Friday, September 28, 2018

How to Find Official Sources for Family Facts You Just Know

Imagine your grandchild inherits your family tree. How reliable will the information be for your generation?

Marriage registers, yearbooks, newspaper clippings...these are official sources for your living relatives.
Marriage registers, yearbooks, newspaper
clippings…these are official sources for your
living relatives.
I don't need a document to tell me I was born in Mother Cabrini Hospital in New York City. Or that I was baptized in Our Lady of Pity Church in the Bronx. (Both gone now, by the way.)

But years from now, if my grandchild wants to carry on my genealogy work, what proof will they have for facts about me, my siblings and my cousins?

Everyone says to start your tree with yourself and the facts you know. Then you move on. Finding census forms, draft registration cards, death records and so much more. But have you returned to yourself and your generation to find proof for your facts?

Your Own Documents

You should have your own birth certificate in your possession. I even have my baptismal certificate, along with two marriage certificates.

I need to scan those documents and put them in my family tree. (For the worriers: You can mark individual images as private in Family Tree Maker. Hopefully in your software, too.)

Of course, I'm not going to ask my brother and my cousins to let me scan their birth certificates. So what do you do?

Public Records Index

On Ancestry.com you can access volumes 1 and 2 of the U.S. Public Records Index, 1950–1993. The information in these databases comes from a combination of:
  • telephone books
  • post office change-of-address forms
  • other public documents.
In my experience, the birth dates given in these collections are often wrong. For me, an entry might say I was born on the 1st of the month instead of the 24th. But it generally has the right year.

So, when all else fails, a public records source proves the person in your tree existed:
  • by their name
  • in a specific place
  • in a specific range of time.
Newly Released Indexes

It pays to watch social media for genealogy news. That's where you can learn about groups like Reclaim the Records. They're on a mission to get access to the genealogical and archival data we genealogists want so much.

They've scored tremendous wins, particularly for New York and New Jersey documents. But they're also working to release data from many U.S. states.

Thanks to them, I've found documentation for several events, including:
  • my parents' marriage license
  • my grandfather's 2nd marriage license
  • my and my close cousins' births
  • my grandmother Lucy's birth
Seeing the index of New York births, I finally found my grandmother's birth certificate number.
Seeing the index of New York births, I finally found my grandmother's birth certificate number.
Lucy's birth record has eluded me for years. Now I know her New York State birth certificate number is 60968. On the index she has no first name and a badly misspelled last name. No wonder I couldn't find her certificate! It's definitely her because my father has always known she was born on 10 Dec 1908 in Hornell, New York.

Newspapers

I haven't found much historical information on my family in the newspapers. But I'm constantly finding references to my brother in newspapers. His career has always had a big public relations aspect to it. So any search for Iamarino brings up my brother. I found his North Carolina marriage announcement that way.

Proof of a modern-day marriage may be found in the bride's hometown paper.
Proof of a modern-day marriage may be found in the bride's hometown paper.
You may have more luck searching for your family. Think about all the events you could search for when it comes to your contemporary relatives:
  • birth, marriage and death announcements
  • public relations announcements for various professionals
  • graduating class lists
Your facts and your closest, living relatives' facts may not be your top priority. But documenting these things you've known all your life:
  • your mom's birth date
  • your brother's middle name
  • your aunt's home address
…will go a long way toward strengthening your legacy.

Set aside some time to find documents or public sources for your own nuclear family. Some day your grandchild may thank you from the bottom of their heart.


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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

This Genealogy Policy Takes the Guesswork Out of Names

My in-law policy is working so well, I've created a naming policy for my family tree.

If your ancestor changed their name, are you recording both names?
If your ancestor changed their name,
are you recording both names?
In my last article, I wrote about how freeing it can be to set policies for building your family tree. My new policy for handling the in-laws of distant relatives has been incredibly helpful.

This past weekend I found 29 more people who were in my family tree simply because they were an easy get. For instance, this one man named Giovanni married one of my distant relatives in New York City long ago. I do want him and his parents in my tree. But I no longer want his 8 siblings—or any of their spouses and children—in my family tree.

So I removed them. And if I ever wanted them back, the census sheets where I found their names are still part of my tree. I'm keeping the documents because they contain Giovanni and his parents.

This in-law policy makes me happy because it's always there to guide me. It'll keep me from reaching out too far. It'll put an end to those awkward messages I get from people wondering why their grandfather is in my family tree.

It makes me so happy, I want to consider other genealogy policies.

I didn't have to think too hard about it before I realized—I already have another genealogy policy.

What I'm about to describe is not an established, official genealogy rule. There's a good amount of personal preference.

So think about your own personal preferences as you read on.

Naming Conventions in Your Family Tree

I'm putting my naming convention policy in writing. But it's based on practices I already follow. This is the style I've developed over the years.

