Friday, February 23, 2018

Grandpa's Journeys Shed Light On My Own

Pietro Iamarino looking dapper in New Jersey
My grandpa, Pietro Iamarino, in New Brunswick, NJ.
My Grandpa lived in the same house from the time I was born until two years before he died. Whenever my family was in the Bronx, we stopped in to visit him. All those weekend visits to the orthodontist when I was a kid with braces, my dad and I would stop in to visit Grandpa. Years later when I was grown, I made the trip from New Jersey to visit Grandpa.

He was always there.

Yet Grandpa had been so many places. In 1920, at age 18, he left home in Italy to come to America. After Ellis Island, he went north to a Boston suburb. There he joined his mother's brother, Antonio Pilla.

my grandfather's declaration of intention to become a U.S. citizen
Grandpa was quick to declare he was staying in America.
A short time later, Grandpa was in western Pennsylvania working as a laborer. There, in 1924, he filed his Declaration of Intention to become a citizen of the United States of America. He was still in Pennsylvania three years later when he became a citizen.

Now an American citizen, Grandpa didn't seem to have a steady job or profession. His next move, I think, was his family's suggestion. Grandpa moved to Ohio.

Within eight months of becoming a citizen in Pennsylvania, my grandfather, Pietro Iamarino:
  • had taken a job as a laborer in the Carnegie Steel Mill in Youngstown, Ohio
  • was a boarder in the home of Pasquale Iamarino (his father's second cousin)
  • married his landlord's daughter, and his third cousin, Lucy Iamarino.
But Grandpa wasn't finished with his travels. After the steel mill he worked for the railroad along with Pasquale Iamarino. He famously said his railroad job "stinks on the ice," so he packed up his wife and two kids. They moved to the Bronx, New York, and lived for a time with Grandpa's uncle Giuseppe. Grandpa became a jeweler—a much cleaner job than working in a mill or a railyard.

He continued his nice, clean jeweler's job in the Bronx for almost 15 years. But he wasn't finished. My grandmother became ill and wanted to move back to Ohio near her parents. So that's where they went. On her deathbed in 1954, my grandmother told my dad to go back to the Bronx and marry his childhood sweetheart—my mom.

By 1955, my parents had married and had a child. They invited Grandpa to live on the first floor of their townhouse in the Bronx. Yup. He was back in the Bronx.

In 1959 Grandpa remarried and bought the house where I would visit him for the rest of his life.

I wanted to map out Grandpa's travels from Italy to New York to Pennsylvania to Ohio to New York to Ohio to New York for one reason.

My Southern Italian grandfather did NOT take a ship from Naples to New York like all my other relatives. That would have been too direct for him.

Grandpa's 1920 ship manifest
Grandpa sailed from where?!?!?
When I began my genealogy research in 2003, the first document I found was Grandpa's ship manifest. I didn't understand why, but his manifest didn't say "sailing from Napoli". It said "sailing from Cherbourg". That's in France. Northern France.

Cherbourg is a 24-hour car ride from Grandpa's hometown of Colle Sannita, Italy. And you know 18-year-old Grandpa didn't take a car that distance in 1920. I imagine he traveled for weeks to get to northern France. And then he spent 12 days on the Atlantic Ocean.

I have no documentation of that part of Grandpa's journey. He never spoke about his early life.

Judging by the rest of his travels, I'd like to think he acted like a student backpacking his way through Europe. He traveled for a while, stopped to do some odd jobs for money, and continued his way north.

Oh, he did make one other journey. In 1958, before he remarried, he made a trip back home for the first time since 1920. His father Francesco had traveled back and forth from Italy to America five times! He had visited Grandpa in Ohio in 1929. But Francesco died in 1951.

Grandpa did get to see his mother one last time during that visit to Italy. Imagine that? He left home as an 18-year-old boy and didn't see his mamma again until he was a 56-year-old man.

Aha! Now it seems like fate that I've lived in New York, California, New York, Connecticut, Indiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. I am, after all, an Iamarino.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Was Your Ancestor in the Military? It May Not Matter

One of my best family history clues came from a World War II draft registration card for a 64-year-old man.

