Certificate of Irish Heritage

My husband and I spent the past week hosting his sister and her adult children (ages 26-33) here in Palm Desert, CA. In addition to sightseeing, golfing, and sunning by the pool, we spent time – over food and drink –  recounting stories about family members no longer with us. We created memories which (I hope) will be fondly recalled in years to come. We were living family history.

Our niece and nephews are interested in their Irish heritage, and I’m always looking for ways to personalize the results of my research.  A few months ago, the Irish government initiated the “Certificate of Irish Heritage”, which officially recognizes people of Irish ancestry throughout the world. An estimated 40 million Americans are qualified to apply. 

As we all know, the Irish economy has been struggling for several years. In 2010, the Global Irish Forum contemplated how people of Irish descent throughout the world could engage with Ireland and help financially.  The “Certificate of Irish Heritage” program resulted, with profits from the initiative going to the Irish government. Contributors would benefit by receiving official recognition of their heritage, in a high-quality certificate reflecting Irish artwork and culture.

Now it doesn’t take a piece of paper to validate one’s Irish ancestry. However, many of us have purchased family crests or other tcotchkes as symbols of our Irish pride. This certificate, issued by the Irish government, honors and celebrates the journeys of our Irish ancestors.

This is not Irish citizenship. The certificate is only ceremonial and conveys no rights or responsibilities.

Application is made on-line through the website:  http://www.heritagecertificate.ie/.

  • Applicants must demonstrate their Irish heritage. Acceptable documentation may include records of birth/marriage/death, census or ship passenger lists. For example, a U.S. census record indicating an ancestor was born in Ireland would be considered sufficient. The documentation must be scanned or downloaded with the application.
  • Basic family tree information must be provided for each generation connecting the recipient to the Irish ancestor(s).
  • The website gives basic guidance about resources for genealogical research.
  • Applicants will receive validation/approval within 5 days of on-line submission. The certificate will be shipped 5-10 days later.

Each heritage certificate is unique and includes the name of the recipient and the names of up to two Irish ancestors, including their county and year of birth (if known).  Quoted on the certificate is Article 2 of the Irish Constitution, recognizing the special affinity Ireland has with people of Irish ancestry abroad. Each certificate is signed on behalf of the Government of Ireland by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Three certificate designs are available: Emigrant Ship, West of Ireland, and Celtic Knot.  The certificate can also be ordered with a custom Irish-made frame. An unframed certificate costs 40 Euros (approximately $60), plus shipping. The cost of the frame is an additional 60 Euros, plus shipping.

The Irish government outsourced the heritage certificate program to FEXCO, a privately-owned financial services corporation based in Ireland.  If you’ve traveled there, you may have encountered FEXCO in claiming sales tax (VAT) refunds through its Tax-Free Shopping service or in booking accommodations through GoIreland.com.

In September, the Irish Minister of Foreign Affairs presented a Certificate of Irish Heritage to the family of New York Firefighter Joe Hunter, who died during the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

A “Certificate of Irish Heritage” might be a good idea for 2012 birthday presents for our niece and nephews?


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