28 April 2020

Combine DNA Tools to Calculate Unknown Relationships

The GEDmatch website has lots of intriguing tools for you to try. First you need to upload the raw DNA file you downloaded from your DNA testing site.

If your parents have the same general background, try the "Are your parents related?" link. It examines your DNA for segments you inherited from both your parents. On my chromosome 2 there's a 7.6 centiMorgan (cM) segment that seems to come from both my parents.

That's definitely my dumbed-down version of the calculation. But it says, "This analysis indicates that your parents may be distantly related."

GEDmatch showed my parents may be related. But how?
GEDmatch showed my parents may be related. But how?

I discovered this quite a while ago, and I've since had both my parents submit a DNA test. Here and there I've been seeing DNA matches that they share. The most shocking one is my 1st cousin. He's my mother's sister's son, yet he's a DNA match to my dad!

Because of all this, I've been hoping to find an actual connection between my parents. Either a shared ancestor or an intermingled bloodline. Both their families came from a small area in Italy. All their ancestral towns neighbored one another. It's possible their entire relationship may be nothing but endogamy. That's what you get when a small population keeps intermarrying for hundreds of years.

But I keep searching for the answer.

There's another GEDmatch tool called the "One-to-one Autosomal DNA Comparison." I ran it to compare each of my parents' DNA kits to one another. The result was a table showing the 4 chromosomes where they shared 7 or more cMs.

The table doesn't make it terribly clear how many cMs my parents share, but there's a 2nd tool that's more helpful. I launched the DNA Painter website and logged in to my account. In the Tools menu I chose the Individual Match Filter at the bottom. Here you can paste in that results chart from GEDmatch to see the number of cMs these 2 people share.

The result was a very fast and clear 42 shared cMs. I can take that number and consult a consanguinity chart. That's a chart that tells you possible relationships based on the number of shared cMs.

After GEDmatch, you can use DNA Painter and a consanguinity chart for more analysis.
After GEDmatch, you can use DNA Painter and a consanguinity chart for more analysis.

You may not find the exact number of cMs you're looking for on the chart. The closest numbers I see to 42 are 26.56 and 53.13. My target of 42 is a bit closer to the higher number. So I'll focus on 53.13 in the chart.

Here's what I see as possible relationships with 53.13 shared cMs.

Option 1: 1st cousins 4 times removed

My parents are the same generation and the same age. That makes it unlikely that they could have more than 1 or 2 "removals" in their relationship. Their parents and grandparents were all about the same age. I'm going to rule out the 1st cousins 4 times removed option.

Option 2: 2nd cousins 2 times removed

For this to be true, their shared ancestors would be 1st great grandparents of one and 3rd great grandparents of the other. This 2-generation span might work if you had very young parents in one branch and very old parents in another.

For instance, my grandfather was 20 years older than his sister. So his sister's children are around my age even though they're my dad's 1st cousins. But spanning 2 generations while being the same age also feels like too much of a stretch. Not impossible, but pretty unlikely.

Option 3: 3rd cousins

If my parents were 3rd cousins, they'd share a pair of 2nd great grandparents. I know that isn't true because I've identified all their 2nd great grandparents. But remember, they share a bit less than 53.13 cMs, so they may have something less than a 3rd cousin relationship. What if there's a marriage between a pair of their 2nd great grandparents' siblings?

That sounds like a good option. It's something that is possible since their hometowns were close to one another. And it isn't something I've been able to rule out.

Now I need a research plan.
  • I can continue harvesting facts from my downloaded collection of Italian vital records.
  • I can focus on finding the marriages of as many of those siblings as possible. This generation was born and married before the Italian government began keeping records. But if I can find their death records, I'll know who they married.
  • I can start by finding dead ends on my family tree. For example, one set of mom's 2nd great grandparents is Antonio Bozza and Angela Cece. I know Angela's ancestors, but I found only 1 of her siblings. And all I know about Antonio is his father's name. If I work to identify more of their family members, maybe I'll find someone who's spouse is from one of dad's towns.
  • My grandparent chart lists all their 2nd great grandparents (my 3rd great grandparents). I'll review these 16 couples to see which of their families need more sibling research.
  • I'll continue investigating the couples, ruling out some, and narrowing down the list.
I'll use my grandparent chart and narrow down my search among their 2nd great grandparents' siblings.
I'll use my grandparent chart and narrow down my search among their 2nd great grandparents' siblings.

