Genealogy is like a jigsaw puzzle, but you don't have the box top, so you don't know what the picture is supposed to look like. As you start putting the puzzle together, you realize some pieces are missing, and eventually you figure out that some of the pieces you started with don't actually belong to this puzzle. I'll help you discover the right pieces for your puzzle and assemble them into a picture of your family.
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
"Right of Return": Citizenship by Descent
Each country sets its own requirements and restrictions for citizenship through right of return, as they do with normal citizenship requirements. For Italy, for example, you can apply if your great-grandparent, grandparent, or parent was born in Italy and did not renounce citizenship before a more recent ancestor was born in another country. I recently helped someone with his application for Italian citizenship using this method. His great-grandfather was born in Italy and did not give up Italian citizenship before his grandfather was born in the U.S. I researched and confirmed the family connections, ordered copies of the relevant required documents, arranged for a translation of my client's birth certificate into Italian, and acquired an apostille (international certification similar in function to a notarization) for his birth certificate. He submitted his application to the local Italian consulate, which approved it with no problems. It will take about five months for the application to be processed, and he will then have dual citizenship, U.S. and Italy.
What's the point of doing this? Some people do it because they want to be more closely connected to their ancestral homelands. On a more practical level, some (such as my client) do it because Italian citizenship not only will allow him to travel freely to Italy, it also permits free travel throughout the European Union.
Most of the time citizenship acquired through right of return is equivalent to full citizenship of the country. One country that does it differently is India. Instead of granting citizenship, that country gives descendants of the Indian diaspora status as "Persons of Indian Origin." This status allows someone to go to India without a visa, exempts him from restrictions on work for foreign nationals, and makes it easier to become a full citizen if desired. (Maybe one day my stepsons will be interested; their grandfather was born in Punjab.)
Sometimes a person looking for citizenship through right of return is disappointed. Someone else I did research for was not eligible for Italian citizenship because his great-grandfather became a naturalized U.S. citizen before his grandfather was born. In an interesting twist, descendants of the grandfather's older brother are eligible, because the older brother was born before the great-grandfather renounced Italian citizenship.
General information about right of return can be found here, with examples from several countries. One I found especially interesting was Spain, which has a specific provision for descendants of Sephardic Jews who were expelled from the country in 1492 (which will require a lot of research to document!). If the country you are looking for doesn't appear in this list, try searching for "right of return" and the name of the country.
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An informative article was posted online about this very subject a few days ago:ReplyDelete
(Ignore the part at the end where the authors says the company can "help you complete your family tree"; we all know family trees are never done!)
Do you know anything about an exception for Italian citizenship for Jews who were forced to leave by decree in Nov. 1939? My father was born in Italy but had to leave, and in 1945 he became a naturalized U.S. citizen. My eldest sibling was born in 1952, so according to the basic citizenship requirements, we wouldn't be eligible. I thought I read there was an exception for those forced to leave the country but now can't find where I read that.ReplyDelete
Thanks so much for any information.
None of the information I have seen refers to people who were forced to leave, so I can't point you to anything. You can send a message to the San Francisco consulate, which is the one I was working with, at firstname.lastname@example.org. The person there was very helpful and informative.Delete
Thank you, Janice. You have a wonderful blog, which I've only begun to dig into.ReplyDelete
You are very welcome! Always feel free to ask questions. I will help as best I can.Delete
My mother was born at Libya at 1963 and was banished to Italy at 1967.
She know jews back than had some sort of colonial citizenship by Italian authorities in Libya, but she does not remember if her parents had to.
Anyway let's say they did, do you know if that gives her the rights for an Italian citizenship nowadays?
Any respond will be much appreciated,
If your grandparents were Italian citizens when your mother was born, then that should give her the right to apply for citizenship. There's a good write-up on Italian citizenship through descent at
but it doesn't cover every detail. Libya is not mentioned at all. The best thing to do is speak to someone at the nearest consulate, because that's where the application would be submitted.
Best of luck with your search,
Can i do it for" Deutschland"?i speak very well deutsch i also still have my teutonic deutsch last name "SCHNEIDER" my great grand father fled to the U.S. V.I which belong to denmark at one point.. he was a schutzstaffel an fled nürnberg trials.. My family fought for both ww1 and 2 for deutschland.. everything i read basically already makes me qualified its just idk the next step to take. i called a deutsch embassy in miami by doesnt talk about Jus sanguinis or right of return. i also had a deutsch foreign exchange student and also said im deutsch. he said my last name helps alot. but please i just need to know whats my next step to do? call deutschland itself? and will they look up documents aswell or i must bring?P.S. im the 1st generation born in the 50 states and my dad and his dad born in the U.S.V.I which belong to denmark at one time. the rest of my family great great great great are deutsch..ReplyDelete
Based on the research I did last year for someone, I don't think so. You can find an overview of German citizenship law at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_citizenship. In particular, Article 116 of German Basic Law (http://www.iuscomp.org/gla/statutes/GG.htm#116) defines who is a German. Someone who fought for Germany in World War II and fled the trials does not appear to qualify.Delete
The Danish Virgin Islands were purchased by the United States during World War I, so that means you had three generations living under U.S. law, and two born under it, even before you were born in the United States proper.
Hi Janice, I really want to go traveling through europe and maybe spend a year or two studying there, so I've been looking into my ancestry to see if i'm eligible for any dual citizenship but its really really confusing!ReplyDelete
My Great Grandfather had Lithuanian citizenship before June 1940 and fled to scotland around 1930 because of the impending war, apparently this means I could be one of the few eligible for dual Lithuanian citizenship which it normally does not grant. However, the laws have changed a lot recently and I'm unsure whether he had to leave after 1940.
Also both my grandparents were born in Britain one in Scotland the other in Northern Ireland they then neutralised in Australia, do I have any citizenship eligibility or is it just my mother that can apply?
Hi, everyone's situation is different, and you'll need to prove every fact with documentation. For the past few months I've been helping someone track down documentation for his application for Lithuanian dual citizenship. These are links to the regulations he has been working from:Delete
The "Law on Citizenship" in English from what I believe is a Lithuanian Parliament Web site:
The "Dual Citizenship" write-up from the Lithuanian Consulate in New York site:
It would appear that you could be eligible. You might want to contact a consulate near you and ask for advice.
I have a very similar situation as the Italian descent person that you helped. My great grandfather on my mother's father's side was born in Italy. However, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States before my grandfather was born. Do you believe I am eligible to become an Italian citizen?
Thank you for your help!
If your Italian great-grandfather became a U.S. citizen before your grandfather was born, sorry, but you are not eligible for Italian citizenship through him. You would only be eligible if your grandfather were born before your great-grandfather renounced his Italian citizenship.
Hi Janice my grandfather and great grandfather were born in Italy my mother and myself were born in the U.S. I would love mor then anything to become an Italian citizen and be a part of my heritage and family there. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I do have some forms and information if that might help you.mDelete
If your grandfather became a U.S. citizen before your mother was born, your are not eligible for Italian citizenship through descent. If he became a citizen after your mother was born, whether you are eligible depends on when your mother was born. You can find more details here:Delete
I'm living in Germany now under the SOFA agreement but my ancestors (at least one uncle on my mothers side) lived in Germany before and during WW2. Would this help qualify me for right of return in Germany?
Based on my understanding of eligibility, I don't think so. It appeared to me that you need to be a direct descendant. You can find an overview of German citizenship law at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_citizenship. In particular, Article 116 of German Basic Law (http://www.iuscomp.org/gla/statutes/GG.htm#116) defines who is a German. But you should definitely check with a consulate near you to make sure
I am currently looking into getting Italian dual citizenship. I am not certain but I am pretty sure my grandparents were naturalized before my mother was born but a friend said there might be a glimmer of hope because my grandfather served in the Italian armed forces. Is that true?
Thanks for all that you do!
As far as I understand the process, and according to the information I have found, I don't think so. You can look at the information here:
(and check the references at the bottom of the page) and here:
They all seem pretty clear that if your grandparent naturalized before your parent was born, you are not eligible. But you can always ask at the Italian consulate nearest to where you live to find out if exceptions can be made for men who served in Italy's armed forces.
Good luck with your quest!
Fascinating blog! Is there anything on right of return in Austria? My grandfather had to flee the Nazis in 1938.ReplyDelete
Thank you! Generally speaking Austria seems to allow children of citizens to become citizens fairly easily. If it's through your grandfather you might need to go through additional steps, particularly depending on what his citizenship status was at the time. There's a quick breakdown of information here:Delete
What if there is clear documentation and I have ancestors buried in Westminsters.Abbey? Could I apply for citizenship to England?
