14 May 2024

Follow Up on Genealogy Clues and Leads

I love when someone contacts me about my family tree. Some tell me they're getting tons of hints from my family tree. Others say their ancestor is in my tree and they're wondering how we're related.

Each contact, DNA match, and hint from another family tree is worth investigation. Find out what they have to offer to your family tree.

When a Possible Cousin Writes to You

Whenever I get these messages, I drop everything to get them the answers they're looking for. Last weekend a man in Australia contacted me, and in no time I figured out I'm related to his wife in 3 different ways. Then he mentioned he couldn't get far on his own Italian ancestors. So I sent him links to documents for his grandparents and great grandparents. I also gave him a link to my published index of all the vital records from his wife's and my ancestral hometown.

You owe it to yourself to follow up on genealogy leads. Any one could be the key to growing your family tree.
You owe it to yourself to follow up on genealogy leads. Any one could be the key to growing your family tree.

One DNA match wrote to me about the family name Capozza. I knew that name came from my 2nd great grandmother's hometown in Italy. So I began building out my match's tree within my own. With enough research, her big branch connected to me and beefed up my tree in the process. It was a worthwhile exercise. See "Let a DNA Match Guide Your Research for a While."

When You Make First Contact

I don't always wait for people to contact me. It can be a lot of fun to choose a DNA match, build their branch out, and present it to them. Plus it benefits your family tree. Of course you can do this work and still have them ghost you. That was the case with my 4th cousin once removed. I did the work and presented him his branch, but I don't know what he did with that information. He never wrote back to me.

Still another DNA match led me to dig into my 2nd great grandmother's Girardi ancestors. This match has since passed away, but she was grateful for the branch I gave her. She was going to share it with her sister-in-law, the family researcher. (See "Help Your DNA Match Expand their Family Tree.") In the end, the research helped my family tree. It had taken me a while to discover the Girardi name in my family tree. I was happy to chase down this match's family because it helped me flesh out my own.

Another time I figured out that a DNA match was my 3rd cousin. We share a set of 2nd great grandparents. I built out her family tree and sent her a link to it. She was very grateful and excited to learn more. See "Attracting a New DNA Match."

A 15% discount for readers of Fortify Your Family Tree!
A 15% discount for readers of Fortify Your Family Tree!

Other Types of Leads

Three years ago 3 different genealogy challenges fell into my lap at once. You should always think of these challenges as a way to expand your family tree. (See "Genealogy Challenge Accepted!") First, my dad noticed an Ohio obituary for a man with our last name. He asked me to figure out if this Iamarino was our relative. He was! My research shows that the man was my dad's 7th cousin. The 2 of them were born 2 years apart and had once lived in the same town. It was fun to find the answer to such a random question.

The 2nd challenge was to help an adoptee figure out her family tree. She came to me through a friend. With access to her DNA matches, I was able to identify some close cousins for her contact. The 3rd challenge was my own. Someone posted a photo on Facebook of a man who died in my grandfather's hometown back in 1974. People were saying such lovely things about this man that I wanted to find a connection to him. In the end, I placed him in my family tree as my 1st cousin 3 times removed.

Whichever DNA test you took, check out any matches with a family tree. (Not all DNA websites include people's family trees.) See what each one's tree has to offer you. Do more research than they've done, and you'll fortify your family tree.

07 May 2024

4 Practical Methods for Identifying a DNA Match

It's important to have a handful of DNA tools available so can you choose the best one for each situation. Here are 4 methods for identifying a DNA match that you may not have tried yet. I recommend you consider each one and put them to good use.

1. DNA Painter

You can "paint" your DNA matches onto your chromosome map to see how they may relate to one another. To do this, you can use a free DNA Painter account, but you must also have an account with one of the following:

  • GEDmatch
  • ftDNA
  • 23andme
  • MyHeritage

I used DNA Painter's chromosome map to visualize the fact that my parents share some DNA. I discovered that another match overlaps my Mom's position on Dad's 9th chromosome. That makes the other match worth investigating, and I learned that only because of this tool.

