28 June 2019

It's Time to Tame Your Family Photos

Set your goals and dive into this photo scanning and filing project.

I may not always follow my own rules.
I may not always follow my own rules.
I have a confession to make. I may have bragged a bit recently about my super-tidy document image filing system. It is foolproof, and I do swear by it. (See "4 Important Steps for Each New Document".)

But there is one area where I've fallen flat on my face: Photographs of relatives. Not document images, but photos. I can never find the one I want when I want it.

Here's how I got myself into such a mess.

Bad Profile Photos

My husband gave me Family Tree Maker as a birthday gift in 2002. I thought a profile photo measuring 72 pixels wide by 80 pixels high was the best fit. That's very tiny! I should have been using any square photo and letting the software display it in that small box.

In the updated program, all these years later, those tiny photos aren't clear. They're stretched to fill the space. They look like low-resolution photos.

Every time I notice one of those undersized, blurry profile photos, it bothers me. I know I've got to do something about it.

You know how sometimes you know you're doing it wrong, but you just keep doing it?
You know how sometimes you know you're doing it wrong, but you just keep doing it?

Save it for Later

Ancestry.com has a feature called a Shoebox. I haven't used it much, but I like the idea. If you find something you think you need, but you're not ready to do the work, you can put it in the Shoebox. Hopefully you'll remember to go back to it another time.

I decided to have a shoebox on my computer. I created a folder on my desktop called "gen docs". Whenever I come across a document I might need, or a family photo I might want to add to my tree, I put it in that folder.

Now my gen docs folder has 17 filled sub-folders and 52 loose items. It has census forms, city directory pages, ship manifests, naturalization papers, research I did for friends, and so much more.

It's safe to say my virtual shoebox is overflowing. I need to dig in and deal with these items.

That feeling when you plan to get to it soon, but years have come and gone.
That feeling when you plan to get to it soon, but years have come and gone.

Not in the Family Tree

When I'm not shoving photos into my gen docs folder, I usually stick to my plan of:
  • naming the file for the main 1 or 2 people in it, LastnameFirstnameEventYear.jpg
  • adding a title and description to the image file's properties
  • storing it in my FamilyTree/photos folder.
But some of the images in the photos folder are not named properly. I've got mom&grandma.jpg, MomDadWedding.jpg, DadAuntLil.jpg, and so on.

Each of these photos needs to go through the process above so I can add it to my family tree.

I've got my digitized family photos in too many locations. I've lost track of them all. There's a folder called "Oct 2011 scans". That dates back to when I moved near my parents and scanned my mom's photo albums. Did I forget to do anything with them?

It's quite the mess.

So what am I going to do about it?
  • Replace those tiny profile images. Re-scan the best photo I have of the person, crop it into a square head shot, and make that their profile image.
  • Check the file names of photos in my FamilyTree/photos folder. Make sure they follow my file-naming system so I can find any photo when I need it.
  • Add images to my tree. I never meant for my gen docs folder to get so full. I have to attach these photos to my family tree.
  • Better organize my non-family tree photos. I've done a good job organizing my vacation photos. They're in folders named for the vacation (Finger Lakes Aug 2016, France-Italy Sept 2015, etc.). Most have sub-folders for the different towns we visited on that vacation. But I've got to do something about the more vague folder titles, like "old photo album" and "so miscellaneous".
  • See if I still need to scan anything in my old family photo collection. I'll evaluate them, name them properly, and put them where they belong.
This is a project I've been saving for the right weekend. Now that I've got a firm plan, this is going to happen.

Are you neglecting your family photo collection?

25 June 2019

3 Ways to Tell If That Hint is No Good

A hint is only a suggestion. It isn't how you build your family tree.

I rarely look at hints for my family tree.

That's so me, of course. Not trusting anyone to do the job the way I want it done. I know which facts I'm missing. I'd rather search for them myself, thank you.

If you look at hints, and other people's family trees, how do you decide which facts to accept and which to ignore? How do you know that hint belongs in your family tree?

First of all, don't take anything for granted. Carelessly accepting a hint could add a branch to your family tree that has no relationship to you at all.

It's your job to evaluate the hint. These 3 basic rules will help you swat away the hints that are no good for your tree.

