Tag Archives: Genealogical Research

Jus Sanguinis: The Old Certificate

I know.
I fucking did it again. A long time and no posts.

But, I have finally made some time, so here’s what’s going on:

I received my bisnonno’s marriage certificate on either April 29th or 30th, I believe; I didn’t check my mail on the 29th, but retrieved it on the 30th, if I remember correctly.

There are two possible steps left to the collection process:

1. Request my bisnonno’s alien file to find out when he naturalized, and
2. try to obtain a court order for my grandpa’s birth certificate.

I will admit something: I’ve been avoiding step 1 because I’m afraid that it will say I am ineligible. As I mentioned a while ago, I may be able to hire a lawyer in Italy to obtain dual citizenship through my great-grandmother, but…it takes all of the fun out of it, doesn’t it? Long journeys make a person value something so much more, more often than not.

Stay tuned…

Jus Sanguinis: Lots of Certificates

There have been a lot of certificates being mailed recently, and I am proud to say that I have almost all of the papers I have ordered.

I spent Friday night with my mom, and found out that she had received she and my father’s marriage certificate. I’m honestly not sure when she got it, but she got it.

Here’s the strange thing: The next freaking day, all three birth certificates that we ordered from New York came.

This means that I am only waiting on one more marriage certificate.


I know that I still need to order the information on my bisnonno’s naturalization, but if I’m honest, I’ve kind of been putting it off. I know it needs to be completed, though.

Stay tuned.

Jus Sanguinis: Aww…

Last night, I noticed that I had left the garbage and recycling bins out by the curb, as it was garbage day yesterday. When I went to retrieve them, I opened the mail box and found a letter from New York…the country clerk, to be specific.

My grandma and grandpa’s marriage certificate is officially here.

I had absolutely no idea that my grandmother packed hosiery in a factory as a job before she got married…isn’t that amazing? (Well, it may not be to you, but it was to me.)

As sweet as it was to finally receive the certificate, I couldn’t help but cringe at all of the spelling inconsistencies in the names of my family members; if I ever get to the consulate, there may be a few boo-boos to cover with that. Italians really do not take kindly to name inconsistencies…

But still…so freaking sweet.

Stay tuned.

Jus Sanguinis: Postal

I received my certified letter from Italy at last.

Apparently, the whole why-will-you-not-deliver-my-certified-letters thing was the fault of a substitute mail woman. My regular mail woman came to my door on Friday and the conversation went something like this:

Me: Oh, hi!
Mail woman: Hi there! Here’s your mail and your letter!
Me: Awesome! Thanks!
Mail woman: Yeah, the woman who was on the route that day was a substitute; I spoke to her, and she said that she came up to the door, and left your mail on the front step.
Me: …No. She didn’t.
Mail woman: Yeah, I figured she was lying about that, but I down-played everything so that she wouldn’t get in trouble.

…And I would not want her to get in trouble, either. I just want my mail.

Anyway, I ran to my dining room and opened the letter and…well, it wasn’t a birth certificate.
As a matter of fact, I didn’t know what the fuck it was. It had my bisnonno’s information on it, along with his parents’ names and date of birth, but it was in no way a certificate.

A bit later that day, I showed the document to my friend, and he noticed that some parts were in French, and he knows French. After giving it a squint, he translated what it was: An abstract of birth.

Why would they send an abstract of birth?

Then, I realized something:
It could be that there is no actual certificate.
Way back when, people typically wrote the birth of children in a church book or something of the sort, so maybe that’s all they have to give me. It is stamped and everything looks very official, so I have decided that I need to email the consulate and ask them if they would accept this document.

Stay tuned.

Jus Sanguinis: Don’t Ever Ask If It Can Get Any Worse…

A yin yang of information has come my way.
In a yin yang, there is a big, white section with a small black dot and a big black section with a small white dot, right? Well:

The dark side:

Concerning the matter of how long it’d take for my bisnonno to reapply for citizenship, I realized I could obtain the information in two different ways.
1. Order an ILL (inter-library loan) book with relevant information, and wait an undetermined length of time for it to arrive.
2. Ask a librarian.

As a librarian, I knew which of these options would be easier, and that is obviously the second option, especially knowing that USCIS does have a library.

So, I found the library’s website, and sure enough, they have an online reference service. Here is a partial text of the reply I received:

It was not all that uncommon for immigrants to let their declarations lapse or “spoil.” Many filed the Declaration or “first paper” with no or little intent to follow-up, but for other reasons related to employment, or is some states, voting. Once the first declaration had spoiled, your great-grandfather would have been required to file a new declaration. He would not have needed to wait an additional 5-years of residency (unless he had broken his U.S. residency) but he would have been required to wait the mandatory 2-years that was required between filing a declaration and filing a petition or “second papers.”