My grandmother's uncle barely made the deadline for the "old man's registration". In late April 1942, local draft boards recorded facts about men born between 28 April 1877 and 16 February 1897. The men were 45 to 64 years old. How badly did the war have to go before they called up 64-year-old men?

Born four months into the date range, my great uncle was about to turn 65 when he went to the draft board in the Bronx, New York.

His name was Semplicio Saviano, known as Sam. His World War II draft registration card tells me was was 5'6" and had an artificial left eye. My mother remembers being so afraid of him, and her mother would scold her for it. "He's my uncle. Don't be silly!" But maybe it was that fake eye that spooked her as a little girl.

Sam's registration card also tells me that he was living in my mother's building. That confirms her story of seeing him at the end of the hall, staying in a little room that wasn't much bigger than a closet. He lists his sister (my great grandmother) as the person who will always know his address. That makes sense, too, because Sam's wife had died, and my great grandparents owned my mom's building.

But the fantastic clue needed so badly was his place of birth. All I'd ever heard for so many years was that my great grandmother's family was from Avellino, Italy. The problem is Avellino is both a city and a province. So where did they come from?

Although riddled with errors, this draft registration card holds a vital key to my family history.
The answer, though completely misspelled, is printed neatly on the card. It says "Tofo - Province Avilino". I had no doubt that "Avilino" was meant to say "Avellino". So I checked an online map of Avellino for a town with a name anything like Tofo.

Aha! Finally, I had hard evidence pointing to the town of Tufo, Avellino.

Shortly after this discovery, I was visiting the Family History Center in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. It was my first time at a Center, so I was just checking it out. One of the volunteers suggested I look at which films were sitting in their "Italy drawer". Would you believe I found a reel of film from Tufo?

I made a big discovery thanks to that film. Sam was born there, and so was an older brother that no one in my family knew about.

If you're searching for someone in the World War II draft registration cards, keep those birth dates (28 April 1877 and 16 February 1897) in mind. I'd been searching for my paternal grandfather's card for a long time before I realized he was too young. He was born in 1902—probably too old to serve, but too young for this registration.

World War I draft registration cards are important to gather, too. It's another moment in time to see where your relative lived and worked. These cards were filled out on three separate dates, each with its own birth date ranges:
  • On 5 June 1917 they registered men born between 6 June 1886 and 5 June 1896.
  • On 5 June 1918 they registered men born between 6 June 1896 and 5 June 1897.
  • On 12 Sept 1918 they registered men born between 11 Sept 1872 and 12 Sept 1900.
My paternal grandfather fell through the cracks again! He was too young to serve or be registered.

Draft registration card images are available on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org. If your ancestor didn't serve, you may have overlooked this important family history resource. Which of your male ancestors should be in these record collections?

If this all seems a bit familiar, I did write about draft registration cards 9 months ago. Finding Sam's place of birth was such an important breakthrough for me, I want to encourage you to find your ancestors' cards, too.

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Friday, February 16, 2018

Taking Refuge in Your Family History Research

There it is. My happy place.
Genealogy: My escape to a better place and time.

I started this blog to go to my happy place. Genealogy gives me endless satisfaction and an escape from everything bad.

It's hard to concentrate today, though. There's too much bad news and sadness to ignore.

So let's think about why we love genealogy.

It's a neverending puzzle where every piece has meaning to us

Each of us has a ton of ancestors:
  • 4 grandparents
  • 8 great grandparents
  • 16 2nd great grandparents
  • 32 3rd great grandparents
  • 64 4th great grandparents
  • and let's jump up to 4,096 10th great grandparents
That's a lot of puzzle pieces to find! Keep in mind your numbers may vary a little if any cousins married. For example, my paternal grandparents were 3rd cousins, so they share a branch of the family tree.

It helps us imagine our ancestors' lives

I learned some concrete facts about my ancestors' lives by examining thousands of vital records from their towns:
  • the average age at which they married.
  • how many babies they had.
  • how quickly they remarried when their spouse died.
  • the kinds of work they did.
  • how many babies were born out of wedlock.
It helps us understand how we came to be

When you fill in your grandparent chart with generations of your ancestors' names, one thing becomes clear. Thousands of people had to marry one specific person and have one specific child for you to be born!

