07 April 2020

Finding the Best Family Photo Sharing Option

Consider the features you want before choosing a photo sharing platform.

I'm halfway through the scanning of my late aunt's family photo collection. So far I've spent the better part of 2 Sundays scanning and enhancing the images in Photoshop. I recognized some people and reached out to my parents by email to identify others.

I used Facebook to send one family friend several photos of her late mother as a young girl. These were photos she never knew existed. They took her by surprise and filled her with emotion.

That made me realize I needed a way to share many more of these photos. I want feedback, memories, and more information about the people in the photos. I was up all night thinking about how to code a made-from-scratch website to share with family. But they wouldn't be able to tell me what they know other than by sending an email.

Facebook is an option, but not everyone I want to share these photos with is on Facebook. In a perfect world, I'd give any relative a web link and let them to add comments to the photos.

I decided to use Google Photos to create an album I can share. I created a new album and tried to drag and drop 129 images. The process stalled a couple of times. It would have been better to upload the photos in smaller batches.

Once I uploaded the family photos to Google Photos, I realized it didn't have the features I wanted.
Once I uploaded the family photos to Google Photos, I realized it didn't have the features I wanted.

With all the photos in place, I wanted to make smaller collections of photos that go together. I didn't find a way to do that. But you can add text after a row of photos. So I started grouping together photos and adding a line of text beneath the rows:
  • Pasquale Iamarino and family (my great grandfather)
  • Pietro Iamarino (Grandpa)
  • Uncle Mike and Uncle Frank (my grandmother's brothers)
  • 562 Morris Avenue, Bronx (my dad's apartment building for most of his youth)
The biggest problem here is that these descriptions appear only beneath a full row. I didn't always have a full row of similar photos.

What's Most Important to You?

Ideally, I want to:
  • Display a caption for each photo.
  • Group similar subjects together.
  • Allow for notes and comments.
Google Photos doesn't give me all these features.

Other photo-sharing options include:
  • Dropbox—I can display the image's file name, but not a caption.
  • Instagram—I don't see a way to make a private collection of photos. But they wouldn't display their captions anyway.
  • Adobe Portfolio—I have an Adobe subscription, but it's prompting me to create a website. I'm looking for something easier.
  • Amazon Photos—I have Amazon Prime, so I tried this. I uploaded 3 photos into a new album so see how it worked. It didn't allow a caption or comments. This isn't what I want.
Where Else Can You Turn?

Then I thought of something a bit outside the box. I have a Pinterest account I use to promote this blog. What if I create a new, secret board, fill it with captioned photos, and invite only select people to see it?

Each photo (or pin) displays its caption. When you click a photo, it can display a description I add. And it allows my invited relatives to access the photos by computer and make comments. They will need to create a free Pinterest account. Hopefully the privacy-loving Facebook haters won't mind having a Pinterest account.

It's not the expected choice, but Pinterest meets my photo sharing and collaboration needs.
It's not the expected choice, but Pinterest meets my photo sharing and collaboration needs.

Now that I've chosen Pinterest as my platform, this process will take a good deal of time. I want each photo to be its own pin. I need to upload them one at a time, adding a title and description for each one as I go.

Let's try this out. I created a secret board called Family Photos. I'm ready to create my first pin. Here are the steps:
  • Click the + above the board's title to create a pin.
  • Drag and drop a photo into the space.
  • Add a title.
  • Add a description of the photo.
  • Click Publish.
This is a time-consuming task. I'll start by adding photos I want to share with the 2nd cousin who found me on Ancestry.com. There are 2 photos that may include his mother and his aunt. I'd love to direct him to a bunch of photos of his branch of the family and ask him for input. I want him to show them to his mother.

To invite someone to my secret board, I click Invite, click Copy Link, and give that link to a relative. They'll see a prompt to create an account, or log in with Facebook, Google, or an email address.

I especially want to share annotated photos with my 1st cousin. She was nice enough to think of sending me her mother's photos. She couldn't identify anyone outside the immediate family. I'll be more than happy to show her what I've discovered.

It's time to get busy.

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03 April 2020

Six Degrees of Separation, Family Tree Edition

You say a public figure has roots in my ancestral town? Challenge accepted!

Let's play a little "Six Degrees of Separation," genealogy style. Can you find your connection to a public figure with roots in the same ancestral town as you?

All my ancestors lived in small, rural Italian hill towns up until 1899–1920. They weren't noblemen, aristocrats, or educated. Their families stayed put for hundreds of years.

Then came a massive exodus of Southern Italian men. Today, descendants of my ancestors' townspeople are spread all over the world. It can be fun to figure out how a public figure connected to your town fits into your family tree.

I've heard that pop star Gwen Stefani and World War II hero "Manila John" Basilone were descendants of my grandfather's Italian hometown.

