17 September 2019

This Chart Finds Hidden Relationships in Your Family Tree

My intertwined, overlapping, twisted family tree just got a new tool.

It seems that 98% of the people with my maiden name have roots in one town in Southern Italy. Colle Sannita is the birthplace of the Iamarino name. (See Where Did Grandpa Come From? to learn how important your ancestor's hometown is.)

So when I noticed Maria Cristina Iamarino, born in 1863, married a man named Paolucci, I had to dig deeper.

Many of my DNA match's relationships connect to the name Paolucci. It's a prevalent name in Colle Sannita. Most of these relationships connect to my great aunt's in-laws. My Great Aunt Assunta Iamarino married Donato Paolucci, and his family is enormous. That time I connected my dad to his best friend it was through that same Paolucci family.

Maria Cristina Iamarino is my 1st cousin 4 times removed. Her grandparents are my 4th great grandparents.

Her husband is Francesco Saverio Paolucci. In Family Tree Maker, I see that his great grandparents are my 5th great grandparents. They are Pietro and Carmina.

As a direct descendant of my 5th great grandparents, he does have a blood relationship to me. I thought I'd find it by using Family Tree Maker's Relationship Calculator.

The Relationship Calculator in Family Tree Maker isn't taking everything into consideration.
The Relationship Calculator in Family Tree Maker isn't taking everything into consideration.

While viewing Francesco Saverio Paolucci in my tree, I can click Tools / Relationship Calculator. In the Relationship section there is a pull-down menu listing our relationships:
  • husband of 1st cousin 4x removed
  • father-in-law of 2nd great aunt
That's no good. Neither one is a blood relationship, and he's the great grandchild of my ancestors. I know our common ancestors are in my paternal grandmother's line because I use color-coding.

A combination of tools helped me find our hidden relationship.

Using the Relationship Calculator I can compare Lucy Iamarino (my grandmother) to:
  • Pietro Piacquadio. He is her 3rd great grandfather. So far, so good. Now to his son.
  • Donato Piacquadio. He is Lucy's 3rd great uncle because he's the brother of her 2nd great grandmother. Now to his daughter.
  • Angela Piacquadio. She is Lucy's 1st cousin 3x removed. Next is her son.
  • Francesco Saverio Paolucci. That's where the Relationship Calculator fails. It shows only in-law relationships and finds no common relative. But I can see their common ancestors!
What I need is a chart that can help me put a name to distant relationships. I found one, and using it is a real mind-bender partly because of its diamond shape. Using the chart I found that:
  • Lucy and Francesco Saverio are 2nd cousins 2x removed.
  • Francesco Saverio and I are 2nd cousins 4x removed. Of course that makes sense because I'm a 2-generation descendant of Lucy, his 2nd cousin 2x removed. My dad has to be (and is, per the chart) Francesco Saverio's 2nd cousin 3x removed.
Here's another challenge with this family that I'd like to solve. If I can figure this out, I can stop missing out on distant cousin relationships.

Francesco Saverio Paolucci (my 2nd cousin 4x removed) and his wife Maria Cristina Iamarino (my 1st cousin 4x removed) had 2 sons who married sisters from my grandfather's family. (If you're going insane already, add this: My paternal grandparents are 3rd cousins, both named Iamarino.)

The 2 sons (Giovanni and Antonio) are my 3rd cousins 3x removed. Their wives (Carmela and Maria Maddalena) are my 2nd great aunts.

Since the 2 men are on my paternal grandmother's side, and the 2 women are on my paternal grandfather's side, I should have multiple relationships to their kids. I happened to meet one of the sons of Antonio and Carmela—as well as his son—in their home in Colle Sannita in 2005. Antonio and Carmela's son is my 1st cousin 2x removed, but let's see what else he is.

The Family Tree Maker Relationship Calculator won't even try to call him anything but my 1st cousin 2x removed. But the chart I found doesn't give up. As the son of Antonio, he is also my 4th cousin 2x removed. And his son, who is my 2nd cousin 1x removed on his mother's side, is my 5th cousin 1x removed on his father's side.

The chart is on Wikimedia. Zoom in on it before you lose your mind.

I also found a calculator that let's you skip the running-2-fingers-along-the-chart step. To use this calculator, choose a common ancestor for you and the person you want to figure out. I'll use the calculator to figure out my relationship to the man I met in Italy who is my 2nd cousin 1x removed on his mother's side. We're roughly the same age.