I've been jumping around in my research a lot lately. It's all been fun. I spent Saturday adding 3 generations to my 2nd cousin once removed's tree at his request.

But I would like to exhaust all possibilities on my parents' DNA relationship.

Even if your parents aren't related, be sure to explore the tools on GEDmatch—and take advantage of DNA Painter—to see what else you can learn about your ancestry.

23 April 2020

What Does Your Brick Wall Look Like?

Everyone who dabbles in family tree building has hit one or more brick walls.

After thinking about my own dead ends, I realized brick walls fall into a few main categories. I've named 4 of them below. Each type has several potential brick wall-busting documents. Have you found them all?

Focus on the type of brick wall, then think of all the documents than can break it down.
Focus on the type of brick wall, then think of all the documents than can break it down.

Brick Wall #1: What Was Her Maiden Name?

Can you imagine if women all around the world kept their maiden name for life? That's what women in Italy do. But I suppose if that were the case, our brick walls would be What Was Her Married Name?

If you have a female with a missing maiden name, and you can't find her death record, do all you can to find these documents:
  • A marriage record under her married name.
  • The death record for each of her children. One or more may have her maiden name.
  • Social Security applications and pension records. I found a mangled version of my 2nd great grandmother's maiden name this way. It pointed me in the right direction.
  • Obituaries for close family members. I haven't found an obit for any of my relatives beyond my parents' generation. But you may get lucky.
Brick Wall #2: Who Were Their Parents?

Let's say you've got this relative in the 1900 U.S. Census, but you don't know who their parents were. Maybe it's a woman with no maiden name available. Or a man with such a common name, you can't be sure which man is him.

Be sure to do an exhaustive search for all these documents:
  • Their death record. Beware: the person who supplied the information on the death record may not have known the facts you want. (See 27 Key Facts to Extract From a Death Certificate.)
  • Draft registration cards or other military records. I found the World War II missing flight record for my uncle who crashed and died. It lists the name and address of the nearest relative of all 10 crew members. (See Was Your Ancestor in the Military? It May Not Matter.)
  • Every census record. Their parent may be living with them.
  • Passport applications.
  • Citizenship papers. Sometimes you'll find a lot of very specific family details on these documents.
  • Immigration records. There's definitely a sweet spot for immigration records. If they immigrated earlier than the late 1890s, you may not learn any more than which country they came from.
Brick Wall #3: Where Did They Come From?

Someone asked for my help with this type of brick wall recently. Their ancestor had a clearly made-up name and seemed to drop right out of the sky.

All we could do was search for the following types of records:
  • Their immigration record. (He came here too early for details.)
  • Citizenship papers.
  • A marriage record. This may list only the person's country of origin, but sometimes it includes the town.
  • Their death record. If you're lucky, the informant knew the deceased's parents' names.

Just like it takes many bricks to make a wall, it takes many facts and documents to tear down that wall.
Just as it takes many bricks to make a wall, it takes many facts and documents to tear down that wall.

Brick Wall #4: Where Did They Go?
This is the type of brick wall on my mind this week. Where did my grandfather's younger brother go? I have nothing but his birth record, so I started thinking about everything else I can search for:
  • His marriage record. There isn't one available from his Italian hometown, but he may have married:
    • during a year with no marriage records available
    • in another town, or
    • not at all.
  • His death record. There is no record of his death in his hometown in the years with available documents.
  • An immigration record. My great uncle's name was Noé—that's Noah in English—Leone. There isn't a single record of any kind for any variation of his name anywhere. Only his Italian birth record. That finding rules out all other main genealogy documents for this uncle.
  • Military records. I checked to see if my uncle died in Italy in World War I or World War II. He did not. There's a Benevento province website where I can look up all the Italian men with military service—which was all the men. Since Noé isn't listed there, it's very likely he died before he turned 20 years old. Unfortunately, his town's 1910–1915 death records are not available online. Someday I'll return to the Benevento Archives and search the death records in person.