Follow these 3 basic rules to figure out if a hint is worthless.
Follow these 3 basic rules to figure out if a hint is worthless.

1. Does the Birth Year Make Sense?

I have a family in my tree that must be related to me. But I haven't found the proof. They came from my great grandparents' tiny hometown in Italy. The patriarch, Angelo, settled in a small Pennsylvania town with my cousin. Angelo has the same last name as that cousin's grandmother—my 2nd great grandmother.

Because I have no proof, these possible family members are in my tree sporting a big blue profile image. The image says No Relationship Established. (See "How to Handle the Unrelated People in Your Family Tree".)

Feel free to use this image.
I've been collecting a decent amount of documents for this family. I have Italian birth records, ship manifests, and U.S. censuses.

This Pennsylvania family does belong to a person I found who has them in his family tree.

But he made a big mistake with them. Angelo, the patriarch of the family, was born in 1849 and married in 1878. He and his wife Teresa had children in:
  • 1879
  • 1882
  • 1884
  • 1885
  • 1890
That's all fine. But this person gave Angelo 2 more children by another mother. They were born in 1881 and 1899. Compare those years to the list above.

Is it logical that Angelo married in Teresa 1878, had a baby in 1879, then had a baby with an unnamed woman in 1881? Then he went back to his wife Teresa and had kids in 1882, 1884, 1885, and 1890? And he returned to the unnamed woman to have a baby in 1899?

Those hints aren't as smart as you are. You can make a timeline.
Those hints aren't as smart as you are. You can make a timeline.

No. It is not logical. When I checked my own family tree for these 1881 and 1899 babies, I saw the problem.

Their father was not Angelo. He was Michelangelo. Michelangelo was Angelo's brother! His wife was Marianna. The 2 babies' birth records say their parents were Michelangelo and Marianna. Not Angelo and Teresa.

But let's assume this person didn't see those babies' birth records. Maybe he figured Angelo was a nickname for Michelangelo. That's not uncommon.

But a timeline of all the children should have told him these 2 were not Angelo's children by another woman.

Their birth years did not make sense for Angelo. A timeline would show that.

Pay attention to the birth year when you review a hint.

2. Does the Location Fit Your Family Tree?

Someone added my great grandfather Giovanni to her tree. He does not belong there. She added him and some of the documents I attached to him:
  • His 1850 birth record from the town of Baselice, province of Benevento, Italy
  • His 1881 marriage record to my great grandmother Marianna in Baselice
  • His 1942 death record from Baselice that shows he's the widow of Marianna
This person made my Giovanni the father of a man with a different last name. From a different region of Italy.

Her tree has several other impossible facts, like siblings born in 1836 and 1918. (Let that sink in.) Clearly this is someone who isn't proceeding with any care at all. (See "3 Ways to Keeps Strangers Out of Your Family Tree".)

That's not you.

You wouldn't take a man whose documents show he was born, married, had 5 children, and died in one part of the country, and make him the patriarch of a family from a different region. You wouldn't make him the father of a man (whose birth year you don't even know) who has a different last name.

You know how families worked in the 1800s.

Pay attention to the location.

3. Do the Family Members Work for Your Tree?

I had a hint for a woman in my tree named Irene. I knew very little about her. She's the mother of my 2nd cousin's husband, and I have this in-law policy.

If you're an in-law who hasn't asked me to research your family, I'm only recording facts about your parents. Not your siblings. Not your grandparents.

I was open to finding birth and death facts for Irene. I decided to look at the hint so I could tell you about it.

The hint was a link to the Find A Grave website where I saw Irene's obituary. The basic facts seemed right. But I wasn't willing to accept these facts yet. Not until I saw the proof in the obituary:
  • her husband's name
  • her maiden name
  • my 2nd cousin and her husband's names
All the names were a perfect fit. Only then was I willing to record her birth and death dates in my family tree.

Pay attention to the names of the family members.

We all make mistakes in our family tree from time to time. We make typos, click the wrong thing, or go too far on a hunch. But there's no excuse for ignoring glaring mismatches in dates, places, and names.

Now that you know what to look for—and what to look out for—you can handle your hints like a pro.

21 June 2019

4 Important Steps for Each New Document

I want you to slow down and do it right the first time. It's your legacy!