Now, with a policy in place, I'll be sure to be consistent.

#1 Birth Names

If your ancestors emigrated to a country with a different language, they probably went by a different name. Giovanni became John. Anton became Anthony. Pablo became Paul.

I record my ancestors using the name on their birth record. If I haven't seen their birth record, I check each census. If they were born in another country, and on some censuses they use an ethnic name, then I believe that's their given name.

In Family Tree Maker, I use their birth name as their Name fact.

Record multiple names for your ancestor if they unofficially changed their name.
Record multiple names for your ancestor if they unofficially changed their name.
#2 Common Names

In their new home in a new country, many of our ancestors tried to fit in. They identified themselves by a non-ethnic name, like Rose instead of Mariarosa.

We don't want to lose track of those new names. The new name is likely to be what's on their death record.

In Family Tree Maker, I record their common, or assumed name, as a second name fact. The software lets me add multiple names and set one as the preferred fact. Their birth name is that preferred fact.

Last names are important, too! If your ancestor changed their last name in their new country, you need to record that. You can make it their alternate name—their non-preferred name. For example, I have ancestors named Muollo. That's so hard for an American mouth to say, that one Muollo man changed his name legally to Williams.

That may seem like an odd choice. But you pronounce Muollo as mwoe-low. That could sound as if you're mumbling Williams. I need to record the Williams name because that's the legal last name of this man's children.

#3 Nicknames

Everyone in my parents' Bronx neighborhood in the old days had a nickname. In my family there was a Baldy and a Blondie. People in the family never called them anything else. So I need to preserve those colorful nicknames in the family tree, too.

In Family Tree Maker, I record a nickname with the AKA (Also Known As) data fact. Having spelled out this policy, now I'll be sure to fill in what I'm missing. I think I've left out a lot of Americanized names because I'm so in love with the Italian names.

#4 Reference Words

I've been working on my document tracker a lot lately. This is a spreadsheet where I log each document I've found for the people in my tree. Everyone who has a document image gets a line in the document tracker.

A simple shorthand highlights my closer ancestors, and their father's name.
A simple shorthand highlights my
closer ancestors, and their father's name.
Filling it out helps me realize which documents I'm missing for each person. It encourages me to do more. Lots of times I'll enter something in the "Still to find" field, like "1902 immigration record". Then I think, "Why not search for it right now?" It makes me feel like I'm really doing good work.

Here's where I'm using a naming convention in my spreadsheet.

I have tons of people in my tree with the same name. On many Italian birth records, because many people in town had the same name, they will identify the father of the baby as, for example, "Giovanni, son of Giuseppe".

So I'm doing that in my spreadsheet. After a person's name, I add, in parentheses, (son of Giuseppe), or whatever the father's name is. That helps me when I need to locate the person in my family tree.

I also like to identify certain close relatives in the spreadsheet. I use this shorthand: 2G is a 2nd great grandparent, 2GA is a 2nd great aunt, 2GU is a 2nd great uncle.

What naming conventions are you using? Are you being consistent?

Spend a little time thinking about the names in your tree. What policies can you set to make your family tree make more sense?


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Friday, September 21, 2018

How to Keep from Going Too Far with Your Family Tree

How do you know when to stop gathering documents and facts for the in-laws in your family tree?

My full collection of documents for a distant cousin's wife.
For certain types of distant relatives, I'm collecting
the basic documents and stopping right there.
I've been thinking about this ever since I decided to delete the in-laws of distant relatives from my tree.

Here's an example. When I was new at family history research, "easy" families were impossible to resist. So, when I saw my Great Uncle Mike's granddaughter-in-law had a tree with 7 generations of Uncle Mike's wife's family, I "adopted" them all.

I added this big branch to my tree with little or no documentation. I found documents for some of the people, but I didn't care enough about this branch to see it through. They weren't mine.

My new policy is simple. Unless I have a reason to go further, I will stop at the parents of a relative's spouse. I kept Uncle Mike's wife's parents, but the rest of her many ancestors are gone.

The 2 main reasons I would break this policy are:
  1. An in-law asked me to research their family.
  2. The in-law family is from the same town as mine and may be related.
With this new policy fresh on my mind, I found myself looking at documents for a relative's wife today. I downloaded Emily's naturalization papers from FindMyPast.com 2 weeks ago. They were offering free access for a few days.

The site had indexed Emily by her married name—my family name—which is why I found her. I recognized who she was immediately and downloaded the 2 pages. Then they sat on my desktop for a while.

When I finally examined the naturalization papers, I realized I had Emily's:
  • date and place of birth in Italy
  • immigration date with the name of the ship
The pages also confirm the birth dates I had for her husband and son, so they're well worth having.

