Tuesday, July 31, 2018

How Are Your 2018 Genealogy Goals Coming Along?

My father-in-law, Ben Ohama, crushing it on the track, leading the pack.
My father-in-law, Ben Ohama, crushing it on the track,
leading the pack.
It's nearly August already! How are you doing with your 2018 genealogy goals?

Last December I encouraged you to set some genealogy goals. The point was to help push yourself to work on or finish important genealogy tasks.

So how are you progressing? It isn't too late to hack away at those goals.

Here's my own list of 2018 goals. Let's look at how I'm doing and see if that can inspire you.

1. Create a Weekly Backup Plan

Genealogy email folders are part of my backup plan.
Genealogy email
Done! But it is ongoing. Each Sunday I consult my list of file types to back up. I've only missed a couple of weeks, but at this very moment, my files are 100% backed up.

My list contains some non-genealogy files:
  • My Microsoft Outlook email file (which has tons of genealogy information)
  • My bank and credit card statements and QuickBooks files
  • My 3 latest Family Tree Maker complete backup files
  • All the genealogy document images I've collected since my last backup
I back up my files to a neat little external, 1 terabyte Seagate drive and to OneDrive by Microsoft. I get a free terabyte of space there because I subscribe to Microsoft Office Online.

2. Find My Parents' Connection

When I uploaded my raw DNA to GEDmatch.com, I discovered that my parents are 4th or 5th cousins. Boy, did that leave them with their mouths hanging open.

My goal is to find their connection. Somewhere there is a pair of 5th or 6th great grandparents that they share. I haven't found the connection yet, but I am actively working on it.

I'm going through the vital records from their ancestors' neighboring hometowns and building out their families. I'll find that connection eventually. I just hope I'll find it while they're still alive to laugh about it.

3. Log the Antenati Documents Into a Master Spreadsheet

I feel like I talk about this every day. If you don't know or you have no Italian ancestors, Antenati is a website with TONS of Italian vital records. The word antenati means ancestors.

Using a free software program called GetLinks by Carlos Leite, I've downloaded to my computer every available vital record from each of my Italian ancestors' hometowns:
  • Baselice, Circello, Colle Sannita, Pastene, Pescolamazza, and Sant'Angelo a Cupolo in the province of Benevento
  • Santa Paolina in the province of Avellino
I have—easily—several hundred relatives in those records. Sometimes I search the documents for someone in particular. Sometimes I go year by year searching for every baby born to a particular couple.

But I really want to record the facts from all the records in a spreadsheet. I've completed several years' worth of records. It makes searching for someone so much easier.

A sliver of my ambitious master file of tons of vital records.
A sliver of my ambitious master file of tons of vital records.
Someday, when it's all done, I can share the results and benefit everyone else who's a descendant of these towns.

So, I'm actively working on it, but I can't finish it in 2018.

4. Fill in the "Need to Find" Column on My Document Tracker

A near-disaster with my "document tracker" spreadsheet has forced me to make a ton of progress on this goal.

Last week I wrote about a screw-up in my master spreadsheet where I keep track of every document image or date I gather for someone in my tree. I took full advantage of a glitch in the file to make progress with my 4th genealogy goal.

Line-by-line, I'm examining my document tracker. I'm comparing each person's line in the spreadsheet to their documents and facts in Family Tree Maker. I'm filling in all the columns, and determining what's missing.

My spreadsheet of everything I've found, and everything I need, helps guide my research efficiently.
My spreadsheet of everything I've found, and everything I need, guides my research efficiently.
I'm adding the missing facts to the "Need to Find" column. Then I give the person's entire row a green background color to make it clear I've examined that person.

I'm not following alphabetical order because I'm also working on goal #5. I have completed my review of the letters A through C (that's last names) and S through Z. I've done all my Leone relatives and my Iammucci relatives. Those areas contain some of my closest relatives.

I'm making progress and absolutely will complete this in 2018.

5. Replace Family History Center Photos with Antenati Document Images

Around 2008, before the Antenati website and FamilySearch.org made the Italian vital records available online, I ordered microfilm of the vital records from my maternal grandfather's hometown.

I viewed every record from 1809 to 1860 on nasty old microfilm viewers at Family History Centers in Philadelphia and Poughkeepsie, New York.

