18 January 2022

How to Make the Best of the New Antenati Website

People are still upset about the redesign of the Italian ancestry website, Antenati. The navigation is hidden, the thumbnail images don't exist, and the zoom button seems like a cruel joke.

Take heart! You can master the Antenati site with a few key tips.

Once you know what and where to click, the new Antenati site is easy to master.
Once you know what and where to click, the new Antenati site is easy to master.

Why They Changed the Website

There was a time when the Antenati site went down almost every day. Since the change, I found the images were slow to load a couple of times. And only once did I find the site unavailable. That's a big improvement.

The redesign makes site maintenance easier for their team—no doubt. It's a huge website! The homepage today says its contains:

  • 65 different state archives
  • 1,383,064 register books
  • 100,761,770 images.

As a 25-year website maintenance veteran, I get why the Antenati team wants to make their lives easier. Now let's make your life easier.

Adapting to the Changes

Create Source Citations. Every Antenati document in my family tree has a source citation that's partly wrong now. The old source's image URL is no good at all. But my citations do spell out the province, town, type of record, and year of the document. Even with a bad URL, that is enough information for anyone to go see the original.

Here's one of my old citations:

From the Benevento State Archives: http://dl.antenati.san.beniculturali.it/v/Archivio+di+Stato+di+Benevento/Stato+civile+della+restaurazione/Baselice/Morti/1856/199/007850708_01745.jpg.html

You can see the document is from Benevento, from the town of Baselice, and from the death records for 1856. So my old citations aren't a complete loss.

You new Antenati documents need a new style of source citation. Here's my template.
Your new Antenati documents need a new style of source citation. Here's my template.

My new Antenati source citation format is this:

From the xxx State Archives, YEAR TYPE, TOWN, document xx, image xx of xx at book url
image URL

I keep that text (and so much more) in my Notebook.txt file that's always open on my computer.

Using the same image as an example, I'd change:

  • "xxx State Archives" to "Benevento State Archives"
  • "YEAR TYPE, TOWN" to "1856 nati, Baselice"
  • "document xx, image xx of xx" to "document 65, image 35 of 41"
  • "book url" to "https://www.antenati.san.beniculturali.it/detail-registry/?s_id=757415"
  • "image URL" to "https://iiif-antenati.san.beniculturali.it/iiif/2/wWK9rlj/full/full/0/default.jpg" (Find out how to get the image URL below.)

Altogether, the new source citation is:

From the Benevento State Archives, 1856 nati, Baselice, document 65, image 35 of 41 at https://www.antenati.san.beniculturali.it/detail-registry/?s_id=757415
https://iiif-antenati.san.beniculturali.it/iiif/2/wWK9rlj/full/full/0/default.jpg

This format gives you all the information you need to go see the document for yourself, online or in person. It includes the URL of the register book and the URL of the high-resolution image of the document.

Navigate Smartly. Getting to the register book you want is easier than it was before. We used to click a province, click a time period, click our town, click a document type, and click a year. That got you to the right collection of images.

Now I start at the homepage and enter the name of the town I want. Then I can narrow down the results. Maybe I want only birth records. I can scroll down the town's results page and click Nati below the Tipologia heading. Then I can either scroll through the years or click Espandi below the Anno heading, and choose my year.

Note: I always view the site in Italian. If you haven't figured out that Anno means year and Nati means birth, you need to get grounded. The FamilySearch wiki is a great resource for learning Italian genealogy words. Memorize a few words and make things much easier.

Now that you're looking at the register you want, the best thing to do is look for the index pages. If the book cover is image 1, click the forward arrow at the bottom of the viewer to make sure the index isn't image 2 or 3.

If the index isn't in the beginning of the book, you need to go to the end. But the Antenati site doesn't have a button to let you jump to the end. You need to use the page index. Here's how:

  • Looking at your register book, click the "hamburger menu" (3 stacked horizontal lines) on the left, above the image.
  • Click the 3rd icon (1st is an i in a circle, 2nd is a ©) to show a list of every page number in the book. Scroll down to click the last page and check for the index. Back up a page or 2 if needed.

The index will tell you a document number or a date. Now take an educated guess which page your document will be on. Say you want document 65, and each image contain 2 facing pages. You can start at page 33 and see where you are. Use the page list to navigate around until you find what you need.

