Thursday, November 19, 2009

Citizenship Update: Bronx County Clerk Office

Today I called the Bronx County Clerk’s office. The employee I spoke to was extremely helpful. For those looking for information from the New York City area, it will be easy to search for petitions and/or naturalization records. The gentleman said all records have been entered onto an online database. You can access this site by visiting Italian Genealogical Group . General information about Vital Records, as well as a comune database are also accessible.

My search once again came up empty. There was no information on my great great grandfather. The only person from my family that did appear in the search was my great great great grandfather. He had naturalized in Manhattan in 1899. However, census records dated 1920 say that he was still an alien. This leads to the conclusion that census records can not be entirely trusted.

In order to request a ‘No Records’ a form must be submit along with $8 (probably a cashier’s check).

Monday, November 16, 2009

Italy v. America: Social Views

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Italy vs. America: The Differences Observed

Observation #2: Social Views

In 2007, during our class ‘Advanced Conversation and Civilization’, our professor gave us a presentation to do in pairs. We had already done a multitude of presentations, except this one entailed interviewing some of the Italians in town. We were given a variety of topics to choose from. My partner and I decided to focus on the touchy subjects of marriage (in general), same sex marriage, and abortion. Here’s what we discovered.

According to an article written in 2006 in the Corriere della Sera, the percentage of marriages in the past thirty years has fallen by 32.4%. The exception being in the region of Lazio, which had opposite results, with an increment from 4.7% in 1995 to 5.1%. The newspaper also stated that the increase was also partly due to what they call “tourism marriages” – couples coming from around the world to Rome to marry. The individuals we chose to interview had mixed responses on the subject, reflecting the survey. One male stated that he indeed did want to marry, given that the right woman came along. However, another male stated that he couldn’t see the point of marriage and could not imagine spending his life with the same person. This is odd considering he is from southern Italy, which is known for its more traditionally conservative ideals.

Perhaps Italians are becoming more like Americans in this perspective. In the article, Matrimonio no grazie – le americane vivono da sole (Matrimony no thank you – American women live alone) written in Italy’s newspaper, La Repubblica, a survey done in 2007 found that as many as 51% of American women are not married! The majority either live alone or are in a transitory relationship.

Hmmm… are Americans just a little too occupied with their busy work schedules and too scared to make the commitment to someone other than themselves, and/or fear becoming future divorcees?

The age at which couples married has also increased in Italy. It is no longer the trend to marry young, but to wait until one is older. The Corriere della Sera stated that the average age for the groom to marry is 33.7 years old, while your typical bride is 30.6 years old. The male we interviewed who wanted to eventually get married, said somewhere in his 30s would be an ideal time in his life to wed.

And what did the majority feel about gay marriage? Those who we interviewed stated it was the persons’ business if they wished to marry – the complete opposite of the Vatican’s views, whose main nemesis are abortion, euthanasia, and gay marriage. When asked about the church’s views, many stated that the views were old-fashioned and do not reflect the views of the Italian people. In L’Espresso’s article, Coppia gay: Sposateci! (Gay couple: Marry Us!), two males who wished to register their marriage were fighting for their right to marry in Florence. Their plead, they stated, was justifiable. Their argument is that the Costituzione (Constitution), states:

“la famiglia viene indicata senza indicazione di sesso, senza parlare di moglie e marito.”

“the family is mentioned without indicating sex, without speaking of wife and husband.”

The assessore ai servizi demografici (accessor of demographic services), Lucia De Siervo, stated that “it would be possible to register in the Registry of Civil Unions… as it is open to all, without regards to sex.” In this respect, Italy seems to be in line with the views of Americans, but appear to be more open and accepting of at least civil unions.

And abortion? All men stated that it was the woman’s decision to abort. There was no mention of any Pro-Life or Pro-abortion. Instead they have Pro-Choice views.

I am not aware of the views of Italians that are further to the North or to the South. I do not know if such views differ due to age. But judging by what was said by those interviewed and by the articles studied, their views are not much different than our own. Although I might be able to say that they are slightly more open-minded about said debates. All-in-all, it was a great learning experience.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

10 Things About Me

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The Pillars at Vatican City

Guess it’s about time that I begin giving a few details about myself. Here are the 10 Things about Me.