The Philadelphia Family History Center had one computer that read microfilm. When it was available, I could grab JPEG files of the documents I wanted the most. In Poughkeepsie I had to take iPhone photos of the projected images. Those are awful. They're dark, fuzzy, and show the texture of the surface on which the image is projected.

This dramatic before-and-after comparison makes it clear why I need those high-res documents from Antenati.
This dramatic before-and-after comparison makes it clear why I need those high-res documents from Antenati.
My goal is to replace all the crummy iPhone photos with high-resolution images from the Antenati site.

I'm making headway on goals 4 and 5 at the same time by focusing on the families from the town I researched on microfilm. I can replace those bad images, fill in the blanks for those people on my document tracker, and make double the progress.

It's August-eve. We're seven twelfths of the way through 2018. That's about 58%. I believe my goals are at least 58% complete.

But I'm not taking my foot off the gas pedal. I need to keep on track and keep that finish line in sight.

Now it's your turn. And it's not too late in the year to begin! Which genealogy tasks are most important to you this year?

How are you doing?


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Friday, July 27, 2018

4 Age-Related Rules for Building Your Family Tree

4 logical rules to help you with your family tree.
Do you have a set of standard rules you follow when working on your family tree?

Some common sense rules can steer you away from people who have no place in your tree. There will always be lots of exceptions to these rules. But having them as your foundation will help guide you in your research.

Let's focus on rules related to a person's age. Here are 4 rules for you to consider.

1. Age at First Marriage

Depending on where and when your ancestors lived, you may find a pattern. If you can look at a bunch of marriage documents from your ancestor's town, notice the brides' and grooms' ages.

What was the customary age to marry?
What was the customary age to marry?
Setting aside the widows and widowers who are remarrying, how old are the couples in general? Let's say you find a lot of people getting married between the age of 23 and 27. Take note of that! That's probably the customary age for marrying in that town at that time.

To put this rule into action, imagine you've found an ancestor's birth record. Now you'd like to find his marriage record. You can jump ahead 25 years (or whatever age the evidence tells you) and start looking. You may have to check a bunch of years, but you also may get lucky pretty quickly.

Note: If you're finding some ridiculously young brides and grooms, like ages 12 through 16, look at the details. Are their parents all alive? Many times a terribly young daughter is married off if her parents have died and her grandfather wants someone to provide for her.

2. Age When Children Were Born

You can estimate the mother's age based on local customs.
You can estimate the mother's
age based on local customs.
Forget about men. They can make babies practically forever. But women have a limited amount of years during which they can possibly have a baby.

Being practical, the women in your family tree were probably capable of having a baby from age 16 to about age 48. You can expect your ancestor to have had her first baby as soon as one year after her marriage. And she most likely continued having babies every couple of years until she was too old.

To put this rule into action, be very skeptical of adding a baby in your family tree to a mother who's more than 48 years old. (The poor woman!) Some family tree software will alert you if you're giving a woman a baby she wasn't likely to have had.

3. Age at Immigration

When did your foreign-born ancestor immigrate to your country? Depending on the era, it may have been a difficult journey of two weeks to two months or more.

I can't imagine how awful that was. On my last 9-hour flight home from Italy I thought I was going to die of discomfort and lack of sleep. When I saw the movie "Brooklyn" about a 1950s journey from Ireland to America, I felt that I, too, would have been throwing up. A lot.

To put this rule into action, figure on your ancestor making that journey no later than their 40s. In my tree, most of the men who came to America to work came in their 20s when they were able-bodied. If they brought their families over, they did it in their 30s or 40s.

My 2nd great grandparents and a cousin were pretty old for this journey.
My 2nd great grandparents and a cousin were pretty old for this 1898 journey.
If you don't know when your ancestor came over, start by looking at the years they were in their 20s.

4. Age at Death

This is the simplest age-related rule. Don't expect your ancestor to have lived more than 100 years.

Maybe you've got fabulous genes and have an ancestor who lived to be 115. But in general, you'll probably find it unusual to have an ancestor who lived that long.

To put this rule into action, look at the average age of death in your ancestor's town during their lifetime. If no one else is living beyond their 70s, your ancestor probably didn't live beyond their 70s.

Use that knowledge to narrow down the years when your ancestor may have died.

Don't forget to look at your ancestor's children. Their marriage documents can tell you if their parents are alive or dead at the time.

