I hope you enjoyed our little jaunt to the Philippines yesterday. Now back to Italy. We had decided to move to Italy by October 2007, which at the time was one year away. Now all we needed to do was to collect birth, death, and marriage certificates for Tony and all his ancestors in a direct line back to Domenico. It came to a grand total of 32 certificates, plus the Naturalization papers for Domenico. The documents had to be requested from the vital records offices of five different states and two different towns in Italy, and then most of them had to be sent to the Governor’s office of the various states for an Apostille. The basic function of an Apostille is to make an official-looking certified document look twice as official and certified. The way the Apostille looks varies from state to state, but the most important ingredient is usually a gigantic gold seal.
Because Domenico and Henriette were born so long ago, civil record-keeping had not yet begun in Italy (yes, it came in with our old friend Napoleon). So I mustered my almost nonexistent Italian to write letters to the churches in the two little towns where they were born, asking for copies of their birth certificates. Amusingly enough, Domenico’s birth certificate came back in Latin because it was from the Catholic Church. And Henriette’s came back in French, because it was from the Waldensian Church. But they were really both Italian, I promise.
The Naturalization document posed a bit more of a problem. Because the naturalization process had not yet been standardized in Domenico’s time, there were six possible State, Federal, and District courts in which he could have naturalized. I duly sent off letters and emails to several different sets of archives. In the end, we never did find a naturalization record for Domenico. Everyone told me over the phone or email that no record existed. Luckily, a certificate of non-existence of records is also acceptable to the Italian government. Only the Utah Federal Court archives actually replied formally, but the letter was sent by a very precise and conscientious clerk who put it on nice, official-looking letterhead (complete with a shiny gold seal) and even bolded the fact that no record had been found. I could have kissed him. I needed something official-looking to present to the Italian government.
However, the worst problems were the marriage record of Domenico and Henriette and the birth certificates of their son Louis and his wife Elva, which were apparently all lost somewhere (or never written down?) before Utah became a state. I decided if the churches in Italy could stand in for civil registers, there was no reason my church in Utah couldn’t. So I asked the L.D.S. Church Archives for certified copies of Domenico and Harriet’s sealing (eternal marriage) in the Temple, and the blessing certificates of Louis and Elva. No dice. They don’t certify anything, they told me. They did consent to send me regular letters, but I knew there was no way the Italian government was going to go for something with no seal. (And not even a purple stamp or embossed letterhead either!) This called for a personal visit, and some creative maneuvering. You can read about it here.
And what do you know, as soon as I had gathered all the documents, the opportunity suddenly arose to make the big move some seven months before we had planned. We jumped at the chance, and by the end of March, we had touched down in Italy. We had our first adventure right at the airport, where our car caught fire, and things didn’t really slow down for . . . oh, I don’t know. They haven’t really ever slowed down since then.
In Italy, we explored the Waldensian Valleys and finally met our long lost relatives, the Bodreros, in Domenico’s hometown. Then we settled down to the serious business of convincing the Italian government to make Tony a citizen. The rest of that story is already told in rollicking and excruciating detail on this blog, but I advise you to have some gelato or at least some chocolate on hand for when things get dicey. We sure did. To read it, click here and scroll down to “Fun at the Comune.” Then just be sure to read from the bottom up, or you’ll get the story backwards. If you make it through all that, the story continues here (again, scroll to the bottom and read the last post first).
For those of you who are still dying of suspense, we did finally attain Italian citizenship. After seven months of visiting the comune (as well as begging, pleading, baking cookies, and calling in various reinforcements), we had to go back to the United States indefinitely because our business was about to fall apart in the 2008 economic downturn. The week after we left Italy, we received an email from the comune informing Tony that his application had been approved, and the paperwork was ready to sign. We came back to Italy for a couple of weeks in April 2009, for Tony to become officially Italian. It was another long, long year before we made it back here to live. But all’s well that ends well, and here we are, safe and sound in Italy. Maybe I’ll write a book some day. Promise you’ll all read it?