Did my great uncle leave town forever? I don't know what became of him.
Did my great uncle leave town forever? I don't know what became of him.

This may not be a complete list. But seeing brick walls boiled down to their basic types should help you know what your options are. If you can't retrieve the records you need on your own, consider seeking a professional's help. I hired a pair of researchers in Italy to gather church records from my ancestors' town. I've actually been to that church, but I wasn't able to access their records on my own.

People often comment that "not all genealogy records are online." I wish they were! Even when the world wasn't screeching to a halt, I wasn't able to travel anywhere at any time. I'd like to spend a few days researching in Hornell, New York. And a few days in Girard, Ohio. And months on end in several small towns in Italy. But I don't want my family tree work to wait for future research trips.

When Italian vital records came online 3 years ago, my tree blossomed in countless directions. It's my hope that Italy will digitize their parish records in my lifetime. But if that doesn't happen, I'm satisfied that I've done all I can to break through my brick walls. For now.

21 April 2020

How to Identify Relatives in an Old Photo

Can acting like a detective unlock the mysteries of your old photos?

Two photographs in my late aunt's collection have Italian inscriptions on the back. These black and white photos seem to belong together because the handwriting looks the same.

How can I figure out who these mystery relatives are when there's no one alive to ask? Let's see how far I can get with logic.

Are there enough clues to figure out who these relatives may be?
Are there enough clues to figure out who these relatives may be?

First we have an elderly woman and man holding hands. They look very "old country" to me. Behind them is an old-fashioned TV set with 2 dials. The woman is leaning on an appliance that may be a short refrigerator. I can read "LANDIA 123" on its front. I had no luck finding a brand name ending in "landia".

The man has a handkerchief folded neatly in his suit jacket pocket. He's holding a cigarette European style: with the burning tip hidden in his palm.

I'd guess this black and white photo is from the early 1960s. That's based on the TV set, the woman's clothes, and the similarity to my own family photos of that era.

On the back it says, "ricordo di tua sorella e cognato; tua sorella di anni 74, tuo cognato di anni 77." That means "remember your sister and brother-in-law; your 74-year-old sister, your 77-year-old brother-in-law." If it were taken in 1962, the woman would have been born in 1888.

The other photo shows a well-dressed young man. His neck is too thick for a teenager. He may be about 24 years old. Someone who knows clothing styles may be able to date his distinctive shirt collar. He doesn't look like the older couple, but the handwriting on the back seems identical.

On the back it says, "questo e tuo nipote, Mariano." That means "this is your nephew, Mariano." Nipote is a funny word because it can mean nephew or grandchild. But he can't be the grandchild of one of my closest ancestors. So it's logical that he's the son of the sorella (sister) in the first photo. If she is my relative's sister, then her son is my relative's nephew. The math adds up if the young man's photo is from the early 1950s—earlier than the photo with the TV set.

Who were these photos sent to? Knowing the answer to that question would help me identify these people. Let's examine everyone who might have owned the photos that wound up in my aunt's collection:

Subject 1: My aunt Lillian Iamarino had no sister and was far too young. She was closer to Mariano's age.

Subject 2: My grandmother Lucy Iamarino had no sister. She was the eldest of 3 children born in New York between 1908 and 1914.

Subject 3: My grandfather Pietro Iamarino had 3 sisters. But they all died at a much younger age than 74. Two never made it to age 30.

Grandpa Iamarino's parents stayed in Italy, so the photos were not written and sent to them. That leaves Grandma Lucy's parents. Their birth years are close to my assumed birth years for the couple in the photo.

Subject 4: My great grandmother Maria Rosa Caruso had lots of brothers, but no sisters.

That leaves one possibility.