1. My name is Catherine. (With a C is the correct way to spell this name!) My close friends and family call me Katie. When I was little I never used to like my name, and hated when people called me Catherine. However, two years ago, that changed. I met my ex, and he only called me Catherine. Except, it came out Catrine, because he could never pronounce the “th” sound. I do NOT like it when others who I don’t know well call me Katie, which is something quite new. I realized this when one day a co-worker called my cellphone. On my voicemail, it says Katie. Now she calls me Katie all the time, and I cringe every time I say it. I did specifically say that only close friends and family call me that.

2. My mom calls me Caterina, which is Catherine in Italian. This began when I told my mom about my 6th grade teacher calling me this in class. At the time, I didn’t like it. I guess I thought my teacher was making fun of me, but my mom explained it was simply because he liked my name. Nowadays, I don’t mind being called that. In Italy, I realized that not many people have been given that name. Don’t know why.

3. Believe it or not, I’m 23. Anyone who meets me thinks I am much younger than my actual age. This doesn’t bother me at all to hear. It will be beneficial later in life!

4. I graduated from Rutgers University with a B.A. in Linguistics, and a minor in political science, which is odd because I don’t like to discuss politics.

5. Languages are definitely my passion. The obsession with learning them began in my junior year of high school when I met my idol, my German teacher, in my German class. He spoke 6 languages fluently. At the time, he was taking advanced Italian classes with his wife, who also spoke several languages. (A post will be added later about how they met. Such a lovely story!) He said that it was always easy for him to pick up languages, but it took his wife a long time to grasp the language. But, since she studied much more in order to understand all the rules, etc., she wound up being the better speaker in the language.

6. Since my trip to Italy, I’ve fallen in love with photography. My father told me before I left that if I didn’t take any good pictures he would be really upset. Mind you, before I left, I couldn’t take a picture to save my life. Pictures taken by me always resulted in someone having a limb cut off or totally missing the main object of the photo. Ha ha! For some reason, something just clicked. Perhaps because everything is so picturesque in Italy. Let’s just say he was pleased!

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On top of the world in San Marino

7. In case you haven’t noticed, I am a bit obsessed with all things Italian. Blogs on Italy are the only thing I will actually take the time to read. Since my first trip, I even like good Italian red wine. Before the thought of red wine was nauseating. It all changed one night at the bar (what Italians call the cafe. Bars, as we know them, are called pub in Italian) when my friends and I decided to buy 4 bottles of wine. It sounds like a lot of wine, but there were 10 of us, and then some joined us later. That night, I drank 4 glasses of wine! It was just too good! Let’s just say, at the capacity of my Italian at the time, I had never spoken Italian so well. Or at least that’s how I felt. I don’t even remember what was discussed, but whatever it was, it was in Italian!

8. Because of said love for the country, I would love to live there. Truthfully, I think I’m a wimp to live by myself there. Originally I was going to move to Italy to be with my now ex-boyfriend. Flying back and forth for two years had taken its toll on us. The first few months apart were unbearable.

9. I absolutely love music, and could never live without it. Memories of my mom playing music in the living room in our apartment when I was little are still vivid. Anytime a song she played comes on, I think of those precious moments.

10. Speaking of music, I now listen to A LOT of Italian music. The lyrics are so much more meaningful than a lot of the American music that’s listened to these days on the radio. My mom doesn’t mind me blasting Italian music in the car. She constantly asks me what they’re saying. But, if you’re ever in the car with me, and not an Italophile like me, I will spare you and put on songs with English.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Writng a Letter to the Comune Update!

Filename: j0413460.wmfToday, while reviewing the form I need to send into the Italian consulate, my ex told me it stated that I needed to send a certificato di cittadinanza storico, a certificate of historical citizenship, OR you must provide a copy of an old Italian passport (obviously for people who are not applying so far back in their family tree like I am).

So, if you are currently in the works of writing to your comune, don’t forget to add in that you would like a stamped copy of the certificato di cittadinanza storico.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Free Hugs All Around, It's on Me!