Hurray! You found a 1940 census form you needed for your grandmother's first cousin with his wife and son.

How many steps do you need to take before moving on to something else? If you don't want to have any regrets later on, you should take all 4 steps below. What kind of regrets are we talking about?
  • Working to find that census again in the future, going to add it to your tree, and realizing it was there all along.
  • Thinking a relative died before the census date, then seeing you forgot to add their census facts.
Census documents are only one type of genealogy image you're going to want for your family tree. But the census is one of the most important documents, so it's a good example.

Follow these 4 steps each and every time you find a new census document for your family tree.

Genealogy is a journey. You can't take a journey without taking steps.
Genealogy is a journey. You can't take a journey without taking steps.

Step 1. Rename and Store the Image

Download the census sheet and name it for the head of household. My preferred format is LastnameFirstnameYear. Examples are:
  • AkiyamaTomoko1940.jpg
  • BlancatoSebastiano1920.jpg
  • ColabellaCarmella1925.jpg
File your document image away immediately. My system is logical and simple. Each of my census images goes right into the "census forms" folder.

Step 2. Annotate the Image

Add metadata to the image file itself. Metadata are the key facts you need to know about this document.

The way you do this on a Windows computer is to:
  • Right-click the image and choose Properties.
  • Click the Details tab.
  • Fill in the Title field with a descriptive caption for the image.
    For example, "1920 census for Sebastiano Blancato and family". Start with the year and each person's images will sort themselves chronologically.
  • Fill in the Comments field with all the details about the location and source of this image:
    • the lines numbers the family is listed on
    • the name of the document collection
    • the image's URL
    • the enumeration district, sheet number, and any other page-specific info
If you fill all that in, there's no mistaking—or forgetting—the source of this image.

Step 3. Add the Image and Facts to Your Family Tree

Attach the image to the head of household in your family tree. Now pull out all the facts you can.
  • Record a Residence fact for the head of household. "12 Jan 1920, 260 East 151st Street, Bronx, Bronx County, New York, USA."
  • Record an Occupation fact for the head of household. "19 Jan 1920, building painter in Bronx, Bronx County, New York, USA."
Everyone who lived in that household needs the facts on their census sheet.
Everyone who lived in that household needs the facts on their census sheet.

Now add the same image and Residence fact to each family member listed in that census. You don't have to attach another copy of the image to each person. The image is there, so share it with each person in the household.

See who else in the household has a job, and give them an Occupation fact.

Search for other facts that matter to you:
  • Does it say how long the couple has been married? If so, figure out their marriage year and use this census as your source.
  • Does it say when they immigrated?
  • Are they naturalized?
  • Is someone widowed?
  • Is anyone living with them who's not in the immediate family?
  • Is the wife's family in the same building?
These are all good facts to record.

Step 4. Keep Track of What You Found

Let future-you know you've got this image. I record all my found documents in a spreadsheet I call my document tracker. In the Census column, I add the year of this newly found census image to each member of the household. If I don't do this immediately, my inventory will be unreliable.

Do this as you go, and it isn't such a chore. It's worth it.
Do this as you go, and it isn't such a chore. It's worth it.

Now, Make it a Routine

If you take your time, get into this groove, and follow all the steps, you'll only handle each census image once. You'll have everything perfectly documented from the start. You'll greatly reduce your own human error. You'll save yourself from searching for documents you've already got.

I follow these rules for each type of document image I find.

If it's a birth record, I add the baby and all their facts (birth date, baptism date, birth address). I make sure I have the correct names for the parents. I decide if the parents' ages in this new document are more reliable than what I currently have for them. I add their occupations if they're included.

If it's a marriage record:
  • I record the dates of their marriage banns, license, and marriage, if available.
  • I record the bride and groom's birth dates, their parents' names and ages.
  • I note any occupations and addresses.
  • I add a title and description to each image before putting it in my family tree.
  • I attach all documents to the groom and share them with the bride.
  • Finally, I add a notation to my document tracker for both bride and groom.
When I've been adding documents to my tree all day, following all these rules, it takes quite a bit of time. When it's getting late, and I'm only able to add one more document before calling it quits, I have to steel myself. I know how important it is to the quality of my family tree that I do it right—and do it thoroughly—the first time.