Well, you can't apply for citizenship to England, because the United Kingdom is the name of the governing country. But how many generations back was your most recent ancestor who was a citizen of England and/or the UK?Delete
Greetings from the USA! Is there such a thing as "right of return" for people of Dutch heritage for the Netherlands or Swiss heritage for Switzerland? I checked your link so my guess is no but you may know something more?ReplyDelete
The Wikipedia page about general right of return does not refer to either the Netherlands or Switzerland. There is an overview of nationality law for each of the countries, though:Delete
The Netherlands page does not mention anything about right of return. The Switzerland page notes that second- and third-generation descendants of citizens of the Canton of Vaud can obtain citizenship more easily, but one of the requirements is that the person be between the ages of 18 and 24.
Keep in mind these Wikipedia pages are overviews. For more details and to find out if there is some form of right of return that isn't listed, it's always best to contact a consulate or embassy.
I was born in England and moved to U.S where I became a U.S citizen. I am now needing to return to England to help support my elderly parents. Can I do this, and what is the process?ReplyDelete
According to this information on the Wikipedia page about British nationality law:Delete
unless you officially renounced your British citizenship through the UK Border Agency, you are still a British citizen. I recommend you check with your nearest consulate about what your status currently is and resumption of your citizenship if necessary.
wonder if you could advise me on some thing,i just learned that my great great grandfather was born in italy would i be able to apply for a italian passport?i do qualify for an uk ancestral visa as my grandfather was from the uk,i am south african,any information would be greatly appreciated.thank you
You might be eligible, depending on when your great-great-grandfather was born, and if and when he or another one of your ancestors renounced Italian citizenship. I know what the process is in the United States, but have no experience with it in South Africa. It is probably similar, but every consulate has its own version of the process. You should consult with the nearest Italian consulate to find out.
Ii is very nice to read You. So, If I may ask: my great grandfather and great grandmother were born in Boemia, and came to Brasil in 1880.
My grandfather was born in Brasil, as my father and Me. Do you think that would be possible for my father and I obtain Austrian citizenship?
Thank You, so much.
Thank you for finding my blog. I'm not sure if you would be eligible for Austrian citizenship, because Bohemia is currently in the Czech Republic. While Bohemia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, that was not exactly the same thing as Austria. Some basic information about Austrian citizenship is here:
but this brief overview does not mention anything about the Empire or whether citizenship in the Empire is considered the same for jus sanguinis as citizenship in Austria proper. Also, if your great-grandfather renounced Austrian citizenship to become a Brasilian citizen, that would make you ineligible for citizenship via jus sanguinis.
I'm sorry I can't give you a more direct answer, but European border changes mean it can become complicated. I suggest you contact an Austrian consulate to find out what they can tell you regarding your eligibility for citizenship.
The best of luck in your quest,
Thanks for the helpful article!ReplyDelete
My great grandfather was born in Italy. My grandfather was born in the US but while my great grandfather was still an Italian citizen in 1912.
However, my grandfather was drafted into the military in WW2. He later had my father. Does being drafted into a war count as renouncing citizenship? Am I eligible assuming no other actions that count as renouncing citizenship occurred?
If rour grandfather was born in the U.S. while your great-grandfather was still an Italizn citizen, you are eligible. Your grandfather was born a U.S. citizen. He didn't renounce anything by serving in the military.Delete
I am an Australian currently living in the UK on a work visa and am looking to get Italian/Australian duel citizenship. My paternal grandmother was born in Italy and was still an Italian citizen when my father was born in Australia in 1955. Am I eligible? Also I am not sure how to go about starting the process in London if I am! Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!
Hi! As I understand the process, you should be eligible. Your grandmother was an Italian citizen, and your father was born after 1 January 1948. You will need to document your lineage through your grandmother, including birth, marriages, and possibly deaths, and her naturalization. To find out how to about the process, you should check with the nearest consulate, which probably is this one: http://www.conslondra.esteri.it/Consolato_Londra. Good luck with your quest!Delete
Great! Thanks so much for your help!Delete
You are very welcome!Delete
Hi Janice, my name is Stephanie Agustin and I have a few questions for you. My first question is how do I find out if my great grandma was really from Spain? Second, how do I apply for citizenship for Spain? Supposedly, some of our family is from Italy, but how can I verify that its true if they have passed away? Lastly, what are the benefits of becoming a citizen? Thank you for reading this!ReplyDelete
The way you find out if your great-grandmother was really from Spain is by doing research. When you look for documents about your great-grandmother, you'll want to make sure they're about the right person. Second-hand information, such as a census that says she was born in Spain, is not considered reliable but only a clue. You'll need to find Spanish records for her to know for sure if she was born there.
There is a summary of information about Spanish citizenship law here:
If you were interested in applying, you should visit the nearest Spanish consulate and learn what the specific requirements are, though it appears a residency period is required for almost everyone.
You would verify that your family members were from Italy the same as verifying that your great-grandmother was from Spain: through research. You would need to document their births in Italy and prove their relationship to you.
The primary tangible benefit of becoming an Italian or Spanish citizen for most people is that it also conveys citizenship in the European Union, which means you can travel throughout the EU and work in any member country. On an intangible level, it also generally makes people feel closer to their ancestor's country of origin.
Italy permits dual citizenship. According to the information on the Wikipedia page, Spain does not permit dual citizenship for most naturalized citizens. That is something you would want to verify and consider before going through the process.
Good luck with your plans!
First of all, thanks for this blog, it's incredibly informative!
Secondly, I was wondering if you could help me and maybe advise the best course of action for my future plans.
I am American by birth who is married to a British citizen. We are planning to move to London, and I would like to get an EU passport so it will be easier to live there.
A little background:
Both my paternal and maternal grandparents were from Romania. My maternal grandparents were from a city called Satu Mare and were deported to Auschwitz in 1944. When they went back after the war, their house and all documents inside had been burnt down. They moved to America where my mother was born.
My paternal grandparents were much further north in Romania and the war did not reach them. After the war, they traveled down to find any surviving family members, and my father was born in 1950 in the DP camp of Bergen Belsen in Germany. They then moved to America, and on my father's passport it says born in Germany. They don't either have any paperwork.
Is there anything you can recommend I do to try and reclaim either German or Romanian citizenship, knowing about the lack of paperwork and documentation?
Thanks so much!
Thank you! I'm glad you have found the information on my blog helpful.Delete
Regarding your question, your easiest path is probably to acquire British citizenship via being married to a British citizen. A short synopsis is available here:
Note that it says one requirement is three years' residence.
The most likely possibility for all four of your grandparents' citizenship would be Romanian. It is possible to acquire dual Romanian citizenship by being a descendant of a citizen, but first you need to prove your ancestor was a Romanian citizen. This requires extensive research in Romanian archives, not an easy thing to accomplish, and that's assuming the documents are there to begin with.
The fact that your father was born in a German DP camp did not confer German citizenship on him. He would have been considered the same nationality as his parents, i.e., probably Romanian.
I'm sorry I couldn't give you better news, but I wish you well in your move.
Thank you for your wonderful article! I hope you could give me a bit of guidance. My paternal grandparents were born in England, they came to the US in 1930, my father was born in the 30s and my grandparents became US citizens in the early 50s. My maternal grandmother was born in Ireland, she came to the US in the mid 20s, met and married my grandfather (born in US but raised in Ireland). My mother was born in the early 30s, my grandmother became a US citizen in the mid 40s. Would I be eligible for a right of return to either the UK or Ireland?ReplyDelete
Thanks so much! Patty.
Good afternoon, Patty! Thank you for the kind words and for reading my blog.ReplyDelete
Based on what you have said, I believe you are eligible for Irish citizenship, because your mother was born before your grandmother became a U.S. citizen. So your mother would automatically have been an Irish citizen, and she could pass that on to you. All of that needs to be verified with research, of course.
As for British citizenship, your grandparents would have transmitted it directly to your father on his birth. Based on when your father was born, I'm guessing you were born before 1983. It does not appear he passed on his British citizenship to you because he didn't register you for citizenship when you were an infant, but there are a lot of "if this, then that" provisions.
Keep in mind that the Wikipedia pages are overviews and that anyone's specific situation may be treated differently. I recommend carefully reading the footnotes and external links for both pages, and speaking with someone from a consulate for each country.
Best of luck with your question for citizenship! Let me know how it turns out.
My maternal grandfather, has served british army for 4 years in india- 1942-1946 . his dob was 31st August 1924 ,he expired on 18th may 2010.ReplyDelete
I m 38 and married and would like to know if I would be eligible to get UK citizenship
I believe you would be eligible. According to this synopsis on Wikipedia:
your grandfather gained full citizenship in 1948 under the British Nationality Act, and the Immigration Act 1971 gave rights to the grandchildren of citizens. To be certain, however, you should consult with the nearest British consulate for the specifics of your situation.
Thanks for the informative blog! I too have a quick question about citizenship. My mother was born in the UK in the 60s, but was naturalised as an Australian before my birth and has lived in Australia ever since. She's wondering if, because she never renounced British citizenship, she'd still be considered a British citizen. She's also wondering if I, as her daughter born in Australia in the 90s, would qualify as a citizen by descent. We're just interested in your opinion, as we're aware that we'll probably have to contact the consulate on this matter.
