From Bhutan to American Samoa diaspora apply for Certificates of Irish heritage

Photograph of the Certificate of Irish Heritage presented to President Barack Obama

New figures show that 2,200 people around the world now own a Certificate of Irishness, including people in Samoa and Bhutan.

The certificate was first introduced in 2011 and the top five countries to make requests for them unsurprisingly come from traditional countries of emigration. Americans top the list and Australians take the second spot. Ireland itself is in the third spot. Canada and Britain complete the top five.

An estimated 70 million people globally claim some Irish heritage and certificates have been mailed around the world including the Himalayan state of Bhutan, Algeria, New Zealand, Uruguay and Albania in eastern Europe. They have also been sent to Oman, Japan, and the Pacific Islands of American Samoa.

The certificate costs 40 euros unframed and up to 120 framed. Postage is 5 euros to anywhere in the world. Past recipients include President Barack Obama and actor Daniel Day Lewis.

The certificates are sold by Fexco, a company based in Killorglin in Co Kerry, on behalf of the Department of Foreign Affairs. The certificate does not entitle the owner to any claim of legal citizenship.

Originally applicants had to supply documents such as birth certificates, church records (of death, marriage, baptism), land records, or wills, but the process has been simplified. Applicants now need to outline their Irish heritage and satisfactorily answer two of five questions on the company’s website. The website also includes contact information for several genealogists and some genealogy websites. Kay Woods, who works on issuing certificates told the Irish Examiner that thus far no one had been denied a certificate nor posted false information.

She said the Gathering has increased the number of requests for certificates. Woods said, “The Gathering certainly has had an impact, with many families organising family gatherings and presenting ‘Head of that Family’ [certificates].”

To learn more about how to request a Certificate of Irishness, click here.

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