Is your document-processing routine fortifying your family tree?

18 June 2019

3 Simple Rules for Managing Your Digital Genealogy Documents

My on-the-job organization skills help a lot with my genealogy research.

How did you begin this all-consuming hobby called genealogy? You may have started your simple family tree for a school project, or your kid's school project.

At some point, we each decided to get more serious about genealogy. We started looking for documents on genealogy websites. We tried to find our parents or grandparents on a census sheet, and we downloaded the images to attach to our family tree. Then we branched out. We found our grandparents' brothers and sisters living with their spouses and kids. Then we looked for ship manifests with the names of our immigrant ancestors.

It becomes addictive before you know it. Time passes, and we have a decent collection of facts and images.

Follow 3 simple rules and you'll always know where to find any digital genealogy file.
Follow 3 simple rules and you'll always know where to find any digital genealogy file.

But what do we do with all those census and ship manifest images?

I started downloading census images in 2002 when I got my Ancestry.com subscription. Seventeen years later, I have 732 census sheet images in one folder. I have 414 ship manifest images in another folder.

You may have a lot more than that. My census collection is small compared to the size of my family tree. That's because I don't have a single blood relative who was in a census-taking country before 1900.

It wasn't long before I realized I had a problem. I had to figure out how to organize the census sheets, ship manifests, and everything else I was finding. I wanted the alphabetical organization of files in folders to make it easy to find any one image.

I had to name and organize the files in a way that would always make sense to me.

GeneaLOGICAL™ Organization

These are my 3 basic rules for taming my collection of genealogy document images.
  1. Have one main FamilyTree folder. Mine backs up to a cloud automatically.
There are a limited number of genealogy document types. Filing by type makes great sense.
There are a limited number of genealogy document types. Filing by type makes great sense.
  1. Have a sub-folder for each type of document:
    • census forms
    • certificates (birth, marriage, and death documents)
    • city directories
    • draft cards (registration cards for World War I and II)
    • immigration (ship manifests)
    • military records (different than draft registration cards, these detail a person's military service)
    • naturalization (declaration of intent, petition for citizenship, and actual citizenship)
    • passports (applications)
    • photos (including grave marker photos)
There's no doubt what's where and which file is which. All it takes is a simple naming pattern.
There's no doubt what's where and which file is which. All it takes is a simple naming pattern.
  1. Name each file for the main person, last name first, and include the year. For example, in my immigration folder I have:
    • IamarinoPasquale1902.jpg. That's my great grandfather who came to America once and stayed.
    • IamarinoPietro1920-p1.jpg and IamarinoPietro1920-p2.jpg. That's my grandfather who came to America at a time when ship manifests covered two pages.
    • IamarinoPietro1958.jpg. That's Grandpa when he was a widower and went to visit his mother in Italy for the first and only time.
    In my census folder I have images named for the head of household:
    • IamarinoPasquale1910.jpg
    • IamarinoPasquale1915.jpg
    • IamarinoPasquale1920.jpg
    That's clear, right? Now here's an exception because my grandfather had a cousin with his same name:
    • IamarinoPeterLucy1930.jpg. That's Grandpa and Grandma Lucy.
    • IamarinoPeterMarie1930.jpg. That's Grandpa's cousin and his wife Marie.
    For Birth, Marriage, and Death records, it's Lastname Firstname Event Year. For example:
    • ZeollaPasqualeBirth1821.jpg. The 1821 birth record of Pasquale Zeolla.
    • MarinoFrancescoDeath1844.jpg. The 1844 death record of Francesco Marino.
    • IamarinoAngeloAntonioPozzutoAnnaelenaMarriage1817. Marriage records get the groom's name and the bride's name for clarity. Thank goodness for long file names. This is the 1817 marriage record of Angelo Antonio Iamarino and Annaelena Pozzuto
I've seen countless debates about family tree file storage. They all look too complicated to me, and not helpful at all. Some people suggest keeping the document images in folders separated by family.

If I had a separate folder for each family or each last name, I'd have an insane amount of folders. And where would I put my great grandmother before she married my great grandfather? In the Caruso folder or the Iamarino folder?

My file names would have to be much longer, too. How would I know the CarusoGiuseppe1900.jpg was a ship manifest and not a census form?