Tracing the Pop Star

For a long time Gwen Stefani's ancestors were out of my reach. Our connection goes back further than my family tree did. But now my tree has such deep, dense roots in the town of Colle Sannita, that I found our connection.

Here's how I did it. Since she is a public figure, I was able to Google Gwen for her details. Born in 1969 in California to Dennis Stefani and Patricia Flynn. I needed to climb Dennis Stefani's family tree a generation or two to get back to Colle Sannita. I haven't seen the name Stefani in Colle Sannita records. So I expected to find a connection on his mother's side of the family.

I searched for Dennis Stefani and found his mother, born in Michigan, had the maiden name diPaola. That is my hook. That name is significant. I have several direct ancestors from Colle Sannita with that name. They range from a 2nd great grandmother to an 8th great grandfather.

Census records and the marriage record of Dennis Stefani's parents gave me more clues. In America, his mother's parents were Frank diPaola and Lillie Marino. I needed to find Colle Sannita records for a Francesco diPaola and a Libera Marino.

It takes a pretty big tree to find a place for your celebrity 5th cousin.
It takes a pretty big tree to find a place for your celebrity 5th cousin.

I followed the Francesco diPaola born in Colle Sannita in 1885 across the ocean to America. In 1918, according to his World War I draft registration card, he lived in Michigan with his wife Lilly. The birth date on this draft card confirms that I chose the right birth record from Colle Sannita.

There's more research to do on Libera Antonia (Lilly) Marino, born in Colle in 1888. But so far, her relation to me is only through her husband Francesco diPaola. Francesco's birth record gave me his parents' names. I discovered that his mother's maternal grandparents are my 4th great grandparents.

From my 4th great grandparents, I stepped back down the generations to Gwen Stefani. She and her siblings are my 5th cousins. Her 3 children by one of my favorite rock stars, Gavin Rossdale, are my 5th cousins once removed.

Documenting the War Hero

"Manila John" Basilone was a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. He died a hero in Iwo Jima, Japan. He showed courage and initiative during a fierce battle and saved the lives of his men.

John has a well-documented life. I learned that his father, Salvatore Basilone, was born in Colle Sannita on Christmas Day, 1884. Salvatore's parents were both named Basilone. His father Angelo was born months after his own father, also Angelo, had died.

Young Angelo Basilone married 3 times between 1858 and 1881. He had children with each wife from 1859 to 1886. As I climbed Angelo's mother's side of the family tree, I connected him to people already related to me.

I often wonder if Grandpa knew about his sister's in-law, the war hero.
I often wonder if Grandpa knew about his sister's in-law, the war hero.

Giovannangela Iamarino was my Grandpa's sister. Her mother-in-law was Colomba Filomena Pilla. Colomba's grandmother was Colomba Zeolla. Her grandfather was Angelo Mascia. Coming back down, Angelo Mascia's grandson was Salvatore Basilone. He's the father of "Manila John" Basilone. Easy, right?

There is more research to do. I can track down the death records of more of John's ancestors. I may find a closer connection to me. For now, he is in my family tree. He's the 3rd cousin once removed of the husband of my 1st great aunt, Giovannangela Iamarino.

Recently I told you how I fit a stranger with a Brazilian immigration record into my family tree. The theory is the same:
  • Start with someone you know has a connection to your ancestral hometown.
  • Climb their tree, piecing together as many facts as possible.
  • Keep going until you hit one of your relatives.
  • Then retrace your steps, adding in all the documents, facts, and sources you used.
Six Degrees of Separation? Six is exactly how many generations I had to climb Gwen Stefani's family tree to hit my direct ancestors. It is a fun game, and we can all use a good distraction right now.

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31 March 2020

Searching for Family in a New Town Takes Practice

Take your time and you can overcome bad handwriting and unfamiliarity.

I have a DNA match with a connection to the least-explored branch of my family tree. I haven't known about this branch very long. I found out they came from a new-to-me Italian town called Apice (a peach, eh). But I didn't do much more than look up the immediate family of my 3rd great grandmother.

Meanwhile, my DNA match has been busy adding nearly everyone from this town to his family tree. He's creating a document of the town—piecing together families even if they're not related to him. Thanks to his exploratory tree, I discovered the names of 2 sets of my 6th great grandparents!

I knew I had to start treating this town the same as I treat my other ancestral towns. There are a ton of the town's vital records available on the Italian Antenati website. I've downloaded lots of them, but I haven't finished.

Even before I download all of them, I want to go through the files I have and look for my ancestors' last names:
  • Lomaglio
  • Lorito
  • Mazzarella
  • Montenigro
  • Trancuccio
  • Zullo
So I started renaming the image files from Apice as I viewed them. (By editing the file name to include the name of the person in the document, it becomes searchable on my computer.) From the very start, I had a major stumbling block. The handwriting was awful!