These are pretty logical rules. You can make them more scientific by learning all you can about the place where your ancestor lived.

Make logic work for your family tree!

When you look closer, you can find:

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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

4 Key Places to Discover Your Ancestor's Hometown

The exact address where my grandfather was born in Italy.
The exact address where my grandfather was
born in Italy.
When my in-law's father died, she knew nothing about his family but his parents' and his sister's names. I offered to build her family tree. With only a few names and the states where they lived, I was able to add several generations to her tree.

It wasn't hard because they'd lived in America for so many generations. Census records offered a way to trace the family's moves from state to state.

But only a few groups of people have lived on the same continent since before recorded history. At some point, everyone else immigrated.

To trace your family back to another country, you must find out exactly where they came from. Once you find that town name, you'll know where to search for birth, marriage and death records.

Here are 4 of the best places to find your ancestor's hometown.

1. Ship Manifests/Immigration Records

The later your ancestor came to your country, the better. Before the 1890s your ancestor's ship manifest may tell you only their home country. A later immigration record can give you that important hometown.

While researching my great grandmother Maria Rosa Caruso, a cousin said Maria Rosa mentioned her Italian hometown often. She called it "Pisqualamazza".

My great grandmother's hometown, seen on her immigration record.
My great grandmother's hometown,
seen on her immigration record.
Unfortunately, there is no such town. My research was at a standstill. So I searched for anyone named Caruso coming to New York from a town that sounded like "Pisqualamazza".

And I found it. My great grandmother's 1906 ship manifest shows it, and the transcription on Ancestry.com helped me read it. My great grandmother's Pisqualamazza was Pescolamazza!

When I found no such town on a map, I Googled it. Pescolamazza changed its name to Pesco Sannita in 1948, so my great grandmother knew it by its old name.

2. Draft Registration Cards

My great aunt told me our Saviano family was from Avellino, but that's not specific enough. Avellino is both a city and a province with many towns. I was stuck.

It was my 2nd great uncle's World War II draft registration card that changed everything. He was 64 years old in 1942, but he still had to register. Thank goodness. Because, despite 2 spelling errors, I learned he was born in Tufo, Avellino. I looked at an online map to find the correct spelling.

This 1942 draft registration card gave me the exact location I needed.
This 1942 draft registration card gave me the exact location I needed.
Shortly after that discovery, I found his 1877 Tufo birth record, and that of his older brother none of my cousins had ever heard of.

3. Naturalization Papers

My grandfather came to America in 1920 at the age of 18. He first went to live in Newton, Massachusetts, where his uncle lived. Then he went to work in Western Pennsylvania where he applied to become a U.S. citizen.

His "declaration of intention" papers include his hometown of Colle Sannita, Italy, and his birth date—which is not what we thought it was. Knowing his hometown, I was able to get his 1902 birth record from the Italian archives. This confirmed that he was born on October 8, just like it says on his declaration of intention.

Naturalization papers can provide birth dates and places -- sometimes for an entire family.
Naturalization papers can provide birth dates and places—sometimes for an entire family.
4. Passport Applications

It's always a thrill when you can find your ancestor's passport application, complete with a photo. My cousin Attilio Sarracino's passport application confirmed that he was born in New York. But his father, Carmine, lived in Pastene, Italy.

There may be typos, but a passport application provides solid information you need.
There may be typos, but a passport application provides solid information you need.
Members of this family went back and forth between Italy and America a couple of times. I found a record of Attilio's 1907 U.S. birth in Pastene, Italy's 1909 register book. They needed him on the record books because his family was planning to stay in Italy and raise him.

Finding these documents helped me make sense of family lore. "Pisqualamazza" wasn't a place. "Avellino" was too vague. And there are 2 towns (Pastene and Pastena) with families named Sarracino!

Before you dive into a new collection of foreign vital records, find all the domestic records. Make sure you know your ancestor's hometown so you don't end up chasing documents that aren't there.


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Friday, July 20, 2018

Use This Tool to Discover Family Tree Insights

There's a new version of Family Tree Analyzer—the must-have genealogy software program from Alexander Bisset. This free program offers almost unlimited insights into your family tree. It also helps you find problems so you can fix them and fortify your family tree.

I've installed it on my Windows 10 computer and imported my up-to-date GEDCOM file. Let's take FTA for a spin.

