Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2009 | 1 a.m.
The Totaros are now dual citizens of Italy and the United States.
Lorenzo Totaro and Maria Guiseppa Labanca, Italian citizens born in Terranova di Pollino, Basilicata, immigrated in the 1890s and married in New York City Dec. 27, 1900.
In 1920 "Lorenz" and "Mary" Totaro rented an apartment at 441 116th St., Manhattan, with eight children — Mary, Millie, Martino, Mamie, Laurence, Fanny, Lizzie and Jimmy — ranging from 17 to 1 1/2 years. The census shows that Lorenzo had filed first papers to become an American citizen; Mary was an alien resident.
But Lorenzo never completed the citizenship process; he and Maria died in New York as citizens of Italy. The Totaro children, all born in the United States, were American citizens. So too are the Totaro grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Lawrence and Matthew Totaro of Las Vegas are grandson and great-grandson of Lorenzo and Maria. After the father and son Totaros visited their ancestral homeland in 2005 they realized they qualified under Italian Nationality Law to acquire dual Italian citizenship "by right of blood," or via Jure Sanguinis.
Lorenzo Totaro never naturalized, so he never relinquished his Italian citizenship. Because he and Maria died citizens of Italy, Lorenzo's proven descendants qualify for Italian dual citizenship via Jure Sanguinis. Citizens of the United States and select other countries may acquire Italian citizenship by blood without renouncing native citizenship.
The Totaros gathered family vital records to document their descent from Lorenzo and Maria, but they lacked necessary Italian birth records. Italy records births at the comune level (comune is Italy's smallest civil administrative unit), so one must know the name of the comune in which the birth occurred.
Totaro descendants knew Lorenzo and Maria came from Terranova di Pollino, but they did not know in which comune the village lay. They could go no further in their quest for dual Italian citizenship without the Italian birth registrations for Lorenzo and Maria.
The Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City holds civil registration records for most Italian regions, and their online catalog allows place searches. "Terranova" results in few hits, but includes "Italy, Potenza, Terranova di Pollino." The comune of Potenza is in the region of Basilicata. The FHL holds microfilm of civil registrations 1810 to 1929 for Terranova di Pollino in the comune of Potenza, Registri dello stato civile di Terranova di Pollino (Potenza), 1810-1929.
Lawrence and Matthew Totaro located original birth registrations for Lorenzo Totaro, born Feb. 25, 1872, and Maria Guiseppa Labanca, born Nov. 23, 1883, in the microfilmed records of the comune of Potenza held at the FHL. Armed with vital records documenting every link in the chain of their descent from Lorenzo Totaro and Maria Guiseppa Labanca, the Totaro family met with the Consulate General of Italy in Los Angeles. One year and four months later they received this notice from the Consulate General: "We are pleased to inform you that your application for Italian citizenship via Jure Sanguinis was favorably accepted."
Laws regarding Italian citizenship via Jure Sanguinis are complex, and the Totaro experience illustrates only one facet. Potential applicants should consult the Italian Consulate closest to their residence for more information. Clark County residents may check the Web site of the Consulate General of Italy in Los Angeles (http://www.conslosangeles.esteri.it/Consolato_LosAngeles). You may also confer locally with Honorary Vice Consul of Italy for the State of Nevada Stefano Ripamonti via e-mail, [email protected], or telephone, (702) 538-5162.
Felicitazioni alla famiglia di Totaro: Lawrence Matthew and JoAnn and children, Matthew, Lawrence Thomas, and Lauren!
Stefani Evans is a Board-certified genealogist and a volunteer at the Regional Family History Center. She can be reached c/o the Home News 2275 Corporate Circle, Suite 300, Henderson, NV 89074, or [email protected].