My knowledge of Italian names helps, but I needed to see it written clearly.
My knowledge of Italian names helps, but I needed to see it written clearly.

That's when I remembered my tips for working with a set of hard-to-read documents:
  1. Examine as many records as possible. The more times you see a name written, the greater your chances of seeing it written clearly.
  2. Take your best guess. I renamed the Apice vital records for 1809–1811. When I couldn't quite read a name, I typed my best guess. When I see a guessed name enough times, and I figure it out, I can go back and correct all my guesses.
  3. Find documents with better handwriting. The town clerk won't have kept his job forever. I jumped way ahead to the 1844 death records, and the handwriting was large and clear. A new town clerk was on the job! If you find documents with good handwriting, study them to learn the names of people in this town.

As I rename the files, I keep my family tree open. Each time I find a Zullo document (or any of the other names in my list), I check to see if they can fit in my tree yet. I'm eager to find death records for my 5th great grandparents, Saverio Zullo and Angela Montenigro, so I can learn their parents' names. They may have died before 1809 when Italy began keeping civil records. But there's a chance I'll find them.

Renaming my files made the town's names clearer: Casazza, Caporaso, Licciardi, Iebba...
Renaming my files made the town's names clearer to me: Casazza, Caporaso, Licciardi, Iebba…

I started an alphabetical list of the last names in this town. I'm adding them to an Excel file as I find them. (I can sort it alphabetically in 2 clicks.) That way I can remember what I decided is the proper spelling of each name. This has been tremendously helpful when I find a name that written so badly.

When we've got these endless, entertaining puzzles to play with, who wants to go outside? Seriously, though, get the hell in your house!

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27 March 2020

Working Backwards from an Intriguing Discovery

When you think a new document belongs in your tree, here's what you can do.

This week I was looking at the family tree of a DNA match. When I recognized her grandparents' names from my tree, I got to work. I spent hours piecing together as many of her direct ancestors as possible. If she ever answers my message, she will be amazed.

Next I found a collection of Brazilian records on Ancestry.com (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Immigration Cards, 1900-1965). These documents are like passports, but better. They have the person's photo, birth date and place, parents' names, and spouse's name.

I searched the collection for people from my grandfather's hometown in Italy. I found 4. To get any of them into my family tree, I had to find their parents in my vital record collection.

These immigration cards from Brazil can open up some dead ends in my family tree.
These immigration cards from Brazil can open up some dead ends in my family tree.

The first one with good results was a handsome man named Giovanni Battista Anacleto. He's a bit younger than my dad, which is funny when you're used to dealing with people from 200 years ago. I recognized Anacleto as a rare name from my Colle Sannita, Italy, documents. His mother's name seems to be from another town, so I'll get to her later.

My goal was to find a record for this young man's father, Salvatore Anacleto. Then I would climb his family tree until I found someone already in my tree. Then I'd be able to add Giovanni Battista and everyone else I find from his family. Here are the steps I took.

Find His Father

I searched my collection of vital records for Salvatore Anacleto. (I renamed my entire collection of records for this town, so I can search for any name from File Explorer.) I found his 1904 birth record. I know it's him because it mentions his 1926 bride, and I know she's Giovanni Battista's mother.

Find His Grandparents

The 1904 birth record names Salvatore's parents. I have no vital records for his father, Emilio Anacleto. Salvatore's mother was Andreana Paolucci. I found an 1864 birth record for an Andreana Filomena Paolucci. I know she's the right one. At the bottom of her birth record, it say she married Emilio Anacleto.

Andreana's parents were not in my family tree. Yet.

Find His Great Grandparents

Andreana Paolucci's father Saverio was 33 years old on the 1864 record. And his late father was named Giorgio. That helps narrow down my search. I searched my computer for "Saverio Paolucci di Giorgio" born about 1831. (In an Italian vital record, "di" means "child of". It's a handy abbreviation.)

I found 2 candidates:
  • Francesco Saverio Paolucci born in 1830
  • Francesco Saverio Paolucci born in 1831
It's perfectly normal for a man born as Francesco Saverio to go by the name of Saverio when he's older.

I decided to pursue the second one, born in 1831. I'm satisfied with this choice because his grandmother is Andreana, just like his daughter. Still, I will have to fully explore the 1830 Francesco Saverio and see where that leads.

The 1831 birth record says Francesco Saverio's parents are Giorgio Paolucci and Marianna Marino. I searched for the marriage of those two. I found out Giorgio Paolucci was born Baldassarre Giorgio Paolucci, son of Saverio. And Marianna Marino was born Mariangela Marino.

