I’m Irish

Volume 1, Issue 12; 15 Jun 2017

It didn’t take sixteen months, but it did require a bit of genealogical digging. The official notification has arrived, I am Irish.

“Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice.

Lewis Carroll

Executive summary: do some genealogy before everyone dies. Keep all your notes.

When I wrote a few weeks ago that I was finding nationality to be a curious thing, I really wasn’t anticipating that it would grow more curious. (I suppose I should have realized it was likely too, but I wasn’t thinking about it.)

When a minority of Britons (although, alas, a plurality of voters) failed to appreciate the extent to which they were being lied to and cast their lot for Brexit, I still thought Hillary Clinton would be the 45th President of the United States. Brexit looked like the stupidest possible thing a country could do.

It troubled me especially because one of the motivations for pursuing British citizenship was to secure a place in the EU. I thought (and still think) Brexit is unlikely to happen, but I’m told that’s foolishly optimistic. I needed a backup plan.

Anecdotally, my ancestors are Irish. My dad, especially, was very proud of his Irish heritage because his father was Irish. In theory, that made him and me Irish as well.

If I could prove it. To prove it, I needed to show that I was born, that my parents were married (legitimate children only need apply), that my father was born, that his parents were married, that his father was Irish and, curiously, that both my father and grandfather are deceased. Birth and death certificates and marriage certificates, basically.

It turns out that, twenty years ago, I did some casual genealogy. Back then, the aunts and uncles were mostly still alive and I sent off correspondence to try to find out more. I didn’t get very far, but I tucked it all away in a folder.

When I went back through that folder after Brexit, I found a small slip of paper. Just seven typed lines that say when and where my grandfather was born and when and where he got married (I wouldn’t even have guessed the correct state). According to a handwritten note at the bottom, the slip was written by someone from the other branch of the tree (my paternal grandmother’s family) to one of my aunt’s granddaughters. (My 1st cousin twice removed?)

It is almost certain that I would never have succeeded had I not found that one small slip of paper. That, plus Bethan’s awesome research skills, turned up my grandfather’s birth and marriage certificates.

As it happens, there’s an Irish consulate in Austin. I asked them if I really needed the death certificate and they replied that it probably wasn’t necessary. So I sent off all the paperwork. Not long thereafter, the clerk handling my case asked for the death certificate. I proposed, politely, that if he was alive he’d be 120, so couldn’t we just take it as read that he’s deceased?


I went back to the folder, wherein I found a letter from my Uncle Ed. Before he died, recalling that I’d been interested in family genealogy, he mailed me some of my grandfather’s papers: his army discharge (he was in the Forth Cavalry Regiment in WWI) and such. In the cover letter, he mentions in passing when and where my grandfather died. Bingo!

You can get the City of New York to find and send you certified copies of death certificates. It’s not easy, but you can. (It took me three tries and several phone calls, but I succeeded.)

To summarize: my grandfather was born in Waterford, IE in 1888. He was married in New York City in 1915. My father was born in West Islip, New York in 1923. He married my mother in Adelaide in the State of South Australia in 1951. My grandfather died in 1955. I was born in 1967. My father died in 2009. I’m Irish.

And here’s a clipping of my reward:

 Foreign Births Register

My grandfather was Irish and so was my father, and so am I. I can prove it. In a sense, I have always been Irish. In another sense, well, … nationality remains a curious thing.

Our true nationality is mankind.
— H. G. Wells