email them, despite the fact that I’d read most emails are completely ignored.
My email was sent on March 2nd; I received a reply on March 13th, so not too bad!

If you, too, are under the jurisdiction of the Detroit consulate, I’ll make it easy for you:

Determination of Italian Citizenship (jure sanguinis)

So, basically, they’re only interested in the naturalization records or lack thereof and the birth and marriage certificates of the direct descendants of the Italian citizen, it seems. This is in stark contrast to what I’d read about needing EVERY birth, death, and marriage certificate from EVERY parental person between my great-grandfather and me.

Ok, so since the list has been in my possession, I’ve become confident about knowing what materials I need. I felt that the appropriate next step was to figure out what documents will take the most time to acquire, and go after them first. Here is my best guess, from slowest to fastest:
1. Great-grandfather’s Italian birth certificate
2. Proof of record non-existence from USCIS
3. Court order for birth certificates [Let me explain at a later date!]
4. Great-grandfather and great-grandmother’s marriage certificate
5. Grandma and Grandpa’s marriage certificate/Mom and dad’s marriage certificate
6. Birth certificates for Mom/brother/me

I knew from the get-go that I’d need all of these documents, so on March 2nd, I started on 1 and 2.

Great-Grandfather DeMasi’s Birth Certificate
I’m fortunate enough to know a native Italian person who was willing to help me, so I asked him to contact the teeny-tiny Southern Italian village (or commune) my family is from. To my amazement, the commune responded to my friend quite quickly; he emailed on March 12th and received a reply on March 14th. When he emailed, he included my great-grandfather’s parents’ names and the date of birth from his naturalization petition (do try to include this information, as well, if you are trying to acquire a birth certificate).
The commune stated that they did find a certificate for Bisnonno DeMasi with all information being accurate except his birth date, which was 11 days off from the birth date he had reported on his naturalization petition. [Bisnonno is Italian for great-grandfather, by the way!] Oh, my…he really was absolutely inept at dates, wasn’t he?
The commune said that they’d need my full name (first, middle, last), birth date, place of birth…all of the same information of all of the relatives I have tracing back to my bisnonno, a copy of my photo identification, a statement saying why I want the birth certificate, a stamped envelope to send it to me IF they can find it, AND 20 days for research. And yes, I found it strange that they’d need 20 days when they said that they knew they had it.
I have typed a response letter in English, put it in Google Translate, then sent it to my friend to have it edited; he has edited it and sent it back, but my fucking printer is jammed up, so I can’t print and send it yet. I had to buy a damn claw grabber on Amazon so that I might be able to pull the two tiny pieces of stuck paper out.

Proof of Record Non-existence
This step was MUCH easier.
The concept is that if a person never naturalized, there should be no record of their naturalization. So, if my bisnonno did, in fact, rage quit the process of naturalizing, there should be nothing there, but you need the USCIS to attest to this.
It was relatively easy to send away for proof. Go here: http://www.uscis.gov/uscis-tags/unassigned/faq/how-do-i-get-certification-non-existence-record-or-no-naturalization-record-deceased-immigrant
Then type up a letter using their instructions and send it off to the address.
I sent my letter on the night of March 3rd and have yet to receive a response.

Stay tuned.

Blood Right

First of all, as always, I’m very sorry for the amount of time that has passed since my previous post. My full attention has been needed elsewhere, but this level of neglect is a bit much.

Something quite interesting has happened, though.

As you may or may not know, some governments recognize something called jus sanguinis, which translates to ‘blood right,’ in terms of citizenship. Put into simple terms, it means that if you are a direct descendant of an immigrant who did not renounce their citizenship before giving birth to you or your parent or grandparent (etc.), you have a [blood] right to that foreign citizenship. In the United States, it is possible to hold dual citizenship in certain, special circumstances, such as jus sanguinis, but don’t ask me about other situations because I haven’t researched it. If you’d like to know more about jus sanguinis, here’s a link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jus_sanguinis
Yes, I know…it is Wikipedia, but hey, it’s a good place to start. Just…double check the information therein.

Anyway, each country has different laws concerning jus sanguinis: Some will not allow a person to obtain citizenship from a citizen past a certain amount of generations (as in, you may be able to obtain it from your grandparent, but not your great-grandparent), and others allow you to go back as far as you can, but it can only be passed on by a mother or father.

Being such a freaking genealogy nerd, once I heard about this concept (as an adult, at least), I immediately began to look up the laws on jus sanguinis concerning my family’s country of origin and my family members’ dates of naturalization. I won’t keep you in suspense: I’m Italian.