I kept climbing his family tee until I found some of his ancestors were already in my family tree.
I kept climbing his family tee until I found some of his ancestors were already in my family tree.

I know at this point you're totally doubting me. Everyone's names are a bit off. But my great grandmother was born Marianna and later called herself Mariangela. I've seen it happen many times. And I have a pretty exhaustive database of the town.

I looked into the 1822 marriage documents for Baldassarre Giorgio and Mariangela. It turns out Baldassarre's parents were already my distant relatives. Better yet, Mariangela's grandparents are my 6th great grandparents!

Put the Pieces Together
Now I was ready to climb back down the tree, adding in the new people I'd found:
  • Baldassarre Giorgio Paolucci and his wife Mariangela Marino, along with their parents' facts from the 1822 marriage documents.
  • Their son Francesco Saverio Paolucci and his wife Maria Marino. (I still need to investigate her.)
  • Their son Salvatore Anacleto and his wife Maria Lucia Barone. I've checked 2 neighboring towns for Maria Lucia so far. No luck.
  • My emigrant to São Paulo, Brazil, Giovanni Battista Anacleto. Now that he's in my family tree, I know he is my 5th cousin twice removed! (Yes, I will work to prove I chose the right Francesco Saverio.)
There are countless ways to approach your family tree research. When I'm not chipping away at the more tedious tasks, I like to keep it interesting. Following up on my new DNA match was very rewarding. But I've always wanted to track down the townspeople who went to Brazil. This immigration collection will give me hours and hours of genealogy detective work.

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24 March 2020

Using Ancestry's ThruLines to Find DNA Matches

This visual clue makes it easy to see your connection to a DNA match.

It had been a while since I looked at Ancestry.com's ThruLines™ tool. This can be a great way to quickly understand your connection to a DNA match.

I noticed a few of my ancestors tagged with the word UPDATED. This means there's a new DNA match linked to those ancestors. I clicked one of my updated 2nd great grandparents. There I saw a basic family tree chart showing a direct line from my 2nd great grandparent down to me. It highlighted my dad as a DNA match.

The "updated" tag on your ancestor is a quick way to find your newest DNA matches with a known connection.
The "updated" tag on your ancestor is a quick way to find your newest DNA matches with a known connection.

A second branch of this chart began with my great grandmother's brother—my 2nd great uncle. I knew exactly who he was. He was my grandfather's Uncle Antonio who lived in Newton, Massachusetts. Grandpa lived and worked near him for a short while. Because of this brief stay in Newton, I did a lot of research into Antonio's family in Massachusetts. When Uncle Antonio's daughter died in 2014, I learned the names of her children.

One of those children is my 2nd cousin once removed. We're around the same age. Now her daughter has taken a DNA test. It's that daughter—my 3rd cousin—whom I've discovered today thanks to ThruLines.

Seeing my ThruLines laid out so simply made it easy to see exactly who this DNA match is.
Seeing my ThruLines laid out so simply made it easy to see exactly who this DNA match is.

I'd looked at all my UPDATED ancestors in ThruLines. Next I began hovering my mouse over my earlier ancestors, looking for a high number of DNA matches. The highest number was 8 DNA matches tied to a pair of my 4th great grandparents.

There are 5 DNA matches stemming from my 3rd great grandfather Giuseppantonio. I know them all. There are 2 DNA matches stemming from his brother Pasquale. He's my 4th great uncle. These 2 matches are my 5th cousins. I've already examined their details.

Another brother of my 3rd great grandfather was my 4th great uncle Giambattista. That's an interesting Italian name that means John the Baptist. Stemming from Giambattista is a DNA match I hadn't seen before.

I can tell from ThruLines that this new match is the daughter of my 3rd cousin twice removed. That makes her my 4th cousin once removed.

When I looked at her family tree, I saw 2 very familiar names on her father's side. But she's related to me on her mother's side.

I knew her father's parents because 2 years ago I photographed their graves in Italy. Seeing their names together, I remembered the unusual grave markers immediately. It was my husband who spotted them, leaning against a brick wall. He pointed them out because the wife was an Iamarino, like me.

Angela Iamarino and Innocenzo Gentile died in my grandfather's hometown in 1977. The most likely reason for the leaning grave markers is that their remains were now into a family crypt. (You don't keep your final resting place forever in Italy.)

We photographed a ton of grave markers that day. When I got home I tried to identify each person to see where they fit in my family tree. Angela Iamarino was my 3rd cousin once removed.


I looked at my new DNA match's family tree. I learned that Angela and Innocenzo from the cemetery had a son who married my 2nd cousin 3 times removed. I placed Angela and Innocenzo's son into my family tree and married him to my cousin. Then I gave them their daughter—my DNA match.