Before I found her naturalization papers, all I had for Emily was:
  • Her 1927 marriage certificate—but not a copy of it. I saw and transcribed it at the New York City Municipal Archives years ago. Her parents' names were on that marriage certificate, so I already had them in my tree.
  • The 1940 U.S. Federal Census.
  • The Social Security Death Index record of her death in 1991.
Knowing that I have no plans to add anyone else from her family, what other documents should I try to find and add to my tree?

Her naturalization papers say she was born on 2 Dec 1907 in Savignano, Italy. So I've got to look for that document. Vital records for Savignano are available online, so I drilled down to the year 1907 and found it.

This document gives me her mother's original name and her father's age and occupation. I don't need any more details about Emily's parents.

In 1907 Emily's town was called Savignano di Puglia. She was born on Via San Giovanni.
In 1907 Emily's town was called Savignano di Puglia. She was born on Via San Giovanni.
Oh, by the way, her name isn't Emily. I always thought it might be Emilia, but now I have her birth record. She was born Ermilinda Franceschina Concettina D'Apice. She signed her marriage certificate as Emily, and her naturalization papers say Emily. But those papers also include the name "Ermelinda".

Now I have Emily's:
  • 1907 birth in Italy
  • 1927 marriage in New York
  • 1940 census in New York
  • 1944 naturalization in New York
  • 1991 death in New York
What's the most important piece of documentation missing from that list? She was born in Italy and married in New York. How did she come to America, and with whom?

Emily and her sister Giuseppa came to New York in 1919 to join their sister Elvira in the Bronx.
Emily and her sister Giuseppa came to New York in 1919 to join their sister Elvira in the Bronx.
Her naturalization papers include an immigration date of 19 Dec 1919 aboard the S.S. Duca D'Aosta.

When I found her ship manifest, she was single and sailing with her much older, unmarried sister, Giuseppa. They listed their father Angelo, so I knew they were the right family from Savignano. They were joining their other sister, Elvira, at 628 Morris Avenue in the Bronx.

Emily's street in Savignano still exists. It's always nice to get an idea of where the people in your family tree came from.
Emily's street in Savignano still exists. It's always nice to get an idea of where the people in your family tree came from.
I had to laugh when I saw that address, because if you were going there, you were bound to meet my relatives.

So now I've learned the names of 2 of Emily's sisters, the age of one of them and the address of the other. But I have a policy now. No unnecessary siblings of the spouse of a distant relative.

That's why Giuseppa and Elvira D'Apice will live in my tree only in Emily's immigration notes. Having a policy makes it much easier to deal with questionable situations like this. What I will add, because her husband and son belong to my family, is her 1930 census. And maybe I'll find her and her sisters in the 1920 census. But no more than that!

If you're a fan of Mel Brooks' movie "The Producers," you may recognize the phrase I will repeat when I'm tempted to add a wildly distant in-law to my family tree. "Be brutal! Be brutal!"


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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

4 Tips to Help You Find that Missing Ancestor

Here's how I'm finding the missing connections for my newly discovered ancestor.

Recently I told you how I found a big error in my family tree. It was the result of hard-to-read documents and my not being familiar with a particular town's families. I wound up following Rubina Cenzullo when I should have been looking for Ruffina Zullo.

Some of my ancestors moved to nearby towns to marry.
Some of my ancestors moved to nearby towns to marry.

When her death record showed me the truth—that Ruffina was born in another town—I knew exactly what I had to do.

The most important documents I needed to find in the new town (Apice, Italy) were:
  • her birth record (around 1816)
  • her marriage to my 3rd great grandfather (around 1843)

But now I have a new family named Zullo, and a whole new branch to discover. Ruffina's parents were Leonardo and Caterina. But I want to learn the names of my 4th and 5th great grandparents in this branch.

Here's what I'm doing to expand my new Zullo branch.

Find Siblings, Marriages, Deaths

Ruffina was born in 1816 when her father was about 27 years old. There could be siblings born before Ruffina, for sure. To find them, I used the GetLinks program to download all the Apice birth records. (Read about how GetLinks works with FamilySearch and the Antenati website. You'll find the download link there, too.)

I downloaded her town's 1809–1815 birth records and looked for Ruffina's siblings. I found:
  • Saverio Antonio Nicola Zullo, born in 1811
  • Saverio Zullo born in 1813

When two children of the same parents have the same name, it's a safe bet that the 1st child died before the 2nd was born. The 1st Saverio, in this case, should have died before the 2nd Saverio was born in 1813.

To prove that, I downloaded the town's 1811 death records. I found that the 1st Saverio died in October 1811.

But I found a surprise, too. A month earlier, in September 1811, another Ruffina Zullo died. She was the daughter of the same parents as the other children, and she was 2 years old. It's only because this Ruffina died that my Ruffina got her name.