Thank you, and I'm glad you have found my blog informative! You are absolutely correct in that you will want to contact the consulate for specific information. I also believe you are probably correct that if your mother did not renounce British citizenship, she probably is still considered a British citizen. She threfore should be able to pass that to you. There is a brief overview of British citizenshpi by descent here:
Of particular interest is the statement, "A child born outside the UK on or after 1 January 1983 automatically acquires British citizenship by descent if either parent is a British citizen other than by descent at the time of the birth." So the key element will be whether your mother actually was still considered a British citizen after her Australian naturalization.
Good luck with your quest!
My wife recently discovered that she is eligable for Lithuanian citizenship by descent and our future kids would be able to get citizenship after she's accepted.
We are just wondering what my options as her husband would be? I've read that I would need to live there with her for 5 years after she gets the citizenship. Is this correct?
Hi, according to the information on the offiicial Lithuanian site:Delete
it appears you would probably fall into the category "person, who has entered into a marriage with a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania who is a deportee, political prisoner or his child, born in exile", and the stated requirements are five years of residence.
That said, you should definitly consult with a Lithuanian consulate to make sure this is correct. In addition, you will want to keep in mind that Lithuania now is generally not in favor of dual citizenship, and obtaining Lithuanian citizenship may mean you have to renounce your current citizenship.
Best of luck on your citizenship journey.
I am currently looking into the possibility for myself and my mother to get a British/Netherland passport. My great grandfather was born in Netherlands im not entirely sure if he gave up citizenship. My great grandmother was born in UK and I read they had to be born before 1922 witch she was. Any info would be a great help.
Thank you in advance!!
You didn't say where you are now or which citizenship you hold, which might affect things. For British citizenship, a quick overview is here:
On that page is the following:
"Before 1983, as a general rule "Citizenship of the UK and Colonies" (CUKC) was transmitted automatically only for one generation, with registration in infancy possible for subsequent generations."
You said that your great-grandmother was born in the UK. It would appear that her British citizenship would have been transmitted to your grandparent, but no further unless that person officially registered your mother.
An overview of Dutch citizenship by descent is here:
Dutch citizenship is more complicated. It says there that prior to 1985, Dutch descent had to be through a male line. So your great-grandfather would have passed on his Dutch nationality to your grandparent. If that person was your grandfather, he could have passed it on to your mother. But your mother could not pass it on to you if you were born before 1985. If the relevant grandparent was your grandmother, she could not pass it on to her children. I recommend reading the synopsis available on the page for more details.
As always, the information on Wikipedia is the "quickie" version. For complete details, you should look on the relevant consulate sites and/or speak to a consulate in your area to determine your eligibility.
I hope this helps!
My grandma born in Australia, her parents (mother and father) (my great grand parents) born in Italy.
My father born (1956) in New Zealand and also I'm born in New Zealand.
Would I be able to apply Italian Citizenship jure sanguinis? Eg: apply Italian Citizenship in Australia.
Hi, it appears you might be eligible to apply for Italian citizenship. Part of it will depend on whether your great-grandparents naturalized as Australian citizens and when they did so. There is good information available atDelete
You should read through the list and see if you think you qualify, then contact the nearest Italian consulate to where you live and ask them for advice. Good luck with your quest.
Thank you very much, yes I'll have to do some digging about my Great grandparents if they become Australian before or after when my grandma was born or if they haven't become naturalized Australian.
I will save this webpage as bookmark for future reading. As gonna start looking into gathering the documents this summer. But will find out more about my Great Grandparents first. :)
Thank you for the website link.
Kiwi in Oz
You are very welcome! Let me know what you find out and what happens with your quest for Italian citizenship!Delete
Hmm I've found the family tree of Italian side... it goes like this Grandma born in aussie, Great Grand Father born in Aussie, Great Great Grand Father born in Milan Italy. Sounds like unlikely to be able to apply Italian Citizenship as its go further back than I thought... :(
Kiwi in Oz
Hey, Kiwi in Oz,ReplyDelete
I wasn't able to add my comment right under yours for some reason, but no, you are not automatically excluded. If your great-great-grandfather lived in Italy after it became a unified country, which was March 17, 1861, you're ok on that point. If he died before Italy was unified, yes, you have a problem. Italy doesn't limit it by the number of generations but by whether the Italian-born ancestor lived in "Italy." So when was your great-great-grandfather born, and when did he leave Italy?
Hi again Janice,Delete
Great Great Grandfather was born in 1838, Milan Italy.. He leave Italy in 1854.
He died in 1890 in Australia.
Kiwi in OZ
Okay, that's a problem. That will make you ineligible, unfortunately. He left seven years too early for you to qualify. Sorry about that.
Thank you for your help, it's a bummer it makes me ineligible to apply for Italian Citizenship by jure sanguinis. :(
No worries at least I found out now than later to waste $$$ for documents translations etc.
Thanks again Janice.
Definitely better to find out sooner than later. You might want to look at your other ancestry to see if you qualify through another country.
Yep that's true. At least I know where's my Italian roots from.
Other ancestry is my Great Great Grandfather is British born in UK.
I cannot get Australian Citizen by Descent because my father wasn't Australian citizen at the time of my birth... he has become Australian Citizen by Descent last year... so I missed out that option.
Hmm only other ancestry is Italian, British, NZ native (Maori) and Australian. Not much of options eh.
You do indeed seem to have run out of options for descent. I guess you'll have to love yourself the way you are. :)
Thanks Janice, :)ReplyDelete
Just been doing digging around, would it be possible if Great Great Grandfather "is Italian Citizen" when he never naturalized in Australia? (Australian Citizenship started in 1949).
Kiwi in Oz
Previously you said that your great-great-grandfather was born in 1838 in Milan and left in 1854. If that's the case, then it doesn't matter whether he naturalizedi n Australia or not (and even though Australian citizenship began in 1949, he might have naturalized as a British citizen). If he left Milan in 1854, he wasn't living there in 1861, when Italy became a unified country. That makes you ineligible.
Thanks, I only put in the dates from each generations. Haven't read the family tree book... but just read it briefly this morning... just discovered GGGF married to "Australia born" GGGM, her parents is from Ireland.
So there's no record of my GGGF his time until he got married in 1866. Gonna be hard to find out if he went back Italy or not during the gap of between the years of 1854 and 1866.
Guess I can add Irish blood. :)
Thanks and cheers
Kiwi in Oz
If there's no record of your GGGF until 1866, you still have a small chance. I know there are some records for ships coming into Australia, but I don't know if any exist from that early. I guess you have an incentive to do some research! Good luck!
Hi, Janice. I have enjoyed reading all these intricate questions posed you. Might I ask one?ReplyDelete
My mom was born in the UK in 1938,and grew up there. She met my father, a US serviceman stationed in England in 1959 and became pregnant (with me) in 1960. My parents decided that my mom should relocate to the US to settle into an apartment and wait for my dad to finish his UK tour of duty. So my mom flew to the US and I was born in 1961. My dad returned to the States and our family continued to live here.
Fast forward 30+ years, I marry and have a child in 1993. My mom is still a green-card holder. We are all living in the US.
Two decades later, it's December 2014 and I learn--quite by accident--I can become a UK citizen by descent. I'm pretty certain my child cannot have UK citizenship through me. However, this article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_nationality_law#British_citizenship_by_descent
and others I have read seem to say my child may have UK citizenship through her grandmother (my mom). Am I interpreting this correctly?
Not only that, I've discovered my paternal grandmother (my daughter's great-grandmother) was a Lithuanian refugee who lived in the US but never naturalized, and my daughter's great grandparents (paternal side) were German Jews who changed their names on arrival into Ellis Island.
Thanks for your input, Kim
Thanks for writing. It's nice to hear that you have enjoyed the earlier posts.
I agree with you that you are eligible to become a UK citizen by descent. I don't see information in the Wikipedia article that says anything about how someone can become a citizen through a grandparent, however. Can you point me to the specific section you are interpreting this way?
As far as I know, due to recent changes in Lithuanian citizenship law, you and your daughter would be eligible for citizenship there only if your grandmother left the country after 1940 due to Soviet repression. German citizenship through Jewish ancestors I don't know much about.
The best of luck with your citizenship quests.
My sister and I are US citizens who would like to obtain dual citizenship in any EU country. Our great-grandparents were all immigrants: 2 from Ireland, 4 from Germany, 1 from Romania, and 1 from Austria-Hungary. I don't know if or when any of them naturalized in the US, but my mom might have that information on file somewhere. Also, if it's relevant, I was born in 1994 and my sister was born in 1997. Would we be eligible for EU citizenship through any of our great-grandparents?
Unless your great-grandparents registered their children as citnzens, you are unlikely to be eligible for Ireland or Germany. Romania might be possible, but it is a difficult country to do research for. Austria-Hungary would appear to be your best chance, but it depends on where exactly that great-grandparent was from and what country it is today.
Thank you for your prompt reply; the reason I took so long to reply again is because I've been looking through my mom's files.Delete
Unfortunately, my Irish and German ancestors did not register anyone as citizens, so that would be out.