My relationship to her father's side of the family was a surprise. She and I are double 4th cousins once removed. I used Family Tree Maker's Relationship Tool for help. My match is related to both my grandfather and my grandmother. My grandparents were 3rd cousins which leads to lots of double cousins.

Imagine if every DNA-tester added a basic tree with 3 or 4 generations of their direct ancestors. We could solve so many mysteries!

I wrote to this DNA match. I don't think she knows about the grave markers in our ancestral hometown.

If you have a DNA test with no tree or a private tree, you're wasting everyone's time. Worried about privacy? Add your direct ancestors only. The websites hide living people's names. It's your 2nd and 3rd great grandparents who are the most valuable. They will nab you the most relatives, insights, and discoveries.


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20 March 2020

Conjuring Up Memories of a Missing Relative

Restoring damaged, faded photos leads to old memories and new revelations.

My Aunt Lil's photo collection (my new family tree gift) is still waiting for me to scan it. On Wednesday, an online Photoshop tutorial inspired me to scan 3 photos in particular.

There are a lot of photos of my grandmother Lucy in that collection. That's fantastic because I had almost none. Lucy died a few years before I was born, so I didn't grow up with her as my grandmother. Instead, I had my grandfather's 2nd wife, Sadie. She wanted us all to call her Sadie, not Grandma. She once corrected my sister, saying, "I'm not your grandmother." Alrighty then.

Sadie was always pleasant and kept a nice house. She cooked a pot roast so outstanding we still call it "Sadie Meat" 3 decades after she died. A while ago I realized I had no photos of Sadie. She died a few weeks before my wedding, so there were no family portraits with her.

No one in my family knew her maiden name, either! I discovered it when I found her immigration record and naturalization papers. Sadie came from Nicosia, Sicily. Her citizenship papers included a barely recognizable photo of her. My mom couldn't believe it was her. (Fun fact: The lady who told us not to call her Grandma was actually named Santa! Merry, merry.)

Restoring this unique photo made my step-grandmother more real to me.
Restoring this unique photo made my step-grandmother more real to me.

When I went through my aunt's photo collection, I found 2 photos of Sadie. The 1st photo is from April 1979. It's a good representation of the Sadie I knew. It's a bit faded, but Sadie and Grandpa look good. The 2nd photo is from December 1958. This is when Grandpa was courting Sadie. They married 4 months later. I'm struck by how happy and in love Grandpa looks. It's sweet.

Unfortunately, the 1958 photo is faded, cracked and creased. After watching a pro demonstrate Photoshop features, I wanted to work on these photos.

When I auto-corrected the color on the 1958 photo, Sadie was wearing a purple dress and had dark hair. It was shocking to see her in her prime. As I adjusted the color to make the Christmas tree green, Sadie's dress turned a deep cranberry color.

Now I had 2 very nice photos of my step-grandmother. I remembered that Aunt Lil's collection also has a photo of Grandpa and Sadie's house. I restored the color to this faded photo. The 2 cars near the house look like they're from the late 1950s or early 1960s. That means this is only a few years before I would be visiting Grandpa's house in the Bronx.

Using techniques I learned in a Photoshop tutorial, I brought color and depth back to Sadie and Grandpa.
Using techniques I learned in a Photoshop tutorial, I brought color and depth back to Sadie and Grandpa.

How moving it is to see the roses (not in bloom) growing over the arbor above the front gate. Grandpa's property was a lovely garden in front, and a backyard garden so big it was like a small farm! Grandpa and Sadie lived on the main floor, and they had a full basement. Upstairs was an apartment Grandpa rented to my mom's uncle and aunt. Seeing this photo of the house brings back so many memories. We'd all go visit Grandpa, then my mom would take me upstairs to visit her relatives. As a kid, I thought it was a coincidence that Daddy's family was downstairs and Mommy's family was upstairs.

I'm feeling inspired. Instead of cranking out the photo scans, I want to enhance the ones I can. These 3 photos need to go right into Family Tree Maker, attached to both Grandpa and Sadie. I'll add the house photo to my aunt and uncle, too.

I watched a Photoshop course on a paid educational site (LinkedIn Learning). But you can get inspired by free tutorials on Adobe's site.

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17 March 2020

Taking the Time to Take Care of Our Own

With so many family tree projects to tackle, a combo plan may work best.

While I'm in isolation, I'm turning my attention to my closer relatives. Sure, they lived in Italy in the 1800s. But those are the souls I live with day in and day out.

In past articles I've written about dozens of projects to clean up, beef up, and improve your family tree. Some of my favorite ongoing projects are:
There can never be enough hours in the day for me to complete these tasks. At least, not until I give up my corporate job.

