Tag Archives: Naturalization

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.