We The Italians | ICA: Proving Your Ancestors Identity

ICA: Proving Your Ancestors Identity

ICA: Proving Your Ancestors Identity

  • WTI Magazine #173 Mar 16, 2024
  • 775

A central part of applying for Italian citizenship by descent is the retrieval of your ancestor’s vital records. Whether you are applying at an Italian consulate in the United States, a municipality in Italy, or via a court case, accurate vital records are crucial to having a successful citizenship application. It’s important to prove an unbroken chain between you and your most recent Italian born ancestor.

This is demonstrated through these vital records. However, oftentimes you may come across discrepancies or inaccuracies in these documents. This article will outline what steps to take when encountering discrepancies in vital records, which inaccuracies can be changed, and how to make those amendments.

Retrieving Vital Records

The first step in forming your complete citizenship application, after determining your eligibility, will be retrieving vital records. You will need certified long form copies of birth, marriage, and death certificates of the family members in your Italian lineage, and in some cases, the vital records of not-in-line family members. These records can be found at the United States Department of Health or sometimes, in the town or county in which the event occurred. In addition, you will need the Italian ancestor’s naturalization records or proof that they never naturalized. These documents can be retrieved from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

Retrieving vital records from Italy can be done through the registry office (Ufficio di Stato Civile) of the Italian municipality in which the event occurred. There are rare instances where an Italian birth record cannot be found. In this case, it may be possible to find a copy at the church in your ancestor’s comune. Additionally, there are situations where a baptismal record can be used as a supporting document for an amendment but will not be accepted in place of a birth record. However, you are able to use a Certificate of Baptism when filing a citizenship application if birth registries did not exist when the birth occurred. 

Discrepancies and Inaccuracies

Various challenges may arise when searching and retrieving vital records. You may come across discrepancies and inaccuracies in the information found in these documents, such as the spelling of names and birth dates. Oftentimes, issues like language barriers, illiteracy, poor reporting, or the desire to better assimilate into American culture caused names and dates to be reported incorrectly. This is more common the farther back you go in your lineage and at the very least, it can make locating vital records of your ancestors difficult. You may find that your family’s last name was spelled differently on various records or their first name was “Americanized” once they arrived in the United States. Sometimes dates of birth were reported incorrectly by accident or on purpose to appear older or younger.

There is no specific rule as to what discrepancies need to be amended. Many factors are involved, including how many there are in the complete application and how severe the inaccuracies are, all adding up to the strength of your case and demonstration of Italian lineage. There are, however, a few points to keep in mind.

The applicant’s full name and date of birth must match on all vital records. Sometimes the name on the birth certificate may not match the name on other official documents like the passport or marriage certificate. This includes middle names, which in the US, some people drop from use or use primarily as a first name. It’s crucial that names and dates are consistent on all records to prove they pertain to the same person.

Another factor that is crucial in a citizenship application is parentage. The parents’ names on an applicant’s birth certificate should match the parent’s own vital records, and so on throughout the lineage.

How to Amend Vital Records

The first step to amending a vital record is identifying the inaccuracy and type of amendment that you need to make. Some are more difficult and complicated than others. Factors that affect this include the age of the document and whether the person named on the document is alive to request and/or sign for the approval of the amendment. Certain amendments in certain states can only be requested by the person on the record or their next of kin. Types of amendments that are allowed and the procedure involved depend on the specific state, so it’s important to check with the office’s rules and guidelines.

Generally amending vital records in the United States is as simple as mailing in a request to the office that issued the document, which is sometimes at the city or state level, and in certain cases, providing evidence through supporting documents.

If this option is not applicable, the other route is to request a formal court order. This applies when the discrepancy is so serious or there are so many that the individual is nearly unrecognizable and the supporting documents you have do not suffice. This option would also require the aide of an attorney that practices in the state where your ancestor lived. It’s important to note that this procedure differs by state and there are also considerable fees involved.

If you find a discrepancy in any of the Italian documents, you can request a certificate from the Italian municipality that verifies that the person on the records is one and the same. This document can be called a positivo-negativo or Certificato di Esatte Generalità and states that the person was the only individual born there on that day with that name.

Supporting Documents

When requesting an amendment to a vital record, it’s important to have supporting documents to verify the change. These can include church records like baptism, confirmation, and marriage certificates, a social security numident, census record, ship manifest, Ellis Island record, or draft card. These are not to be confused with vital records, but simply supporting documents that help to prove your ancestor’s identity.


When amending discrepancies on US records, the ancestor’s Italian birth certificate can be used as a supporting document to correct the inaccuracy. It would need to be apostilled and both the Italian birth certificate and apostille would need to be translated into English before being sent to the Amendment Division of the Department of Health.


Even though there are some general rules to follow regarding how to address discrepancies in vital records, every citizenship case is different. The retrieval of vital records and identifying what amendments need to be made can be a complicated process. Don’t hesitate to contact us at [email protected] for guidance.