But this past weekend I had a revelation. I was going line-by-line through my spreadsheet of vital records from my ancestral town of Colle Sannita. I was up to 1812 birth records. For each new baby, I check my family tree to see if I have the parents already. If I do, I add the baby, its facts, and the birth record. Of course I give it a source citation in my newly adopted style. I also add the baby to my document tracker. And I make the whole line green in the vital records spreadsheet. Green tells me this document is in my tree.

I can juggle all my family tree projects while working only on close relatives.
I can juggle all my family tree projects while working only on close relatives.

I was adding lots of babies. In some cases, I already had the baby, but not the birth record. And in some of those cases, I knew who they married and when. But I hadn't added the document to my tree yet.

When I found people missing documents, I finished them off. This took quite a bit longer, but it was worth the time to do it right.

And that's when I had my revelation. With limited time, wouldn't it be better to focus on my closer relatives and take a holistic approach? I can combine many of my different projects in one, starting with my great aunts and uncles.

You see, when my source citations broke, I developed a better way of handling them. Then I decided to fix the citations for my direct ancestors first. I have about 290 (n) great grandparents (n=1st through 9th). So I did that. I enhanced the source citations for my direct ancestors.

Now I want to move on from there. I knew exactly where I wanted to focus first: my Grandpa Leone's relatives. Why him? Because his relatives come from the town of Baselice. I documented that entire town by viewing vital records on microfilm. For 5 years I visited a Family History Center. I looked at each record, typing my own shorthand into a text file on my laptop.

Since the source of all those facts was one of several rolls of microfilm, I have tons of citations that are useless now. You can't get the microfilm anymore. But all those documents and more are accessible on the Italian Antenati website.

So my holistic approach goes like this.

I began with my grandfather's 4 siblings. For each one I:
  • Fixed their source citations. I deleted the old microfilm sources and created new ones based on the Antenati URL of their vital record.
  • Added missing documents. If I knew when and whom they married, but I hadn't added the documents, I added the documents.
  • Renamed each document image I looked at until I found the one I needed. When I rename the file, I keep its identification number and add the name of the person in the document.
  • Fixed the citations of their spouses and children. I have cases where a man's occupation fact comes from the birth record of his child. So, to cite my source for his job, I had to go to the child and cite my source for their birth. Then I copied that citation and pasted it to the dad's occupation.
  • Made the spreadsheet line green if I added a birth record that was in my town spreadsheet.
  • For any new documents, I added a notation in my document tracker spreadsheet. For many of the people I work on this way, I get to put an n/a in the "Need to find" column. That feels great.
Soon I began climbing the Leone family tree. I had done my great grandfather's wife and children and then his siblings. Then it was time to move on to his father. My 2nd great grandfather had lots of siblings and half-siblings. I was creating a source citation for the birth of his half brother Giovanni Leone. I noticed that I had him marked as having died in another town in 1864. I'm not sure where that fact came from, but I didn't have his death record.

I checked the Antenati website for 1864 death records for the town of Aversa. That's more than a 2-hour car ride from Giovanni's hometown of Baselice. Imagine how long a trip it was before cars and highways. Why was he there? I knew the date of his death, so it was easy to find the actual death record. I saw the word celibe after his name, so I knew my half 3rd great uncle Giovanni Leone had never married. He was 51 years old with no occupation. Most of the Italian death records I've seen say the person died in his own house, or in his father's house. This one says he died in the Reale Stabilimento dei Matti. I needed my Italian friend to confirm what I thought. And it does mean what I'd feared. Giovanni died in the insane asylum in the city of Aversa.

The fate of my half 3rd great uncle Giovanni Leone was a shocker.
The fate of my half 3rd great uncle Giovanni Leone was a shocker.

With a bit of research I learned this establishment used caring, humane methods. There was no harsh treatment of the inmates. Maybe Giovanni's family sent him that far away because it was the kindest thing they could do for him.

Poor Giovanni's fate is a silver lining to this holistic approach. By sticking to closer relatives and tying up loose ends, I made this sad discovery. Instead of wondering why Giovanni left town and never married, I now know exactly why.

In the end, this approach means I'll make slower progress on my individual projects. But I'll make deeper, more complete, and more meaningful progress on my blood relatives.

How can you combine your family tree projects into more fulfilling genealogy research sessions?

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13 March 2020

My Aunt's Photos Tell the Other Side of the Story

Your photos are only part of the story. Imagine seeing the rest of it!

I received an amazing gift this week. My 1st cousin on my dad's side of the family sent me a carton filled with her late mother's old photos. I never saw this collection before. But I'm familiar with many of the photos because I've seen other photos taken at the same time.

It's the gift every genealogy fan dreams of.
It's the gift every genealogy fan dreams of.