Subject 5: My great grandfather Pasquale Iamarino had 2 sisters who were about the right age. One sister, Libera Maria Iamarino, came to America and married in Albany, New York. She died there, too. Pasquale would have been able to visit her by train anytime. He was a railroad employee who traveled for free. Libera Maria wouldn't have needed to say "remember your sister."

That leaves Maria Giuseppa Iamarino born in 1878. There is no marriage mentioned on her birth record. That was a common thing to do at the time. I can't search for her marriage document because the possible years are not available.

Can I find any of her children's birth records? That would tell me she did live past childhood. But I don't know what her children's last name would be. I have to page through the town's birth records starting in 1896, with my eyes trained on the last name of the mother.

I thought I had her for a while. I found 2 babies born in 1899 and 1901 to Valentino Borromeo and Giuseppa Iamarino. There is no other Giuseppa Iamarino in the records besides my great aunt who's the right age. The name Borromeo is not from my Iamarino town, so I searched for his full name on FamilySearch.org. I discovered the family went to live in Connellsville, Pennsylvania. I learned that Valentino was born in the town of Circello in 1878. So I found his birth record and discovered he was an illegitimate baby. That's why no one in the area had the name Borromeo. Someone made it up.

Valentino's U.S. Passport application said Giovanni Basilone of Colle Sannita adopted him. That explains how he came to live in Colle Sannita.

His birth record gave me the clue I really wanted to find. In the column a clerk wrote that Valentino married in Colle Sannita on 2 March 1899. He married Giuseppina Addolorata Iamarino.

I chased down every possible document until I had the answer. Not her!
I chased down every possible document until I had the answer. Not her!

That's not my great aunt. There is no such woman born in Colle Sannita, according to my collection of vital records. I don't know who she is, but she isn't mine. And if it were her in the photo at age 74, the photo would be from 1952. That's too early. I finally looked at photos of old TV sets, and the style in the photo is more likely to be from the early 1970s.

If that's the right time frame, then the sorella was born around 1900. I don't know a female relative born at that time who lived to age 74!

Well, that was a wild ride. I don't like to write about something that didn't work for me. But this method is sound and worth trying.

The name on his photo piqued my interest. I know that name!
The name on his photo piqued my interest. I know that name!

I found 3 more interesting portraits in my aunt's collection this past weekend. One shows a man in a suit, and it says D____ Basile on the back. (The glue from the photo album tore off some letters.) The other 2 show a woman alone, and the same woman with a little child.

I think the woman is my grandfather's sister Giovannangela Iamarino because she married a man named Donato Basile. I may never be able to prove it, but if I can't disprove it, that's going to remain my theory.

If you ever inherit an unlabelled collection of old family photos, that's great! Don't forget to use documents and all your research skills to unlock as many mysteries as you can.

17 April 2020

Make Consistency King in Your Family Tree

Run this program to clean up typos and boo-boos in your family tree.

I've been a webmaster or web content producer since 1997. I've always believed consistency makes a website a look professional.

When I started building my family tree, I realized consistency is critical there, too. I wanted my tree to be as professional as possible. That includes recording and documenting facts in a consistent way.

Once in a while, I like to use the free Family Tree Analyzer tool to give my tree a consistency checkup. There's a new version of the program out, so visit their website for the download.

You need to export a GEDCOM file from the latest version of your tree. Then launch Family Tree Analyzer and import your GEDCOM. Choose the Export menu at the top and select Facts to Excel. This generates a spreadsheet you can save. Now you can sort and filter the information as you wish.

Use Family Tree Analyzer to export your facts to a spreadsheet. Now inconsistencies are easy to find.
Use Family Tree Analyzer to export your facts to a spreadsheet. Now inconsistencies are easy to find.

I want to check the consistency of the occupation and location facts in my family tree.

Consistent Treatment of Foreign Words

When it comes to Occupation facts, my family tree is full of Italian-language job titles. Two years ago, I used Find and Replace in Family Tree Maker to add the English translation to these Italian words. For example, I searched for "sartore" and replaced it with "sartore (tailor)". But I wonder if I overlooked any Italian job titles.

