Orange is my favorite color

A couple of years ago, before I went to Europe, I found out that I am entitled to obtain a Italian citizenship through my great-grandfather:

You qualify if your paternal or maternal grandfather was born in the United States, your paternal great grandfather was an Italian citizen at the time of his birth, neither you nor your father nor your grandfather ever renounced your right to Italian citizenship.

That’s pretty cool! Since Italy is part of the EU, Italian citizenship entitles me to live and work anywhere in Europe basically. I set about finding what I needed to obtain and it turns out the list is long and nasty and once filed, it may take as long as a year before they get around to actually meeting and accepting you. So I put it off but recently, as my round-the-world trip is getting closer, I have been picking up the slack and making some phone calls. I’m going to record my progress here so I don’t forget what I’m doing.

The short story is you need a birth, marriage, divorce and death certificate (as appropriate) for every person beginning with the original Italian citizen and his spouse all the way down to me. On top of that, each non-Italian document must be authenticated with an Apostille and translated to Italian. Most of these (American) documents are available from the county clerk office where the event took place. For my family, that means mostly California but still spread from the Oregon border to the Bay Area. It also includes a German birth certificate for my grandmother.

Funnily enough, the German certificate was the easiest one to get. I found my grandmother’s hometown via Google and submitted a message to their help desk indicating what I needed and asking them to tell me how much and when to pay. Help from AltaVista’s Babelfish let me send a (poorly, I’m sure) translated version in German as well.

Lo and behold, about 10 days layer the birth certificate just showed up! Sweet! Oh crap, they made a mistake and put today’s date as her birth date. That’s not going to work. I emailed them again explaining what happened and again, another certificate showed up 10 days later – all without spending a dime. I don’t know if this is standard or or a special favor, but I love Frau Graf at the Standesamt in Gotha, Germany!

Today I started making calls to the California offices in Del Norte (Grandfather birth certificate) and Sacramento (Grandparents marriage and father’s birth certs). Although the process isn’t particularly complex, it is time consuming and tedious with each step done either in person (quick but requires travel) or via mail (requires printing a form and having it notarized, then delivered to the office and waiting for a reply). Most documents are between $10 and $20 each, a notary runs $5 and if I was smart I would probably send all of this via certified or express mail.

On top of collecting all of the documents, you have to obtain Apostilles for each of them. An Apostille is just a fancy internationally recognzied stamp of approval that Italy will take. The secretary of state provides it and it’s $20 per document. At that stage, then I can find a translation agency to have these documents translated into Italian and then, ONLY THEN, will the Italian Embassy in San Francisco accept my paperwork and schedule an interview for some date far in the future. Knowing my luck it will be while I’m out of the country. :)

Regardless, it’s a fascinating process and an interesting insight into my family. For example, I never knew my grandfather’s middle name was “Faustino”. Having met my Italian relatives, both the ones who do and don’t speak English, I am hoping that I will be able to spend a couple of years living abroad at some point and getting to know them, the culture and the language much more intimately. I do love Rome something fierce…

Next steps are to obtain all of the paperwork from the remote clerk offices and then take a trip to do the apostilles and paperwork in Sacramento. That will save the notary fees and will ensure I wind up with everything in my hands.

1 Comment

  1. Elin said:

    on April 11, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    Hi! I came across your blog as I typed in desperation into Google “How do I get a German Apostille.” I need to have a German birth certificate certified with an Apostille for much the same reason you did. Could you tell me how I do that? I’ve had no luck with the German Embassy in New York or the American Embassy in Berlin.

    I have the German birth certificate (my mom’s) in hand…now what?

    Any help you could provide would be amazing!


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