Location Shots

My aunt's photographs are the companions to individual photos I got from my mom, my dad, and my grandfather. For example, I have one photo of my grandfather and his 1st cousin. They were both named Pietro Iamarino. Written at the top are the words "Lonesome Pals."

Imagine my amazement when I found in this collection several photos taken in the exact same spot! They appear to be standing on a sidewalk, but in the background there's nothing but bare trees. I imagine my grandmother pasted them into this photo album with others taken in Ohio in about 1930.

Grandpa's photo had no backstory. Suddenly I discover it was only one photo in a series.
Grandpa's photo had no backstory. Suddenly I discover it was only one photo in a series.

Familiar Buildings

I have a photo of my dad and my aunt from the early 1950s. My dad said it was taken in Cleveland when the family moved back to Ohio. Now, in my aunt's collection, I've got an entire series of photos taken in the exact same spot. In the background of all the photos is the brick house where they lived. Several photos show my grandmother and the family car. I was always lacking photos of my grandma Lucy. Now I have so many!

There are lots of photos I recognize as being taken on the roof of my dad's apartment building in the Bronx in the 1940s. Dad's building is still standing, and you can see it on Google Street View. I recently asked him which door he used to enter. He said it's the one to the right of today's 99-cent store. But at the time, that storefront was my uncle's family's bar.

My uncle's bar is to the left as my grandparents stand outside their front door.
My uncle's bar is to the left as my grandparents stand outside their front door.

I now have several photos taken in that doorway. And I can see the awning of my uncle's bar at the edge of the photos. From these photos I learned that my Ohio great grandmother came to visit my dad's family in the Bronx. I never knew that before.

Then there's a photo of my great grandfather swimming. On the back of the photo it says, "This is on Lake Erie. We had Pa out while Ma was in NY." Was this what great grandpa was doing while great grandma was visiting my dad?

Family Legends

The first photos I took out of the box happened to include my mom and her sister. My parents came from a tight-knit neighborhood where everyone knew each other. So, as it happens, my mom's sister went to her prom with my dad's sister's future husband (my future uncle)! And my aunt and another young man once went on a double date with my mom and that same future uncle. I've heard the story of that night a million times. Now I have a beautiful souvenir photo in a cover that's signed by my mom and her sister.

In a small album filled with Bronx photos I found 2 pictures of what looks like Frank Sinatra. I texted my mom, is it him? She texted me, "OMG Yes! This must be from the day your uncle and I played hookey." That's another family story, brought to life in these 2 little photos of Old Blue Eyes.

The House I Can't Remember

Another series of photos finally shows me my great grandparents' house in Girard, Ohio. I'd only been there as a little girl, and I don't remember anything about it. I have Ohio photos from before I was born, but they don't show the house. Now I know how lovely it was. I texted a couple of the pictures to my dad and asked, "Is this the house on Dearborn?" Yes, it is!

The Old Neighborhood

One more. I found a little photo that shows my aunt and her future husband together as school kids. I like how my aunt has her hand on my uncle's shoulder. They're in a group of kids wearing hats and the letters OLP on their sweaters. Behind them is one football player and another young man in plain clothes. I knew OLP stood for Our Lady of Pity, the name of their church and grade school in the Bronx. I noticed they were in front of an undertaker's building with the number 273. The church address was 274. So I was guessing this funeral parlor was across from the church. I sent my dad the photo. He said they were the cheerleading squad for the football team my other uncle (the one with the bar) played on. And yes, this undertaker was directly across the street from the church.

Next Steps

I've divided the photos into groups on my kitchen table: Bronx, Ohio, photos from Italy, cousins, portraits. Many are permanently glued into paper albums. Now begins the work of scanning and enhancing them. Then I'll reach out again to my parents and others, hoping to identify more people.

Finally, it's time to invest in some safe containers to store all my old family photos. I have a metal file cabinet/safe combo in the garage. That may be the best place for me to protect these treasures from fire. That sounds like a future blog topic, doesn't it?

It pays to tell all your relatives about your genealogy hobby. My cousin knew I would appreciate these photos more than anyone else. And she says she has more to send!

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10 March 2020

Comparing Family Tree Programs Is an Eye Opener

Want to appreciate your family tree software? Check out the competition.

Have you ever considered changing your family tree software program? I've used Family Tree Maker since 2002 when I began this obsessive hobby. Industry-leading software tends to have the best programmers and the biggest budget. I have no problem paying for an update every few years. Even if I were on a tight budget, I'm sure I could cut back on something else to scrounge up $50 or $80.

Blog reader Nancy C. sent me her list comparing the features of several family tree programs. I'll admit I've thought about having a look at other programs. And now I want to see why she loves the Family Group Sheet feature in Legacy 9.0. You can download the free standard edition of Legacy 8. I don't know how different Legacy 9 may be.