Yesterday, thanks to Sognatrice from Bleeding Espresso I discovered yet another blog Roam to Rome. On there, I found a great story about students who were giving out.. FREE HUGS! They held up bilingual, English and Italian, signs that advertised. My favorite part of the video was where one of the students held up a sign to a slowly passing police car. The cops were just like, “eff you! I don’t want a hug from you!”

What would you do if someone came up to you an offered a free hug? Roam to Rome summarized the video as such:

“When offered a free hug in downtown Rome, people’s reactions fell into a bell curve consisting of 4 categories.

1) A few people were very enthusiastic and RAN with open arms for the hug with a big grin on their face.

2) Many others just smiled and gladly took a tight hug.

3) Others pretend not to notice, and simply walked away from the hug.

4) A few get upset and flat out rejected the hug.”

The video is posted below, but don’t forget to visit both Bleeding Espresso and Roam to Rome.

Have you enjoyed a hug today?

Italy v. America: Supermarkets v. Shops

Italy vs. America: The Differences Observed

Welcome to the *brand new* series, of Italy vs. America: The Differences Observed. I have not yet decided whether I want to have this as a weekly or monthly writing, and if it is weekly, on which day I’ll post it. Hmmm….

Before I begin pointing out the differences between these two wonderfully unique countries, some clarification is needed. These observations are not made to make a conclusion at the end in order to say which country is better than the other. They’re merely just ways to show, well… the differences! All writings are based on what I have seen, experienced, and have heard from Italians themselves, which are based on their individual opinions.

Moving along….

Observation #1: Supermarkets vs. Shops

For those of you who have never been to the United States (I’m sure, and hoping, there are readers outside of the US), there is a common characteristic that flows with the everyday hussle and bustle of things here – size. Size does matter here and most Americans like BIG things. Happy Meals (see Home in Rome for Mickey D’s evidence!), cars, freeways, streets, houses, and…. supermarkets. Yes, supermarkets! Think Shoprite, or even Costco or BJ’s. Not only can you buy food, but toys, furniture, holiday decorations, TVs, cameras, and so much more. All to your heart’s content! Or at least what your budget or credit card allows. It’s all about convenience and the ability to buy things in just one store.

That’s not to say that these stores don’t exist in Italy, although they are less prominent… for now. Sure, there’s Conad, and many mall-like locations that have food stores that sell many things like the above-mentioned stores. But, you can still find small compartmentalized-like businesses in Italy, that are sadly, almost entirely non-existent in the US. In Italy you can still find many marcellarie, butcher shops, and the like. Perhaps it is because of the quality-consciencious mentality of Italians, particulary with food, that keeps this tradition alive.

Food, accompanied by good wine, is an important factor in an Italian’s life, where quality definitely outweighs the “benefits” of quantity – as what many Americans see as being better (oddly). Take ShopRite for example. I love my tomatoes, so it is extremely disappointing to buy a tomato from their store, and when the tomato is cut into, it isn’t blood red. They never have their true color, but an almost orange color. Instead it’s pale and doesn’t taste at all like a tomato should. The reason being that they are picked well in advance to survive the longer trip to the supermarket?

Compare these tomatoes to those that are grown closer to the source, locally grown produce. They’re plump, with a hint of taste of the sun. Blood red tomatoes that pour juice down your chin as you take a bite. I find that such produce is easier to find in Italy, and it is much more common for a family to have a small plot of land to grow their own vegetables and fruits. In Italy, one can still go to the daily or weekly mercato to buy from farmers in the area.

With so many obese Americans, maybe it’s time to take an example from the Europeans, and focus more on the quality of our food, and less on the discount received from buying in bulk.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Response from the Consulate!


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Just a quick update!

Around 9:30 last night I decided to send an e-mail to the Italian Consulate in Newark, NJ. My previous attempts to contact them via e-mail were unsuccessful. My e-mail simply asked whether I could do my own translations or would I have to resort to having a translator do the translation. Their response arrived today!

Ok, so what? What’s the big deal?

Well, from having read about other applicants never receiving a response, like I formerly did, or having to wait quite a long time to hear back, this was indeed an improvement. A response given in less than 24 hours. And what was there response?