In the calculator I enter that I'm the 5th great grandchild of the common ancestor (Pietro/Carmina). The man I met is the 4th great grandchild of the same ancestor. The calculator says we are 5th cousins 1x removed. It gives me the option of seeing a relationship chart. While I appreciate the visual, it took me 3 tries to get the right chart. So I made my own version in Excel. You can download my chart for yourself. If you want to make it fit on a piece of paper, you'll have to give up some generations.

I made an easier-to-use chart to figure out distant relationships.
I made an easier-to-use chart to figure out distant relationships.

I'm not sure this will solve my problem with DNA matches who only map to an in-law. But if there's a common ancestor hiding in my tree, all secrets will be revealed.

What got me started on this topic was a new discovery. I've been talking about here Francesco Saverio Paolucci. Well, all I knew about his mother was her name was Angela Piacquadio. I hadn't found her parents yet. When I did find them, Angela went from one of those long in-law relationships to my 1st cousin 5x removed.

That's how I learned Francesco Saverio Paolucci was the great grandson of my 5th great grandparents.

That's how all these cascading relationships changed.

Take a look at your family tree. Who is missing parents because you haven't looked for them yet? Are their parents are already waiting there in your family tree?

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13 September 2019

Naturalization Papers Answer Many Genealogy Questions

You may have been born into citizenship. Your ancestor has another story.

If you have an immigrant ancestor, you may have some papers waiting for you. Has your family been in your country for a small number of generations? Then you may be able to find your ancestor's naturalization papers.

Naturalization and citizenship documents can offer a lot of hard facts. Say your immigrant had a spouse and kids when they filed for citizenship. You may find each family member's name and birth date/place listed out for you.

And you may find a card certifying the exact date your ancestor arrived, and the name of the ship that brought them. With that information, you have a much better chance of finding their ship manifest.

Yesterday I was paging through naturalization records looking for my grandfather. I have his papers, but I wanted to find a cleaner image from another source. (I did.)

While searching, I saw a familiar name: Giovanni Antonio Basile. It gave his birth date. It gave his hometown—my Grandpa's hometown of Colle Sannita. He's in my family tree!

If you can find your ancestor's naturalization papers, you'll find a ton of facts.
If you can find your ancestor's naturalization papers, you'll find a ton of facts.

Here are the main facts from his papers:
  • He was born in Colle Sannita on 22 Feb 1894. I have his birth record, but if I didn't, this would help.
  • He arrived at Ellis Island on 15 Oct 1920 aboard the Adriatic. I already knew this, but imagine if I didn't. With the date and ship name, he can't hide.
  • He lived in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, and worked at a tube mill. That's interesting. He got here a month before Grandpa. But this is the same town and steel tube mill where my grandfather lived and worked at the very same time. Giovanni and Grandpa have the same 2 witnesses on their papers.
  • He left for America not from Naples, but from Cherbourg, France. Grandpa did the same!
  • His wife was Giovannina Galasso, born on 20 March 1900. This checks out. I have her birth record, too.
  • His son Giorgio was born in Italy on 29 January 1921. This is new information. I knew Giorgio existed because I have his 1927 ship manifest when he came to America with his mom. I have him in the 1930 and 1940 censuses, too. But I never had his birth date, and 1921 Italian birth records are too recent to access. Armed with his birth date, I immediately found his obituary and military information.
Behold the power of naturalization records.

Some naturalization papers give you facts you can't find anywhere else.
Some naturalization papers give you facts you can't find anywhere else.

My grandfather's naturalization papers took me by surprise when I first saw them. I didn't know he was ever in western Pennsylvania. By this time he'd been in New York City, and with his uncle outside Boston. He may have followed some of his Italian townsmen to work at the steel tube mill.

Grandpa has one extra naturalization document that's different. It's a card with a handwritten date of 26 March 1952. The card repeats several facts about his naturalization, including:
  • His 1927 Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, address
  • His naturalization date of 24 February 1927
  • The certificate, volume and document number of his naturalization. (His document number is 68535 while Giovanni's is 68525.)
The card also says he is now 49 years old (in 1952) and has been in Ohio for 1 year. That last fact is important to me. I was never sure exactly when he and my grandmother moved from New York to Ohio. It looks like it was 1951.

His signature is still a shocker to me. It's exactly like my father's signature, right down to the circles over the i's. I had to ask my father if he had forged it!

Finding your ancestor's naturalization papers is hard if you can't search an index. You need to know which district court they went to. You need to know which year. And you may not find them.

I'm having no luck with my other grandfather. I do know which district court he would have gone to. And I can narrow the time frame down to 1925–1927. You see, all I've found is an index card with nothing but his name on it.