Italy does, in fact, recognize jus sanguinis, but there is one annoying stipulation:

Both men and women may pass on their citizenship BUT…the women who do so must be born after 1948. So, if you’re trying to trace through grandma, and she was born in the 30s, you’re shit out of luck.

…Well, maybe. Let’s revisit this in a few sentences from now.

Anyway, most of my great-grandparents were immigrants…immigrants with a nasty habit of naturalizing with staggering efficiency. Upon reviewing some of the old census documents I had, I was certain I was totally screwed. (Yes, the census does typically state if a person has naturalized.) If you’re planning on hopping over to Ancestry.com or Family Search to look at old census records to see if your great/grandparent(s) naturalized, the easiest way to know is if there’s something in the box under ‘Naturalized.’ If it’s blank, it typically means that they weren’t. All of the boxes in mine were filled, and I was very down-trodden.

This happened in about, oh…2010 or 2011, maybe? But every once in a while, I would revisit the issue, probably because I was so upset that I didn’t qualify. I’d try to find loopholes in the law, and I never could…that is, until last December, when I found this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_nationality_law

I know!
Damn it! Not another fucking Wikipedia site!
But, it changed everything for me.

You see, the United States used to be one sexist fucking country. If an immigrant male naturalized, that meant that his wife automatically naturalized, as well. And, interestingly enough, if an un-naturalized immigrant male married an American-born woman, she actually LOST her American citizenship, in stark contrast to the immigrant women who could marry an American-born male and gain citizenship. Isn’t that crazy? One of my great-grandmothers technically lost her American citizenship, as she was born to Italian immigrants in America, but married an un-naturalized Italian man.

Anyway…

The Wikipedia article had illustrated that one could challenge their own, personal case of transmission of citizenship through an immigrant woman born before 1948 who had not formally renounced her citizenship before giving birth to her progenies or, in most cases, ever…much like MY great-grandmother didn’t. Since many immigrant women who married once in America obtained American citizenship through their husbands, the women who did so never officially renounced their citizenships.

So, basically, anybody who wants to challenge the Italian government on the 1948 rule must simply hire an Italian lawyer, and s/he basically does the rest. (It only costs around 2,500-3,000 euros.) And yes, a lot of cases appear to be successful. Italy seems to not do precedent in their legal practices, hence every case must be tried on an individual basis.

And so started the revival of my attempt to obtain Italian citizenship for myself and my family.

A few days before Christmas, I was up late doing some more research on my ancestors. I wanted to collect as much pre-liminary information as I could, and wound up finding and downloading two of my great-grandfathers’ petitions for naturalization. I had reviewed these petitions before, a few years back, but this time, I was really scrutinizing them for dates…when I noticed something…something VERY, VERY important about my great-grandfather’s petition…something I hadn’t noticed before:

petitionoath

He was fucking denied US citizenship.
He never took the oath to renounce his Italian citizenship.

I freaked out.

Wait! What about the census? It said that he had naturalized, didn’t it?

So, I opened the census that I had saved a few years back:

NA

Let me explain this.
Paraphrasing here, but the question for the first box is ‘When did you come to this country?’
The second question is ‘Are you naturalized?’
The third question is ‘Do you speak English?’

Oh my God…how did I not notice that the census taker had crossed out the ‘Na?’

I’m not sure if it was my great-grandmother or my great-grandfather who was speaking with the census taker, but whoever it was must’ve had to explain what had happened with the petition and the census taker either misunderstood at first or just jumped the gun and wrote in the ‘Na,’ then had to cross it out.

My great-grandfather was very inept with dates, it seems. Not only did he state on his petition that he had arrived in this country in 1902, NOT 1904, he filed his petition too late, and therefore was denied citizenship.

I freaked out again, but in the best way possible.

At Christmas, I waited for most of my mom’s guests to clear out, then began to explain to her and my brother about what I had found. We were all gathered around her iPad as I showed them the denied petition.

“This doesn’t really surprise me,” she explained. “I heard that he was a real dick.”
“Really?” I laughed.
“Yeah. My mother never really swore, but she said that he was a son of a bitch. I could imagine him getting denied, and saying ‘Fanculo!’ and walking out on them.”

One hiccup. One, tiny hiccup on my family’s history, and I seemed to be eligible for dual citizenship…but I’m trying not to be TOO hopeful, because you never know what other hiccups you might uncover.

I want to record and share my journey, preferably as it happens. Maybe it’ll help some other person or people obtain their own jus sanguinis, or maybe it’ll help me keep track of my own progress, but who knows? I think it is pretty damn interesting, though.