Learn how to use the chromosome map painter in your DNA research: "How to Find Your Strongest DNA Matches."

Use 1 or more of these 4 genealogy methods to crack your DNA matches and fit them into your family tree.
Use 1 or more of these 4 genealogy methods to crack your DNA matches and fit them into your family tree.

2. Use a Spreadsheet to Identify the Right Branch

This spreadsheet is perfect if your family tree has pedigree collapse or endogamy. I have pedigree collapse because my paternal grandparents were 3rd cousins. My 4th great grandparents are direct ancestors of both Grandpa and Grandma. It's pedigree collapse because you could say I'm missing a pair of 4th great grandparents.

I also have endogamy in my family tree. My ancestors all came from small, somewhat isolated neighboring towns. Almost everyone married a neighbor, generation after generation. (See "The DNA Problem We Aren't Talking About.") As a result, I'm related to people in my tree in many ways.

This spreadsheet helps root out DNA matches who match me only because we have roots in the same town. We're not related. The idea for this spreadsheet comes from DNA expert Kelli Bergheimer.

Be sure to see the section titled Are Your Matches Really in Your Family Tree? when you read "This Spreadsheet Sorts DNA Matches By Branch."

3. The Leeds Method

I discovered back in 2018 that my parents share a little DNA. All these years later, it seems they must be no closer than 5th to 7th cousins. There are no vital records that can take my family tree back that far. If the right towns' church records ever become available, I may be able to make progress. But chances are, I'll never find my parents' common ancestor.

But that's my story, not yours. For you, Dana Leeds' "Leeds Method" may be exactly what you need to see where each DNA match belongs in your family tree. That is, which of your 4 grandparents is your connection to a DNA match. I recommend you give it a try. To find out how, read "The Leeds Method May Have Solved a Big Family Puzzle."

A 15% discount for readers of Fortify Your Family Tree!
A 15% discount for readers of Fortify Your Family Tree!

4. Good Old-Fashioned Family Tree Building

Last weekend I decided to do some genealogy research to fit a celebrity into my family tree. When Tony Danza was on an episode of Henry Louis Gates, Jr.'s "Finding Your Roots," I was watching closely. When I found out he was the guest, I wondered if his name was originally Iadanza. That's a name I have in my family tree.

It turns out Iadanza is his ancestors' name and they came from a town I know. Pietrelcina (hometown of the famed Padre Pio) borders my 2nd great grandmother's hometown. Many people from Pietrelcina married people from a few of my ancestral hometowns.

A TV screenshot helped me find the birth records of Tony Danza's grandparents. I worked my way through the Pietrelcina vital records to build out their family tree. After a while, I saw that the parents of Danza's 4th great grandfather were already in my family tree!

So is Tony Danza my cousin? Nah. He and I have 18 different relationships at this point, but each one is by marriage.

I had fun with this exercise and it illustrates an important point. Digging through records and doing the research, you can place that DNA match in your family tree. See how in "Don't Rely on Your DNA Match to Do the Work" and "Don't Give Up When Your DNA Match Has a Puny Little Family Tree."

Piecing together families through vital records is what I live for! It's fun, challenging, and leads to tangible results in my family tree. Don't expect quick answers because you bought a DNA test. Your DNA matches are another tool to use in building your family tree. See if these 4 DNA methods can help you crack more of your DNA matches.

30 April 2024

2 Free Websites Compare Photos to See Who's Who

How many times have you wondered if the person in two different photos is the same person? Let's say you have a photo of your great grandfather as an old man. Then you find a photo that may or may not be him as a young man. How can you be reasonably sure the 2 photos show the same person?

I've seen people post photos like this on Facebook and let strangers weigh in. Are the eyebrows the same shape? Is the jawline dramatically different? Logic may help you figure out who the person is, but now we can do better.

