Skvarla’s PA Reception (Pig Roast #2)

Skvarla’s PA Reception (Pig Roast #2)

The Skvarla Wedding was far away in Indiana, so there wasn’t much opportunity for most of our friends to make it to the ceremony. It only seemed fitting that we throw a legendary party back home to celebrate the newlyweds.

One thing we know how to do is throw a legendary party.

Between the moon bounce, the gorilla punch, the fireworks, the 2500 watt sound system, the roasted pig and the wedding cake, a legendary party it was indeed.

I should note that there were some casualties (mostly mine).

  • My sound system – One of the PA speakers suffered a blown-out LF driver that will need to be replaced. Guess we played Don’t Stop Believin’ one too many times.
  • My camera UV filter – Some how got a crack in the UV filter on my camera. Should only be about $20 to replace, but still, casualty none the less.
  • My finger – Got three stitches in my middle right finger from a rogue piece of picture frame glass mixed in with wedding decorations.

Also, I’m not sure who decided to take a chomp out of the Styrofoam-core wedding cake with their mouth, but I’m sure you got whatever you deserved by getting a mouth full of packing foam.

The Town Pants in the Burgh

The Town Pants in the Burgh

A little chunk of Heron came all the way down to the ‘Burgh, and Bober and I were pleased to catch the show. One of my favorite venues in Pittsburgh, Club Cafe was a great place to catch the show. Their opening act was a band I haven’t caught yet, Weathered Road. They played a fairly mellow set of Americana with Celtic roots. I’d rather see them with their own full set to get a better sample of their music, and it was a little low energy to pump up before a Town Pants show, but I enjoyed them, and I’d see them again.

After Weathered Road went off, it was time for the Pants. This is my 4th Town Pants show and as usual, I enjoyed the hell out of it. Dave and Ivanka went out for a drink with Bober and I before the show, and it was nice catching up with the gang.

They played most of my favorite tunes, all except Rasputin, much to my dismay. But it was a kick ass show, high energy the whole time, and a wild experience to fill that little venue with all of it.

Skivvy and Sarah’s Wedding

Skivvy and Sarah’s Wedding

I’m proudly as close to a brother-in-law as I will ever be.


Last weekend, on Sunday, August 15th, Sarah Singleton became betrothed to one of my best friends, Michael Skvarla. I was proud to be a member of the groom’s party, and dare I say, I looked rather dashing in my tux along side of 5 of my best friends.  😉

The wedding was held in La Porte, Indiana, a little lake town, surrounded by the expansive countryside of the midwest. The ceremony was beautiful, simple and meaningful (albeit very hot to be in 5 layers of clothing).

My friends and I shared a rather wild hotel room and in true rock star fashion, we almost got ‘asked to leave’ on multiple occasions. Perhaps it was the pyramid we constructed out of beer cans on the window seal, but I’ll never quite know for sure.

I had the casual freedom to be the unofficial photographers (knowing that the paid photogs would get the important shots), so I took my time and pleasure in getting some very nice portrait shots of some of the wedding party and others (see below).

I’m unbelievably happy for the new family and I can’t wait for Uncle Smarto to start corrupting the little Skivvy juniors!

The New Hardest Certificate, Naturally

So lets talk about the elephant in the room, the naturalization certificate.

Disclaimer: Warning! This is going to be a long post, so if you want the readers digest version, here are some bullet points:

  • Naturalization certificates may be difficult to get from a county court.
  • The USCIS Genealogy program does not make certified copies. Don’t bother asking.
  • In the event you can’t get a certified copy of a naturalization certificate from the court house where the naturalization happened, you may be able to file a Freedom of Information Act request to get these documents.
  • It is unclear if the consulate will even require the naturalization certificates to be certified because it is so difficult to get a non-original. Asking your consulate is a good idea, and I erred on the side of caution by forcing myself to get a copy.

Now, the long version of the story:

My aunt Margie had sent me a photocopy of Sam’s naturalization certificate. I put off asking to borrow it, assuming it would be a simple matter. It was my foolish mistake to assume that she had the original document, but alas, our family record keeping isn’t as cohesive as I wish it were. So it was off to find the naturalization certificate myself. (This citizenship process is often a lonely one)

I placed a call to the West Virgina Division of Culture and History (of which, the West Virginia State Archives is a division). I learned that were two original books of  Mineral County 1900’s naturalization certificates, and that they are held at the Mineral County circuit court.

They are not.

The Mineral County courthouse had kept these records in the past, but after a large archive consolidation, all these records were allegedly sent to the WV state archives (the office I just got off the phone with).

I called the WV state archives back, and talked to a very friendly gentleman who could not find the hard-copies of the records, but did help me locate a microfilm of them (I would later find that this friendly service would cost me $15.00). He made a photocopy of them with his WV State Archives stamp and signature, and suggested that after I receive the photocopies, I send them to the Circuit Court of Mineral County, WV for certification (essentially, a stamp).