I installed the program and fed it a brand new GEDCOM file with 23,305 individuals. It is taking forever to load.

My first impression is that Legacy has a 1980s low-budget look and feel. I'm hating every second of this experience. Isn't is funny how we get so used to our preferred software that everything else is impossible to figure out?

As a computer pro, I know a bad software interface when I see it.
As a computer pro, I know a bad software interface when I see it.

I'm finding that most features are not available in the free version of Legacy. When I'm viewing one family, it lists the children in no apparent order. I found a File Maintenance option called Set File Sorting Order. Maybe that will put the children in age order. Nope. I don't know what that did, but it didn't fix the completely random order of the children.

I did find one report I like that I've never seen in Family Tree Maker. It's a timeline of the ancestors of whichever individual you choose. The chart is a grid showing the lifespan of each of the person's ancestors. You can see how their lives overlap. If you don't know when a person died, you have the option of keeping or changing the default 70-year lifespan. People with an estimated birth or death date have a dotted line.

One feature I liked in Legacy 8 is this timeline chart.
One feature I liked in Legacy 8 is this timeline chart.

It's interesting to see which of my ancestors had very short lives. I'm also seeing a lot of dates that don't make sense. Like parents who weren't old enough when their child was born. I'll have to check these people in my tree and see what the problem is. Did I make a mistake, or is this chart using an estimated date that doesn't make sense?

You don't know how good or bad your software is until you look at another program.
You don't know how good or bad your software is until you look at another program.

Since I truly despise what I have seen of this software, let me tell you about some of the Family Tree Maker features I love.
  • The index with a search box at the top, various sort options, and custom filters, lets me find anyone in a heartbeat.
  • The tree view lets me see a few generations at once.
  • Color-coding makes my direct ancestors (and which line they belong to) immediately visible.
  • The side panel for any given person holds a lot of information and is customizable.
  • A new feature of the Notes, Media, and Sources tabs lets me know how many items are there before I click to see what they are.
I'd love to be a great programmer and create the ultimate family tree software. But I can't think of anything better or more useful than Family Tree Maker and the tree view on Ancestry.com. Please share in the comments section below why you love your family tree software. See if you can persuade me.

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06 March 2020

More Free Forms: U.S. Draft Registration Cards

I thought Grandpa skipped draft registration due to his birth date. Wrong!

I used to wonder why I never found a draft registration card for my Grandpa Iamarino. He arrived in America in 1920 at the age of 18. He should have had to register like all the other old men in my family.

Then I realized Grandpa was lucky. Born in late 1902, Grandpa was too young to have been called to serve in the Italian military. (My other grandfather served several times, fought in World War I, and was held prisoner for a full year.)

And the U.S. World War II draft registration in 1942 left out Grandpa, too. It covered men born on or between 28 April 1877 and 16 February 1897. Grandpa was too young again. What a lucky guy!

Then I found a surprise. While searching Ancestry.com for Grandpa's naturalization papers I saw something new. It was Grandpa's "Young Men's" draft card. This had never shown up before.

Grandpa was 39 years old and in good health when he registered. He had a wife and 2 children. The U.S. never called him to serve, but boy am I glad they registered him. This type of registration covered all men born on or between 17 Feb 1897 and 31 Dec 1921. It says so at the top of the card. The "old man's" draft registration card has the dates at the top, too.

Each registration has a birth date range. Is your ancestor out of range?
Each registration has a birth date range. Is your ancestor out of range?

This new-to-me card had 3 important facts:
  • My grandmother had a middle name! I saw her listed once as Lucy G. Iamarino. My dad says that rang a bell, but he didn't know what the G stood for. At long last I know her middle name was Gloria. Like my favorite U2 song.
  • Grandpa worked for D. Ornstein and Sons, Inc. at 119 West 24th Street in New York City. Grandpa was a jeweler. A stone setter. I always assumed he worked in the Bronx, close to home. But Grandpa commuted downtown.
  • Grandpa's signature in 1942 doesn't quite match his signature in 1952. A 1952 index card is something Grandpa needed to prove his citizenship when he moved to Ohio. His signature in 1952 looks shockingly like my dad's signature. There are circles over the I's. I asked my father if he could possibly have signed it, but he said no. As I compare the 1942 and 1952 signatures, I see that the circles over the I's are the only real difference. Was that in style at the time, or did he see his son's signature and think it was more American? Now I know my dad did not sign Grandpa's official card.
Earlier this week I published a fill-in-the-blanks PDF for that lets you create a 5-generation ancestry chart for anyone. One reader suggested I make a form for U.S. draft registration cards. So here they are. Download these files and you can type any ancestor's information into the form, then save the file with their name. Typing is so much better than printing!
If you have an idea for another useful form, please let me know. Here's what I have so far.

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