Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Discovering the Comune

1900 Consensus, Giuseppe Ratti 

Around mid-May, I discovered the possibility of being able to have dual citizenship, American and Italian. How, you ask, is that possible? Somehow, somewhere on the internet, I came across Italian dual citizenship sites. At the time, I was desperately in search of a way to move to Italy to be with my boyfriend. Due to the current economic and employment situations in Italy, the chances of receiving a work visa were slim to none. Accepting the fact that it was impossible to live there was extremely hard…. And then came along hope. The first website I visited, only gave a couple of examples going back as far as one’s great grandfather. Automatically, I assumed I did not qualify. I searched through people’s blog trying to find information about how they had made the move. Finally, I came across a blog named “Italian Citizenship”. It was about a young guy who had gone through the entire process. He too thought he had not qualified, but upon coming across the Italian Citizenship and Genealogical Services website, he found out he did indeed qualify.
According to the site, there are no generational limits…. with a few exceptions. First, let me explain what exactly citizenship under jure sanguinis is. Jure sanguinis literally means ‘right of blood’. Under Italian law, citizenship is passed down from one generation to the next. For example, if your father was Italian and you were born before his naturalization as an American citizen, his Italian citizenship was passed onto you. It would be, however, cut off to you IF he had naturalized before your birth. Only in this way can one acquire Italian citizenship. In the United States, this differs. According to the US, a child obtains citizenship based on being born on American soil.

There are a few exceptions for those who cannot have citizenship, besides a father being naturalized before the birth of his child. However the exceptions to the rule will be written in another post. As soon as I found out there was a possibility to formally recognize Italian citizenship I have had since birth, I began to scour countless documents posted on The only information I had on these relatives were names and addresses at which they had lived. There were no dates to rely on. Bit by bit, I began to put together my family’s history, which was more like a gigantic puzzle. Luckily, my first search for my great great grandfather lead me immediately to a 1900 census. I poured over the information, checking to make sure the names of the family matched. The census also included his occupation at the time, as well as the-all-too-important estimated birth dates, which would be highly useful. After I had some dates to base my searches on, document upon document began to reveal itself – WWI and WWII registration cards, more census documents, a petition for naturalization – a process taken up by my great great grandfather’s father that was never completed, and much more.

In order to request his birth certificate, along with his wife’s, and their marriage certificate, it was imperative for me to know the city from which they had come. There are stories that my great great grandfather had studied at the University of Bologna. My aunt thought he came from Bologna, and for the longest time, I did as well. One day while posting messages on the Italian Citizenship board about contacting the comune in Bologna, a woman sent me a message. She told me she had a contact that could help me. He was with an Italian Heritage Center, though would have to charge me. (Yet another story…) I contacted the volunteer, and he quickly looked through documents at the center. My great great grandfather’s last name and my great great grandmother’s maiden name do not exist in Bologna. Instead, the family is from Carrara, as in Carrara marble. It was only after I received this information that my parents told me they had always thought he was from Carrara. (Thanks guys!)

Immediately I looked up the comune online. Each comune has its own website. The whole website is in Italian, so it is important to either know Italian or have someone who knows Italian help you. (Personally, I would not use any online services who contact the comune for you. To contact and receive the documents is FREE, besides mail postage.  Although you are paying for the online services time... I found an address of an office of communal archives and started writing right away. The next day I had sent the letter out.

After not hearing from the comune for a month, doubts began to set in that I had sent the letter to the wrong office. During my stay in Italy this summer, my boyfriend and I contacted an office there. We would have to send a formal document, along with a paper that states that my boyfriend could call, be contacted, and receive the documents on my behalf. All of that was not needed because the papers finally arrived this past Saturday!

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