The correct name led me to a new family unit.
The correct name led me to a new family unit.

This opens up another avenue for me to explore. I checked the 1809 Apice birth records. Ruffina was not born in Apice in 1809 (not in 1810 or 1811, either).

But I noticed something important. There are lots of people named Zullo in Apice to this day. But there was no one there with the same last name as Ruffina's mother: Trancuccio.

While thinking about this, I formed a theory.

Did Leonardo and Caterina, the parents of the Zullo siblings, marry in another town? Was it Caterina's hometown? That would explain why no other people in Apice have Caterina's last name. If this theory is right, 1809 Ruffina could have been born in Caterina's hometown.

This isn't far-fetched at all. Many times in 1800s Italy a couple would marry in the wife's town but live in the husband's town. My Ruffina's daughter Vittoria has a similar story, but with more complications.

Vittoria married Antonio (these are my 2nd great grandparents). Antonio was from Pastene; Vittoria from Santa Paolina. They married in Santa Paolina and had 1 child. Then they moved to the neighboring town of Tufo and had 2 more children. Then they moved to Antonio's town of Pastene to have the rest of their children. (And that's why my great grandparents met and married in Pastene.)

I used a website to see where Caterina's last name exists in Italy. I find it mostly in 2 nearby towns. Another tip: Enter the last name into a genealogy site search for immigration records. See where those people came from.

I downloaded the 1809 and 1810 birth records from these 2 likely towns. So far, I haven't found my 4th great aunt Ruffina Zullo. But I have found people with the last name Trancuccio.

I still like my theory, but I may have to check more towns.

I won't be visiting this ancestral hometown—at least not the old part of town. It was destroyed and abandoned after a 1962 earthquake.
I won't be visiting this ancestral hometown—at least not the old part 
of town. It was destroyed and abandoned after a 1962 earthquake.

There was another surprise waiting for me when I located my 3rd great grandmother Ruffina's siblings. On her brother Saverio's 1811 birth record, the father of the baby is "Leonardo Zullo di Saverio". That means "Leonardo Zullo, son of Saverio".

That's exactly what you hope to find! Saverio is baby Saverio's grandfather, and my 5th great grandfather. This Saverio Zullo was born in about 1764, possibly in the same town where Ruffina was born in 1816.

What can I do with 1764 Saverio's name to help build my tree some more?

Well, while looking for Ruffina's siblings, I saw several other Zullo babies born to different fathers. I also found some Zullo men and women who married in that town between 1809 and 1815. I can download all those records easily.

I can put together Zullo babies, brides and grooms. I'll match siblings by comparing their parents' names. With luck, I'll find a sibling for my 4th great grandfather, Leonardo Zullo. And maybe one of that sibling's records will tell me my 5th great grandmother's name. (I'll bet it's Ruffina!)

No matter who you're looking for, or which branch you're trying to grow, these basic tasks can help you succeed:
  1. Found an ancestor's birth record? Search the surrounding years for the births of their siblings. Comb each record for more information, like ages, occupations and other relatives.
  2. Based on the oldest sibling's birth, try to find marriage records for their parents.
  3. Starting in the year of the youngest sibling's birth, try to find death records for their parents.
  4. Pay attention to names. If your ancestor is from a big city, this isn't as helpful. But if you're looking at records from a really small town, you should see a lot of last names repeated. These are the long-standing families in that town. If your ancestor's last name is unique, maybe they're from another town.

Finding out Ruffina was born in Apice when I knew she married and had babies in Santa Paolina was a big surprise. Keep your mind and your eyes open. Let the facts you have suggest a theory about the facts you don't have. Then try to prove that theory. Don't give up the search!


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Friday, September 14, 2018

One Report, Endless Possibilities for Improving Your Family Tree

Go to ftanalyzer.com to download Family Tree Analyzer for free.
Family Tree Analyzer
It's always fun to create an up-to-date GEDCOM from my family tree and get the latest insights from Family Tree Analyzer.

I've written about this free PC-based program several times now (see links at the bottom of this article). Today let's look at how you can use its Main Lists tab to produce an all-in-one report.

First, your family tree software should have an export option. You can use the export option to create a GEDCOM. If you keep your family tree online only, and not in desktop software, you've given up some control of your family tree. Ancestry.com lets you export a GEDCOM from your online tree, but other sites, like FamilySearch.org, do not.

Second, there are other ways to do what I'm about to describe besides using Family Tree Analyzer. But to me, this program is the best way to do it. (Do a Google search for "convert GEDCOM to spreadsheet".)

Now let me show you what you can do with an all-in-one report from Family Tree Analyzer.

After loading your GEDCOM in Family Tree Analyzer, click Main Lists.
After loading your GEDCOM in Family Tree Analyzer, click Main Lists.
Launch Family Tree Analyzer and open your most recent GEDCOM file. The software will analyze your GEDCOM for several facts.