Of course. Of course it’d be only two years.

I am guessing, but I’m relatively certain my bisnonno didn’t break residency, as he had a job and a very large family to take care of, so this trail could end anywhere. In some circumstances, a bit of uncertainty can be exciting or even comforting, but I’m finding this a bit frustrating. There’s a reason why I don’t often gamble.

The white dot:

I don’t know if I’m eligible or not.

The light side:

I received a card in the mail box saying ‘Sorry we missed you,’ and it was in reference to a certified letter from Italy. This was yesterday.

The black dot:

1. I was home the entire day yesterday, and the obstinate mail person (for some reason) refuses to walk up to my house with any kind of letter or package. This has happened before, and I’m not sure why. My porch doesn’t smell, I’ve never been mean to her, we’ve never had an altercation…my mom believes that it has to do with the fact that my driveway is half paved, half dirt, and the dirt part is a bit muddy. But come on…the saying is something like ‘snow, sleet, rain, or hail,’ right? I’d believe mud is a few steps down from all of those. Besides, she COULD avoid the mud by walking on the grass. I mean, really, for fuck’s sake.
I called the post office and asked why I’m not allowed to receive certified letters, and the man who answered the phone said he’d ask the carrier, and if she hadn’t left yet, he’d send my letter along with her. Whatever it is, it’d be good to know so I may have the opportunity to remedy this situation. If I have to buy gravel for the driveway, so be it, but just bring me my fucking mail, please!
2. The letter could say anything…it could be a letter saying that they couldn’t find the birth certificate. Who knows?

Stay tuned.

Jus Sanguinis: Notorized

This is a bit on the late side, but I finally got the birth certificate applications notarized by my mom. If you go to your bank, it’s typically a free service they offer, so we did that last Thursday, and was able to send them on Friday.

Funny thing, though:

As I was stuffing the envelope with the applications, I could smell something…bad. It smelled like pee…old pee. I frantically sniffed around my dining room, trying to find where the smell was originating from because…no. Then I paused for a moment and looked down at the envelope.


‘Oh my God…’

I took the applications out of the envelope and sniffed the notary’s stamp.

‘UGH! That’s disgusting!’

Yup. The stamp was definitely the source of the smell.

Those poor sons of bitches at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene should be in for quite the out-of-tune symphony of fragrance upon opening that envelope, granted it gets there.

And that’s right: Absolutely freaking nothing has been delivered to me as of today…oh, bureaucracy.

Stay tuned.

Jus Sanguinis: The Well-Traveled Letter

Three letters made it to the mailbox yesterday:
1. My parents’ marriage certificate request (signed by my mother with her photo identification, the return address being hers, but the money order signed by me);
2. My grandparents’ marriage certificate request (signed by me with my photo identification, the return address being mine, and the money order signed by me);
3. My bisnonno’s birth certificate request.

I drove to the post office to send the letters because honestly, I was paranoid that something stupid would happen if it sat in the mailbox in front of my house for a full 24 hours, and I was not having that. First, I popped the grandparents’ certificate request, then the parents’ certificate request, and when I came to my bisnonno’s birth certificate request, I gave the envelope a kiss before I sent it on its long journey.

I did learn something, though…something important about stamps.

The commune where my bisnonno was born requested a self addressed, stamped envelope. Not being all that seasoned of an international mailer, I figured I’d just need the equivalent postage cost of American stamps.

I was wrong.

American stamps are worthless outside of the American post. I’d basically done the equivalent of flush three stamps down the toilet.


Like a champ, I’d researched this after I’d sealed the envelope. So, I carefully opened the envelope, took out the self addressed, stamped envelope, and made a new one without stamps. I happened to find two 10 euro notes in my safe, and chose to send one of those in lieu of useless American stamps. I stuffed both the euro note and the new self addressed envelope into the commune’s envelope and taped it closed.

I have four more missions at this point:

1. Get my mother to notarize the three birth certificate requests and
2. send them. Then,
3. get the court order for my grandfather’s birth certificate and
4. send away to get that one, as well.

I did call my good friend’s lawyer mother; she answered and told me that she was driving and couldn’t talk, but she’d call me when she got home. This was Thursday. I still have not received a call back.

And I still haven’t received anything from USCIS.

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.


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:


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:


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.