This is the program I wanted to create. Mr. Bisset has done it expertly.
This is a free genealogy toolbox. A big, big toolbox!
Please visit FTA's Facebook page for announcements and help with using the program. To find the latest download link, see the FTA website. The program runs on Windows; a Mac version is currently in development.

There's so much genealogy goodness to explore! Let's start with a very appealing table view of your entire database of people. Here are a few of the valuable insights you can learn from the program's Main Lists tab.

Insight #1: Your Ancestors' Jobs

On the Main Lists tab, click to sort by the Occupation column.

On the Main Lists tab, click the Occupation column header.
On the Main Lists tab, click the Occupation column header.
I recently learned that my 2nd great grandfather was a shoemaker when he married. That's a surprise. He wasn't a shoemaker when my great grandmother was born. I wonder how many shoemakers are in my family tree.

My ancestors are all from Italy, so I record shoemakers as "calzolaio (shoemaker)". If I scroll down to the letter C in the alphabetical list of Occupations, I see the TON of shoemakers in my family tree. I also see they're mostly from one town. That's a lot of shoemakers for one town, even when you consider the span of these relatives' birth years.

Quickly find the errors hiding in your family tree.
Now you can quickly find the errors hiding in your family tree.
That's nice to see, but here's something much more useful.

Click the Occupations tab to see all the jobs you've entered for people in your tree. I immediately see errors in the first 2 lines. There are addresses where the job title should be. By double-clicking this bad entry, I see it's attached to a man named Vincenzo.

Now I can go to Family Tree Maker to correct this error. Sure enough, I accidentally entered an address and left out his occupation.

Wonderful! I can scroll through the Occupation list in FTA to find typos, untranslated Italian words, or other errors to fix. This is just the kind of "assist" we can all use.

Insight #2: Your Progress, By the Numbers

On the Main Lists tab, scroll to the right to find the Ahnentafel column. Click it once to sort by this column, then again to reverse-sort the column.

Ahnentafel comes from a German word meaning "ancestor table". Each of your direct ancestors has a number in the Ahnentafel system. You are #1. After you, each man in your tree has an even number (your father is #2) and each female an odd number (your mother is #3).

I asked you to reverse-sort your Ahnentafel column for the maximum "wow" factor. Your earliest direct-line ancestor will be the first person in the list. In my results I see four 9th great grandparents at the top of the list with really high numbers! 2691, 2690, 2689 and 2688.

See how far you've gotten in your family history research.
Here's an easy way to see how far you've climbed up your family tree.
Notice the RelationToRoot column a few to the left of Ahnentafel. Here you'll see how many of each level of grandparent you've found. I've found a bunch of 7th and 8th great grandparents, and even more 6th great grandparents.

As I scroll down the numerical list, I can also see where Ahnentafel numbers are missing. In fact (this is exciting!), the lowest-numbered ancestor whose name I don't know is #59, one of my 3rd great grandmothers.

You can use this Ahnentafel view to zero in on the missing relatives you most want to find.

These are two very important insights to help you fortify your family tree. And that's only the tip of the iceberg! I'll explore some more of FTA's useful tools in upcoming articles. Even if you don't have the FTA program, I know you'll find inspiration in these articles.

You owe it to yourself to try this program! My hat's off to Mr. Bisset for having written the program I could only imagine.


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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

How to Make Your Genealogy Research More Complete

"What? I never downloaded the 1940 census for my great uncle? Which other families haven't I gathered documents for?"

A Crisis With a Silver Lining

An 1899 birth record for my ancestor.
An 1899 birth record for my ancestor.
I've written several times about my "document tracker" spreadsheet (see links at the bottom of this article). I use it to keep an inventory of every document image I've attached to someone in my tree. It's alphabetical by last name and has a column for each major type of document or fact. Birth, immigration, marriage, census, draft card, death, etc.

One of my 2018 Genealogy Goals is to "Fill in the 'Need to find' column" on my spreadsheet. That involves looking at which documents I've gathered for someone and listing what is still missing. For example, if I have the 1910, 1930 and 1940 census for a person, the 1920 census belongs in my "Need to find" column.

I hadn't spent much time on that, even though we're well into July. And then something went wrong. I noticed when I tried to re-sort the spreadsheet by the Person's Name column, a group of lines were being selected. It looked as if Excel was going to sort only those lines.