When it's finished, click the Main Lists tab. With the Individuals tab clicked, you'll see a table containing every person and fact in your tree!

Click the Export menu at the top of the program window to generate a "csv" file. This is a file you can open with any spreadsheet software, like Excel.

Excel gives you tools to sift, sort and manipulate the data any way you like. But I don't want to turn this into a long Excel tutorial. If you don't know how to filter and sort your contents, here's a good, short YouTube video. Jump ahead to 1:44 and watch until 2:24. Short and sweet.

In your spreadsheet, choose a Fact Type (column E) to filter by, such as Occupation. Now click Excel's Sort button and sort by Fact Comment (column H).

Now you have:
  • a simple view of all the occupations in your family tree
  • an alphabetical list of what you typed in for the description.

I'd like to do 2 things with the occupation descriptions:

1. Fix Errors. I can scroll down the list and scan for typos. In the image below, you can see there's an address instead of an occupation. I can fix that. In my family tree software, I'll go to the person named in columns B and C. It turns out I'd entered an address for the place of work, but left out the word "dentist" for these 2 men.
A filtered, sorted spreadsheet of your family tree facts simplifies a lot of tasks.
A filtered, sorted spreadsheet of your family tree facts simplifies a lot of tasks.

2. Complete My Job Translations. Most of my genealogy research work is in Italian documents. I thought it was cool to enter a person's occupation in Italian, so I made a separate translation list for my own use. But one day I realized there's a Find and Replace function in Family Tree Maker. So now I'm including the English translation in parentheses, like this: "calzolaio (shoemaker)".

Family Tree Maker is smart enough to make suggestions as I type in a field. So if I type "calz", it suggests "calzolaio (shoemaker)".

But I'll bet I overlooked a lot of jobs when I did my find and replace. This spreadsheet helps me find those untranslated Italian words, like agrimensore, benestante, eremite, and so on. Now I can finish this translation task and make my family tree more valuable for myself and others.

Let's pick another Fact Type.
  1. Click the Filter button at the top of column E.
  2. Click Select All to make every fact type available again.
  3. Click it again to uncheck the whole list.
  4. Now click to select the Birth fact type and click OK.
  5. Click the Sort button and sort by Fact Location, column G.
Scroll down through the alphabetical list of all the birth locations. Do you see a lot of blank locations toward the bottom? In a recent article (see "5 Clean-up Tasks to Improve Your Family Tree"), I explained the value of having approximate birth dates and places in your tree. It can give you better hints and search results.

For example, I have a man named Salvatore Martuccio who was born in about 1873. I don't want to see a hint for finding him in the 1880 census in America when he and his family were always in Italy. So I need to add Italy as his place of birth. I think I know which town he was born in, but I have no documentation. So I'll keep it loose and say he was born in Italy.

This spreadsheet makes it easier to find facts—and missing facts—so I can finish my clean-up tasks.

Here's another idea. I'll filter the Fact Type column by Immigration and sort by Fact Comment. When I first started recording immigration facts in my family tree, I used this format:

Arrived aboard the [ship name] with [wife, children, brother, etc.] to join [person's name and relationship] at [address].

Then I realized I could use the Emigration fact type to say:

"Left on the [ship name] to go to [destination city]."

With the ship name in the emigration or departure field, I could shorten my immigration or arrival description to:

"Arrived with [wife, children, brother, etc.] to join [person's name and relationship] at [address]."

I can use this filtered and sorted spreadsheet to find all the descriptions I want to edit in Family Tree Maker. Hurray! More work to do!

I'd like you to think of this method as a way of seeing everything that's hidden from plain sight in your family tree. Work on what's important to you. No matter how much you decide to correct, improve or simplify, you'll wind up with a better, stronger, more reliable family tree.

So filter, sort, and see how much you can accomplish!


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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

How to Spot and Fix a Big Mistake in Your Family Tree

The further back you go in your family history, the more branches you have to explore. And if you have a lot of branches, you probably have a bunch that need more research work.

At some point, your research may toss some new facts at you that make you realize the sad truth. You've got a big old mistake in your family tree.

What will you do when that happens?

How a Mistake Can Pop Up

I realized I'd swapped Rubina for Rufina when I found her married to the wrong man.
I realized I'd swapped Rubina for
Rufina when I found her married
to the wrong man.
Let me give you a concrete example using one of my 16 third great grandmothers. (We're all entitled to 16 third great grandmothers and 16 third great grandfathers.)

One year ago I discovered that my 2nd great grandmother was born in the little town of Santa Paolina, Italy. I learned this important piece of information when I found the marriage records of 2 of her brothers.

Those records (from a neighboring town) said my 3rd great grandparents lived in Santa Paolina.

