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32 Gaining Dual Citizenship

February 2, 2008

Episode Guide – Podcast #32 Gaining Dual Citizenship

We chat with listener Bill Sweeney about his experience obtaining dual citizenship…without ever having to leave the United States. CLICK THE PLAY BUTTON below to listen.

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Show Notes

00:00 Intro – The Devil’s Bit by Theresa Larkin

Notes from Bill Sweeney’s experience obtaining dual citizenship:

The United States allows dual citizenship with numerous countries, including Ireland.  A few years ago I found out Ireland offers citizenship by descent.  It is called “Citizenship through Foreign Births Registration (FBR)”.  The background work took me a couple of months and the whole process cost a few hundred dollars.  The FBR application takes about 16-18 months to process.  I received my dual citizenship on May 25, 2007.  I then applied for an Irish passport which I received on August 5, 2007.

The rules:

One can become an Irish citizen be descent even if your parents were not Irish citizens.  If one of your grandparents was an Irish citizen you can apply for entry in the Foreign Births Register.  There is no requirement that you have ever stepped on Irish soil.  Since 1986, citizenship only takes effect as of the date of registration so any children born prior to your becoming a citizen are not automatically also citizens.

You need three forms of identification for your grandparent.  I sent in information for both my grandfather and grandmother since as you will see below I was afraid someone might question the link to my grandfather.  I used their Irish birth certificates, marriage certificate, and death certificates.  All these records can be obtained through contact information on the Internet.


I was interested in genealogy and had created a fairly extensive record of my family history in the Family Tree Maker tool based on the research my parents had done.  My father made copies of my grandparents’ birth records on a visit to Ireland but I never paid much attention to the details.  I decided to pursue Irish citizenship for the following reasons:

  1. After my father died I rekindled my interest in my family history.  I realized I could no longer get first hand answers to my questions and my children would have little hope of finding information if I did not document it.
  2. I thought it would be easier to travel in Europe with an EU passport.  I found that to be true recently on a trip to London where my wife and I bypassed a long line at Heathrow.
  3. I thought it would be fun – a nice novelty/conversation piece.
  4. I thought my wife would finally prioritize Ireland higher on the list for future travel.  Much to my dismay, Spain and Italy remain above Ireland on her list 😦

What I learned along the way:

You think you know what your name is?

When I looked more carefully at my grandfather’s birth entry, I realized his name was “Sweeny”, not “Sweeney” which we have all carried since his arrival in the US in 1903.  This made me question the validity of my father’s research.  I subsequently did enough research to convince myself that my father was correct.  The place of birth, the rough time period, the names of siblings and their birth records, and census information leaves little doubt that Sweeny became Sweeney when the first sibling arrived in the US.  I also checked with other relatives to link various uncles together.  All the links are there, just no explanation of the reason for the name change.  Maybe it was an error entering the name into the ship manifest.  I’ll never know the reason.  Perhaps, when the other siblings needed to put down the name of a relative already in the US, they used the same spelling to avoid questions.

You think you know when your grandfather was born?

In my research I found no less than 5 documented birth dates for my grandfather that differed from his birth certificate.  These dates spanned 12 years and two seasons!  I obtained copies of his birth certificate, the passenger manifest on the ship from Ireland to the US, census information in Ireland, multiple census records in the US, his immigration and naturalization papers, and his World War I draft registration card.  As the years progressed he failed to age at the proper rate.  That leads me to guess as a laborer he wanted to appear younger to keep his employment.  There are still two living siblings of my father.  However, neither has the slightest idea of their father’s birth date or even the season.  Hard to imagine they never celebrated his birthday.  Although as a child I don’t remember a birthday party for him.

Thank goodness my grandmother told the truth about her birthday.  It was a treat to see everything match when I obtained similar records for her.

What kind of information can you obtain?

I made one trip to the National Archives in Waltham, MA.  Everything else was researched on the Internet or through and requested by postal mail or fax.  I must credit an extremely helpful person at the National Archives with unlocking the key to many records of my grandfather as he found the immigration and naturalization records.  I assumed my grandfather came into Boston as my grandmother did since they both moved to Providence, RI.  As it turns out he arrived at Ellis Island in New York.  Once I found this out, the process became easier.

Here are the records I obtained:

  • Irish birth certificate
  • Passenger manifest entry for the ship coming to the US
  • Irish and US census information
  • Immigration and naturalization papers
  • World War I draft registration
  • Marriage certificate
  • Death certificate
  • Social Security record

In case you are curious:

My grandfather was born in Gubnaveagh, Ballinamore, county Leitrim

My grandmother was born in Ballaghboy, county Sligo.

Web site links:

My contact information:

Bill Sweeney,

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