It's fun to solve those mysteries

Mystery 1: My family always wondered why my father's parents had the same last name. We knew it wasn't a common name. But they never told anyone the reason why.

Genealogy research led me to Francesco Iamarino born in 1784 in Italy. He was the 2nd great grandfather to both my grandmother and my grandfather.

Mystery 2: At my mother's birth, the doctor asked my grandfather, "What are you naming this baby?" He answered "Mariangela"—his mother's name.

The problem is, I found my great grandmother's 1856 birth record, and she was named Marianna. She had an older sister Mariangela who died as a little girl, but she was Marianna. Why didn't my grandfather say "Marianna"?

Some more genealogy research led me to that answer, too. My great grandmother had five children. On some of their birth records she is Marianna and on others she is Mariangela.

Mariangela may have been her preferred name. My grandfather may never have known his mother's name was actually Marianna. So he proudly named my mother for her: Mariangela.

My Happy Place

If I could spend all my time doing genealogy, I would. We all deserve happiness. May your family history research bring you as much joy as mine brings me.


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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

When to Cut a Branch Off Your Family Tree

Eleven years ago, my sister-in-law Mary Ann lost her dad. As she wrote his obituary, she realized she knew nothing about his family.

After asking her for some basic facts, I offered to piece together both sides of her family tree.

Mary Ann's family was a new challenge for me. Everyone related to me was born either in Italy or the United States. And none of my relatives came to the United States before 1890. So I hadn't even searched for a U.S. census record earlier than 1900 at that point.

Her large family has a long history in America. I found lots of family trees and other documentation for them. I was jealous that I'd found her 10th great grandparents for her.

I added her family members into my family tree because I saw no reason to have a separate file. But now I have a renewed interest in documenting her mom's family.

The Muse family was in Virginia as early as the 1600s. I'd like to see if the family lore about being part of the Jamestown Settlement is true.

Sometimes it's better to prune.
Mary Ann's entire branch was one that I could cut from my family tree without hurting anything. Other than keeping Mary Ann, my brother and my nephew in my tree, everyone else would work better as a separate tree.

As a separate tree, I can publish it on Ancestry.com and give her full access. She can look at her family without swimming through the 19,000 other people in my tree.

On Friday night I decided to separate out her entire 595-person family tree. I wasn't finished until Sunday morning!

I planned to document the process and tell you how easy it was. That plan changed after the first couple of frustrating hours.

I tried several different ways to export every one of Mary Ann's relatives. I kept discovering that people were missing in the new file. After three failed attempts, I worked with a copy of my tree and deleted everyone not related to her. I thought it would never end.

To export and then delete a branch from a tree in Family Tree Maker is a strange process. You choose someone from the tree and go to the reports (Publish) tab. Create a report that will include all the people you want. The Extended Family Chart seems to be the best choice.

When you're satisfied with the list of people in the chart, right-click anyone's name and choose Export > Entire Chart.

Unfortunately, I didn't quite do it that way.

Now that you have your new file, you can delete those people from the original file. Using that same Extended Family Chart, right-click anyone's name and choose Delete from File > All persons in chart. Note: If you want to keep anyone, right-click and choose to remove them from your chart first.

With this done, there's still a lot of clean-up left. On both your new family tree file and the original family tree file, you need to delete unused media files, sources, and locations.

I compacted each tree to clear out all the things I'd deleted. Then I made new backup files and synchronized both finished trees with Ancestry.com.

I don't think I have another branch that should stand alone. I have gone off on some in-law tangents, but they came from the same geographic area as my family, so I like to keep them.

I've read heated online discussions about how many trees you should maintain. Some people keep a separate family tree file for each grandparent. I really can't see the point in that. It's your tree, isn't it? Why juggle different branches of your own family tree?

In my case, my father's parents were third cousins, so their trees intertwine. And now DNA testing shows that my parents are cousins. So my entire family tree is weaving its way into a family wreath!

I'm sure I'll hesitate to ever cut a branch off my tree again. Although I sure did learn how not to do it.

You can base your decision on the audience. Mary Ann's family tree needs more work—and I created it for her. So giving her her very own tree makes the most sense.

Have you started working on an in-law's branch? Is the work big enough to deserve its own tree? If so, prune that branch before things get harder to control.