So I ordered a few films for Santa Paolina. This was days before the end of the FamilySearch microfilm program. Everything was going online. But at the time, the vital records for Santa Paolina's province were not online. And I didn't want to wait.

I spent a few hours going through the dark and fuzzy document images and found some pay dirt. I found my 2nd great grandparents' Santa Paolina marriage record. That led to my 2nd great grandmother's birth record and that of their first baby.

I found that my 3rd great grandfather's name was different on each document. He was:
  • First name: Semblicio or Simblicio
  • Middle name: Fiorintino or Fiorentino or Fiorinto or Florindo
  • Last name: Consolazio
The first name makes sense because of my 2nd great uncle (his grandson) Semplicio. But I made a note that this man sometimes goes by a variation of Fiorintino.

There was more confusion with my 3rd great grandmother's name. It was Rufina Zullo, but I didn't see anyone else named Zullo in Santa Paolina. I saw Zuzolo and Cenzullo. When I found a Rubina Cenzullo, I started to think this was a spelling variation of Rufina Zullo. Eventually I convinced myself Cenzullo = Zullo.

Now the Santa Paolina and Tufo documents are available online. I downloaded all the Santa Paolina records to my computer, and a few select years of Tufo records. (See "How to Use the Online Italian Genealogy Archives".) This past weekend I was going through the downloaded vital records for more facts and people.

My 3rd great grandparents' marriage record was missing. I began searching every logical year for it. When I didn't find it, I thought, "What if they married after their first child was born?"

That's when I found something that made me gasp. In 1844, after the first baby was born, I found a marriage record for Rubina Cenzullo…and another man! What? But she kept having babies with Simblicio Consolazio!

At that moment I realized she wasn't my 3rd great grandmother. I returned to my 2nd great grandmother's birth record and that of her sister Catarina. Both documents said their mother was Rufina Zullo. I'd gone off in the wrong direction!

Working to Fix the Error

How would I find the right woman? I searched every logical year of birth records and found no one in town named Zullo. So I had to find her death record.

I know she had a baby in 1856, so I started there. I search the death indexes of each year looking for Rufina Zullo or Simblicio Consolazio. I found Simblicio's death record in 1891. Rufina was still alive, so I kept searching.

I found her death record in 1898, and with it, the answer to the mystery. Rufina Zullo was born in another town called Apice—a new ancestral hometown for me!

Luckily, the Apice vital records are online. I found the real Rufina's 1816 birth record, so now I had my real 4th great grandparents' names. Then I found Rufina's 1843 marriage to my 3rd great grandfather, named as Fiorintino.

Since they married in Apice, there should be marriage banns recorded in his hometown of Santa Paolina, too. And there are! I'd overlooked them because I'd checked only the index for 1843. They didn't marry there, so they aren't in the index.

Learning from Mistakes

Here are the specific lessons I learned:
  1. Don't make assumptions without a lot of evidence to support them. Some document convinced me her last name was Cenzullo. But there was so much evidence saying it was Zullo. I don't know what I was thinking.
    Detaching a person from the wrong family in Family Tree Maker.
    Detaching a person from the wrong
    family in Family Tree Maker.
  2. Search for all the major documents for your person and their immediate family. Notice when the facts on some documents contradict the facts on others. Then search for what's missing. Finding Simblicio's death record confirmed Rufina's name. Finding Rufina's death record confirmed why she was the only Zullo in town.
  3. Look beyond the indexes. They are a tremendous help, but there are times when you won't find the document you want in the index—especially when it comes to marriages.
Now I had to fix this problem in my family tree. I had Rubina Cenzullo as the wife of Semblicio and the mother of his 8 children. I also had her parents, 2 grandparents and 2 siblings. In Family Tree Maker I selected Rubina. In the Person menu, I choose Attach/Detach Person and Detach Selected Person. I clicked the checkbox for Semblicio and the 8 kids and clicked OK.

Next I attached my No Relationship Established image to Rubina and her people. I'm hold onto them for now because Santa Paolina is so very small. There may be a relationship to her.

Finally, I added my Rufina as the wife of Simblicio and mother of his kids. I attached her parents to her.

At last! My great great grandmother's family is complete.

My Consolazio family, complete with the right mamma.
My Consolazio family, complete with the right mamma.


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Friday, September 7, 2018

How to Decide Who to Cut from Your Family Tree

It's Time to Give a Whole New Meaning to 'Trimming the Tree'

In my newbie genealogy days it was a ton of fun to find people in the census. I'd trace a family through the years. I'd add names and facts and build out the family with glee.

Before long, I had 8 generations of my great uncle's wife's family. I don't know my great uncle's wife. I never met my great uncle! I had no plans to do any research for this family. And I had borrowed a lot of the people from other trees.

Why keep these hastily recorded people in my tree? I want my tree to be more professional than that.