Let me find them in the Facts spreadsheet I created. I can either Sort or Filter the FactType column. (I prefer Excel's Filter function, but you can do what's comfortable for you.) Now I can scroll down the spreadsheet with my eyes on the FactComment column. I'm looking for Italian words that have no translation.

I see a few that are words I still can't translate. I also see one common word that I left untranslated by accident. It's contadino. That's the most common occupation in my family tree. It means farmer or peasant. The spreadsheet tells me this job title belongs to Francesco Iampietro. I'll go to him in my family tree and make the fix.

Paging Francesco Iampietro. Holy cow, look at this crowd!
Paging Francesco Iampietro. Holy cow, look at this crowd!

It figures. I have 12 men in my tree with this same name! But this is an 1817 fact, so that narrows down the list a bit. After viewing the facts in my tree for almost every man with this name, I can't find this 1817 fact. The spreadsheet tells me his GEDCOM individual ID number is 12869. So I'll resort my spreadsheet to show more of Francesco's facts.

He turns out to be older than I thought, born in 1740 and died on the date in 1817. When I view his facts in Family Tree Maker, I can see that I updated his source citations, but I overlooked the missing translation of his job title. I'll fix it now.

The spreadsheet shows me one blank occupation fact. I had added a year and place, but no job title. I'll have to view the original document to find this person's missing occupation.

I may want to revisit the records with untranslatable job titles. I'll bet the documents have bad handwriting. I hope they'll make sense to me now because I have more experience.

Consistent Treatment of Place Names

Next I'll turn to place names. I like to include the word County in U.S. addresses. For exanple, Burgettstown, Washington County, Pennsylvania, USA. I find it makes some place names easier to understand. I can sort the Facts spreadsheet by the FactLocation column. Then I'll scroll down the list looking for places missing "County".

I quickly found a Brooklyn, New York, address missing the word County. It was the home of a family named Abbate. I can:
  • go to the Abbate family in Family Tree Maker
  • update the address, and
  • choose to update every instance of the original address at once.
I'll continue checking for the missing word County. I'll also see if anything else looks like a possible typo. For example, if an address shows up many times, followed by a different spelling, I'd bet that lone address is wrong.

Family Tree Analyzer is a great tool for finding inconsistent place names.
Family Tree Analyzer is a great tool for finding inconsistent place names.

I see one place name listed as Unknown. When I view that person in my tree, I see I forgot to add her address to the Residence fact for the 1940 census. Easily fixed.

It's a pretty quick process to find errors and inconsistencies in your tree's facts. Why not make this a regular checkup? How often you should perform a checkup depends on how often you work on your family tree. I find that I'm reminded to have a checkup each time Family Tree Analyzer releases a program update.

How's your consistency looking?

14 April 2020

Try Quick Genealogy Tasks When You Can't Focus

Tackle some easier family tree tasks when your head is not in the game.

A lot of my genealogy friends are saying the same thing online. "I can't seem to concentrate. I thought I'd make a lot more progress on my family tree in quarantine."

I'm not having trouble concentrating. I've worked from home since 1991, and I'm as busy with work now as ever.

But I understand what my friends are feeling. Their routines are gone. There's so much to worry about. They'd like to make some real genealogy progress.

Sometimes I want to make genealogy progress, but I don't want to make a big commitment. I may feel tired or have limited time.

That's when I turn to my Quick Genealogy Task List. It's a list of simple family tree tasks that aren't too demanding.

This is my go-to genealogy task when I'm not ready to devote a lot of time.
This is my go-to genealogy task when I'm not ready to devote a lot of time.

When you're having trouble concentrating, start chipping away at a simple item. Something that doesn't take a lot of mental effort. You may find that once you get going, you'll be eager to knock off another task.

Here are some basic categories of tasks. As you read them, think about your genealogy research. What can you add to your list?

Clean-up Tasks

I'll bet there are a few things about your family tree you'd like to go back and clean up.
I like to think of family tree clean-up tasks as upgrades. I adopted a much better style of citing my sources, and it's a big upgrade. But my tree has more than 23,000 people, so I can't upgrade all my old sources at once.