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Friday, February 9, 2018

Imagining the Journey of Our First Immigrant Ancestors

These windows at Ellis Island
have a view of the Statue of Liberty.
When I visited Ellis Island a year ago, I felt chills. It was emotional to think my ancestors had stood on the very same spot long before me.

The first ship manifests I downloaded years ago fascinated me. Sure, they give us important facts about our ancestors. But they can paint a little picture of the voyage.

Sometimes a group of travelers from one town made that ocean voyage together. The group may include entire families or a few brothers and cousins. Other times it seems as if all the young men in town made the decision to find their fortunes together. Often you'll see a woman making the journey with her young children to join her husband who went before them.

These five young men came to New York together from a small Italian town. 
I'm related to at least three of them.

Most of my ancestors spent three weeks in steerage sailing from Naples, Italy, to New York. The 2015 movie "Brooklyn" gives you an idea what that difficult trip may have been like. But "Brooklyn" takes place in the 1950s. I suspect her seasick journey was a lot nicer than my ancestors' voyages between 1890 and 1920.

One reason I'm American.
When I've flown to Europe or California, I arrived looking like death warmed over. But here's the worst possible scenario. My great grandmother, Maria Rosa Saviano, was five months pregnant with my grandmother when she boarded the S.S. Karamania in 1899.

Think about that. Three weeks in crowded, foul-smelling, uncomfortable conditions. At least some amount of rough seas. No room to move and very little fresh air. And you're five months pregnant!

That was one tough lady.

The museum at Ellis Island lets you walk where your ancestors walked. It shows you what the inspection process was like for them.

Were any of your ancestors detained at Ellis Island? Were they sick and quarantined? Women and children were sometimes held until a relative arrived to take them on their way.

For an excellent description of the entire immigrant journey—from hometown to port to voyage to Ellis Island and on to their final destination—read "The Immigrant Journey" on OhRanger.com.

What sacrifices did your immigrant ancestors make? Don't take their strength and courage for granted.


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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

How to Read Names on Badly Written Vital Records

Imagine you're searching through a collection of old, hand-written vital records. You're winding through a reel of microfilm or clicking through a collection of images.

At last you find what you want: the marriage record for your 2nd great grandparents. Eureka! Now you can learn the names of two sets of your 3rd great grandparents.

You grab a magnifying glass or zoom in on the document, eager to see those new names.

I'm familiar with the names in my ancestors' towns. So I can identify these names with zero hesitation.But what do they say? They're almost completely illegible. You aren't sure of any of the letters!

What would you do? I've seen people share an image on Facebook, asking for opinions on a hard-to-read name. Time and again, the people who can read the name with authority are already familiar with the exact name.

That's the answer! I've been documenting vital records from all my ancestral hometowns for years.

I'm pretty fast at it. Why? Because this practice helps me decipher even the most sloppily written names in no time.

Scientists say we're able to read by recognizing the shapes of words. That's why it's easier to read this THAN IT IS TO READ THIS.

So, get familiar with the names from your ancestral hometowns. Then you'll find it easy see the difference between:
  • Chiusolo and Ciusolo
  • Anzuino and Anzovino
  • Ferella and Ferrara.
And bonus! If you're examining a small town, there was no doubt a lot of intermarrying. You may find you're related to the majority of the town! So it's worth your while to learn those names.

Here are some examples of names that didn't slow me down for a second—once I made myself familiar with the town.


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Friday, February 2, 2018

How I Tracked Down My 4th Great Grandmother's Parents

In my last article, I mentioned how tough it was to find the names of my 4th great grandmother's parents. She was Apollonia Grazia Caruso. Here's what I knew about her when I set out to find her parents:
  • Born around 1775, Apollonia had three children in the town of Circello, Benevento, Campania, Italy between 1809 and 1813.
  • Her son Francesco Saverio Liguori, my 3rd great grandfather, married in the next town, Colle Sannita, in 1840.
  • Her husband, my 4th great grandfather Gregorio Liguori, died in Circello in 1814. He and Apollonia had three children under the age of 10 at the time.
Apollonia's death record was missing from Francesco Saverio's 1840 marriage documents. Instead, a long letter testified, "Yes, she is dead, but we don't remember when she died. It was a long time ago."