Say I need to look at my great grandmother's brother Giuseppe's 1905 New York State Census record. I know exactly where to find it. It's in the census forms folder, and it's named CarusoGiuseppe1905.jpg.

After 17 years, I haven't had a split-second of regret about my file-naming and filing system. A place for everything, and everything in its place.

Is your filing method driving you crazy? Are you wasting time trying to find the right image? Are you ready for a genealogy file do-over?

A word of warning. I use Family Tree Maker, and I let it copy all images into a single media folder. That way, anything I do to my images' names or locations has no effect on my family tree.

Your setup may be different. Don't dive into a big file naming project before testing what it will do to your genealogy program. Let's get organized!

14 June 2019

Searching for My Only Missing 3rd Great Grandparent

What can I do to find my closest unidentified ancestor?

It bothers me that I'm missing the name of only 1 of my 32 3rd great grandparents. It's amazing to have that column of my grandparent chart all filled in. But one of the spaces says "mother of Maria Luigia Muollo"—my 2nd great grandmother.

Come along with me as I try to find her.

My Muollo family comes from a tiny little hamlet called Pastene—part of a small town in southern Italy. Because the town is so small, it seemed to fly under the radar. It didn't start collecting civil records in 1809 like the rest of Italy.

All I can access on the indispensable Antenati website are:
  • 1861–1915 birth records
  • 1931–1942 death records
  • 1931–1942 marriage records
Those gaps in the record collection are enough to make me cry. I even hired a pair of Italian genealogists to go to the local church for records. What they found was wonderful. But they also discovered a huge lack of records.

I know that my 2nd great grandmother's father was Antonio Muollo. He was born in about 1818. I don't know when he died.

I've been piecing together families from the records I have. I've found only one other Muollo who's father is an Antonio. Maria Saveria Muollo was born in 1859.

Could she be my 2nd great grandmother's younger sister? There's a 16-year age difference between them. That's common in Italian families of the 19th century. And my Antonio was only about 41 when Maria Saveria was born. I know that Maria Saveria married Orazio Sarracino.

This is a TINY town. My 2nd great grandparents were Maria Luigia Muollo and Giuseppe Sarracino. If this theory pans out, the 2 Muollo sisters each married a Sarracino.

How can I prove Maria Saveria's relationship to my 2nd great grandmother, Maria Luigia?

The first step is always to gather as many documents and pieces of evidence as you can about the person. Let's see what I can learn about Maria Saveria Muollo.

To find more clues about Maria Saveria, I gathered the birth records for her children.
To find more clues about Maria Saveria, I gathered the birth records for her children.

Birth Records

I have the Pastene birth records for Maria Saveria's 9 children with Orazio Sarracino:
  • Maria Giuseppa, 1880
  • Maria Assunta, 1884
  • Antonio, 1886 (who must have died before 1892)
  • Antonia, 1889
  • Antonio, 1892
  • Francesco, 1894
  • Carmine, 1896
  • Rosaria, 1899
  • Maria Luigia, 1903
The last birth record, dated 24 November 1903, says Orazio was not present. He was domiciliato all'estero—living abroad. Sure enough, I found Orazio's 1903 ship manifest.

Immigration Records

Orazio and his daughter Maria Assunta left for New York THREE DAYS before his 9th child was born. I already can't stand this guy. Ships left for New York often. He had to leave when his wife was 9 months pregnant? Sheesh.

Orazio never sent for his wife to join him. Maybe he planned to return to Italy. Maybe he did return to Italy. Orazio died between 1910 and 1920. I don't know where.

In 1920, Maria Saveria and her 2 youngest daughters boarded a ship. They went to the Bronx to join her son Francesco. I like to think of her saying, "Who needs you? I'm going to America anyway."

This lady made that difficult voyage to America at 61 years of age.
This lady made that difficult voyage to America at 61 years of age.

Census Records

Back in the 1910 U.S. census, Orazio and his son Antonio are living in the Bronx. They're in the home of Orazio's eldest daughter Maria Giuseppa and her husband.

In the 1915 New York State Census, Antonio Sarracino is still living in the Bronx. He is married and has one child. His father is not with him.