My mother's files indicate that the Austro-Hungarian great-grandparent (who was ethnically German, as well) was from an area that is now part of Serbia. Serbia is not currently an EU member state, but from a brief perusal of Wikipedia it seems it will be soon.
So, do you know if we would be eligible for Serbian citizenship? Or would Romanian citizenship be the better option?
A very brieef overview of Serbian nationality law is available on Wikipedia:
According to what it says, you would be eligible for dual citizenship, but it does not give any details about what you would need to do. The reference links at the bottom of the page are in Serbian, which I unfortunately do not read and cannot help you with.
I suggest contacting a Serbian consulate near you and asking what the requirements are to apply for Serbian citizenship by descent. Judging by the Wikipedia page, it will probably be easier to obtain Serbian citizenship than Romanian simply because accomplishing research in Romania is still very difficult.
I have just saw this website and read your comment. I hope the answer is not coming too late :)
Related to Serbia citizenship, Im not 100% sure if you can get citizenship based on your great-grandparents, but since Serbia will not enter EU soon i think its better for you to forget this. But from your post I understand that your great-grandparents are from Vojvodina, which is part of Serbia today. In this case you can ask for Hungarian citizenship since Vojvodina was under Austro-Hungaria at that time. But for Hungarian citizenship you need to know Hungarian language very very good, and you need to proof that your great-grandparents where live in Vojvodina during Austro-Hungarian empire.
Hope this will help you
Thank you very much for the additional information. As you mentioned, knowing the Hungarian language is one requirement people applying for dual citizenship must meet. In addition, Amy would need to prove her great-grandparents were Austro-Hungarian citizens, as opposed to simply living in Vojvodina.
I just recently came across this and have become very interested. I know that my great great grandparents were born and Italy. Im not sure about when their citizenship changed or if the requirements were meet. If they were though, is there anyway that I could gain citizenship? Could my mother gain it, then possibly make me eligible? Or possibly my grandmother gain citizenship and make me eligible? I really love the country and its culture and would love it if one day I could be apart of it.
Yes, you might be eligible for dual citizenship. Whether you actually are depends on when your Italian emigrant ancestor became a citizen of another country and the line of descent from that ancestor. An overview of eligibility requirements is available at
Since you asked about your mother or grandmother getting citizenship first, particularly note the information about children of an Italian mother and a father of another nationality.
I hope this information helps.
Janice this is a very informative article. I was wondering if you could help with my case. Where my grandmother was born to a dutch father but was raised in Uganda. Would her grandchild be able to apply for citizenship in this case?ReplyDelete
An overview of Dutch citizenship by descent is here:Delete
It say there that someone born before 1985 to an unmarried Dutch father and non-Dutch mother must have been acknowledged by the father to be automatically a Dutch citizen at birth. It also discusses some ways in which citizenship could be acquired later, including proof of paternity through a court. It's possible you might be eligible through one of the latter ways.
As always, the information on Wikipedia is the "quickie" version. For complete details, you should look on the relevant consulate sites and/or speak to a consulate in your area to determine your eligibility.
I hope this information helps.
Janice, another question. I am currently in malawi but my grandmother was born to a Ugandan mother and Dutch father. How can I find my dutch heritage, all we have is names and datesReplyDelete
I have not done much Dutch research and am not familiar with what records are available online or offline. A recommended Dutch researcher is Yvette Hoitink, Dutch Genealogy Services, http://www.dutchgenealogy.nl. I am sure she can give you good advice.Delete
I'm not sure if you would know what I can do to get my Italian citizenship back?
I was born in Italy and moved to Canada when I was 12. I became a Canadian citizen in 1988 at age 17, but never renounced my Italian Citizenship (I had no idea I had to do that). There was a 5 year period from 1992 where if you renounced you could get it back, but because I didn't renounce I didn't know. My mother is Italian and is currently living in Italy, my sister has dual citizenship, my father was Italian but has passed away 25 yrs ago. I moved back to Italy for 2.5 years from 1990-1993, but of course I have no proof I was there except for a stamp on my Canadian diploma renouncing studies at the university of Ancona. Any ideas??
Hi, you would seem to be in an unusual situation. According to the synopsis of Italian citizenship law available on Wikipedia:Delete
you could lose your Italian citizenship by naturalizing as a citizen of another country and if of competent legal age (21 years if before 10 March 1975 or 18 years if after 9 March 1975). You were younger than either age cited, which could mean your naturalization did not cause you to lose your Italian citizenship.
I did not see any information about regaining one's Italian citizenship on the synopsis page. Due to your specific circumstances, I would recommend talking to an Italian consulate and probably also a lawyer to find out how your situation would be handled.
The best of luck with your quest.
Hi there JaniceReplyDelete
Could you perhaps assist me with info on getting my Dutch citizenship through my grandmother.
She was born there so has her parents and all her brothers and sisters. I still have distant family in Amsterdam. And I really want to get my citizenship so i can get my family out of South africa to give my kids a better future.
I'n not sure of the procedure and if I even qualify.
Thank you very much
If you go to
and read the section on acquisition of citizenship by descent, you should be able to determine whether you are eligible. If after reading this you are not sure, let me know.
Ma'am, I hope you could help me, we are from a non-EU country, my dad worked in Ireland for almost 10 years now and acquired his Irish citizenship thru naturalization just this year (2015), my question is, if we are eligible to apply for Irish citizenship? (my mom, used to lived in Ireland together with my dad, but was revoked of her long term residency because she returned and stayed too long before coming back to Ireland), I am already married with 3 kids and my wife will be giving birth come end of this year. If we are not eligible, does Irish Citizenship by Descent also apply on naturalized citizen? Thank you and God bless.ReplyDelete
My experience is with people who are trying to acquire citizenship through right of return. Citizenship by descent be claimed through naturalized citizens, but only if the citizenship was acquired before the birth of the children, which does not apply in your case.Delete
If you look at the Wikipedia page about Irish nationality law, specifically at the section regarding naturalization:
it says that the residency requirement *may* be waived for children of naturalized citizens. My interpretation of this is that it the normal procedure for children of naturalized citizens who were born before the parent became an Irish citizen are required to go through the full naturalization process.
I recommend you consult with the Irish consulate closest to you to learn about your eligibility and what requirements you would have. The best of luck with your quest.
Hi, I was wondering what the rules are on if my great great grandpa lost his german citizenship when he became an american citizen or not. Also would it affect my great grandmas german citizenship status when she was born in missouri.ReplyDelete
Part of it depends on when your great-great-grandfather became a citizen, but generally yes, he would have lost his German citizenship on becoming an American citizen. If your great-grandmother was born before her father became a U.S. citizen, she probably retained her German citizenship. If she was born after he became a U.S. citizen, she would not have German citizenship.Delete
thanks for the reply. One more question is there a way to find out when he obtained his citizenship? Again thanks for the help, truly appreciate it.Delete
Finding out when he became a citizen takes research. You need to learn where he was living at what time(s), get an idea of about when he naturalized, and determine where his papers might/should be.Delete
One final question :) I don't know if this is in your expertise but here it goes. If my great great grandfather was still a german citizen when my great grandmother was born is it possible for me to obtain a german passport?ReplyDelete
Thanks again for all your answers
If your great-great-grandfather was still a German citizen when your great-grandmother was born, and if the chain has not been broken in some way between her and you, then you probably are considered a German citizen by blood and would be able to obtain a German passport, after going through the official process to become a citizen.Delete
My husband's grand mother was from Izmail in Romania but it is now Ukraine, if he wants to apply which country should he contact?ReplyDelete
It is usually based on the citizenship that the person held when she left the country, so if his grandmother was Romanian, I would start there.Delete
My dad was born in Germany in 1950 and his parents were both Ukrainian citizens. They moved to the US in 1952, but my dad did not obtain US citizenship. I'm trying to figure out where he is considered to have citizenship and wonder if you have any thoughts.
Also, I noticed some comments of your about Austria. My maternal grandmother was born in, and grew up in, Austria and my mom was born in the US. It sounds like I could potentially receive dual citizenship only if my mom was born while my grandma was still an Austrian citizen. Is that accurate?
If your father's parents were Ukrainian citizens, then he was born with Ukrainian citizenship through them. If he did not become a U.S. citizen and did not renounce his Ukrainian citizenship in some other way, he should have passed it on to you. It is possible to gain Ukrainian citizenship through descent, but the country is in somewhat of a shambles right now.Delete
Most of my comments about Austria have been about people born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Its dissolution causes a few headaches in determining which country someone's birthplace is now. As for your grandmother, however, the fact that she was born in the country of Austria does not necessarily mean she was born with Austrian citizenship. If she was an Austrian citizenship, a synopsis of information about their citizenship laws can be found at
Near the bottom of the page is the section on dual citizenship, which Austria restricts quite a bit. Unless you fall into one of the other categories, it does appear that the only way you could qualify for dual citizenship is if your mother was born while your grandmother was still an Austrian citizen, and your mother did not in any way renounce that citizenship before you were born.