The town clerk wrote that he couldn't find her death record because he didn't know which years to search. That meant I couldn't find her death date or her parents' names.

What would you do next?

I turned to my knowledge of these small towns in the province of Benevento in the 1800s. I've documented thousands of birth, marriage and death records from the area.

I learned that in my rural, ancestral hometowns in the 1800s:
  • Couples married at the average age of 25.
  • They had a child about every other year until the wife was in her mid-forties.
  • When one spouse died, the survivor remarried within a couple of years.
With this in mind, I examined what I knew. Apollonia's husband died when she was about 40 years old. She had three small children. She needed to remarry.

Her husband died in December 1814, so I looked at the 1815 marriage records for Circello. No Apollonia.

I looked at the 1816 records, and there she was. At the age of 44, Apollonia married Salvatore delGrosso. He was a 66-year-old widower from Colle Sannita. As a tailor, he was most likely able to give her a better life than she had before.

Their marriage records finally gave me the names of the 5th great grandparents I was searching for. Francesco Caruso and Francesca d'Andrea were born around 1750.

A timeline of family history events; one leading me to the next.
The facts I had about her family led me to discover more about Apollonia.
Apollonia died in Colle Sannita only six years after her second marriage. Her children were ages 13, 11 and nine. I can only hope that their elderly step-father continued to care for the children.

I know Francesco Saverio, the youngest child, grew up, married and had children. I plan to search the Colle Sannita death and marriage records for his sisters.

Isn't it amazing how many things had to align for you to be born?

If Apollonia hadn't become a widow and married a man from another town:
  • My 3rd great grandparents might never have married.
  • They wouldn't have had a daughter named Maria Giuseppa Liguori.
  • She wouldn't have had a daughter named Libera Pilla.
  • Libera wouldn't have married Francesco Iamarino—my grandfather's father.
Thanks to the hours I spend examining old Italian vital records, I learned about these people. I knew I had to search for Apollonia's second marriage soon after her first husband died.

Here's your challenge.

Learn all you can about your ancestral hometown through its vital records. Don't search only for specific people. Take the time to look at the surrounding documents. Look for patterns and facts.

Act like a detective and think about what your ancestor might have done. This tactic could help you find those missing names—or solve that family mystery.


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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

How I'm Methodically Finding My Missing Ancestors

I spent this past weekend hunting. For people. For a few of my missing fifth great grandparents.

And I found them!

Because I write this blog twice a week, I've gotten very focused on how I do things. I'm filling in my Grandparent Chart ancestor by ancestor by following my own advice.

Let me show you how I'm methodically adding the names of missing ancestors to my family tree.

Step One: Have Resources Ready to View

I've downloaded a massive number of vital records, waiting for me to review.
My collection of documents.
Your resources might be online genealogy sites or microfilm at a library.

If your ancestors were Italian, their town's vital records might be on the Antenati website. If so, I hope you've used the GetLinks program to download all the records to your computer. (See Collect the Whole Set!)

I have vital records from my Italian ancestral hometowns on my desktop. I'm processing these thousands of images in a couple of ways:
  • One-by-one I'm typing their facts into a spreadsheet database.
  • I'm choosing someone from my family tree to pursue—going after their birth, marriage and death records.
It's important to have my family tree software open as I go through the images. I can check out any familiar name to see if they're a relative.

Step Two: Crop and Add Facts to Images
add facts directly to images, and they'll be pulled into your family tree software
Annotating images.
When I find a document for someone who belongs in my family tree:
  • I rename the image file so it's easy to find again.
  • I drag the image into Photoshop to crop it and save it with its final name in my folder of vital records.
  • I right-click the image and choose Properties, and then the Details tab. Here I can annotate the images and enter the title as I want it to appear in my family tree. For example, "1811 birth record for Maria Vincenza Liguori". In the Comments section, I enter the URL where the image exists online.

Step Three: Add Images and Facts to Tree

always add all the details you can to an image in your family tree
Adding more details to images.
I drag the annotated image into my family tree software. I edit its properties there, adding the date of the event. I add the facts to the person in my tree, too. In some cases, the document has other names—parents and spouses—that I can add to my tree.