If you have very little to go on, consider this:
  • The index card with his name on it is from a collection dated 1914–1927.
  • He was in New York City from mid-1914 to mid-1915.
  • He went back to fight in World War I for the Italian Army, so I doubt he'd applied for U.S. citizenship.
  • He was a prisoner of war for a year and recovering for 2 years, so he didn't get back to America until 1920.
  • His 1925 New York State Census says he's an alien.
Those facts narrow down the 1914–1927 index card collection to mid-1925–1927 for me. So far I've hurt my wrist clicking through 800 pages. That was about a week's worth of New York City naturalization papers!

If you need to do a manual search:
  • Go to FamilySearch.org and Search the Catalog.
  • Enter your ancestor's state
  • On the results page, refine your search by clicking Keywords and entering Naturalization
  • From there choose either naturalization and citizenship or the index.
  • To figure out the right district, Google those in the list (such as Ohio Southern District Court). See if they covered your ancestor's town.
  • When you've got that, keep clicking your options. Hopefully you'll have a long list of choices, each labelled with a date range, document range, or town name.
Then, start clicking through the pages. And clicking. And clicking. If you find your ancestor, I promise your wrist will stop hurting.

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10 September 2019

A Foundation for Your Genealogy Research Process

A new genealogist is born every day. Do they all know what to do? Not yet!

In the side panel of this blog there is a 3-question content survey. That's where I ask you what kinds of subject matter you'd like to find here. Some readers have asked for an all-in-one family tree tutorial.

At first I thought that wasn't possible. It's too vast. Many of my articles go in-depth on a specific part of genealogy, like:
Whether you're new to genealogy or dove into the deep end, a "start-to-finish genealogy process" would help.

So let's boil down the idea of family tree research to the basics.

Start With Yourself


Imagine a very old fence made of stones. You can't build the top row of stones without the foundation beneath it, right? Well, don't expect to find your 2nd great grandfather without the foundation of his descendants.

Building a family tree is a one-generation-at-a-time process.

Each time you add a generation you gain more facts. Those facts tell you where to look for more information.

As you add family members, think about all the types of documents you may find:
  • census records (right now the most recent U.S. census available is from 1940)
  • vital records (birth, marriage, death)
  • church records (baptism and other sacraments)
  • public records (street address, yearbooks, newspaper articles)
  • military records (draft registrations and military service)
  • citizenship records (immigration and naturalization)
Search for and gather every type of record you can.

Ready-made family trees are NOT what you want. You want the documents.
Ready-made family trees are NOT what you want. You want the documents.

Keep Track of All Sources


As you gather each document, immediately capture its source information.

Let's say you're using Ancestry.com to find your father or grandfather in the 1940 U.S. census. You can click "View Image" to see the document. But in the search results you can also click the words "1940 United States Federal Census". Beneath the listing of facts you'll see "Source Citation" and "Source Information". Copy that text and store it as the citation for the census image.

If you find a document on FamilySearch.org, click the listing (not the camera). Look for "Document Information" in the right-hand column. You'll find a handy "Citing this Record" section to copy.

Be Logical


Imagine you've gathered every possible document for your grandfather's immediate family. Take a close look at the family grouping. Are there any facts that don't make sense?
  • Do you have children born before their parents were old enough, or after a parent died? (Neat trick: a recently dead man can have a baby.)
  • Was one child born in a different place even though there's no sign the family ever moved?
Be logical and avoid publishing bad information. If something is illogical, search for more evidence to prove it right or wrong.

Move Up One Generation at a Time


Say you found your grandparents' marriage certificate. It may tell you where they living at that time. It may have each of their parents' names and place of birth. Those names and birthplaces are the foundation you need to build the next course of your stone fence.

I have my maternal grandparents 1922 marriage certificate. It says my grandfather and my 4 maternal great grandparents were born in Italy.

Knowing that, I was ready to pinpoint their hometowns. When you reach a foreign-born generation, search for immigration and naturalization records.

The joy of a well-timed migration: tons of clues for your descendants.
The joy of a well-timed migration: tons of clues for your descendants.

Ship manifests for your immigrant ancestors—if they are from a certain range of years—are crucial. You may learn the foreign hometown of your ancestor. You may learn the name of that ancestor's relative: father, mother, spouse, or more. These are the clues you need to go back another generation.

Be Methodical and Thorough


Try to "close out" each family unit before moving on. Gather every possible document for them. Make note of what you haven't found yet (like that one elusive census year) so you can try again in the future.

Pay close attention to the evidence. My 3rd great grandfather from Italy was a problem for me. I knew which town the family came from. I found birth records for all his children. I found his wife's birth record and her parents' names.