Applicants must use one of the translators known to the consulate. If you too are applying through the consulate in Newark, here is who you can contact:


Mr. Maurizio Guercini
1271 Alicia Avenue
Teaneck, NJ 07666
Tel. 201 837 4468 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 201 837 4468 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

Mr. Raffaele Cimina
1111 Dogwood Circle
Blue Bell, PA 19422
Tel. 267 304 6226 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 267 304 6226 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

Ms.Olga Negrini
437 Lincoln St.
Carlstadt, NJ 07072
Tel. 201 460 8034 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 201 460 8034 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

Ms. Rosanna Giammanco Frangia
22 Windermere Rd
Staten Island, NY
Tel. 718 727 7728 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 718 727 7728 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

This information cannot be found on the consulate’s website… At least not that I have come across it. I scoured the site many times and did not find anything. Also, appointments must now be made. A recent applicant stated that a consulate officer said the processing was going much faster due to the new addition of appointments. I still don’t know how you can make an appointment – whether you need to send in a form or call, but once I find out, I will definitely let you know.

Way to go Newark! Keep up the good work!

For more information, please visit the Italian Consulate in Newark

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Canto della Terra

And I present you with a performance by Andrea Bocelli singing Canto della Terra. Yesterday I was listening to it in the car and was near tears. So now I share it with you.

Filename: j0336363.gifThis morning, like every morning, I woke up, walked downstairs, and phoned my boyfriend. We talk every day, but now minimized to five minutes at a time. hehe Usually we use Skype and occasionally use Facebook to keep in touch. Although it always manages to be pretty expensive every month, but I could not possibly go a day without hearing his voice.

Anyway, somehow we came to the subject of i tacchi (ee tah-kee), high heels. No, we were not discussing going shoe shopping, not even close. Instead we were talking about the woman who lives up above him. He lives in a two-story building on the bottom floor in a fairly large apartment with a roommate. His neighbors that live up above him are a mother, father, and daughter. The daughter is malata, sick, as my boyfriend calls her, but not in a cruel sense. He feels sorry for her because she never gets out of the house, except to go to the market every once in awhile with her mother. She is actually mentally handicapped (oops! Am I not politically correct?!). She throws temper tantrums everyday and screams. That I can live with. It does not bother me. But her mother on the other hand….

Picture this every morning. At around 6:30 AM, the campane, the bells, of the church sound every morning. The mother wakes up at this time every morning. Fully dressed, I’m assuming, she begins walking around the house in her tacchi. (I wouldn’t imagine she’d be still in her pajamas with her tacchi on.) So every morning I am woken up, at 6:30am, to hear her marching around, commencing her day! Then my boyfriend wonders why I always want to sleep! Well, he didn’t believe me until his roommate’s (who recently moved in) girlfriend complained to my boyfriend. L’uccido (I’ll kill her!), she exclaimed. However, the other girlfriend gets the worst of her foot stomping, as she sleeps directly under the neighbors’ kitchen.

Me: Hai visto? Pure lei la sente! (You see? Even she hears her!)
Boyfriend: Si’, pero’ non la sento io e Simone non la sente. (Yes, but I don’t hear her and Simone doesn’t hear her.)
Me: Ma non hai capito. Almeno sai che non immagino le cose. (But you didn’t understand. At least you know that I’m not making things up.) Quando ci vengo, gli diro’ qualcosa. (When I come there, I’ll tell her something.

Fortunately, I only live there temporarily when I go to see him. But, what would you do or say if you were in this situation???

Another thing about us. Yes, we only speak in Italian. His English speaking abilities are quite limited, as in, anything I say I have to translate into Italian anyway. But that story is for another day.

Happy blogging and have a great day!

Friday, November 6, 2009

worldnutelladay2010 I know, I know, the title is a bit deceiving, and World Nutella Day has not yet arrived. Not until February everyone! Nutella is a relatively new concept to me, introduced to me only two years ago on my first trip to Italy. It is an amazingly versatile spread that can be put just about anywhere – eaten on nice warm crepe, making it oozy; inside a cornetto (croissant); or how I’ve Americanized it, smothered on an English muffin or waffle. But those are not the only ways you can eat Nutella. To describe all the many ways to eat Nutella, it would take an entire book.