In the 1940 U.S. census, Maria Saveria is 80 years old. She's living with her daughter Rosaria and Rosaria's family. It's amazing to find her at age 80. I would guess she didn't live a whole lot longer.

Death Records

One death record shows up on Ancestry.com that's promising. If it's Maria Saveria, she died in the Bronx in 1944 at age 84. The same record on FamilySearch.org offers more information. It says that her husband was Orazio Sarracino and her father was Antonio Muollo. It's her, alright.

But it also has the most important piece of information I'd been hoping to find: her mother's name. There it is.

Is Giuseppina Torrico my 3rd great grandmother? Is she the only 3rd great grandparent whose name I'm missing?

A check of the vital records in Pastene shows no one with that last name. Was it transcribed incorrectly because it was hard to read? What names do I have from the town that are close?

I can't accept a stranger's transcription blindly. That is not quite the right name.
I can't accept a stranger's transcription blindly. That is not quite the right name.

My best guess, without seeing the actual death certificate, is that her last name was Errico. Maybe the E was all fancy and hard to read. Errico is a fairly common name in Pastene. There used to be a neighborhood with that name in the 1860s.

After all that research, I'm left with a theory. A stronger theory than I had before. I'm still missing marriage and death certificates from Pastene, so I can't prove anything.

But perhaps—just perhaps—Maria Saveria Muollo is the younger sister of my 2nd great grandmother. And perhaps Giuseppina Errico is my missing 3rd great grandmother.

It's a good enough theory to record in my family tree.

11 June 2019

Drawing Inspiration from the Genealogy Pros

Do high-profile genealogists inspire you to do better family tree research?

If this sounds like I'm writing a grade school assignment, stick with me.

The genealogy professional I find most inspiring is Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak. She's a key researcher behind my favorite genealogy shows, "Who Do You Think You Are?" and "Finding Your Roots". She's an author and the former Chief Family Historian at Ancestry.com.

Megan works to identify the living descendants of deceased military personnel. She helps get the remains of these service members back to their homes.

Ms. Smolenyak also solves the mysteries of unclaimed bodies in the morgue. Finding living descendants is hard! You can watch a well-produced video to get a feel for Megan's work.

Megan's work with fallen military personnel reminded me of a website in my Favorites list. It's a database of Italian soldiers who died in World War I. There's another site for soldiers who died in World War II.

Long ago I searched for any Italian soldier with my maiden name who died in the first world war. I found only one: Alfonso Iamarino, born in my grandfather's hometown of Colle Sannita on 15 Feb 1892.

Alfonso's birth record and military record led to a ton of names, and our relationship.
Alfonso's birth record and military record led to a ton of names, and our relationship.

Finding living people is hard. But I should be able to identify this soldier's ancestors and siblings. My goal was to see where Alfonso fits in my family tree.

The fallen soldiers website tells me Alfonso's birth date and his father's name. The collection of the town's vital records sitting on my computer will make it easy to find his relatives.

But how will I find his relationship to me? Step by step.

Initial Facts

In 1892 when Alfonso was born, his father Pasquale was 30 years old. His mother Orsola Marino's age is not stated.

Since Pasquale was 30, I looked for and found his birth record in 1862. It even says at the bottom that he married Concetta Orsola Marino on 21 Dec 1889. I'll be sure to search for Alfonso's siblings later. But I want to go up his tree first.

Pasquale Iamarino's parents were Nicola Iamarino and Concetta Zeolla. The 1862 birth record said his parents were both 40 years old. But I couldn't find Nicola's birth record.

Don't know when a couple got married? Work your way back to their first baby.
Don't know when a couple got married? Work your way back to their first baby.

Searching Sideways

Since I couldn't find Nicola's birth record around 1822, I needed more information. If Nicola and Concetta were 40 in 1862, they should have several older children.

I checked the index of births for each year, going backwards from 1861. Nicola and Concetta's ages were so inconsistent! I found these babies:
  • Michele Arcangelo Iamarino, born 5 Apr 1859
  • Francesco Saverio Iamarino, born 19 Jan 1857
  • Giuseppantonio Iamarino, born 19 Feb 1852
  • Antonio Iamarino, born 13 Nov 1850
  • Angelantonio Iamarino, born 2 Apr 1849
I couldn't find any babies born before Angelantonio. It was time to search for Nicola and Concetta's marriage record.