I use Excel every day on the job. I've never seen this happen before. I avoided sorting that day, but I guess I made a bad sort another day. This weekend I discovered the error. When I looked to see if I'd added the 1871 marriage record to my 2nd great grandfather's line, I saw all the wrong information!

It seems as if a lot of lines are off by one, containing dates for the person above them. The spreadsheet has 1,685 lines. I need to check them all!

Polishing that Silver Lining

Since I noticed this terrible problem while looking at my Saviano family, I decided to start there on line 1,464. I checked each line against Family Tree Maker to see which data belonged to whom.

To do this I clicked the Person tab, and then the Media tab in FTM. As a rule, I label all media items beginning with their date so they sort chronologically.

I label each person's media files beginning with the date. Now they display in chronological order.
I label each person's media files beginning with the date. Now they display in chronological order.
I've recently gotten into the habit of adding "cert." to my spreadsheet when I have an actual certificate image. For example, in the Birth column it may say "1846 (cert.)". So I thought, why not add the person's birth year when I'm sure of it but have no document? I'll know there's no image because it doesn't say "cert." Those birth years are really helpful for telling my five Antonio Sarracino's apart!

And while I was checking each person's documents, I completed their "Need to find" column. As I finished each line, I gave the row a light green color. Now it's plain to see which lines I've checked.

I'm fixing any alphabetical-order errors manually to avoid future problems. When I add a new person, I'll have to insert a new line where their name belongs.

My document tracker spreadsheet holds my inventory and provides my task list.
My document tracker spreadsheet holds my inventory and provides my task list.

Two Birds with One Stone

If this sounds like a lot of work, it is, but there's a big payoff. As I'm working through the lines of the spreadsheet, certain things tempt me. I discovered I was missing an immigration record for my cousin's great grandparents. I noted that in the "Need to find" column, but then I decided to go get it. I found it on Ancestry.com. I put the date in the immigration column for both the husband and the wife, and took it out of the "Need to find" column.

Then I found people from Avellino, Italy, who were missing their birth records. The Avellino records became available last week! So I downloaded and added their birth records.

If not for this exercise, I wouldn't have realized I had Avellino people in need of documents.

The ultimate goal is to have all the lines verified and shaded green, and the "Need to find" column empty. That'll mean I've tracked down every major document I can for each person.

And if I can't find that 1940 census for my great uncle, at least I've got the ultimate short-list of what I need to find.

We all get side-tracked by lots of things. We're working with a new cousin to firm up our information. We're using new document collections to find lots more ancestors. We're trying to create trees to share with our family.

This exercise can get you focused on what you've left unfinished. I'm more motivated than ever to work on my document tracker spreadsheet. If you give it a try, I think you'll be happy you did.

Note: Be sure to read the follow-up article about using free Family Tree Analyzer for some of these tasks. Use This Tool to Discover Family Tree Insights.


Stay connected! Follow me on Twitter or Facebook and know the moment a new article comes out.

Friday, July 13, 2018

How to Find the Most Important Genealogy Documents Quickly

A portion of my newly downloaded vital record collection.
A tiny portion of my newly downloaded
vital record collection.
Seems like every day I read that a new genealogy document collection is coming online. Some are available through subscription services, but plenty is out there for free.

If you stay tuned in to social media, you can learn about these new collections early. That's how I discovered a document collection I needed badly was coming online this past week.

Finally, a branch of my family tree that's been a dead end was opening up. And I was ready.

Even before the vital records from the town of Santa Paolina, Italy, were fully published, I was downloading them to my computer. I now have all the available records from 1809–1945 to comb through offline. I stored the documents in 386 folders—separating births, marriages and deaths by year. I have no idea how many thousands of documents there are.

Imagine this is you. Imagine these documents hold the missing information about your great great grandmother Colomba.

Where do you begin?

A little background:
  • Colomba's 1920 New York City death record shows her last name was Consolazio and she was born around 1845, somewhere in Italy.
  • Her son's World War II draft registration card said he was born in Tufo, Italy.
  • Last year I looked at microfilmed records from Tufo. I found two sons for Colomba plus a few Consolazio babies who were her nieces and nephews. It was their records that told me the Consolazio siblings were from the next town—Santa Paolina.
I've been waiting impatiently for the Santa Paolina documents to show up online.