Since I am currently not in Italy, it is a bit difficult to have a true Italian breakfast. Or is it? Thankfully I have been able to purchase my little jug of heaven, and have even come up with a way to always have the most perfect cappuccino. This summer while I was at the mercato (picture an open-air market), I bought one of these contraptions:

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I would not have bought it there if it was at all possible to buy here in the States. At the supermercatomercato which is a steal. So what is it used for? Well, after experimenting many times with our espresso machine (in the States) and having unsatisfying schiuma (foam) results, it came time to buy one of these. The milk is heated up on the stove. Once heated, remove the pot from the stove, and place the top on it (not pictured here). The top is attached to a medal rod with a piece of mesh. Once placed on top, simply pump the rod up and down, creating that fluffy light foam the cappuccino is most famous for. Voila! (supermarket) the smallest pots cost more than 9 euros in the Urbino area. You can’t tell by the angle and by this photo, but this one is a rather large one that cost me just 10 euros at the

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Perfect foam everytime!

What does this have to do with Nutella? A cappuccino and Nutella go perfectly together. So I whip up a cappuccino, toast my English muffin or waffle, smother it with Nutella, and you have a perfect fix of an Italian breakfast!

Buon appetito!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Writing Your Letter to Your Comune

Ok, so you’ve discovered the ancestral village from which your family has come from. Now what? Start by searching for the website of your comune by using . Sorry, but this site is in Italian so perhaps having someone who speaks Italian could be handy. Though I will help you navigate in case you don’t know anyone who speaks and reads the language.

In the upper right hand corner, you will see a search box for the site’s search engine, titled Cerca il comune, ‘Search the Comune’. Click on the gray box and type in the name of your comune. As an example, I will use my comune’s name, Carrara. Next, click the blue arrow to the right of the box. With my search, ‘COMUNE DI CARRARA (MS) – TUSCANY’ popped up. Below there should be a website. Mine is .

Once I have copied and pasted the address in the URL bar, it brings me directly to the page I need. Next, click on the link on the left-hand side, Avere i documenti, ‘Have Documents’.

I then scrolled down to CERTIFICATO: storico, ‘Certificate: Historic’. This is where I was not sure to which address I should send my letter, so I picked the first one. There will be prices at the bottom of the page, but I am guessing these do not pertain to us dual citizenship seekers. Those on the message board I consult stated that the office will simply send any money, stamps, etc. back to the sender.

Now that we’ve discovered the address, how should it be written on the envelope? See below:

Uffici anagrafici decentrati
Bonascola – villaggio S. Luca, 102
Carrara (MS), Italy 54033

Make sure to include the region’s initials, as per the MS above. MS is abbreviation for Massa-Carrara. Not sure of the region’s initials, simply type the town into the Google search engine, and a map should pop up with the town’s name and region initials.

Below are some phrases and vocabulary you can use to write your letter. Hope this helps and good luck!

Gentile Signore/Signora – Dear Sir/ Madame

Mi chiamo _______________. - My name is ________________.

Faccio una ricerca dei miei antenati e ho bisogno dell’informazione dai registri. – I am researching my ancestors and I need information from the registries.

Se fosse possibile, potreste spedirmi l’estratto dell’atto della nascita, del battesimo e della morte? Qui sotto c’e’ l’informazione che vi potrebbe aiutare. -
If it is possible, could you send me a summarization of the birth, baptismal and death records? Here is some information that could help you.

Cognome e nome: Last name and first name
Data di nascita:
Date of Birth
Luogo di nascita:
Place of birth
Luogo di morte
: Place of death
Luogo di matrimonio:
Place of marriage
Data di matrimonio
: Date of marriage
Data di morte
: Date of death

You can also refer to the letter I had written. There is also a site that gives many more phrases, Family Research: Research Guidance, as well as an Italian town database listed on The Italian Heritage. Simply type the name of your town in the search box at the bottom of the page and press ‘Search’. Matches to your town’s name will then pop up. Click on your town’s name and a template will pop up. Since I have not used that site, I am not aware of any charges you may receive. My suggestion is to simply send your request by snail mail or fax. Some individuals have even been lucky with receiving responses through e-mail, though I do not recommend it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Off the Beaten Trail: Apricena, Puglia

This is the first edition to my Off the Beaten Trail section. The first feature is in Apricena, Puglia. Enjoy!