I am Canadian fairly far back but have a great grandfather who was born in Scotland and a great grandmother born in France. I understand that I may not be eligible for any other citizenship but can my mother go get a Scottish passport because of her Scottish grandfather and then if my mother gets the Scottish passport, would I be eligible because my mother has one?ReplyDelete
There currently is no such thing as a Scottish passport because there is no "Scottish citizenship." Scots are British citizens. The quick synopsis of British nationality law for citizenship by descent atDelete
says that prior to 1983, citizenship was transmitted automatically for only one generation for children not born in the UK. So your grandparent probably would have had British citizenship automatically through your great-grandfather, but your mother would not unless her parent had registered her as a British citizen as an infant.
Dear Janice, my biological mother is Belgian with her Belgian parents (both deceased now). My half sisters are both Belgian citizens. I was adopted when I was 5 years of age by South Africans and hold a South African passport. I eventually got hold of my biological mother's birth certificate and applied for Belgian citizenship. It was denied as I had no Belgian links according to the authorities. 5 direct Belgian family members - that should be enough? I am currently 55 years old but have been trying since I was about 31. I feel I qualify as I did not choose to be separated from my Belgian mother. My half sisters (she remarried later on) are both Belgian citizens but I am being refused?ReplyDelete
As you are 55, you were born about 1960. You did not state whether your biological father is Belgian. The short synopsis of Belgian nationality law that is available on Wikipedia:Delete
indicates that for children born before 1967, Belgian citizenship is passed down to a legitimate child of a Belgian father; and to an illegimate child of a Belgian mother, who if not acknowledged by the father before age 21 remain Belgian. That would seem to be the best approach you could take, but keep in mind that the information available on Wikipedia is a synopsis only and does not take into account adoption. You should try to find more information about this provision in the complete statutes. Unfortunately, your feelings about your qualifications do not govern the situation.
Both my maternal grandparents were Russian citizens. My mother is an Australian citizen and has never taken Russian citizenship although is interested in getting it now if eligible. I am keen to get dual Australian/Russian citizenship by descent myself. Would my mother be eligible though her parents are both deceased, and do you know if I would then be eligible should she gain her citizenship. I am in my early 30's, my mum is in her mid 60's.
When you say that your grandparents were Russian citizens, do you mean the Russia of today, or the Russian Empire of the early 20th century? If the latter, the first thing you should do is determine if they were from a place that is actually in Russia today. That said, there is an overview of Russian nationality law at
Nothing there mentions gaining nationality by descent, so I do not know if it is possible to do so. I suggest you visit the nearest Russian consulate and consult with the officials there to learn if Russia offers what you are seeking. The best of luck with your search.
I would love your help. I am seeking dual Italian Citizenship and have some questions. My Great Grandfather, and Grandfather were born in Italy. They both came to the states in 1914. My father was born on December 25, 1939 and my Grandfather was naturalized in 1921 (before my fathers birth). However, my Great grandfather never naturalized and neither he or my grandfather denounced their Italian Citizenship. Is this scenario viable for dual citizenship?
I'm afraid I have bad news for you. In 1921, your grandfather had to renounce his Italian citizenship to become an American citizen. That means you are not eligible through your father, as his father was no longer an Italian citizen when he was born. In addition, even if your grandmother was still an Italian citizen in 1939, you would not be eligible because your father was born before 1948. You do not appear to be eligible for dual citizenship on this side of your family.
Thanks for your reply. Is there a way of using my Great Grandfather?Delete
Unfortunately, no, because the continuous line of citizenship was broken when your grandfather renounced his Italian citizenship to become an American.Delete
Hello, Janice. You are amazing! I have a question, if you don't mind. My father's parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, etc. were all born in the northern Romania area of Bucovina and Suceava. My grandparents came to the US in the early 1900s through Ellis Island. My father was born in Ohio. Would I have an option to acquire Romanian citizenship? I am currently living in the United States. Thank you for any help!ReplyDelete
Another addition to the Romanian Bucovina question, if you don't mind. I did find out that my grandparents were born in 1830 and 1836 in Bucovina. At that time, Bucovina was part of the Austrian Empire. They fled in 1912 before WWI to the US. I assume that when they came through Ellis Island they had to renounce their Autrian citizenship? My father was born in the US in 1925. My grandparents never returned to Bucovina, which later become part of Romania after WWI. Do I have any possibility of claiming Right of Return to either Austria or Romania? Thanks for any help!ReplyDelete
Oh - one more add to the Bocavina posts - there is no evidence that my grandparents ever naturalized as US citizens.ReplyDelete
The first thing you would need to do is find documentation from Europe of where your grandparents were born and where they were considered citizens. If they were indeed from somewhere that is now in Romania, that country does not appear to have a provision for citizenship by descent, at least not going by the short synopsis available atDelete
As far as I know, Austria does not accept citizenship by descent from locations that are outside of its current borders.
Thanks for the reply. I did some more research and I believe that my ancestors were Hungarian, as the surname Ungureanu is Hungarian. I read that in 2011 Hungary had some sort of reclamation law enacted, I wonder if that would work for Hungarian citizenship by descent.Delete
You would still need to provide documentation of where your ancestors were born and lived, but Hungarian appears to give you at least a chance:Delete
If you can prove an unbroken line of Hungarian citizenship, it would appear you would be considered a Hungarian citizenship by birth.
Here's a handy quick reference guide for several European citizenship requirements:ReplyDelete
My maternal GGF was born in Hannover Germany 1867 and his wife in Celle Niedersachsen Germany in 1873. My maternal GGMother was born in Tilsit East Germany,1888 h Pomerania 1888 married GGF born in Australia 1887 of which my maternal Grandmother was born in Swakopmund, SWA (Namibia) in 1911. My paternal GGF was born in 1874 in Penzance Cornwall. I have geneology going back to the 15 00 's Netherland, France, Germany, Australia. i was born as were my parents in SA, Is there any chance of me requiring citizenship from any of the above, or Right to Return?
Hi, I'm sorry to say it doesn't look good for you. I believe the British citizenship is simply too far back. The only way you could be eligible for German citizenship is if one of your parents was born a German citizen, which could happen only if their ancestors had not given up their German citizenship by becoming citizens of another country. I suspect that during the three three intervening generations at least one of them became a citizen somewhere else? Australian citizenship is also probably not possible because of the intervening generations. Unless your ancestors did not naturalize in any of the countries they lived in, it doesn't sound as though you would be eligible.Delete
Oh dear thanks for your inputDelete
Sorry about that. Not everyone is eligible. I'm not eligible on any of my lines either.Delete
Hi Janice. My great-great grandfather was born a German citizen and it appears that he naturalized in South Africa in 1903 - 1 year before my great grandfather was born. From my understanding under normal circumbstances I would not be able to claim German citizenship UNLESS: 1) My grandfather signed the “Konsulatsmatrikel” (consular register) of the German consulate to notify them that he wanted to keep his German citizenship in addition to his new South African citizenship, and 2) registered my great grandfather as a foreign birth in the consular register. Is this correct?ReplyDelete
Also, where would I be able to find these records? At the german embassy in South Africa or in Germany?
And finally, if my great-great grandfather had lost his German citizenship before my great grandfather was born but re-aquired it some years later when my great grandfather was still alive, would I then be entitled to claim German citizenship?
Many thanks for your answers.
As I understand the German citizenship process, yes, your statements are correct. As for finding those records, I would ask first at the German embassy in South Africa. They should be able to tell you whether they keep the records on site or forward them to Germany.Delete
If your g-g-grandfather reacquired his citizenship later and your g-greatgrandfather was still alive, the specifics would depend on what laws were in effect at that time. As I understand the current laws, your g-grandfather would have been eligible for German citizenship but would have had to renounce whatever citizenship he had at that time (in this case South African, I believe).
The key is that Germany does not permit citizenship to skip generations. So each person in the chain has to have been a German citizen in order to be able to pass it along to the next generation.
Hi, my great grandfather is from Ireland, can I apply for ancestral visa... He was born in Ireland and came over to south Africa and my granmother was born in south african and mother?ReplyDelete
Currently you are not eligible. Ireland permits ancestry by descent only through a parent or grandparent.Delete
Thanks for all your helpful information :)
My grandfather (who was born in the 1800's - yes my dad would be 98 if he was still alive) was born in Sweden and my grandmother in Italy - is there a chance if an ancestral visa for me? If so where would I start looking for information?
Hi, there's a chance, but it depends on which parent this is for and when people were born. If these grandparents are on your father's side, you are probably eligible for Swedish citizenship, and possibly eligible for Italian citizenship if you were born after December 31, 1947.Delete
If this is your mother's side, you are probably eligible for Swedish citizenship if you were born after June 30, 1979, and possibly eligible for Italian citizenship if your mother was born after December 31, 1947.