I've written here before about lopping 600 or so people from my tree. Their only connection to me was my brother's wife. So I carefully separated them all out into their own tree for my sister-in-law.

Now it's time to prune more people who don't belong. This will improve the value of my family tree.

I deleted my great uncle's wife's ancestors one at a time. I checked first to see if they had a document image attached to them. If so, I detached the image, deleted it from Family Tree Maker's media collection and from my folders. Then I deleted the person, their spouse and children.

I did this carefully so I wouldn't leave any detached people floating in my family tree file.

That was a good family to delete. They had little or no documentation. I didn't know anything about them. They were not my people.

Here are some ways to decide who to cut from your family tree.

Where Did These People Come From?

Start by scanning your tree for a name you don't recognize. Can you find their connection to you? If the relationship is absurdly distant, maybe you should cut their branch.

Take a look at your source information for them. Did you find these facts yourself, or did they come from someone else's tree? Do you have good sources? No sources?

If the sourcing is unreliable or non-existent, maybe you should cut their branch . Give it some thought before cutting. Do you think you might ever be sorry about your decision?

The way I see it, if the names didn't have good documentation, they weren't worth much to my family tree anyway. If I did want to build out that branch, I'd rather start from scratch and do it based on evidence.

What Can These People Offer My Family Tree?

The sources in my family tree start out very simple and straightforward.
There are some very unofficial 
sources hiding in my tree.
With more than 19,000 people, my tree has tons of ridiculously distant relatives. Picking a person at random, I find she's the mother-in-law of the wife of the father-in-law of the husband of the sister-in-law of my 2nd great grandfather. In short, she's related to me through the 1st wife of my 2nd great grandfather.

She's not my relative, but I'm keeping her. I've met a few people online who are related to my great grandfathers 1st wife. Plus, my ancestors in their little Italian towns were basically all related by blood or marriage. That's kinda my thing. That's what my tree is all about: finding all the ties that bind these towns together.

Because that's my thing, I'm not deleting any of my 18th- and 19th-century Italians.

Look for Strange Sources

Looking at my long list of sources in my family tree software, I see a few unofficial sources. They're named for the family tree I looked at when adding people to my tree.

These days I avoid looking at other people's trees, but I used to follow leads.

One of these family tree sources is attached to 22 facts. This might be a branch I should cut.

I'll choose someone from the list of 22 facts and use Family Tree Maker's Relationship Tool to see their relationship to me. Of course. They're related to my 2nd great grandfather's 1st wife again! A couple of generations of the family are in my ancestral hometown, and then they came to New York state.

Family Tree Maker shows me every facts associated with a particular source.
Family Tree Maker shows me every fact
associated with a particular source.
Instead of deleting this branch, I'm going to flag the descendant who was born in America. I want to replace as many "Somebody's Family Tree" sources as possible with official sources.

Round Up the Out-Laws

Have you put together a branch for your cousin's husband, only to have your cousin divorce her husband? Do you care about keeping that branch?

My new policy is to keep only the parents of in-laws. I have exceptions, of course. I've had fun building out my 1st cousin's wife's tree. (I'm a sucker for Italian ancestors!)

Here's what I'd suggest to you. Give some thought to what you want from your family tree. If you're doing this just for the fun of it, then set your own rules and have a blast!

If you're more like me, and you've found a true passion in your tree, focus on that. Are you working toward applying to the Sons or Daughters of the America Revolution? Are you trying to map out our ancestors' migration paths so you can follow in their footsteps? Are you trying to fill your living room wall with a cool display of your immediate ancestors?

Whatever you hope to achieve…
  • cutting the fat
  • improving the sources and
  • deciding where to focus
will make your family tree stronger.


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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

5 Clean-up Tasks to Improve Your Family Tree

Stop! Don't add another person to your family tree until you read this.
  • How you ever looked at facts in your tree and not known where they came from?
  • Have you seen hints that made no sense for your person at all?
  • Did you ever need to find a document online again, but you couldn't because it was so hard the first time?
You can solve these problems and more. And you'll make your tree more professional and reliable at the same time.

These 5 clean-up tasks will improve your search results and fortify your family tree. And, in some cases, restore your sanity.

1. Add Approximate Birth Dates

In my family tree of 19,709 people, I have about 250 with a blank birth field. How can I expect a good search result if there's nothing to say which century they were born in?

For instance, in my tree there's a woman named Angelina Tedesco. But, was this Angelina born in 1920? 1840? 1780? That makes an enormous difference in a search.