Why not let a bit of artificial intelligence give you a scientific analysis of the 2 faces? I found 2 free websites that can help you decide who it is you're looking at. (If the photo is in bad shape, consider doing some photo restoration techniques before you use the comparison tool.)

2 free tools compare faces in different photos for similarities. Find out if that old photo really belongs in your family tree with these helpful genealogy tools.
2 free tools compare faces in different photos for similarities. Find out if that old photo really belongs in your family tree with these helpful genealogy tools.

Face Comparison

Go to https://facecomparison.toolpie.com to upload 2 photos from your collection. A message on the page says, "The model will delete the photo after the comparison is completed, so it is safe and reliable to use."

I uploaded 2 photos of my Grandma Lucy, taken several years apart, to see what would happen. Face Comparison says the 2 images of Lucy are 80% similar, so it's the same person. In fact, 80% is the threshold the site uses. Anything less than 80% is not considered to be the same person.

When I uploaded 2 photos of myself from 1986 and 2019, it was 100% sure they were the same person. So it's true when an old friend says you haven't changed a bit!

Then I threw it a curve ball. I uploaded college graduation photos of my 2 sons. Face Comparison says the boys are 78% similar, and they're not the same person. I'm sure they would agree.


Go to https://www.faceshape.com/face-compare to try the FaceShape comparison tool. FaceShape warns that it may keep your photos for machine-learning purposes. I imagine some people won't like that idea and would prefer not to submit their photos.

FaceShape says the 2 photos of my grandmother are 100% similar, so they are the same person. Since they are both, in fact, Grandma Lucy, I'm liking FaceShape better than Face Comparison.

It's also 100% sure the 2 photos of me are the same person. In one photo, I'm young with brown hair and firm skin, and in the other, I have white hair and not-so-firm skin. When it compares the 2 photos of my sons, it says they are 98.45% similar. I really got a kick out of that because when son #2 was born, he was identical to newborn son #1.

One odd feature about this site is that it identifies each photo as male or female and gives an approximate age. That's great in theory, but it thought Grandma was a man, and that I was 62 years old when I was actually 27! It identified my sons, both 21 at the time, as male, 43, and female, 40. Both boys had very long hair, but the one with the thin beard and mustache got the female label. It's best to ignore that aspect of the tool.

On FaceShape, if you upload a photo with more than one face, you can choose which face to compare. That doesn't work with Face Comparison. FaceShape also shows you both photos while Face Comparison never displays your photos.

For more fun, be sure to click the "Explore more tools" button. You'll find a host of other facial recognition tools. These include celebrity lookalike, face morph, face editor, and more.

Can you recognize your old grandmother in her childhood photo? These 2 free tools can do it scientifically.
Can you recognize your old grandmother in her childhood photo? These 2 free tools can do it scientifically.

Giving Them Both a Real Test

I'm lucky to have my late aunt's photo collection, many of which were actually my Grandma Lucy's photos. (See My Aunt's Photos Tell the Other Side of the Story.) I have some photos I assume are Grandpa, but what do these face comparison tools think?

The old photo in question is from the 1920s and Grandpa was born in 1902. I decided to compare that young face to Grandpa at age 86. FaceShape finds an 82.30% similarity between the two. Face Comparison has to have only one person in the photo, so I cropped my photos and tried again. Unfortunately, this tool sees only a 58% similarity between the young man and Grandpa.

To make things easier, I compared the 1920s face to a photo I know is Grandpa in his 30s. Face Comparison found only a 78% similarity, but FaceShape says they're 100% similar. One hundred percent!

Based on my 4 tests, I prefer the FaceShape tool. I can overlook the fact that almost all of its gender and age labels were laughably wrong.

Take a look through your photo collection. Then use these 2 AI tools to confirm that someone is who you suspect they are. Or see just how much you take after your ancestor.