A synopsis of Swedish nationality law is available at
and of Italian nationality law at
As to how to start looking for information, you would want to contact the appropriate consulate that is closest to you for specific information about applying. That's usually about the time hiring someone like me becomes practical, because the next step is finding all the documentation that proves your eligibility.
Thanks os much for your reply :)Delete
I am in South Africa, was born here in 1979. This is my fathers parents, I know his mom was born around 1898 not sure about his dad at this stage. Would you be able to help me if I "hired" you :) Perhaps you email me if possible please? email@example.com
Thanks again Janice
My great-grandparents were 'white' Russian and left Russia around 1918. My grandmother was born in Japan en-route from Vladivostok, Russia to Australia. Do you think there's any chance of dual-Russian citizenship based on this?
While it is only a synopsis, the information on Wikipedia about Russian citizenship:
does not even mention citizenship by descent. It also looks as though Russian dual citizenship options are few, so it doesn't look good.
You mentioned that your great-grandparents were "white" Russians. Do you mean they were from White Russia (i.e., Belarus) or that they sided against the Reds?
Hi Janice, sorry for the delayed response and thanks for the information. They were white Russians in the sense they sided against the Reds :).Delete
They were from a region south of Moscow (Don River) so came from within Russian territory originally.
I'm really happy that I've found you since I'm also a genealogist enthusiast :)
I come from a family of migrants which came from Eastern Europe to Argentina because of the GWWI. Actually my whole family is a genealogist enthuasiast due to our background and we're constantly trying to sort our family history out but it's hard due to the time the family left - war, destruction, cities changing name, etc-. O
And so... I just wanted to ask you something. I've been told my granfather was born in Bessarabia in a place named Chilya (which has a problem on its own because of its location). He was Jewish and so he must have been registered in the synagoge there. Considering your experience in this field, do you think it would be possible for me to find some birth certificate in the synagoge there (in case I by some miracle I manage to find the synagoge itself)? Furthermore, his family moved to Argentina and there they joined the Argentinian Jewish colony (they've got a club, a centre and an own cementery). Again, considering your experience, do you think they've kept a record with birth certificates and so from they members?
I thank you for your time :)
Thank you for writing and for being a fellow enthusiast!
Synagogues did not keep records of births, marriages, and deaths. Those records would have been maintained probably by the Jewish community (kehilla) and also by the Russian government. It is possible that the record of your grandfather's birth still exists. I recommend you join JewishGen.org (it's free to register an account) and then also sign up for the Bessarabia Special Interest Group e-mail list (http://www.jewishgen.org/Bessarabia/). You can look to see if records from Chilya have been found and make contact with others who are researching family from there.
I know that some of the Jewish colonies in Argentina kept records, but I don't know how extensive they were. There is a Latin America Special Interest Group e-mail list (http://www.jewishgen.org/InfoFiles/LatAmSig.html). You can post questions there and learn from other researchers what types of records might be available.
You can also look at the Family Finder (http://www.jewishgen.org/jgff/) and see if anyone else is researching your family name and location.
Good luck with your research!
I wanted to add something up to my previous comment (the one about a jewish gandfather who was born in Chilya).ReplyDelete
I've got his death certificate where it says that he was naturalized argentinian but had romanian parents (both of them).
I was looking for the birth certificate where it says that we was born in Romania. For the purpose of applying to the Romanian citizenship, according to what I've found on the internet, there's a law of return that I could use. It had occured to me the following 3 things and I wanted to ask whether what I think is correct:
- Option 1: the law could apply to my grandfather in case he had lost his romanian nationality by becoming also an argentinian citizen and to my father because both of his grandparents never changed their status and, so, maybe it could apply to myself.
- Option 2: the certificate that I already have is valid and so the law could apply to me
- Option 3: if I find his birth certificate were he's declared romanian, the law could work on me
I have no clue whether what I think is correct and what then should I do next. For example,
Option (1): I can try and get the birth certificate through the Jewish Society in Argentina as I mentioned or going through the National Police where they should have a copy of the birth certificate and a register of the whole process he went through in order to get the Argentinian citizenship.
Option (2): I can look for my great-grandparents papers there too (through the same Argentinian Jewish Society).
Ooption (3): since I'm going to Romania this January, I could go to Chilya and see what I can find.
However, option (3) it's got the most trouble not just because it's obviously far from South America but because...
1.- There are two places named Chilya: Chilja and Chilia Velche. Both are near but what nowadays is known as Chilia Velche belongs to nowadays Romania and the nowadays Chilja belongs to nowadays Ukraine.
2. I need to look for a synagoge there
And so I also wanted to ask whether this idea of going and looking there had no sense at all or if it had and that I should try there, and what do you think I could possibly find or except to find
thank you :)
You should look for records before you travel to Europe, because it can be difficult to find the records in Romania and in Ukraine. So yes, try to get a copy of his complete Argentinian naturalization and see what documents are there. You may find that he provided an affidavit of birth rather than an actual copy of a birth record. Try to get copies of your great-grandparents' records also. If your father qualifies through them, you may be able to qualify through him.
You did not say when your grandfather or great-grandparents were born. Depending on when that happened, they may not have been considered Romanian citizens.
It will be extremely important to determine exactly where your grandfather was born. If it was the town now known as Chilja, you would not be eligible for Romanian citizenship, because that town is now in Ukraine.
I am very interested in my family History and forward the following information re same.
My Grandmother was born in New Zealand when it was a British Colony. As a young child her mother and father including her came to South Africa. After a short time in SA her parents died in which my grandmother was placed in a children's home as there was no family. She never lost or gave up her New Zealand citizenship.
She married my grandfather who's father came from Scotland to fight in SA World War 2. Thus my first name , second name and surname Scottish.
My biological Father , grandmother and grandfather then moved to old Rhodesia also getting citizenship.
Grandmother still retaining her New Zealand passport except for the others. They then had to come back to South Africa , my father then married and in 1975 I was born in SA.
Is there a chance that I may qualify re same , another passport.
Your situation is interesting in that all of the countries in which your family members lived apparently were part of the British Commonwealth when they lived there. Without specific dates for your parents and grandparents I can't be sure, but it appears that your grandmother probably did not have New Zealand citizenship but had British citizenship instead, as New Zealand was not independent when she left. When she moved to South Africa, it was not an independent country, so nothing would have changed. When your grandfather was born, he probably would have been a British citizen, so he would have passed that to your father.
When your father and grandparents moved to Rhodesia, it was likely part of the Commonwealth, but I'm not sure because you did not include the year. If it was still in the Commonwealth, they probably would not have acquired citizenship but would have maintained their British citizenship.
According to the synopsis of South African national law available on Wikipedia:
you were born in the period when South Africa was a foreign country and not part of the Commonwealth. Therefore I am guessing you are inquiring about obtaining British citizenship, although you did not state this.
Your specific situation depends significantly on whether your father or grandparents actually naturalized as a citizen somewhere via filing of paperwork. Do you know if they did this?
Thank you for your wonderful information here. I could not find a related question: does it matter how long back the right of return for Ireland or Scotland is valid? I am looking at g-g-g-grandfathers on both sides. They both left between 1780-1810. Is this too far back? Their sons were born here. How do you determine if and when they became US citizens in that early period? Thank you,ReplyDelete
Unfortunately, your ancestors left too long ago for you to be eligible for citizenship by descent. Ireland and the United Kingdom (there is currently no such thing as "Scottish" citizenship; people in Scotland are British citizens) both require that the ancestor be no further back than a grandparent. There is no eligibility if it was a great-grandparent or earlier who was a citizen of the old country.
As for your second question, how to determine if and when your immigrant ancestors became U.S. citizens, the 1820 and 1830 censuses have a column to indicate if someone is not a citizen, and you can look for court records in the areas where they lived. Good luck with your research!
hi there JaniceReplyDelete
I would be very interested to find out if I canapply for dutch citizenship. Both my parents were utch imigrants to New zealand in the 1950s. Iwas born inNZ before they became NZ citizens. In fact I held dual citizenship until I was 30. Is there a chance I could get dutch citizenship againasI amkeento travel and work inEurope before I retire in 6 years time. I am 58 now. Your comments would be helpful.
You can read a general overview of Dutch nationality law at
Depending on why you no longer have dual citizenship, you might be eligible to resume your Dutch citizenship.
Hello Janice, can I get your advice here?ReplyDelete
I am trying to see if I would be eligible for Austrian Citizenship.
My Great grandfather on my Mother's side was born in Austria in 1898, at 3 years old he emigrated to Canada.
My Great grandmother on my mother's side was born in " Galicia"
On my father's side, my Great-great grandparents (Both) were born in Austria in 1885.Their immigration year was 1906 to USA, and their son ( my great grandfather was born in 1909.
The first thing for you need to determine is not so much where your ancestors were born, but of which countries they were citizens. Austria follows the doctrine of "jus sanguinis" (as do most countries), which means that children have the citizenship of their parents. The next thing to learn is whether your great-grandparents became Canadian or your g-g-grandparents became American citizens. If they did so, they probably renounced their previous citizenship. That generally would make you ineligible for citizenship by descent.Delete
There's a quick breakdown of information here:
Look over the info and see if you think you qualify.