Here's how I'm surgically extracting the most important records first.

Find That First Birth Record

Hoping that her death record was correct about her age, I went straight to the 1845 births. I found Colomba! Though her name is a little different and her father's name isn't what I expected, I know it's her. On her birth record is a note of her marriage to my great great grandfather, Antonio Saviano.

This is unusually lucky, but her birth record say my great great grandparents married in Santa Paolina on 1 June 1871.

This 1845 Italian birth record includes the addition of her husband and marriage date.
This 1845 Italian birth record includes the addition of her husband and marriage date.
Go After the Marriage Record

Your ancestor's marriage record can provide tons of detail, including:
  • Bride and groom's birth dates
  • Death dates of their deceased parents
  • Death dates of their deceased grandfathers if their fathers are dead (this won't be true everywhere)
  • Names and death dates of any previous spouses
Santa Paolina's marriage records are a different format than I'm used to. But they gave me important facts I'd been missing: My great great grandfather Antonio's parents' names, occupation, and town of birth. It also confirmed his year of birth.

Start Collecting the Babies

Knowing my ancestors married in June 1871, I started looking for babies beginning in 1872.

I also know from earlier research that this couple had baby boys born in the town of Tufo in 1875 and 1877. So I needed to check the birth indexes only for 1872, 1873 and 1874.

I found one baby girl, Maria Grazia, born on 26 April 1872. She and the two boys born in Tufo are my great grandmother's siblings. So I knew this little girl must have died. We simply have no Maria Grazia in the family. I was sad to find she died 4 days later.

Death record for Maria Grazia Saviano.
Maria Grazia Saviano, the first-born child of my 2nd great grandparents, died at the age of 4 days.
These were Colomba's earliest babies. The rest of her children are well known to my family. They were born in another town called Pastene. And now I know that's where their father Antonio was born!

But we can't stop there. We need to find Colomba's grandparents, and maybe her great grandparents.

Hunt for the Parents

Colomba's birth record gave me names for her parents, but not their ages. Luckily Santa Paolina had a very small population. I subtracted 25 years from Colomba's birth year, bringing me to 1820. I began checking the birth indexes for 1820, 1819, 1818. I found my 3rd great grandmother, Rubina Maria Censullo! Now I have her parents' names—my 4th great grandparents.

Keep going. 1817, 1816. There he is! My 3rd great grandfather Semblicio Fiorentino Conzolazio. Now I have his parents' names—also my 4th great grandparents.

Getting close to the earliest records, I searched for Semblicio's parents' marriage. He was born in 1816, so I looked at 1815, 1814. Oh my gosh, I found it! His parents, Gaetano and another Colomba, were married on 29 December 1814.

The paragraph at the bottom includes the names of 4 of my 5th great grandparents.
The paragraph at the bottom includes the names of 4 of my 5th great grandparents.
Now I have each of their parents' names. That's 2 sets of my 5th great grandparents. I can't find Rubina Maria's parents' marriage because they were quite a bit older. I'd need church records to find them.

With one document collection, boom! 4th and 5th great grandparents.
With one document collection, boom! 3rd, 4th and 5th great grandparents.
That's a Great Start

Using targeted searches, I got the juiciest information out of this record collection in no time. But there's a ton more to find. I want to find the births of Colomba's siblings, their marriages and their babies. I need death records for the 3rd, 4th and 5th great grandparents.

I hope you'll try this methodical approach. First looking for very specific records, then expanding to the related records. Be logical and you'll go far. You can do this!


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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Who Was Your First Immigrant Ancestor?

Hard-working men, bound for America
Growing up, I knew my grandfathers had come to America from Italy as young men. When I started researching my family history, I found their immigration records on the Ellis Island website.

According to their ship manifests, each of my grandfathers were joining a relative who'd already made the voyage.

Have you found a ship manifest for any of your ancestors? Are you squeezing every bit of information out of that page or two?

If so, you know each passenger names someone they left at home, and someone who's waiting for them at their destination. The amount of detail depends on the year of immigration. If your ancestor came through Ellis Island, you'll find lots of information.
A ship manifest holds lots of details about your ancestor.
A ship manifest holds lots of details about your ancestor.

Where Were They From, Where Were They Going?