Instead of fretting about them all, I concentrated on my direct ancestors first. I upgraded all the sources for my 290 direct ancestors.

And I didn't do it in one sitting. That's important when you're having trouble concentrating. Don't put any extra pressure on yourself. This is a project you can come back to at any time. Make note of where you leave off.

It was exciting to finish my direct ancestors' source citations. I felt inspired to start fanning out by working on the citations of all the children of a given set of ancestors.

Organization Tasks

Genealogist love having their stuff organized neatly. Stuff like certificates, family group sheets, binders, and digital files.

Are all your family photos digitized? Are the image files named in a standardized way? Are the filed in a logical way? Are they added to your family tree?

I've been working through hundreds of photos from my late aunt's collection. I'm scanning them and doing some retouching in Photoshop. I've been uploading them to a private Pinterest board that I'm sharing with relatives. I need their help in identifying some of the people and places in the old photos.

Can't concentrate for long? Divide your genealogy project into smaller increments.
Can't concentrate for long? Divide your genealogy project into smaller increments.

Scanning may be the easiest, least brain-intensive part of this process. Then comes proper file naming and filing. Followed by archival-quality photo storage boxes for preserving the original photos. I have a plan for that.

Follow-up Tasks

Most of us have been plugging away at this hobby for a long time. Do you have leads that you haven't followed up on yet?

Have you interviewed a relative, but never typed up the transcript? I have. I recorded a conversation with my parents, asking them about their childhood. I still haven't transcribed that digital audio file, and that was 2 years ago.

I also have an old notebook filled with Ellis Island ship manifest entries. It's from my first days of family tree research. I want to follow up on each entry in that notebook. Are they a relative? Do they belong in my family tree? Did I ever put them in there?

And I have my brother's college genealogy paper. I need to completely scrub it for facts and anecdotes he got from Grandpa back in the 1970s.

Finally, I tend to add bookmarks to people in my family tree who have a problem to resolve. Trying to resolve one person's problem can take your mind of this whole doomsday scenario for a while.

Those are a few low-commitment task categories. I'll bet you can come up with more. Spend a few moments starting your list. Add to it whenever something comes to mind. Then turn to your list when time—or your concentration level—is short. And turn to it again and again even after we begin to get back to normal.

10 April 2020

Is This Name a Coincidence? I Aim to Find Out

Her last name makes me think Dad's childhood crush was a distant cousin.

I sent my dad a photo from my late aunt's collection. "Do you know these women with your mother?" I knew the background was his Bronx apartment house.

I wanted to know about one particularly beautiful young woman. I have another photo of her in a different location. Someone wrote on the bottom "Amelia and me," and this pretty lady was on the right. I assumed she was the "me."

This photo triggered lots of memories for Dad. "The older woman on the right is Mrs. Pozzuto, who lived across the street from my grandmother [in Girard, Ohio]. The three women are her daughters, Amelia, Marie and Margaret. The one you pointed out is Amelia. I was in love with her when I was about 9 or 10. Marie married Tony who taught me how to drive at 12 or 15 years old in Girard. That might be me in the picture with my grandmother on the extreme left."

Way to go, Dad! Pozzuto is a last name from my ancestral hometown of Colle Sannita, Italy. It's a key name in our family tree. I had to investigate.

The 4 women were named Pozzuto. If you knew my family, you'd know that's no coincidence.
The 4 women were named Pozzuto. If you knew my family, you'd know that's no coincidence.

Starting the Search

The first thing I did was pull up my great grandparent's 1930 census from Girard, Ohio. I wanted to see their neighbors. Two families down from my Iamarino family, I found the Pozzuto family!
  • John Pozzuto, 35 years old, born in Italy, arrived in 1916, married for 10 years
  • wife Agnes, 26 years old, born in Italy, arrived in 1906 (so I know they married in America)
  • daughter Marie, 9 years old, born in Ohio
  • daughter Amelia, 6 years old, born in Ohio
  • daughter Marguerite, 4 years old, born in Ohio
Wouldn't it be great if John Pozzuto was our relative? I'm sure it was no coincidence. A Pozzuto living across the street from my Colle Sannita-born great grandfather?

