Goin' Croatian

Shortly after my 40th birthday, I had a very important decision to make on which middle-aged male pursuit to follow. As far as I could tell, there were three well-tread paths:

  1. A deep dive into the U.S. Civil War.
  2. A deep dive into the various theaters of World War II.
  3. A deep dive into genealogy to discover (or, in my case, re-discover) my family roots.

I’d learned a lot about the U.S. Civil War in high school and read a few books on World War II in college. So it left me with genealogy – why not spend my present learning about my past?

My dad spoke a lot about the Croatian side of his family. My great-grandfather, Mate (Matt), left Sveti Rok, Croatia in 1903 for America. He and his brother immigrated through the Port of Baltimore, eventually making their way to Colfax, Iowa to work in the mines. My (future) great-grandmother, Anna, was told by her family to come to America and marry Mate, which she did in 1908.

Mate and Anna had one child together – my grandfather, Steve. Steve had three children with his wife, Ethel: my dad and his two sisters.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

The largest Croatian communities are located in Chicago and the surrounding area about 150,000, St. Louis about 40,000, Detroit about 7,000, San Pedro about 35,000, San Jose about 5000, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut about 80,000 people of Croatian origin. The United States is one of the traditional immigrant countries of Croatian settlers.

– Croatian Diaspora, Central State Office for Croatians Abroad

A thousand papercuts

Looking into how to obtain Croatian citizenship based on descent (prirođenje) made my head absolutely spin. Fortunately, DuckDuckGo delivered me to the wonderful resource, Expat in Croatia, which has a really thorough guide on how to navigate the byzantine process. And, even better than that, a network of lawyers on the ground who can help prepare our family application.

I sent off an inquiry and started a lengthy reply with a case worker, who then put me in touch with a lawyer in Split who is going to help gather birth, marriage, and other vital records in Croatia, and gave me a list of things to track down in America.

Here's a list of what I need to start gathering:

  1. Marriage Certificates for my great-grandfather and great-grandmother (x4)
  2. Birth Certificates for my grandfather and grandmother (x4)
  3. Marriage Certificates for my grandfather and grandmother (x4)
  4. Birth Certificates for my father and mother (x4)
  5. Marriage Certificates for my father and mother (x4)
  6. Birth Certificates for myself, my wife, and my children (x4)
  7. Marriage Certificates for myself and my wife (x4)
  8. Immigration, naturalization, and other related documentation that tells the story of my great-grandparents journey to the United States (x4)
  9. CV & Biography of why we'd like Croatian citizenship (x4)
  10. Criminal background checks on everyone over the age of 14 (x3)
  11. Application form, hand-written in Croatian (x4)

Oh, and all of the above needs to be translated, notarized, and certified with an apostille seal – hardly an easy process, especially since I'll need to drive about 5 hours to the middle of Iowa for some of these records.

I will say, though, that as I begin this journey that can take up to two years to complete (!!), I'm thankful that on the other side, there's citizenship in an EU country that I can maintain with my U.S. citizenship. I can obtain an EU Passport, travel freely throughout the EU, and have all rights afforded to me by the EU.

So, in a long-winded way: thank you, Mate and Anna for paving a way for me to re-trace my family roots and connect with the old country.

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