I found them quickly. They married on 21 Feb 1848. The marriage records should include their birth records and their parents' names.

I found Concetta's 1824 birth record. But Nicola was different. Instead of the usual birth record, there's a 2-and-a-half-page document in hard-to-read handwriting. After staring at it for a while I was able to read it.

It says, in effect, "Oops! We can't find Nicola's birth record in the register. It isn't written there, and we don't know why. But we do know he was born in September 1819."

Family Tree Maker's color coding keeps me from overlooking these important relationships.
Family Tree Maker's color coding keeps me from overlooking these important relationships.

Making the Link

The unusual birth record for Nicola tells me who his parents were, as does his marriage record.

And that's where I found a lucky surprise. Nicola's parents were Angelo Iamarino and Anna Elena Pozzuto. Those names were familiar to me because I'd been looking at them about an hour earlier.

It turns out Nicola's sister Liberantonia was married the same day as he was. Their documents are listed one after the other in the 1948 marriage register. An hour before I found Nicola's marriage record, I discovered that Liberantonia's grandparents were my 5th great grandparents.

That makes Libera my 1st cousin 5 times removed. Her brother Nicola is also my 1st cousin 5 times removed.

Suddenly I realized Alfonso Iamarino, the only Iamarino to die in World War I, is my cousin. Alfonso's 2nd great grandparents are my 5th great grandparents. Poor Alfonso is my 3rd cousin 3 times removed.

Hey. I like this. I'm ready to choose another fallen soldier from my ancestral towns and figure out how we're related. For those of you who are of Italian descent, be sure to bookmark these sites:
How do your genealogy heroes inspire you?

07 June 2019

Let Family Tree Analyzer Find Your Duplicates Duplicates

The duplicates in your family tree aren't as easy to find as that.

I've written about the free program Family Tree Analyzer many times. It's the work of programmer and genealogy fan Alexander Bissett. See the bottom of this article for links to other articles about this software.

Today I've installed the newest version of FTA, and I'm eager to find something else to explore.

I've looked at the many options on the Errors/Fixes tab before. But this time I'm focusing only on the Duplicate Fact and Possible Duplicate Fact options.

Be sure to try the Possible Duplicate Facts option in Family Tree Analyzer.
Be sure to try the Possible Duplicate Facts option in Family Tree Analyzer.

Hopefully your list of duplicate facts won't be too long. I have 7 duplicate facts and 65 possible duplicate facts in a tree of 21,001 people. That's a reasonable amount. I can look at each one and fix the error.

As I whittle down my list of duplicate fact errors, I'm finding they fall into these categories:
  • Just plain forgetting that you already entered that fact.
  • Accidentally choosing the wrong fact type, like Marriage instead of Marriage License.
  • Adding the wrong date to a fact. This often happens to me with the 1940 U.S. census. It shows you someone's address on a date in 1940, but it also says if they were in the "same house" or "same place" in 1935. Sometimes I may paste in the 1940 date again instead of typing 1935.
  • Attaching a fact to the wrong person. I have a married couple in 1800s Italy with the respectful titles of Don and Donna. I accidentally gave both titles to the husband!

The types of duplicates formed a distinct pattern.
The types of duplicates formed a distinct pattern.

And then there are some results that are not errors. Family Tree Analyzer does call them "Possible Duplicate Facts" after all. Here's where I'm seeing that happen:
  • Duplicate marriage banns. In Italy, a couple might post marriage banns in the bride's hometown and the groom's hometown—on the same date. That looks like a mistake, but it isn't.
  • The same type of fact with no date. There are cases where I entered 2 addresses for people, but I didn't add a date. I need to go back to the source and pin down a date.
I'm very satisfied with this exercise. These are the types of errors you'd never find on your own. It's great that Family Tree Analyzer can be another set of eyes for you.

Find out what else Family Tree Analyzer can do for you.

04 June 2019

Create a Genealogy Task List to Keep Track of Loose Ends

My 12-year-old task list is a big help to my genealogy research today.

As soon as I realize I can't find a document for a person in my family tree, I make a note. I want to document that fact that I searched for this record, but I couldn't find it.

If I add a note like this to someone in Family Tree Maker, I also add a bookmark to the person. The bookmark in the index of names is a sign that there's something about this person I haven't figured out.