When my Grandpa Pietro Iamarino arrived in New York City on 29 November 1920, he was leaving his "Father Iamarino" in "Collo Samino, Ben." First of all, thank goodness I knew his father's name was Francesco or I'd be mighty disappointed. Second of all, "Collo Samino, Ben." is a typewritten misspelling of Colle Sannita, with "Ben." being short for the province of Benevento. Again, thank goodness I knew the town name already.

Grandpa arrived with $11 in his pocket to join his "Uncle Pilla Di Gennaro" at 22 West Street, Newton, Massachusetts. This lead was a dead end to me for quite a while. Over time, after I'd learned more about Grandpa's family, I realized something. The "Di Gennaro" part of that description meant that his uncle was the son of Gennaro Pilla—my grandfather's grandfather.

So Grandpa was joining his mother's brother, Antonio Pilla, in Massachusetts.

Follow the Leader

So what do you do next? You look for Antonio's ship manifest. Was he the first in the family to come to America, or was there someone before him?

Antonio Pilla, my second great uncle, left Italy for Philadelphia seven years earlier in 1913. The ship manifest says he left his father Gennaro in Colle Sannita, Italy. He was travelling with his brother-in-law. Both men were joining Antonio's brother Innocenzo Pilla in Lawsonham, Pennsylvania, to work in the mine or for the railroad.

Another link in the chain! Next I searched for my other second great uncle, Innocenzo Pilla. He sailed to Boston in 1909 with two of his brothers-in-law. One of them was my great grandfather, Francesco Iamarino.

The group was going to the Bronx, New York, to join my other second great uncle, Francesco's brother, Giuseppe Iamarino.

I can't seem to find Giuseppe's ship manifest, but he's in the 1905 New York State Census living in the Bronx. His seven-year-old son was born in Italy, so the family must have arrived between 1898 and 1905.

My uncle Giuseppe may have been the first in that branch to come to America. That led to his two brothers and one brother-in-law following him in 1909. And that lead to my uncle Antonio joining his brother Innocenzo in 1913. And that led to my grandfather Pietro joining his uncle Antonio in 1920.

A Migration Pattern

The memorial to fallen soldiers in my grandfather's hometown.
In May 2018 I visited the memorial
to fallen soldiers in my grandfather's
hometown of Colle Sannita, Italy.
And what's the best thing about this kind of chain migration for a genealogist? You get to discover more family members. Add dates and locations to their timelines. Find documents for relatives—even if they went back to the old country.

My great grandfather Francesco didn't stay in America. But I've found ship manifests for him in 1903, 1909, 1913, and 1929. He came to join his brother Giuseppe the first three times. He stayed and worked for the railroad for a while, then went home to his wife and daughters in Italy.

On his final trip in 1929 he visited his son Pietro, my grandfather, in Youngstown, Ohio. He may have worked for the railroad for a while. Or maybe he came to meet his son's wife and baby daughter.

It's All Part of Your Heritage

Follow the path of the relative or friend your ancestor joined when they immigrated. You may unwind a series of sea voyages and a bunch more relatives.

Thank goodness our ancestors had the strength to make such a difficult journey—sometimes over and over. You've got to admire what they did to survive. You've got to admire their courage.

Be proud of your ancestors. And keep honoring them by documenting their lives.


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Friday, July 6, 2018

6 Building Blocks of Genealogy Research, Part 2

On my genealogy trip to Italy.
One ecstatic genealogist at
the archives in all her ancestors'
province in Italy.
In my last article I discussed 3 of the 6 building blocks that form my genealogy philosophy. They can be the solid foundation to your strong family tree. Let's continue.

4. Keep at it Regularly

The best thing I ever did for my family tree research is start this blog. To publish twice a week, I have to be active. Researching, exploring new websites, and collaborating with others. And I do that nearly every day.

That strict schedule is resulting in tons of new discoveries. It seems like every couple of weeks I find a new set of 5th or 6th great grandparents!

Do whatever you can to keep a hand in your research each week. That continuity will help you focus and accomplish more.

5. Be as Organized as Possible

In my early days, I grabbed census documents, attached them to the head of household and moved on. After a while I had a mess on my hands! I couldn't retrace my steps to find that census sheet again. I didn't cite my source. And I still needed to add the image and the facts to everyone else in the household.

