Becoming Italian, Part 2

Veduta Della Catena (Chain Map), by Francesco and Raffaello Petrini, is a pictorial representation of Florence, Italy, on display at the Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace). The 19th-century work is inspired by a 15th-century woodcut. I have not yet proven that Francesco and Raffaello are my ancestors, but I hope to make that connection someday.

Today I did something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. After several phone consultations, I contracted with a genealogy firm that will research and pull together the documents I need for claiming my Italian citizenship. If all goes well, I will eventually be a dual citizen, with both a U.S. passport and an Italian one.

I mentioned this a few weeks ago, the last time I spoke with a genealogist there. But as of today, I am forging ahead with it.

People keep asking me why I want dual citizenship. There are several reasons. It would give me various rights in Italy and other EU countries, where things like health care and education can be a lot more accessible and affordable. I could travel without needing a visa for extended trips in the EU. And I would have the right to live there if I ever wanted to; with some of the problematic things going on in this country, it might be useful at some point to have that option. It’s also just a way of honoring my Italian heritage.

Of course, I will still be a US citizen, too.

The next step now is that my case will be assigned to a team. A genealogist will go over my family tree and the accompanying documents I’ve found, and determine a plan for moving forward. I am guessing that will involve getting official copies of the U.S.-based birth certificates and other documents I have only online versions of. Much more difficult — and the reason why I can’t do this myself — will be tracking down documents in church archives and public offices in small towns in Italy.

In other words, this will take quite a while. I was told to expect it to take six months. After that, I’m not sure how long it would be before I can actually claim my citizenship. And I do mean claim it. Providing I meet the criteria, the underlying assumption, by Italian law, is that I am an Italian citizen but have to document it and have it approved before it becomes official. I do seem to be eligible, but that could fall apart if there’s some legal loophole I don’t know about.

On the other hand, I’m attempting to do this through the paternal line, which is the most straightforward way of proving Italian citizenship. But it’s not the only way. If the researchers cannot locate some crucial document, or if my paternal-line ancestors fail to meet some obscure criterion, all is not lost. I have other lines of Italian ancestry to try next. Working through a maternal ancestor requires jumping through some extra hoops, which would probably require more research and cost more money. So I’m hoping the Petrini line comes through for me.

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