Zoom in to Read. The index and documents may be too small to read. But the plus button at the bottom of the viewer doesn't work, right? Actually, it does, but it's finicky. Once I found this trick, I avoided tons of frustration.

To zoom in on any image, your best bet is to use a mouse with a scroll wheel.

  • Hover over the image and roll your scroll wheel up a little bit. This makes the image jump around and enlarges it a little. But not enough.
  • Now that you've "activated" the zoom function, you can click the plus button at the bottom of the image to zoom in. Sort of.
  • If clicking on the plus doesn't work, click above and to the left of it. Pick a spot within the gray circle around the plus sign. Now you can click the plus again and again for this image. (See the bottom of the first image in this article.)

Get the High-Resolution Document Image. They must not want us to find and download the high-resolution images like we used to. Why else would they make it so tough to get to them?

Getting the vital record you need from the new Antenati website takes a few more clicks. Don't worry! It'll become routine after a few tries.
Getting the vital record you need from the new Antenati website takes a few more clicks. Don't worry! It'll become routine after a few tries.

While it is a big inconvenience, I've turned this process into a habit. Now it's second nature for me to get the document image I want. This process works best with the Firefox web browser. Go to the page you want and make a mental note of the page number displayed beneath the image, such as 35 of 41. The 35 is the number you need.

  • Click the i-in-a-circle icon in the left panel. (If the panel isn't open, click the hamburger menu at the top left of the viewing area.)
  • Scroll to the bottom of the left panel to find a link that's preceded by LINK, and IIIF manifest.
  • Click that link to open a new web browser tab.
  • You'll see a page full of blue, pink, and green text. (If not, click the Expand All button.) Press Ctrl F to open a search box. Search for your page number in this format, "pag. 35"—changing the 35 to whichever number you noted above.
  • This highlights your page number. Look about 8 lines above the highlight for a URL ending in default.jpg.
  • Click the link ending in default.jpg to open your image in another new tab. You can click it once to enlarge it and use your web browser's scroll bars to move around the image.
  • Finally, right-click this image and save it to your computer.

I like to leave all the browser tabs open until I complete my source citation. Copy the register book URL, the image URL, and the page number in the register.

Adapt and thrive. It's not that bad once you get used to it, and we're still getting a free resource that's intensely valuable. Remember:

  • Gather source citation details as you go.
  • Use the hidden page navigator to get around.
  • Activate the zoom function with your mouse wheel and click in the area of the plus button.
  • Click the manifest link, search for your page number, and get that high-resolution image.

The old website was no picnic. Make this one work for you.

11 January 2022

Why DNA Matches Appear Closer Than They Are

DNA match Maria and I are 6th cousins twice removed. I've done the research work, as has she. My 7th great grandparents Domenico and Filippa are her 5th great grandparents. Our relationship is through my paternal grandfather's branch. According to Blaine Bettinger's Shared cM Project, she and I should share 0–45 cMs because we're so distant. But we don't. We share 79 cMs (centiMorgans). That's enough for us to be solid 3rd cousins.

A chart on the ISOGG Wiki says there's an 11% chance that 6th cousins testing with AncestryDNA® will share any DNA. And this is my 6th cousin twice removed!

Exclude Smaller Amounts of DNA

So why do some DNA matches appear to be much closer cousins than they are? The answer in this case is endogamy. Endogamy is a long history of marrying within a closed community. And it ran rampant among my ancestors. My roots run deep in a handful of neighboring hills towns in the Campania region of Italy. Populations stayed put for centuries. Everyone married someone from town or someone from the next town.

Keep in mind your 3rd–4th cousin DNA matches may be more distant than they appear.
Keep in mind your 3rd–4th cousin DNA matches may be more distant than they appear.

All that swimming in the same gene pool makes for some complex relationships. But what if DNA match Maria and I have another, more distant relationship? If we do, then our shared 79 cMs may be the sum total of smaller, unrelated amounts. We may be getting up to 45 cMs from Domenico and Filippa and 34 more cMs from other shared ancestors.

If your DNA testing service has a chromosome browser (FamilyTreeDNA or 23andMe®), use it to focus on the longer stretches of DNA you share with a match. If you exclude the very short spans, you're left with a more realistic amount of meaningful shared DNA. That smaller number may point to your true relationship.