An even better option is to add a task to this person in Family Tree Maker. Your task list is the first thing you see each time you open your family tree file.

Document those unfinished tasks and family mysteries. Some day you may find the answer.
Document those unfinished tasks and family mysteries. Some day you may find the answer.

If you don't use Family Tree Maker, look for similar options in your genealogy software. If all else fails, you can keep a text file of all the little family history mysteries you'd like to solve one day. You might want to list them alphabetically by the person's name, and add the date you recorded the note.

Let's look at one of my tasks and what I can do to solve it.

Teofilo Iamarino was my great grandfather's brother. The task I recorded for him 7 years ago is, "Did he stay in the US? Check for 1910, 1920 census." Let's see what I do know about my 2nd great uncle Teofilo:

  • I have his Italian birth record from 1876.
  • I have his Italian marriage record from 1896.
  • I have his February 1909 ship manifest. He arrived in Boston, but headed to New York with my great grandfather and other relatives. My great grandfather came to America a handful of times, worked, and went back to Italy.
  • I have Teofilo back in Italy for the October 1912 birth of his son. He has to have been in Italy since at least January 1912.
  • I have his 1918 U.S. World War I draft registration card when he lived in Detroit, Michigan. The card says his nearest relative is his wife in Italy. I'm a little surprised that he had to register. He was a non-declarant alien who had no plans of becoming a U.S. citizen.
  • I have him in Italy for the July 1923 birth of his daughter. He has to have been in Italy since at least October 1922.
Each document you find may be a clue that leads you to the next.
Each document you find may be a clue that leads you to the next.

That timeline of known events tells me:

  • He may have been in New York for the 1910 census.
  • He may have been in Detroit for the 1920 census.

I'm not sure if I ever looked for Teofilo in Michigan, so I can check the U.S. census and include his Detroit address.


When I take out the Michigan address and hope to find Teofilo anywhere in 1910, I also get no results.

I can do a broad search for any documents I don't already have. I can leave off his last name and search for any Teofilo born in Italy in 1876.

Hurray, I found something new! I found Teofilo and 3 other men from his hometown arriving in New York in September 1913. According to the documents, he was in Italy in 1912. But he returned to New York for more work, leaving his wife to care for their young children.

In 1913 Teofilo returned to his brother Giuseppe's home in the Bronx. That's the same Giuseppe my great grandfather often returned to. It's the same Giuseppe my dad lived with as a toddler.

But wait! There's more. On the ship manifest, when asked if he had been in the U.S. before, Teofilo says yes, he was in New York from 1909–1911. That bit of information goes straight to the question I've been trying to answer: Was Teofilo in the United States for the 1910 census? If this ship manifest is right, then yes, Teofilo should have been in New York for the 1910 census.

I don't know why he's in Detroit, but now I know when he was in New York.
I don't know why he's in Detroit, but now I know when he was in New York.

Teofilo's brother Giuseppe has no boarders living with him in the 1910 census. It's only Giuseppe, his wife and daughter. Is Teofilo in another household nearby?

I can return to Giuseppe's 1910 census online because I always note exactly where I found an image. I can go page-by-page looking for Teofilo.

I love paging through a Bronx neighborhood in the census. I recognize most of the last names. They're names from my ancestral hometowns, or they're names of my parents' friends and neighbors.

Unfortunately, Teofilo was not in that 56-page census collection. But I can look at other collections that are in the same general neighborhood. The important thing is, I now have reason to believe Teofilo is there.

Before I look for more documents, I want to check out the other townsmen with Teofilo on that ship in 1913. One of them, Francesco Pozzuto, is a good fit with someone in my family tree. He may be the father of a woman who is a critical DNA match. She and her son are DNA matches to both my father and my mother. I'm adding a note and a bookmark to him right now.

This example shows the value of creating these tasks or bookmarks. Years can go by. Without that note, I wouldn't have realized I needed to do more research on Teofilo Iamarino. There are literally 21,000 other people in my family tree.

But today I felt like looking at my task list in Family Tree Maker. And I wound up discovering a ship manifest for Teofilo with a very important clue.

Genealogy is a long game. Leave detailed notes for future-you whenever you can.