Becoming Italian

I just sent an email giving a genealogical company the green light to start the research to prove I’m eligible for Italian citizenship. If all goes well, I will be a dual citizen, with both a U.S. passport and an Italian one.

This is something I’ve been wanting to do for years. As far as I can tell, I am eligible. I’ve found some of the necessary paperwork online, though I probably need real, official copies and not virtual ones. Other documentation will need to be sought in Italy, in my great-grandparents’ hometown. Hiring a genealogical search company to gather all of this together costs quite a bit, which is why I haven’t gone ahead with it before now. But I’m doing it. Barring unforeseen restrictions or surprises in my family background, I’m going to be an Italian citizen.

As I understand it, my eligibility rests on whether my great grandfather was still an Italian citizen when my grandfather (Papa) was born in this country. If his father had not already revoked his Italian citizenship by becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen, then Papa was born an Italian citizen, and that citizenship conveys to my father and to me. Papa was born in 1906; I found his Pennsylvania birth certificate online. I’ve also found his father’s application for U.S. citizenship — dated several years after my grandfather was born. So it seems pretty clear that my grandfather was born an Italian citizen, even though he never made it official.

I’ll also need my great grandfather’s Italian birth certificate or other proof of his birth in Italy, like a baptism record. But that does not appear to be available online. Someone who reads Italian and has the expertise to know what to look for and where to find it will have to locate the original paper versions of that and any other necessary records in Umbria.

I’m following the paternal line because that is the simplest, legally. But I should also be eligible through my other great grandparents. The law in Italy says citizenship conveys through the male line, so I’m tracing mine back through the Petrini family. But the law is clearly sexist, and Italy knows it is, so descent can be traced through the female line, too, though until the law changes, it requires more hoops to jump through. So we’ll start with the simplest route.

As for why I want Italian citizenship, there are several reasons. First of all, I see it as an escape route of sorts. I fear the direction my own country is moving in; if it starts to feel that this is not the place for me, dual citizenship would simplify the logistics of being able to move elsewhere. Also, Italy is an EU country; Italian citizenship would give me rights and privileges throughout the EU. For example, as a citizen, I’d have access to inexpensive healthcare, as well, even if I never want to move there.

Another reason is purely emotional. I love Italy, and I identify strongly with my ancestry. I love the idea that I could be Italian legally as well as genetically. And once I’m a citizen, my son’s pathway to Italian citizenship would be easier.

I’ve been taking Italian through the Duolingo app. Once the pandemic ends, I’d like to take an in-person class. Even if I never move to Italy, I fully expect to take extended vacations there someday, and to do on-site genealogical research there. I want to be ready.

Viva Italia!

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