I like to set the most important image I have for a person as their profile picture. This is helpful when I'm looking at the family view. I can see at a glance that I've already found someone's birth record, for example.

Step Four: Update Index of Images

keeping an inventory of what you've found can save you lots of time
Adding newly found documents to my Document Tracker spreadsheet.
I make a quick update to my Document Tracker. This is the spreadsheet that acts as my inventory of documents I've added to my family tree.

Step Five: Add New Ancestor Names to Grandparent Chart

this ancestor chart (you can download a blank version) shows exactly who you have and who you're missing
My Grandparent Chart keeps track of my ancestor-finding progress.
If a document gives me the name of a direct-line ancestor I was missing, I add them to my Grandparent Chart.

Step Six: Add New Last Names to My Surname Chart

Can you keep all your ancestors' last names in your hear? No? Try building this list.
My surname list.
I found five new names this weekend of my 5th great grandparents. But only one had a brand new last name for my family tree. So I added d'Andrea to my list of 70 direct-line last names.

I may be methodical, but I can work on a whim, too. Sometimes I choose a year and start documenting the vital records in my spreadsheet. If that leads me to a brand new ancestor, I'm thrilled!

Other times I begin with my Grandparent Chart and choose a target. Which missing ancestor do I want to find?

That's how I found one particular set of 5th great grandparents this weekend. I'd discovered a 4th great grandmother named Apollonia Caruso.

I love that name. I can't see or hear the name Apollonia without thinking of "The Godfather, Part II."

But I didn't know her parents' names. She married before 1809—the year the Italian civil record keeping began.

I found her children's birth records, but they don't include her parents' names. So I found her son, my 3rd great grandfather Francesco Saverio Liguori's 1840 marriage records.

Apollonia had died by then. Her death record should have been included. Instead, there was a long letter explaining that she had died, but no one could remember when! The town clerk couldn't find her death record because he didn't know where to look.

I decided to do his job and find her death record.

This story deserves a separate blog post, so let's just say I found her death record, and much more! I'll tell you how I did it next time.

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Friday, January 26, 2018

When You Can't Find Your Ancestor on a Map

I'm working on the ultimate database of my ancestral hometowns in the 19th century. I'm typing the important facts into a spreadsheet as I examine:
  • birth records
  • death records
  • marriage records
from all my ancestors' hometowns in Italy. My husband thinks I'm crazy, of course. But every detail fascinates me.

The facts I'm pulling from each vital record include:
  • names
  • dates
  • occupations
  • ages
  • addresses
A family's address in an 1866 Italian birth record. The village is seen after the father's name. The street is seen after the mother's name.
A family's address in an 1866 Italian birth record. The village is seen after the father's name. The street is seen after the mother's name.
The beauty of the spreadsheet is this:

When I discover a new relative, I can search the spreadsheet to see if I've already got his siblings or his parents. If I do, I can piece together more about this family.

Neighborhood names are seen in larger text on a Google or Bing map.
Neighborhood names are seen in larger text.
I can spot some patterns, too. I've noticed that many of my closer ancestors will have the same address.

In 19th century rural Italy, these are not street addresses and house numbers like we know today. They are sections, neighborhoods, clusters of houses. You can imagine that in more modern times, mail delivery made it necessary to have house numbers. But when my ancestors lived there, family members built their homes next to one another. As time went by, children grew up and married, and they built more houses near their relatives.

These neighborhoods may have changed names over the years. Some of the rural sections may not be quite as rural as they were. Tempi cambi—times change.

If you are taking note of the place where your ancestor lived, you may not be able to find it on a map today. But it's still helpful to compare the addresses of different family members. Let's say one family lived in Neighborhood A, and another in Neighboorhood B. If the families intermarried, where did they live?

Here's a very helpful website that explains the different Italian street types. I found out many of my ancestors' addresses were like township or hamlet names in America.

In fact, my mom's ancestors come from a township called Pastene. That's the name of the place my grandmother and great aunt often said their parents came from.

But when their parents and grandparents came to America, they said they were from Sant'Angelo a Cupolo. It turns out that Pastene is a township of Sant'Angelo a Cupolo.

