Hanging out in Rockford: Born again—Part Two

Hanging out in Rockford: Born again—Part Two

By Mike Leifheit, Columnist

By Mike Leifheit


The last thing the woman at the Irish consulate says to me is, “You really need to get a copy of your birth certificate if you want your 10-year passport.” I take her seriously and set out to find my birth certificate. First, I look at the documents that I found in my mother’s house after her death. There is an adoption decree from 1951. As I read through the document, I spy a familiar name. John Hallock is listed as my “Guardian Ad Litem.” I know a John Hallock who is an attorney in Rockford, but it could not possibly be the same John Hallock. Could it have been his father? I look up his name in the phone book and give him a call. I get an answering machine.

I leave a message: “John, could your father have been my attorney in 1951? A John Hallock is listed as my Guardian Ad Litem on the adoption papers. Was that your dad? I am trying to find a copy of my birth certificate, and there might have been one in the file.” I hang up and then realize that I left no return number. I call again and leave my cell phone number. A couple days later, John calls. Yes, his dad was an attorney, and there are some files. He will check on it.

I decide to search on my own at the Winnebago County annex. I start at Davey Johnson’s office (Winnebago County Clerk). A perfectly lovely woman helps me. Her name is Connie Hoffman. She tells me that my information would not be on file in Winnebago County because I was foreign-born. My file would be in Springfield, and while another person helps me by looking up my name in the computer, she goes over to a desk to call Springfield. Unfortunately, there is no record of my birth certificate in Springfield. She tells me that she has been listening to my column on WNTA, and that she knows about how I am trying to find my birth certificate so that I can go visit my son. She suggests that I try the adoption records over at the courthouse.

I go up to Ken Staaf’s office (Winnebago County Recorder) where a charming young woman helps me. No luck there, either, so it is on to the adoption records. I pass through the metal detector and ask one of the officers on duty how to get to the adoption records, and he sends me to room 104. I have a little trouble finding it, but then I do, and I wait in line to be helped. The woman who helps me informs me that adoption records are sealed and that I will have to write to the chief judge to request to have the records opened. I walk up to the chief judge’s office on the fourth floor. They send me down to Judge More’s office on the third floor. The secretary there tells me that it will have to be in writing, and I decide to call it quits for the day.

Back at the Irish Rose, I write Judge More a letter telling him that there is nothing in my file that I am not aware of, so no issues of secrecy exist. I attach a copy of the original adoption decree, which states that my mother was my only living relative and that I was born in England. I tell him that I wish to re-establish my Irish citizenship to enable my son to become part of the European economic community, and for that I need a copy of my birth certificate.

Then I am in Chicago at the market where I receive a phone call from Randy Talley, who has taken over John Hallock’s dad’s practice. No adoption certificate there. No file at all. It has been 50 years. Oh well, I still have Winnebago County. But no, I receive word from Judge More’s office, no birth certificate in the file. I am getting pretty low about the whole thing.

I get back from the market, and there is an envelope from the Irish consulate. It is my passport. I am understandably excited. I am going to walk down to Little Italy to have a celebratory drink. I am on my way out the door when I run into Pete Chronas, and I show him my passport. He says two very important things to me, two things I have not noticed. First, the passport is for 10 years—they have granted me full status. But then he drops the bomb, “Were you born in SaSana, England?” (It should say Exeter or Devonshire. I have never even heard of SaSana.)

I go to Little Italy anyway, and show everybody my passport. Frank Calvanese can’t understand why I am excited; his proudest moment was when he became a United States citizen. I tell him I am just happy to have papers of any kind so I can go visit my son. I also explain to him that this will enable my son to be part of the European Union (E.U.) I can get my American papers after he establishes his E.U. status.

The following Monday, I call the Irish consulate to ask them what to do about the error on my papers. I tell the person on the phone about the word SaSana being my birthplace. She puts me on hold. A moment later, she comes back on to say that is the Gaelic word for England. My papers are complete. On to the INS to get my passport stamped.

Owner of the Irish Rose (Rockford) and Irish Rose North (Rockton) restaurants, Mike Leifheit’s “Hanging Out In Rockford” reviews locally-owned restaurants, businesses and Rockford life. These columns are also available on his Web site: IrishRoseRockford.com and featured on the Chris Bowman Show, WNTA talk radio AM 1330.

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