But I couldn't find his birth record. I knew he was born in about 1813, but there was no record of his birth.

Then I found the clue I needed. In his 1840 marriage record it clearly says he was born in another town. The neighboring town. That's why I couldn't find him or his siblings. I was looking in the wrong town.

Each document you find may have the answer to a mystery. My 2nd great uncle's World War II draft registration card had a critical clue I needed. The name of the town where he was born. His parents and his siblings, it turns out, were not from that town. But by searching that town's vital records, I discovered where his parents came from. And that cracked open that branch of the family.

Those are the basics. As you progress I've got tons of advice for ways to get and stay organized. And only after you've gone pretty far with your tree will you be able to find the connection to your DNA matches. In most cases, they're the icing on your cake. But you have to bake that cake.

Please see the Genealogy Lessons link on my blog for lots more articles listed by topic.

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06 September 2019

Help Your DNA Match Expand their Family Tree

Show your DNA match who's the genealogist in the family!

You've probably got more genealogy skills than many of your DNA matches. If you want to figure out your connection, why not do some of the work for them? We all complain about our matches' missing or flimsy trees. Let's put some more leaves on their trees.

It helps if you can spot the best place to dive in.

My dad and I have one DNA match, Annie, who shares 44 cMs (centiMorgans) with him and (surprisingly) 43 cMs with me. Annie has a very small family tree posted. It doesn't have a lot of facts. But 5 of the 13 people in the tree have my 2nd great grandmother's last name.

That's our only apparent connection: the last name Girardi. Now, I know that name comes from more than one part of Italy. Former Yankees manager Joe Girardi's ancestors came from up north. My people are all from southern Italy.

But that name is the place for me to dive in.

If you're a genealogy warrior, why not help your DNA match find their missing link to you?
If you're a genealogy warrior, why not help your DNA match find their missing link to you?

I decided to see if Annie's Girardi ancestor was born in my 2nd great grandmother's town. Annie's tree had no date for Luciano Girardi's birth. But it had a December 1900 date for Luciano's wife. I went to my folder of 1900 birth records from the town of Pescolamazza.

There she was: Lorenza Immacolata Viglione. And in the margin of her birth record was the date of her marriage to Luciano Girardi.

Now I was sure this Girardi family was from my Girardi family's hometown. And it's a small town, not a city.

I went year by year, checking each birth index for Luciano Girardi. I found him in 1892 and held my breath. Was he a fit for my family tree?

Both his father and his mother were named Girardi. Even though neither of his parents were in my tree, I had my marching orders. Because of his birth year, one of Luciano's parents might be my 2nd great grandmother's 1st cousin.

Let's play a little game, shall we?

Annie seems to be the child of Luciano. That'd put her close to my father's age, just for reference.

Imagine Luciano's parent is my 2nd great grandmother's 1st cousin. If so, Annie's 3rd great grandparents are my father's 4th great grandparents. She would be my father's 3rd cousin once removed. (I had to draw it to make sense of it.)

I couldn't do this in my head if I tried. A drawing helped me understand the theoretical relationship.
I couldn't do this in my head if I tried. A drawing helped me understand the theoretical relationship.

Ancestry DNA estimates Dad and Annie are 4th–6th cousins. I checked the "consanguinity relationship chart" from Family Tree UK that I mentioned last week. With their shared 44 cMs of DNA, Annie and my dad could most likely be:
  • 1st cousins 4 times removed
  • 2nd cousins twice removed
  • 2nd cousins 3 times removed
  • 3rd cousins
Each of the above relationships has the exact same probability based on the numbers.

Now let's add in the "divide by 68" rule from last week. Dividing their shared 44 cMs by 68 tells me that Dad and Annie share .647%, and Annie and I share .632% of our DNA. Wow. We share such a small percentage of DNA with our not-so-distant-cousins. Even 2nd cousins share only about 3.125% of their DNA.

I sent Annie a link to Luciano and Lorenza's Italian birth records. But I need to keep researching. I need to investigate these new Girardi names. I need to find Italian documents for them and hope to connect them to my family.

Knowing your possible relationship to a DNA match won't solve the puzzle. As you do the genealogy research, keep those possible relationships in mind. Draw yourself a diagram. You can solve many of your DNA relationships this way.

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03 September 2019

Same Name; Which Ancestor is Which?

It isn't only John Smiths that get mixed up. Naming customs are to blame.

No matter what ethnicity or nationality you ancestors were, you've probably seen this.

Everybody has the same name!

Many cultures followed a naming pattern that led to repeating names over and over. (Go to the FamilySearch Wiki and search for "naming customs" to see the rules.)