Find Another DNA Source

For reasons I can't understand, AncestryDNA doesn't offer a chromosome browser. That means I can't focus on only the long stretches of DNA Maria and I share. Luckily, I've found our main relationship. To account for the extra DNA, I need to expand the common branches of our family trees. I need to look for other relationships.

I found a possibility, but it requires one logical assumption. Maria's great grandfather Giuseppe Basilone was born in about 1852. There are only two Giuseppe Basilones born in the town at that time. (Find out how I know there are only two.) There are no available marriage or death records to prove my theory. But there is logic.

I took the bold step of merging two people in my family tree:

  • 1852 Giuseppe Basilone of unknown ancestry, and
  • 1851 Giuseppe Onofrio Basilone, who happens to be my 2nd cousin 4 times removed.
When documents are not available, thorough research around your person can help.
When documents are not available, thorough research around your person can help.

Why was I comfortable doing this? Because:

  • Giuseppe Onofrio was 32 years older than his wife when he married in 1904. (I have the 1904 date from his wife's birth record.)
  • The Giuseppe I'm trying to connect to had 4 children from 1878–1886, and then they stopped coming.
  • It's logical that Giuseppe's first wife died after 1886, and he remarried a much younger woman.
  • The only other possible match is a Giuseppantonio (not Giuseppe) Basilone. He's a dead end. There's no annotation about his marriage, and there are no birth records for his children.

Still, this is a theory, so I wrote a detailed note about it in my family tree. If I'm correct, DNA match Maria is now also my 5th cousin once removed. This relationship is through my paternal grandmother. My 5th great grandparents Paolo and Giuseppa are her 4th great grandparents. We just got closer! That relationship is good for about 21 cMs, or a range of 0–80 cMs. This extra relationship would explain why Maria and I share 79 cMs but are distant cousins.

Two distant relationships added together can seem like a much closer cousin.
Two distant relationships added together can seem like a much closer cousin.

Don't Get Hung Up on Estimates

What does this mean to you when you're checking out your DNA matches? Once you get past 2nd or 3rd cousins, every other match may be more distant than they appear. This is especially true if you come from an endogamous population like me. Other well-known endogamous populations are:

  • Acadians
  • Amish
  • Arabs
  • Ashkenazi Jews
  • French Canadians
  • Mennonites
  • Newfoundlanders
  • Polynesians

Think of the early settlers of Colonial America. Their community was pretty small, so how many marital choices did one have? This was the case with all my semi-isolated Italian towns.

Don't fret about the estimated cousin relationship if the facts don't support it. Instead, look for other, hidden relationships.

04 January 2022

Keep Genealogy Exciting With This One List

I abandoned my annual genealogy goals in the year of the plague—2020. It seemed pointless to be so disciplined when it felt like the end of the world.

Did I give up on my family tree research? Just the opposite. I've become more productive at building my family tree. Even before I retired from my job three months ago, I was spending time on genealogy every single day. Now that I am retired, my family tree is my full-time job.

Do you ever worry about becoming bored with your genealogy research? I don't. The research routine I've settled into keeps me engaged and entertained. Every day!

The secret is to (a) have a list of tasks you can work on, and (b) do whatever you're in the mood to do. On any given day, I may pick a task and go at it, or jump from task to task, or let my findings lead me where they want to go.

Create a list of genealogy research tasks for yourself, and you can always do what makes you happy on any given day. Let me explain my list, and you can think about what to put on yours.

Steady progress on your family tree is entertaining when you have tasks to suit your mood.
Steady progress on your family tree is entertaining when you have tasks to suit your mood.

My list revolves around my ultimate goal for my family tree. This is not for everyone, but I know I've inspired some of you. My goal is to connect everyone from my ancestral hometowns in one massive family tree.

While researching a town in Italy, I found connections between everyone in town. All my ancestral hometowns are rural and isolated. Everyone married someone else in town or from a neighboring town. And all my hometowns are neighboring towns.

My towns' vital records are available online. After finding as many of my direct ancestors as possible, I wanted to fill out each individual family. Who did my direct ancestors' siblings marry? Who were their children? I can answer those questions, limited only by the years for which vital records are available.