Thank you for the response Janice. I need to do more research, as I only have some Census record information , but am in the process of retrieving the birth certificates , and also the Ship information. Do you have any suggestions for an immigration year of 1906, but being unable to actually find the name on passenger list registers for USA entry? I think I did find a Naturalization record for this ancestor. But just because they were naturalized does that mean they automatically renounce their citizenship?ReplyDelete
It is often easier to find the naturalization paperwork and then look for the passenger list, as the naturalization records ask when, on what ship, etc. the immigrant arrived in the country. Read the forms thoroughly and you will see that in the U.S., part of the text says that the person is renouncing allegiance/citizenship to the country from which he came.Delete
Thank you again for the replies .ReplyDelete
Some recent developments, and apologies also for taking much of your time, but your wisdom is very greatly appreciated
Looking again at the Census for 1910 , I saw that
my Great Great grandparents were both ( Aliens) at the time, and not yet naturalized. This is also interesting as their son , my Great grandfather was born in 1909, a year before. So going by Austrian Nationality law, he can have dual citizenship as he was born to 2 Austrian parents on uSA soil
III) Dual Citizenship
In general, the Austrian Nationality Act does not allow dual citizenship except for persons who obtain two citizenships at the time they were born (e.g. a person born to Austrians living in the US acquires both Austrian and US citizenships at the time of birth).
Thus, if a person acquires US citizenship, he/she usually has to renounce the actual citizenship he/she is holding. The only exception is stated in Section 28 of the Austrian Nationality Act:
By 1930 Census , the Great Great grandparents were "naturalized" . But their son was not as he was born In USA, so at the time of his birth he would automatically have Austrian citizenship, and did not renounce it as he did not go through a Naturalization process other than just living in USA.
On my Mother's side,
I am still waiting for further information,
But my Great Grandfather born in Austria, and his wife , my great grandmother was born in Galicia, as were her parents.
Her parent father was Naturalized in Canada in 1910, and they immigrated in 1905-1906. I am still trying to get some clarification on the naturalization process, but I don't think renouncation is part of the Canadian Naturalization process. Even still , She would have not had a choice, because at the time she would have only been 9 years old?
So my great great grandparents ( father's side) born in Austria
Great grandparents on mother side born in Galicia ( Austrian empire at the time), and Austria,
And my Great great grandparents also born in Galicia.
This is a lot of ancestors from the Austria.
Hopefully I can get some more information on these ancestors.
It is in your favor that it appears that your great-grandfather had not naturalized before your grandfather was born. You would still need to verify that before applying for citizenship under the right of return.Delete
In addition, as I mentioned earlier, the fact that someone was born in Austria does not bestow Austrian citizenship on that person, and it did not at the time that your great-grandparents were born. You will need to verify what citizenship your great-grandfather actually had, as it is that citizenship that he would have passed on to your father.
Renunciation of existing citizenship is a standard part of most countries' naturalization processes and was in the early 1900's. You will need to verify if it was indeed the case for Canada about 1910. It is true that your great-grandmother would have had no choice in the matter if her parent naturalized and she became a citizen in the process. Some countries make provision for that, saying that if a child lost citizenship due to the actions of a parent, that child has a right to reclaim the lost citizenship; others do not. And you will still need to verify what citizenship that great-great-grandfather held before he naturalized as a Canadian/British citizen. Again, for most of the world, being born somewhere does not convey citizenship of that country. The U.S. is in a very small minority in that respect.
Thank you very much for the assistance. I will keep this thread updated as i gather all relevant information and ultimately apply for Austrian citizenship.Delete
Thanks for all the work and time you take for answering so many questions for everyone! I have one regarding myself.
My great-grandfather (my mum's dad's dad was born in 1895 in what is today Serbia (in Vojvodina), but at the time it was part of Austria-Hungary. His family had lived there for generations before him. He immigrated to the US in ~1912 and became an American citizen in ~1920, a year before my grandfather was born. My mother and I were both also born in the US. Since Vojvodina became part of Serbia before he naturalised (although he was already outside of the country) I don't know how that affects everything.
Do you know if I would have some claim to becoming a Serbian citizen? I am a Hungarian citizen also, so that descent path needn't be concerned.
Thanks for your help, you have a great blog!
First, thank you for the kind words about my blog! I am glad you enjoy it.
The Wikipedia page on Serbian nationality law:
says "any foreign national with Serbian descent, has the right to acquire Serbian citizenship by written request" but includes no more specific information. There is a link to the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs page on acquisition of citizenship "by origin":
There are few details, but it looks as though you might not be eligible. The requirement that one or both parents be a citizen of Serbia at the time of the child's birth appears to exclude you. When your great-grandfather became a citizen, he would have normally renounced his previous citizenship. You would need to obtain a copy of his naturalization papers to determine what nationality he renounced. It's possible you might be eligible on a technicality if he did not renounce Serbian citizenship.
You also might quality under one of the categories under "Admission" on the same page. There's no definition of what it means to claim that Serbia is your country, so it may be somewhat flexible.
Your best bet is to contact a Serbian consulate and see what they think.
I do have to admit to being a little confused as to why you would want Serbian citizenship if you are already a Hungarian citizen. But I hope this helps!
Thanks for your reply Janice! I've read that same link from the MFA and am equally confused due to the lack of specificity. I will try writing the embassy and see if they can answer any of my questions.Delete
As for becoming Serbian when already being Hungarian, I live on the border of Hungary and Serbia (on the Hungarian side) and travel quite frequently to Serbia and enjoy it very much there, so maybe it would be useful for me in the future. And the fact that Serbians get visa-free travel to Russia is another factor, because applying for Russian visas are expensive and frustrating.
Thanks again for your help! Hopefully I get some positive news from the embassy.
You're welcome! It's always nice to know someone agrees with how you interpreted something. I also noticed that Serbians have visa-free travel to Russia. Good luck with your quest.Delete
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Hey Janice.I dont know if you know anything about Greek and Ottoman/Turkey trades after ww2.But i found out that my grandparents from my dad's side was born in Greece and moved to Turkey at 1937-1938 i tried to find more information and document over it but unfortunately i wasnt able to due to lack of documents in Turkish side and dont know how to check if Greece has any documents over it.Is just the document that shows the bnirth place of my grandparents enough to get duo citizenship or right to live in Greece? Or do i need more then that to claim such rightReplyDelete
You did not say whether your grandparents were ethnic Greeks, but that fact is important for Greek citizenship, because the rules are different for ethnic Greeks and others. As expected, there is a short synopsis of Greek nationality law available on Wikipedia:Delete
If they were ethnic Greeks, the good news is that "Greeks born abroad may transmit citizenship to their children from generation to generation indefinitely." But you do need to document it with paperwork; they're not going to take your word on it. You said you have something that says where they were born but didn't say what that document was. The type of document will be important.
If you are interested in pursuing Greek citizenship, I recommend you visit a consulate or embassy and talk to the staff there.
I am a US citizen and my Jewish great grandparents were born in Galicia, Austrian-Hungarian empire. My grandfather came to US in 1912 from Narol but his parents came later (1925?). Am I eligible for citizenship through my great grandparents? If my grandfather received US citizenship the year my father was born does that make it a broken chain and rule out possibility for law of return? Thank you.ReplyDelete
The year is not important, the complete date is. If your grandfather renounced his previous citizenship before your father was born, that generally makes a broken chain, and you would not be eligible. So the first thing you want to do is determine exactly when each of those two events occurred.Delete
Unfortunately, the status of your great-grandparents doesn't matter, as your grandfather was also born outside the U.S. So that's the generation that is relevant for your possible status.
If you are eligible, you then need to document exactly where your grandfather was born. Galicia is mostly split now between Poland and Ukraine, neither of which is friendly to Jewish right of return, so it's important to make sure you're dealing with the right country and have all your facts straight.
Both of my paternal grandparents were born in Austria-Hungary in the 1880's or early 1890's. My grandfather immigrated to the U.S. in1908 at age 18-20. My grandmother immigrated from Roma at age 16 to the U.S. if there any method of obtaining dual citizenship with any European country? Poland did not exist when they immigrated.ReplyDelete
You need to learn exactly where they were born and then determine in which country/ies those locations are now. Whether you are eligible for dual citizenship will depend on the modern country's nationality law.Delete
all 4 of my great grandparents were Italian citizens. One set came to the US, but never became American citizens, the others remained in Italy. My maternal grandfather was born in Italy. He became a US citizen during WWII. Am I eligible for dual citizenship in Italy even though he became a citizen before my mother was born with all great-grandparents being Italian citizens?ReplyDelete
It does not sound as though you would be eligible through your maternal grandfather's line, because he became a U.S. citizen prior to your mother being born. Whether you might be eligible for citizenship through your maternal grandmother would depend on when she was born and when your father was born.ReplyDelete
I have one set of maternal great-grandparents that were born in Portugal... and, possibly one set of great-grandparents on my father's side, as well. Both sets of parents and all grandparents are now deceased. Given that, do you know if it would be possible to obtain Portuguese citizenship (dual) either through the 'special cases' provision in Portugal's citizenship laws or through the 'right of return' provision discussed in your post?