After sending these to the Mineral County Clerk, she sent me back a xerox of some terribly old code book that says she isn’t allowed to stamp them. The old, dusty, ancient code says:

Clerks of court are prohibited by law from making and issuing certifications of a naturalization record or any part thereof, except upon order of the Court. The Immigration and Naturalization Service is authorized by law to make such certifications when needed in any judicial proceeding, or to comply with a State or Federal statute. Persons requiring such certifications should be advised to submit application Form N-585 to the appropriate Service office. A supply of Form N-585 is available to clerks of court or to other interested persons from the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

The prohibition against the issuance of certifications by clerks of court does not extend to the furnishing of uncertified information. Clerks of court may furnish such information orally, in writing, by printing, or by photocopy or other reproductive processes, in accordance with the rules of the cour, without consent or approval by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

From M-154

(Rev. 12-5-72)N

First thing you should notice about this is that its from 1972. Second thing you should notice is that this form is so old, the INS isn’t even the INS anymore, its the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service.

I wrote the USCIS an email, and they gave me a kind little screw-off letter:

Dear John Smarto,

Thank you for contacting the USCIS Genealogy Program. We apologize for our delayed response.  Your inquiry below indicates that you are trying to obtain certified copies of your ancestor’s immigrant and/or naturalization records.

Please note that the following Records may be identified in USCIS Indexes and are available through the USCIS Genealogy Program provided the subject of the record is DECEASED (we DO NOT provide certified copies):

  • Naturalization Certificate Files (C-files) from September 27, 1906 to April 1, 1956
  • Alien Registration Forms from August 1, 1940 to March 31, 1944
  • Visa files from July 1, 1924 to March 31, 1944
  • Registry Files from March 2, 1929 to March 31, 1944
  • Alien Files (A-files) numbered below 8 million (A8000000) and documents therein dated prior to May 1, 1951.

You may want to consider contacting the court where your great grandfather was naturalized to determine if they can provide you with a certified copy [facepalm :roll:]. Please visit the USCIS Genealogy Program web page at for additional information about the USCIS Genealogy Program.  Please be sure to read the Dual Citizenship Research FAQs page and the Historical Records Series page, which summarizes the records that are available through the program, the related fees, how to request a Certification of Non-Existence of a Record of Naturalization, etc.  Please note that the processing time for Genealogy requests is currently up to 120 days.

I trust this information will be helpful.  If you are still unclear you can contact USCIS Genealogy Program toll free by calling 866-259-2349.

Denise M. Long
USCIS Historical Records and Archives Branch
Genealogy Program

So being left with no other options, I scheduled an appointment with an Immigration Officer at the USCIS Pittsburgh Field Office.

Luckily, I was able to get in for a meeting almost immediately, using their INFOPASS service (meeting scheduler online). The guy behind the desk, who wasn’t much older than myself, was very cool and helpful. He had to ask his boss how to handle this weird request, but in the end, all it took was filling out USCIS Form G-639 which is a Freedom of Information/Privacy Act Request. They copied Sam’s death certificate, his birth certificate and his already-photocopied immigration docs, notorized it on site (a service I’d have to pay for if I did it at home) and sent me on my merry way. It will take a few weeks, but unless the record burned up in a fire or something, I will get this naturalization certficate, free of charge, in the mail. Awesome accomplishment, and very nice to talk to a person face-to-face about it.

Which leaves my last document to request, the simple matter of my mother’s birth certificate. Not use making a separate post about this, I’ve done it all before. Maryland needed a photocopy of her driver’s license, which she was happy to supply, and I shot that off with the required $12.00.

And at this point, every document is requested.

It’s a feeling of accomplishment but tension. I’m so relieved to have done everything I can possibly do at this moment, but now I have to sit and wait around. I suspect the last document I’ll receive, if I receive it at all, will be my great-grandparents application for a marriage license. I sent that last week, and the process is supposed to take “8-10 weeks”.

But, by the end of the calendar year (and with any luck, by the end of October), I suspect I’ll have every document and I can move on to Apostilles, and hopefully accomplish my goal of having all documents in hand, apostilled and translated by 2011.

Total cost of this step: $29.64

I’m choosing not to include travel expenses to the USCIS office in Pittsburgh, as these were not fixed cost, but be aware if you are following this process, there will be traveling required – if nothing else, to your consulate.

  • Finder’s Fee at WV State Archives: $15.00 + $0.44 postage
  • Sending Naturalization Papers to Mineral County: $0.88 postage (it was a thick envelope)
  • Mom’s Birth Certificate: $12.00 + $1.32 postage ($0.44 for the request, $0.88 for the return envelope)

Total cost so far: $254.67