In trying to connect everyone from my towns, I have an enormous family tree with well over 34,000 people. Lately, by doing whatever makes me happy, I've been adding an average of 100 people a day to my tree.

Here are my favorite genealogy tasks. Each day I start working on whichever one will make me happy at that moment.

Task 1. Research people with approximate birth dates.

There are lots of people in my tree without an exact birth date. For many of them, all I need to do is search for the right document.

My favorite task right now is finding a date of birth for everyone possible.
My favorite task right now is finding a date of birth for everyone possible.

First I sort everyone in my Family Tree Maker file by birth date. I began this task with people born in the 1780s. Italian civil records begin in 1809, but the early marriage records can include a birth date.

I'm up to people born in 1827. When I find someone's birth record, I add their parents. Then I search for all their siblings and see who each one married. I find each couple's children and the families of each spouse. The people add up fast, which is why I'm averaging 100 people a day.

Task 2. Fill in missing facts in my document tracker.

When I add a genealogy document to my family tree, I record it in a single spreadsheet I call my document tracker. I sort the 5,000+ lines by last name with one line per person.

One year my genealogy goal was to search for missing U.S. census records for the people in my document tracker. Now I'm going line-by-line finding missing vital records for every Italian.

If I find a birth, marriage, and death record for someone, I color the line green so I know I've found everything. If any dates are outside the range of available vital records, I note that and color the line blue. That tells me I've done all I can.

Task 3. Fit everyone from my Colle Sannita spreadsheet into my tree.

One of my 2019 goals was to transcribe the 1809–1813 birth records from my Italian towns in a spreadsheet. Now I'm focusing on my Grandpa Iamarino's hometown of Colle Sannita. I'm working to fit every single baby from these years into my tree.

The spreadsheet tells me the baby's name and birth date, and the parents' names and ages. Sometimes I find that the parents are already in my tree, so all I have to do is add the baby.

Other times I need to find out who the baby grew up to marry, and then see if I have that family in my tree. One way or another, I can fit almost everyone in. I'm currently down to line 145 in the spreadsheet, and there are only seven babies I can't place in my family tree. Yet.

Task 4. Download and label more Italian vital records.

My 2nd great grandmother was born in Santa Paolina. I find that many people from that town married someone from the next town, Tufo. Now I'm downloading Tufo record images from the Antenati website. Finding the Tufo birth, marriage, or death records I need to complete a family is so satisfying.

Each time I download a vital record, I rename it so the people are searchable on my computer. For example, one two-page record image from 1821 is on my computer as:

18 Michele Pasquale Romano di Giovanni & 19 Giovanni Raffaele Grosso di Domenico.jpg

The "di" tells me the name of the baby's father. This makes it easy for me to quickly find every child born to one couple. I can search my computer for "romano di giovanni" and check each result to see the mother's name.

I'm including the record numbers so a collection of files is in chronological order. I may need #18 Michele now, but later on, I'll probably need #19 Giovanni. When I do, I'll find his record easily.

I love viewing all the vital records and renaming them. It helps me get familiar with the last names from any given town. I can usually spot an out-of-towner by their unfamiliar last name.

Find a genealogy task you really enjoy. Then work on it whenever the mood strikes you.
Find a genealogy task you really enjoy. Then work on it whenever the mood strikes you.

Task 5. Reduce the size of huge document images.

Last year I learned a better way to save files in Photoshop to reduce their file size. (I'll explain this if anyone is interested.) My family tree has tons of bloated census pages, immigration records, and more. When the mood strikes me, I search for the fattest files and resave them. Then I replace the image in my tree. This helps reduce the overall size of my massive family tree file.

Task 6. Follow up on leads in my research notebook.

I have a text file I work in every single day called notebook.txt. It has my to-do list, information I need to keep handy, and it tells me where I left off on all the tasks above.

The file also contains leads and project ideas I've added over the years. One project revolves around photos I took in Italy. They are photos of monuments to the young men from three towns who died in World War I and II. My project is to fit each one of the men into my family tree.

My text file also has notes about some of my DNA matches, where I left off with genealogy hunches, and more. It even has a daily schedule of what I want my retirement to look like. I love to be productive, and my family tree is more than enough to keep me active and happy for the rest of my life.

What are you doing to keep up your genealogy research momentum?