Also, my maternal grandmother was born in Spain but became a naturalized citizen in the 40s. I don't know if she gave up her Spanish citizenship, or not, but her parents were both born in Spain and remained Spanish citizens until their deaths. Is there a chance of obtaining Spanish citizenship, as well?
You didn't say if you are of Sephardic origin, which would classify you differently, so my comments are about strictly Spanish and Portuguese citizenship. My understanding of your situation for both countries is based on the synopses on Wikipedia; detailed reading of information from either country's consulates may provide more (and different) information.
You are eligible for naturalization as a Spanish citizen through your grandmother, but it requires one year residence in Spain:
Spain does not permit its naturalized citizens to have dual citizenship, unless your original citizenship is from one of a short list of countries:
For Portugal, it appears that you are one generation too late. It seems that their right of return extends only as far back as grandparents:
There is no information on the page about a "special cases" provision, only about special rules that apply to citizens of former Portuguese colonies. If you can point me to the information you are talking about, I will be happy to look at it.
Best of luck with your quest.
I read this with interest but could not see the list. My grandfather was Spanish and displaced during the civil war after he fought for the Republicans. He ended up in the UK where he fought for the British Army and only returned to Spain in the 1980s. In his paperwork I have a copy of the military pardon he received from the Spanish Government. With this alone, would I be able to claim Spanish nationality by decent? Many thanks
I doubt that a copy of the pardon alone would be considered sufficient to document both your relationship to your grandfather and his status as "Spanish by origin." I recommend you contact a Spanish consulate to learn what the process and required documents are. And keep in mind that Spain does not permit dual citizenship, unless your original citizenship is from one of a short list of countries:Delete
I live in the UK and am keen to seek an EU passport before BREXIT happens. I have two possible lines of inquiry and wondered if you would be so kind to advise me on them please?
1. My Jewish maternal grandfather fled Austria during the 2nd world war and came to live in the UK in 1939. He was naturalized as a UK citizen in 1946. Would I be able to apply for a German passport? I understand that to apply for an Austrian passport you have to go and live in the country as they don't like dual citizenship. My mother was born in July 1953 and I was born in 1980.
2. My maternal great grandmother was born in Ireland in 1883 and moved to the UK in 1915. She married an Englishman in 1915.
Unfortunately, it doesn't look promising for you on either line. Generally, if someone naturalizes as a citizen of another country, he is required to renounce his prior citizenship. So if your grandfather became a UK citizen in 1946, he probably renounced whatever citizenship he held before that.
A key piece of information you need to discover is exactly what citizenship your grandfather had. Merely living in or being born in a country does not convey citizenship, at least for most countries. If he was actually an Austrian citizen, one possibility you could pursue is whether you are eligible under Austria's provision for restoring nationality revoked under the Nazis:
Unless your grandfather held German citizenship, I don't think you would be eligible for that.
For Irish citizenship, if it was not already established, you can go back only as far as a grandparent. Great-grandchildren are not eligible.
The best of luck with your quest.
Hi Janice. Great blog you have and am not sure if it's still active. Do you know anything about right of return for Canadians with an American grandparent that is deceased?ReplyDelete
I don't know why you're not sure if my blog is still active, as I just posted something a couple of days ago. But I have no information about your situation, where you are wondering about right of return for the United States. I don't think the U.S. has that, primarily because it isn't applicable in a country that does not apply just sanguinis. If your citizenship is not tied to that of your ancestors, as it is with jus sanguinis, what would you be returning to?Delete
This is such a wealth of information! I am working on Portuguese Citizenship though my Grandfather who was born in Portugal in 1903. I found his birth record from the church in Portugal and every other record in between. My issue is that I don't know if he naturalized to the USA and all of his children are deceased including my father so the information is gone from our verbal family history. I have searched the digital archives ( I am actually very good at tracking this sort of info down) and in no catalog can I find either a naturalization index to a record or a record card for him, which leads me to believe he did not naturalize to the USA. How would I prove this with paperwork that I could submit with my Portuguese application? How do I prove in essence the absence of a record?ReplyDelete
Hello, I really love all this information!ReplyDelete
I am working on Portuguese Citizenship through my Grandfather that was born in Portugal in 1903. I have tracked down his birth record and every other record in between but I do not have proof whether or not he naturalized to the USA. All of his chidren have died and the info in not in our verbal history. I have searched all the online archives for naturalization indexes or cards, even cards of intent and I cannot find his name anywhere. How do I prove to the Portuguese government with my application for citizenship that he did not naturalize to the USA and give up his citizenship? Is there some place that certifies this?
One red flag in your comment is that you said you have searched digital archives/online archives. Not all of this information is online.Delete
You did not say when your grandfather immigrated to the United States or if he came as an adult or with his parents. You also didn't say where he lived, which would affect the likelihood of his records or an index being online.
If he came with his parents while still a child, you will need to check to see if his father naturalized. If he came as an adult later, then the most straightforward thing to do is to request a search through USCIS (visit https://genealogy.uscis.dhs.gov/) to see if they can find anything. If they do not, you can ask for a certification of no record, but you can do that only after you've requested a search.
Thank you for your reply!
My grandfather came through Ellis Island (I have the records) when he was 6yrs old with his parents. My dad was born in the town they moved to when his father was 43. They never left the town they settled in. I cannot find online naturalization records for either.
Is https://genealogy.uscis.dhs.gov the best place to get naturalization records for my great grandfather and grandfather?
In the worst case if either did naturalize would that preclude my right to Portuguese Citizenship? I know you can have duel citizenship now but was it outlawed then? Did taking USA citizenship mean that you renounced your original?
Again, not everything is online. You still did not state where they lived, but it is possible records and indices for that area are not online, which would mean that searching only online will never find them.
Using the USCIS system is a reasonably reliable method of determining whether someone has any documents pertaining to naturalization. Using that system will also let you know if someone filed an Alien Registration form during World War II, which was done for foreign nationals, i.e, those who had not become U.S. citizens.
If either your great-grandfather or your grandfather did naturalize as a U.S. citizen, part of the process was renouncing their original citizenship, which would mean you would not be eligible for Portuguese citizenship through descent.
Hi. I was wondering if I could e-mail you with some questions? I'm interested in potentially hiring someone to help me untangle my family's history.ReplyDelete
In April 1884, VZ (who also went by JZ, an anglicized name) and his wife TSZ (who also went by MTSZ and may have been a direct descendant of Empress Maria Theresa) arrived in the port of New York. They had been married around 1876 in Vienna. On later census records, they listed as being from Austrian Bohemia, or just from Bohemia. He is referred to as being from Czechoslovakia on one of his children's records, but she is always listed as Austrian from Vienna.
In May 1885, a year after arriving, they had a son: CZ. It does not appear they naturalized before his birth, as that took more than a year. VZ, C's father, is first listed as naturalized in a census form in 1910 or 1920. I haven't found an 1890 or 1900 census.
My understanding is that CZ would be, then, a dual citizen at birth - likely of Austria, but potentially of what is now Czechoslovakia.
CZ was the grandfather of DZ, born in 1935. Can he still claim that the citizenship passed at birth from his grandfather to his father to him? If so, can his children claim it too? His grandchildren?
What is the process for that? We have the ship manifest, the census, and SSN/birth/death records in the US, but haven't found them in Austria or the Vzech Republic yet.
Because of recent legislation that allows for derivative citizenship from countries that were formerly part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it is possible that CZ's descendants could be eligible to apply for formal citizenship status. You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can discuss this in detail.Delete
My great grandfather came to the US from southern Poland in 1904 (Austria at that time). My grandfather was born in 1912 prior to my great grandfather becoming a US citizen in 1915. Would I be eligible for Austrian citizenship through descent?
Hello, Gail, you might indeed be eligible for citizenship through descent, but it still depends on details. You can e-mail me at email@example.com and we can discuss your specific situation. - JaniceDelete
Hi, Janice. Interestingly, my family history is exactly the same as Gail's (great-grandfather came to the US from southern Poland in 1904), but because my great-grandfather had a girl (my grandmother), she could not pass on her citizenship to my dad. It was a very sexist rule, which is still enforced by Austria to this day!ReplyDelete
Luckily, I had other grandparents. My grandmother was born in America to a Romanian father who had not naturalized yet, making her a dual American-Romanian at birth. And because Romania allowed women to pass on citizenship, I think my mom is Romanian, and therefore I am too. Does this sound right to you?
Yes, that does sound correct, although you would need to verify and document it for it to be accepted. There is some basic information about Romanian citizenship at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanian_nationality_law to use as a starting point. It doesn't say anything about passing on citizenship being restricted to men.Delete