“I begged my mother to come with us…”
As hard as I try and rack my brain, I can’t remember the actual day that I started this journey. I had a huge fascination with genealogy and I remember discussing this with my Italian friend, Lynne Russell, who didn’t qualify. She’s a “50% er” like me, and said, “do it for the both of us.” Italian citizenship is based on “jure sanguinis” (by descent). I was eligible because my grandfather was still an Italian citizen at the time of my mother’s birth, which gave her and some descendants, Italian citizenship.
I went online for citizenship records in the vital records department. There were seven Carmelo Battaglia names on the list. I didn’t know which one belonged to my grandfather! I saw a date which appeared to be two months before my mother was born, and I was crushed, painfully crushed. That is the most important document of all and this would disqualify me if the date of naturalization was before my mom’s birth. I was resolved not to give up, even to the point of writing a letter that my mother was in the womb qualified me—if I had to!
Several months later, we took my mom to the same building. They gave her several documents and she recognized one with her dad’s signature. At the bottom of one paper was Giuseppina, her real name, her sister Maria, and brother Giuseppe. The date that appears online was only the date he made application for citizenship, not the official naturalization date. I burst out with a scream. No tears, just real joy and gratification that my persistence paid off. This was the first document that proved my grandfather was still an Italian citizen when my mother was born, just three weeks after her birth, he was still under allegiance to King Victor Emmanuel of Italy. One big hurdle down, a few more to go.
When the document arrived in the mail, I made my official appointment with the Italian Consulate in Miami. I made a mind-map of all the documents I needed. It was a free-form diagram on poster board. This was my visual aid for organizing this undertaking, and it gave me gusto for full speed ahead. My appointment was fourteen months later, slated for August 14, 2010. I had one year to get the rest of my documents.
Without going into detail on each document, I will say that most of the documents were fairly easy. The only document that was difficult was my grandparent’s marriage certificate, which was obtainable only through a court order. This was more of a legality issue, but with relative ease and time, we got through it. The entire process was much easier than you could imagine. I needed ten documents from New York State, two from Florida, two from Georgia. Several had to be obtained from New York City, and that gave us a good excuse to go for the weekend. Linking all the documents was like a treasure hunt. Each one had new information, new names, dates, and each person was connected. We celebrated with each new certificate!
August 13, 2010 We flew to Miami and stayed in our favorite Art Deco district of Miami Beach. Cuban food was on our mind as we searched for the right place. A walk on the beach was restorative. Before going to bed, I had to look one more time, hoping that I didn’t make a mistake with any of the requirements. This was worse than a job interview, or a mortgage closing. Everything had to be in my file, or I might have to wait another year for another appointment.
August 14, 2010 Morning came quickly, and I had forgotten to bring some makeup. Well, something had to be left behind. We got into the car and sped down the street. There was a Walgreens near our hotel and they had everything. I ran into the store and got some eyeliner. I was a nervous wreck. It was hot outside, and the A/C was blasting inside the car. It was 10:00 am and I had just opened the door of the Italian Consulate’s office. That is not arriving on time, I should have been seated, but I was there despite my ringing, wet clothes from the heat and high tension.
Trying to collect my thoughts, I began wondering if I was going to be interviewed by a man or woman, young or old, and was he/she from Italy. Silly stuff. Just something I always do to get my mind off of the present. Finally, they called my name. Of course, my husband wanted “in” on the activity so he followed me into the office, there was no stopping him and I guess it was a momentous occasion.
I was received by Virginia Valore. She was unaffected that my husband was joining me and she assured me he was more than welcome. I was immediately at ease and knew that this was a kind woman. By now, I assumed that I was not the only applicant accompanied by a family member.
Months before my appointment, I begged my mother to come with us and register her citizenship as well. She felt it was unnecessary and told me she had nothing to prove because she was 100% Italian. Wild horses couldn’t get her to budge, not even a free airline ticket with all expenses paid!
Mrs. Valore looked over all the documents and said, “You qualify.” My racing heart wanted to break out with a loud YES, and clenched fist, but I restrained myself. She looked at the naturalization date and said, “Your mother was born just three weeks before your grandfather’s naturalization…close call indeed.” But I was not prepared for the next statement. My marriage certificate was supposed to be translated in Italian. My head dropped and I looked at my husband, I knew where the mistake happened. We were advised prior to the appointment that it was not required. Never did I think we would be turned down. Minutes went by and we didn’t know how this was going to end. She graciously said that I would have to have the document translated into Italian and for us to send it to her as soon as possible.
I was discouraged and now another delay. The good news was we didn’t have to make another appointment, we were spared. As soon as the Miami office received the documents written in Italian they would send the entire package of paperwork to Italy for approval. Mrs. Valore told me that she came from Italy where my grandfather came from and this was surreal. She also told us that earlier in the week she had to turn someone down as they did not qualify and they all cried. She escorted us out of the office and we thanked her. I had a huge sigh of relief and we celebrated once again.
March 2011 I had confirmation from Italy. I now had my official Italian Citizenship. My papers arrived… Certicicato Di Cittadinanza. A week later, I made another trip to Miami where I obtained my Italian Passport.
I am only half Italian, but on that day I felt 100% Italian and I feel a stronger bond with my Italian relatives more than ever! Grazie mille grandpa!