So, how can you figure out where on the map your ancestors lived?

On Google Maps or Bing Maps, you may not get a lot of detail for your European ancestral hometown. You can zoom all the way in, and you can see how it looks when you're driving down the street. But you can't see the names of the tiniest outlying streets.

So look for the neighborhood names—those clusters where extended families used to live. When I look at the map of Pastene, the bigger names surrounding it are villages. I recognize these names from my 19th century documents. Perrillo, Panelli, Montorsi, Maccoli, Motta.

Having a map of the town open while you try to read the place name on an 1850 birth certificate can come in handy.

You may not be able to pinpoint your ancestor's home, but finding their neighborhood is something to celebrate.

The TomTom app shows more street names.
The TomTom app shows
more street names.
Here's a tip for anyone who uses a GPS and has access to international maps. You can see more street names with your GPS than on Bing or Google.

My GPS is a TomTom, and I have their app on my smartphone. When I search for Pastene in the app, I can zoom in and see more street names. Its search function is very smart, and can help you find the area you want.

If you can find an online phone directory for the country you want, you may be able to search for an address. For example, on the Italian White Pages site, I can choose to search by address. The form asks me to provide a locality (town), address and number. I entered an address from an 1866 birth record: Sant'Angelo a Cupolo, Contrada Lesi. As I typed, the website gave me the closest match: Via Lesi.

And OMG, of the four families living on that street, one has the same last name as my grandmother: Sarracino!

An online phone directory finds the new street name.
An online phone directory finds the new street name.
Whichever country and town you're researching, use everything you can to do pinpoint your ancestors:
  • online maps
  • GPS maps
  • online searches, particularly Google and Wikipedia
  • online phone directories
Putting pins on a map, even if they mark a neighborhood and not a house, can help you understand where your roots lie.


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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

How to Handle Foreign Words in Your Family Tree

My great great grandfather was a domenstico, or servant.
I record occupations in my ancestor's language.
Years ago I dove headfirst into transcribing Italian vital records for my family tree. I visited a Family History Center, viewed the microfilm, and typed into my laptop. I memorized the Italian words for numbers, months and family members.

When a document included a person's occupation, I typed the Italian word and kept going. I didn't translate the words on the spot, but later I created a file of Italian occupations and their English definitions.

It's so helpful to make a translation list for yourself.
My Italian occupations cheat-sheet.
The translation file helped me memorize many words, but I entered only the Italian occupation in my family tree. I felt it made sense for my ancestors who never left Italy.

But now I'm thinking more about my family tree as a legacy. If someone else continues my work, these Italian words may not be understood.

Wouldn't it be better to include the Italian word and its English translation? Uh oh. How can I make this sweeping change to my tree of more than 19,000 people?

Find and Replace is in the FTM Edit menu.
Hiding in plain sight.
I decided to try the Find and Replace feature in Family Tree Maker. It's in the Edit menu.

You can use find and replace to makes lots of improvements and corrections. But be careful. Think hard about unintended changes that might happen. For example, if you wanted to replace "Smith" because you found out your ancestors were actually named Smythe, what would happen to your cousin who was born in Smithtown, Long Island?

I did a test changing "calzolaio" to "calzolaio (shoemaker)". I checked the boxes to find whole words only and look only in facts and notes. Then I clicked Replace All.

It was a success.

My Find and Replace changed 180 entries.
Click once, fix 180 entries. Not bad!
Now I can work through the most common Italian occupations in my family tree. Then I'll look at some other facts I wish I'd recorded differently. For example, long ago I recorded every immigration fact the same way, beginning with the words, "Arrived aboard the..." followed by the ship name. Later I changed where I put the ship name. Maybe I can use find and replace to bring more uniformity to my facts.

The finished product: My ancestor's job in Italian and English.
It's more useful with the English translation.
The lion's share of the people in my family tree were born and died in Italy. I believe in preserving some of their facts in Italian. Aside from occupations, I record the Italian names of the churches where they married. Chiesa di San Leonardo Abate and Chiesa di San Giorgio Martire.

Think about two things:
  • Which original-language facts do you want to preserve?
  • How can you prevent that foreign-language information from losing its meaning?
Does your family tree software have a find and replace feature?


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