I knew what I needed to search for:
  • an immigration record for John (Giovanni) Pozzuto, born in 1895, coming to America in 1916
  • an 1895 birth record for him from my collection of Colle Sannita vital records
  • a 1920 Ohio (most likely) marriage record for Giovanni and Agnes
  • Giovanni in America before his marriage
The first solid result I found was for Margherita Pozzuto's Ohio marriage. It lists her parents as John Pozzuto and Agnes Natale. Now I have a maiden name for Mrs. Pozzuto.

On Ancestry.com, this record had several leads in the Suggested Records column. From those records I learned that:
  • John Pozzuto died in Girard, Ohio in 1959.
  • Marie Pozzuto's middle name was Julia and she married Tony Dellagnena in Ohio in 1946. So it was Tony Dellagnena who taught my under-aged dad to drive.
  • Amelia's middle name was Rose, and she married Nicholas Victor Basciano in Ohio in 1950.
  • Margaret's birth name was Margherita, and she married George Bella in Ohio in 1951.
Narrowing the Scope

I needed to know more about the father of the family, Giovanni Pozzuto. I searched for World War I and II draft cards and found 2 possibilities. The World War I card was for a Giovanni Pozzuto born in 1896 in Colle Sannita. When I looked at his birth record in my collection, it said he married a girl named Angela Martuccio in Italy in 1920. That rules him out.

The World War II draft registration card is right on the money. His wife is Agnes and his address is the one I know on Dearborn Street. This card says he was born on 24 Jan 1895. I checked my Italian vital record collection. There is a Giovanni Pozzuto born in Colle Sannita who is a match. He was born on 24 Jan 1895 to Antonio Pozzuto and Annamaria Zeolla.

OMG, when the names Pozzuto and Zeolla come together, I get chills. Those 2 names combined hold the secret to the DNA relationship between my mother and my father. I've worked nearly every Pozzuto vital record into my family tree, and plan to do the Zeolla records next.

But this particular Pozzuto birth record is not in my tree yet. I had trouble positively identifying his parents, Antonio and Annamaria. There's a couple in my tree that seems like a good match. But they had a son named Giovanni in 1901, so they couldn't have had a Giovanni in 1895 who lived beyond 1901.

Finding a Good Fit

I began searching for any variations of Antonio Pozzuto in my tree, born around 1870. Giovannantonio, Giuseppantonio, Francesantonio, anything.

I found a Giuseppe Antonio Pozzuto born in 1871. His wife is not Annamaria Zeolla, but she is Maria Zeolla. They married in 1891. I already found 5 children born to them between 1893 and 1899.

This looks like a good fit for Giovanni, but more research is needed.
This looks like a good fit for Giovanni, but more research is needed.

The husband's father was Saverio, and that is the name of the couple's 1st son. The wife's father was Giovanni Vincenzo. I already had their son Vincenzo, born in 1899—after the Giovanni I'm trying to place in their home.

It does fit for my Giovanni from Ohio to be this couple's son. And one of the other children in the family was born at the same address as Giovanni: Vico Selice, 5.

I'm going to place Giovanni in this family with a big old asterisk. In Family Tree Maker, I'll add a bookmark to his name. This tells me to look at his notes to see if I can resolve any problems.

If I did put him in the right family, Dad's boyhood crush was his 4th cousin Amelia. How fun is that?

Dear readers, I love doing this. I've been working with my parents to name all the old neighborhood people in my late aunt's photos. Everyone knew everyone else who lived there.

And in my small ancestral hometowns, nearly everyone was related. It seems if I dig long enough, I find a connection.

Now I must do what I can to eliminate Giovanni's asterisk.

07 April 2020

Finding the Best Family Photo Sharing Option

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What's Most Important to You?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's time to get busy.

03 April 2020

Six Degrees of Separation, Family Tree Edition

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

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

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

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

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

Tracing the Pop Star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Documenting the War Hero

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

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

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

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

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

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

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