The local gardens in the centro

Last summer I had the honor and pleasure of meeting my boyfriend’ s family. They are from Apricena, a small town located in the region of Puglia in Southern Italy. From Urbino, we drove to Pesaro, which is about an hour away and is the closest train station. We hopped onto a train and made a five-hour journey to the South. The train runs along the coastline, providing views of the sea, while on the opposite side, there are farms. As the train approaches its destination, passengers are greeted by soaring windmills used to generate power to nearby towns. There is no longer a stop at the station in Apricena, therefore you must get off in San Severo.

San Severo is a small, busy city, near Apricena. However, inspite of being a city, it is very much rooted to agriculture, evident by the tractors parallel parked in the streets. Stray dogs roam the streets, and lazily lay in the dirt of the olive groves. By car, it takes yet another half hour or so to arrive in Apricena. The town is known for its extraction of marble, being the second largest exporter in Italy, after Carrara in Tuscany. It is also known for its agriculture, and the entire town is surrounded by farms.

At the time, I was visiting it was the end of May. Each year during this time, the town celebrates the Festa della Madonna. The Madonna is the town’s patron saint. She makes her trek from one church to another, which is located on the other side of town.

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Her Starting Point

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Safely Arriving

Last year, the town celebrated the feast’s 100th anniversary. What surprised me was when I heard my boyfriend say, “100 years is a long time!” I could not believe my ears! There are many traditions and buildings in Italy that are well over 100 years old. The Roman ruins are over 2,000 years old. So to hear an Italian say that 100 years was a long time seemed a little funny.

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La Madonna

The celebration begins each day for a week fairly early in the morning with Mass. Then the townspeople parade the statues of the Madonna and other saints around the streets of town. Before She journeys down a road, She stops and is met by fireworks. The procession then continues. This celebration is actually known to be the third most dangerous in the world. The fireworks line the street on a string, which has been hoisted onto poles. The end of the string is lit, and as the fireworks go off, the town’s boys run in front of them. At night, the same is done, except with larger, more explosive fireworks, including those dynamite-like ones. The Madonna’s long walk comes to an end at the second church, at which a prayer is held outside to thank Her.

The statue of the Madonna was recently restored prior to the 100th anniversary. She makes Her way to other towns, but they did not keep such good care of her. The way the other towns had fixed Her was not liked, so the Apricenesi restored Her to Her former beauty. Supposedly the other town that fixed Her had made Her ugly. The parade only comes to a halt during lunch and dinnertime. The meals during the festivals were about four to five dishes for lunch, and a light dinner. (Footage of the celebration soon to follow!)

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La Madonna

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Apricenese Skyline

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Happy Halloween!


The day was celebrated not like most of you all out trick-or-treating, however, it was very much enjoyable. My parents, my brother, and I traveled up to Stamford, Connecticut to visit family. We were all also celebrating my grandfather’s 85th birthday! (Happy Birthday Grandpa!) The day was filled with laughter and 8lbs of chili my aunt had made. There was so much to eat that we could not finish it all, and joked that my sister would have to dish it out in cups to her trick-or-treaters. All in all, it was a great day, and what was even more special was that the Yankees won! Yeessss!

Happy Halloween Everyone!

Another Piece to the Puzzle

Saturday turned out to be a great day. I have always loved receiving mail, but it has become increasingly more exciting as I wait for all the documents to arrive for my citizenship application. After almost three months, I received word from the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). Every week I was anxiously waiting to hear from them. From having read several entries on the Italian Citizenship message board, many people had waited a full year. It was amazing to see that I did not have to wait that long after all. They had received my requested search on August 3rd (2009). It stated that they had found no records under the names Giuseppe Ratti or Joseph Ratti (my great great grandfather) as having naturalized.

My next task is to search the Manhattan and Bronx County Courts. Wish me luck!