Now I've gotten into an efficient routine. I follow the same steps to make sure I record and document each image and fact thoroughly.

Adding information to an image on your computer.
Right-click and choose Properties.
Click the Details tab. Enter specifics
for your genealogy image.
For example, I'm working a lot with vital records from my Italian hometowns. When I find a birth record I need:
  • I crop and enhance it in Photoshop
  • I add a title and source citation to the image's properties before dragging it into my family tree. I have a format I follow that ends with the URL where I found the image.
  • I edit the date of the document in Family Tree Maker. I give it a category and make it the person's profile image if I don't have their photo.
  • Let's say it's a marriage document. I add the image to one spouse, then share it so it's attached to the other spouse, too.
  • I make note of the document in my Document Tracker. This spreadsheet shows me at a glance which documents I have (and don't have) for anyone in my family tree.
Because I made it a routine, I'm now frighteningly organized. No more doubling back to try to fix my messes.
Add important information to each image in your family tree file.
Add important information to each image in your family tree file. Above, the caption and description I added to the image file itself have carried over to Family Tree Maker. I simply edit the date and select the category.

6. Create an Inventory

This final building block applies to cuckoo-birds like me who've downloaded large document collections from FamilySearch or the Italian Antenati website.

I know it will take YEARS, but I'm filling several spreadsheet pages with the facts I transcribe from those thousands of Italian vital records. It seems daunting, but being able to easily search for a particular person in a span of years is awesome.

I've completely documented 6 years of birth records from my paternal grandfather's hometown and a smaller selection from the other towns. I want to own this complete collection, and I look forward to sharing it with my fellow descendants of these towns.

What if you inventoried the vital records, censuses, ship manifests and other images stored on your computer? How might that simplify your future searches?

When I started writing this blog, I began thinking of my genealogy research like a job (the best job ever!). I wanted to apply all the best practices of the genealogy industry to my research.

These 6 building blocks are making my family tree world class. How about you?

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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

6 Building Blocks of Genealogy Research, Part 1

These are the building blocks of a strong family tree.
Six months ago I wrote about my general approach to genealogy research. Let's look at the specific building blocks that can make anyone a productive and efficient family tree researcher.

I don't want to short-change any of these concepts, so this article is in two parts. You'll find a link to part 2 at the bottom of this article.

1. Spell Out Your Goals

Did you make your list of genealogy goals for 2018? I made a list that I look at anytime I feel like I'm searching for documents without a specific goal.

Sometimes it's fun to go off on research tangents. But it's far more rewarding to focus on a goal and make real progress. Your goals might be to:
Come back to your goals again and again and whittle down the list.

2. Cast a Wide Net

I spent five years making trips to my local Family History Center. I ordered microfilm (it's available online now) from my maternal grandfather's hometown in Italy. I knew nothing beyond his parents' names, so I wanted to find out more.

I soon realized I couldn't tell who was related to me unless I pieced together all the families. So at the center I typed the data from each birth, marriage and death record. At home I entered it all into Family Tree Maker. In the end, I had a tree with 15,000 people. More than 10,000 of them had a connection to me.

Cast a wide net to capture all your ancestor's siblings and their children.
Cast a wide net to capture all your ancestor's siblings and their children.
If you don't want to go that far, at least gather all your ancestor's siblings. Say you find your 3rd great grandmother's birth record. Now you know your 4th great grandparents' names. Next you can search the surrounding years for babies born to the same couple.

Find those siblings and you can begin to identify your ancestor's close cousins. You're going to want those names when you're reviewing your DNA matches.

3. Take Advantage of Software


A small piece of my priceless vital record collection.
Here's a small piece of my priceless
vital record collection.
There are a lot of talented programmers out there creating free genealogy software. I finally gave up trying to write my own program when I found Family Tree Analyzer. This program takes the germ of an idea I was playing with and puts it on steroids. You can run reports, correct errors, and slice-and-dice your family tree in a bunch of ways.

And thank goodness I found GetLinks. Using GetLinks, I easily downloaded thousands and thousands of vital records from 7 of my ancestral hometowns in Italy.

Don't do things the hard way when other genealogy whizzes have created a solution for you.

Please continue to part 2 of this article. I get into the nuts and bolts of my genealogy philosophy with 3 more building blocks.

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