A few weeks ago, I was interviewed for the second time by Mike O’Laughlin of the Irish Roots Cafe for his Irish Families Worldwide podcast. The first interview was in July about my Irish family history tour. This time, the topic was about how a US citizen can obtain Irish citizenship. Here’s a link to the podcast posted on January 11, 2011.
Dual citizenship is by far the most read posting I’ve had in my blog. Here is a updated summary of my experience:
The United States allows dual citizenship with numerous countries, including Ireland. A few years ago I found out Ireland offers citizenship by descent. It is called “Citizenship through Foreign Births Registration (FBR)”. The background work took me a couple of months and the whole process cost a few hundred dollars. The FBR application took about 16-18 months to process. I received my dual citizenship in May 2007. I then applied for an Irish passport which I received in August 2007.
One can become an Irish citizen by descent even if your parents were not Irish citizens. If one of your grandparents was an Irish citizen you can apply for entry in the Foreign Births Register. There is no requirement that you have ever stepped on Irish soil. Since 1986, citizenship only takes effect as of the date of registration so any children born prior to your becoming a citizen are not automatically also citizens.
You need three forms of identification for your grandparent. I sent in information for both my grandfather and grandmother since as you will see below I was afraid someone might question the link to my grandfather. I used their Irish birth certificates, marriage certificate, and death certificates. All these records can be obtained through contact information on the Internet.
I was interested in genealogy and had created a fairly extensive record of my family history in the Family Tree Maker tool based on the research my parents had done. My father made copies of my grandparents’ birth records on a visit to Ireland but I never paid much attention to the details. I decided to pursue Irish citizenship for the following reasons:
- After my father died, I rekindled my interest in my family history. I realized I could no longer get first hand answers to my questions and my children would have little hope of finding information if I did not document it.
- It would be easier to travel in Europe with an EU passport.
- It would be an advantage if I ever wanted to work in Europe.
- I thought it would be fun – a nice novelty/conversation piece.
- I thought my wife would prioritize Ireland higher on the list for future travel. (I have since been to Ireland three times with my children, my wife and my siblings.)
What I learned along the way:
You think you know what your name is?
When I looked at my grandfather’s birth entry, I found it entered as “Sweeny”, not “Sweeney”. This made me question the validity of my father’s research. I subsequently did enough research to convince myself that my father was correct. The place of birth, the rough time period, the names of siblings and their birth records, and census information leaves little doubt that Sweeny and Sweeney referred to the same family. I also checked with other relatives to link various uncles together. I have since become more comfortable with the common practice of finding multiple spellings of your name. I have it with my mother’s family as well – Brennan in Ireland and Brennen sometimes in the US. I have since found it on the Horan side with McPherson and MacPherson. It still bothers me because I am very detail oriented, but it doesn’t seem to bother people in Ireland at all. I have been told that “everybody can spell their name two ways”.
You think you know when your grandfather was born?
In my research I found no less than 5 documented birth dates for my grandfather that differed from his birth certificate. These dates spanned 12 years and two seasons! I obtained copies of his birth certificate, the passenger manifest on the ship from Ireland to the US, census information in Ireland, multiple census records in the US, his immigration and naturalization papers, and his World War I draft registration card. As the years progressed he failed to age at the proper rate. That leads me to guess as a laborer he wanted to appear younger to keep his employment. There are still two living siblings of my father. However, neither has the slightest idea of their father’s birth date or even the season. Hard to imagine they never celebrated his birthday.
Thank goodness my grandmother told the truth about her birthday. It was a treat to see everything match when I obtained similar records for her.
What kind of information can you obtain?
I made one trip to the National Archives in Waltham, MA. Everything else was researched on the Internet or through Ancestry.com and requested by postal mail or fax. I must credit an extremely helpful person at the National Archives with unlocking the key to many records of my grandfather as he found the immigration and naturalization records. I assumed my grandfather came into Boston as my grandmother did since they both moved to Providence, RI. As it turns out he arrived at Ellis Island in New York. Once I discovered this, the process became easier.
Here are some of the records I obtained:
- Irish birth certificate
- Passenger manifest entry for the ship coming to the US
- Irish and US census information
- Immigration and naturalization papers
- World War I draft registration
- Marriage certificate
- Death certificate
- Social Security record
In case you are curious:
- My grandfather, Sweeney, was born in Gubnaveagh (near Ballinamore), county Leitrim.
- My grandmother, Horan, was born in Ballaghboy, county Sligo.
- My mother’s grandfather, Brennan, was born in Carrownamaddy, county Roscommon.