Both parents are missing birth years. I'll subtract 25 years from their oldest child's birth year.
Both parents are missing birth years. I'll subtract 25 years from their oldest child's birth year.
I follow these rules for adding an approximate birth year:
  • If I have a birth year for the spouse (say, 1915), I give this spouse the same year (Abt. 1915—Abt. is short for About).
  • If I have birth years for a set of parents, I give all their children an approximate birth year 25 after the younger parent's birth. For example, if a man was born in 1920 and his wife in 1930, I'll mark all their children as Abt. 1955.
  • If I have a couple's marriage year, I'll mark their children as being born about the following year.
Granted, they weren't all born the same year, and I could easily be off by 10 or 15 years for some. But "Abt. 1955" will avoid any comparisons to someone born in the 1800s.

2. Fill in Probable Country of Birth/Death

I get tired of U.S. Federal Census hints for people I know never came to America. I can solve that by adding Italy as their country of birth and death even though I have no documented proof.

I'll be cautious about assuming everyone died in Italy. But if their children died in Italy, it's highly likely they did, too. And if I haven't added a source, I'll know this is an assumption.

3. Include Details for All Images

Lots of my relatives lived near one another in the Bronx, New York, from about 1900 to the 1960s. So, when one family is hard to find in the census, it pays to locate another family and keep turning the page.

But what happens when the family whose census you have was nearly impossible to find? Their name was so mangled and the transcription was awful. You can't even find them again!

You can avoid that hassle. Add notes to each document image when you find it. Make a note of how the name was transcribed (if it's dead wrong) and the URL where you found it.

Enough detail makes your documents retraceable.
Enough detail makes your documents retraceable.
Here's a great clean-up task—especially if you are sharing your family tree. Go back and add details to all the document images you've collected.

If you do one category at a time (census, ship manifest, draft registration cards, etc.), you'll be more consistent in how you annotate them.

Because my addresses are consistent, I can see  everyone associated with any given address.
Because my addresses are
consistent, I can see everyone
associated with any given address.
4. Make Place-names Consistent

When my ancestors were living in the Bronx, their streets had names like E. 150th St., Morris Ave., and Van Nest. I had so many families living nearby that many were on the same street or in the same apartment building.

Being consistent in how I type the addresses makes it easy to see when I have multiple families in the same building. Family Tree Maker starts suggesting places as I type. It makes suggestions based on what I've typed before.

If the program suggests the right address as soon as I type the house number, I know I have someone living else there. So I spell out each address consistently:
  • 260 East 151st Street, Bronx, New York, USA
  • 562 Morris Avenue, Bronx, New York, USA
  • 234 Dearborn Street, Girard, Trumbull County, Ohio, USA
  • Via Casale, 36, Colle Sannita, Benevento, Campania, Italy
5. Be Consistent with Sources

I admit it. Professional genealogists will tsk-tsk my sourcing style. But we can all agree you've got to include a source that allows someone to find a document or fact again and verify it.

I use a simple style for my sources. I don't want my Person view in Family Tree Maker cluttered up with 10 lines of text for each source. So the text that displays is brief:
  • 1860 U.S. Federal Census
  • 1861 Census of Canada
  • 1861 England Census
Or I use the full, exact title of a database on Ancestry.com:
  • New York, Naturalization Records, 1882-1944
  • Ohio Births and Christenings Index, 1800-1962
  • U.S., Departing Passenger and Crew Lists, 1914-1966
An example of a simple source note. This matches the database name on Ancestry.com.
An example of a simple source note. This matches the database name on Ancestry.com.
But I add more detail in the Sources tab of Family Tree Maker. In the Citation detail field, I'll copy the citation details from Ancestry.com. For example, for that last Passenger and Crew Lists database, the citation detail is "Ancestry.com. U.S., Departing Passenger and Crew Lists, 1914-1966 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016."

In the Citation text field, I add a bit more info from Ancestry, like "Sources vary by state: http://search.ancestry.com/search/dbextra.aspx?dbid=60882".

I don't often use the Web address field. But if there is a single URL that's the best place to find a source, that's where it belongs.

Finally there's a Reference note field. This is where I put the brief text I want to see on the Person tab. It almost always matches the title I used, like "U.S., Departing Passenger and Crew Lists, 1914-1966".

I don't want to have a unique source for each document. I'd have 3,244 sources! That why I put the exact URL and details on the image document itself (see #3 above).

My source is more generic. My image is completely specific.

An example of a more complete source citation.
An example of a more complete source citation.
Today I'm tackling my people with no birth year. While I'm there, I'm also adding Italy as the birth and death place for my 19th century and earlier relatives. I've already annotated my 544 census documents, but I need to finish my ship manifests. Then I'll move on to draft registration cards and the rest. I'm already pretty confident in my place names and sources.

It's a lot of work, but aren't you doing this to find and preserve your history? Isn't it worth doing well?

These are 5 clean-up tasks you can tackle. Make a start on each one so you can develop your style and be consistent. The longer you put it off, the more of a chore it becomes.


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