Here's an example. Imagine a man named Giuseppe Bianco whose father was Giovanni. Giuseppe names his 1st son Giovanni after his father. He names his 2nd son Salvatore after his wife's father. When young Giovanni and Salvatore grow up, they each name their 1st son Giuseppe after their father. No you've got 2 first cousins each named Giuseppe Bianco.

Now imagine that type of thing happening in every branch of your family, over and over again. The repeated names can drive any genealogy researcher crazy.

Picture yourself searching for a record of someone with a common name. How will you know you've found the right person?

Dates, Relatives, and More Documents


Search for your person in a wide array of years. Even if you think you know their birth year, check a bunch of surrounding years. Make note of every other person with the same or similar name. Who were their parents? Who did they marry?

Can't find an ancestor in the year you expected? Check a number of surrounding years.
Can't find an ancestor in the year you expected? Check a number of surrounding years.

Search for every related document you can. Find other records that include the person's age to help you estimate their birth year. Examples are their children's births and marriages, and their death. Carefully consider every fact you find before deciding which one is your ancestor.

This past weekend I was building a family tree for a client. I was off to a good start because she knew several ancestors' names. When I found a birth record, I could see that the baby's parents matched the names my client gave me.

But one ancestor, let's call her Giulia Russo, was a problem. I couldn't find a birth record for her or her father. I did find Giulia's 1911 marriage record. It told me her parents' names (Francesco and Maria) and her approximate birth year.

I continued piecing together the rest of the family. Giulia and her father Francesco were the only 2 people missing a birth record. Actually, I found more than one birth record for a baby named Francesco Russo. But they were born so much earlier than Giulia's mother.

How could I know which Francesco Russo was the right one?

I needed Giulia's birth record so I could get an idea of when her father Francesco was born. Based on her marriage record, she should have been born in 1887 or 1888. She wasn't.

I had to assume they got Giulia's age wrong on her marriage record. I broadened my search and found the only baby girl with a name even close to Giulia Russo. She was born in late 1884. She was actually 26 when her marriage record said she was 23.

But I knew it was her. Why? Because I'd checked a wide range of years in 2 towns and this "Giulia Maria Russo" was the only option. She had the right parents. Their names matched those on the marriage record.

Finally I was able to say with some confidence that her father Francesco Russo was born in about 1842. That's much earlier than his wife, and much earlier than I'd expected.

I searched birth records from 1837 through 1865 looking for every Francesco Russo. I found only two. But they each had a problem. They each had a note saying who he married and when. And neither bride was Giulia's mother.

But Giulia's birth record put her father's birth year at 1842. The 2 Francesco's I found were born in 1842 and 1848. I took another look at the Francesco Russo born in 1842.

As a rule, it's always a good idea to search records in the surrounding years.
As a rule, it's always a good idea to search records in the surrounding years.

When I considered everyone's ages, it became clear to me. The 1870 marriage to another woman written on his birth record was his 1st marriage. His 1st wife must have died before he married Giulia's mother Maria. Maria was 22 years younger than Francesco. She was 6 years old when he married the 1st time.

When Francesco married his 2nd wife, she was very young. She gave birth to their daughter Giulia at the age of 20. Ideally I'd want proof that Francesco's 1st wife died before Giulia was born. But the record isn't available. Neither is the marriage record for Francesco and Maria.

I searched a range of years for his 1st wife's death. No luck.

But I had one more ace up my sleeve. I could search for all the babies Francesco had with his 1st wife and see if they end by 1884. When the babies stop coming, that could be when his 1st wife died.

I found 4 babies born to Francesco and his 1st wife from 1872–1880. I kept searching, knowing that Giulia (the daughter of Francesco's 2nd wife) was born in 1884.

Good news! From 1881 to 1883 there no more babies for the 1st wife. Plus there was an 1883 baby born to the other Francesco Russo and his wife. The better clue came in 1885. A year after Francesco had a baby with his 2nd wife, the other Francesco Russo had another baby with his only wife.

This proves to me that I chose the right Francesco Russo.

In my experience with 19th century Italians, widows always remarried—sometimes awfully fast. And a man usually married a much younger woman and continued making the babies.

Francesco's experience fit perfectly into this mold. It's the same exact experience my 2nd great grandfather had. He married his 1st wife and had several children. Then his wife died. He quickly remarried, choosing a young lady who was his eldest daughter's age! Thank goodness he did, because that young 2nd wife was my 2nd great grandmother.

You won't always be 100% sure you've identified the right ancestor. But if you seek out as much information as possible, you're bound to have more success.


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