29 May 2020

My Secret Weapon for Finding Relatives

Attention dead ends in my family tree: I'm coming after you with my new secret weapon. You cannot hide.

A few days ago I felt disappointed with my system for finding vital records. I've got Grandpa's hometown's vital records on my computer, downloaded from the Italian Antenati website. I spent a lot of time renaming each file to include the name of the person who was born, died, or got married on that date. That makes the files searchable with Window File Explorer.

I felt disappointed for a few reasons:
  • Windows File Explorer can't do a restricted search. If I search for Pietro Iamarino (Grandpa), the results include files with both Pietro and Iamarino. They're not necessarily together. I can get too many useless results. Adding quotes, "Pietro Iamarino", doesn't help.
  • When there are a lot of results, I can't tell them apart. I may be looking for a death record from the 1840s, but many of the results are birth and marriage records. I wish I could tell which is which without opening them all.
  • The search term ("Pietro Iamarino") isn't highlighted in the results when I view them as a list.
I needed a better way to search my document collection.

Then I remembered a program called Everything. A couple of years ago, I wanted to search my computer for files to add to my weekly computer backup. I needed to know which files were new or updated since my last backup. Computer professionals recommended a program called Everything. In the end, I developed another system for my backups instead of using Everything. (NOTE: This is a PC-only program, as so many are. Maybe Finder already does what you need.)

Because I knew how I would have names these images, my secret weapon found the photos instantly.
Because I knew how I would have names these images, my secret weapon found the photos instantly.

Could I use Everything to search for names in my document collection? I went to the CNET website to download Everything again. My first test worked like a charm. My cousin has been texting me old family photos, and a couple of them looked familiar. I wondered, did she give me these already? There was a photo of my Uncle Al leaning on a car, and a pigeon coop on the rooftop of my mom's old building. I searched Everything for "SarracinoAlfredo" (that's how I would have named it). I found SarracinoAlfredoLeaningOnCar.jpg. That was it! I searched for "pigeon" and found "PigeonCoop260E151stStreetBronxNY." That was it, too!

Then came my Aha moment. Could Everything give me the search features that were missing from File Explorer? Yes, it could!

If I put an exact name in quotes, Everything gives me only that exact name, highlighted in bold. Better yet, I can see the full file path of each document. I can click the Path column to sort by the file location. Then I can pick out, say, the death records between 1815 and 1830. What a time saver!

This PC program solves the problem, giving me precise search results.
This PC program solves the problem, giving me precise search results.

I'm still working hard on the family tree of my latest DNA match. I found that both her parents are my 6th cousins on my dad's side, and she is a DNA match to both my parents. I desperately want to find one of her ancestors with some connection to my mom's family.

Now I can focus on each dead-end branch in her tree. I can use Everything, my secret weapon, to find every document for a particular person. I've been looking at one family name, hoping it may lead to my mom. It's an uncommon name in the town. I can quickly generate a list of every document with that name and track them down.

I can search across all my genealogy documents and find exactly who I need.
I can search across all my genealogy documents and find exactly who I need.

There's no need to use quotation marks when searching for a single name. And sometimes I'm not sure the name on a death record will match the name on a birth record. If she's Maria Iamarino on her death record, she may be Maria Teresa Iamarino on her birth record. A search for "Maria Iamarino" (with quotes) won't show Maria Teresa Iamarino, but a search for Maria Iamarino (without quotes) will.

In a couple of days I used Everything to find tons of documents that were missing from my family tree. I'm breaking down brick walls left and right. I'm inspired to keep renaming the files from my other towns, not just Grandpa Iamarino's town.

I know you don't all have Italian ancestors. And you may not have huge collections of vital records available to you. But I'll bet you have photos and genealogy records scattered across your computer. Every time my mom asks me for a specific family photo, I struggle to find it. Now it's so much easier.

I've just scratched the surface with Everything. I'm sure there's much more it can do for me and you. Meanwhile, I've got so many loose ends I can tie up!

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Let Me Demolish Your Italian Brick Wall

If you like the idea of discovering all your Italian ancestors but haven't got the time, let me do it. Read more at Italian Ancestry Services.

26 May 2020

Focus on Goals for a Better Family Tree

Your reasons for dabbling in genealogy can change over time.

My family tree has almost 24,000 people. You may think I'm swallowing up other people's family trees. Nope. Never ever would I do that.

Two years ago I wrote about how and when to cut a branch off your family tree. I cut my sister-in-law's entire family out of my tree because:
  • I didn't intend to work on them anymore.
  • People kept asking me about them—and they're not mine.
  • I had a new focus for my family tree.
Trimming that big branch off my family tree let me sharpen my genealogy focus.

Having a clear reason for doing genealogy makes it more rewarding.
Having a clear reason for doing genealogy makes it more rewarding.

You see, all my ancestors came from a 10-mile radius in Italy. They came from small towns with windy roads leading in and out. I soon found that the families intermarried. Almost everyone in these little towns had a connection to me.

I discovered this by reading the vital records from my grandfather's hometown. (They ranged from 1809 to 1860). When I began my research, I knew almost nothing about his family. His parents were Giovanni Leone and Mariangela Iammucci, and he had a brother Noah and a sister Eve. (That's pretty funny since his name was Adam.)

The only way to tell which Leone and Iammucci families were mine was to document everyone. In the end, I identified some of my grandfather's 4th great grandparents. And I had added 10,000 people to my family tree.

I spent 5 years researching the town (2007–2012). The whole time, I was thinking, "I can't wait to do my other grandfather's town!"

Fast-forward to 2017. The vital records I documented by viewing terrible-quality microfilm were online. Their quality was fantastic. And the documents went way beyond the 1860 limit of the microfilm I saw. My other ancestral towns were available, too. It's all free and downloadable. (See "How to Use the Online Italian Genealogy Archives.")

The availability of these records sharpened my focus. My mission is to document all the connections among the people in my ancestral hometowns. My paternal grandparents were 3rd cousins. Now I have the vital records to back up that fact. My parents share DNA. Right now I'm exploring every branch of a DNA match's family tree because she matches both my parents. Each of her parents is my 6th cousin. Most of them come from my Iamarino hometown—my dad's side. Can I find a marriage in her family tree that draws in someone from my mom's ancestral hometowns? That's the goal.

Much like the little tree my husband pruned 2 years ago, my family tree is thriving. Cutting out the excess and putting energy into my priorities is key.

Trimming my family tree sharpened my focus and my goals.
Trimming my family tree sharpened my focus and my goals.

Here are some focus-finding ideas to consider.

Goals Can Drive Your Research

Do you have specific goals for your genealogy research? One of my goals is to learn the names of all the families from my ancestral hometowns. These towns are my heart and soul. Learning their names, and finding their life events, gives me a joy I can't describe.

You Have More Cousins Than You Know

Are you interested in finding your ancestors' descendants? My 2nd great grandfather, Antonio Saviano, was my first ancestor to come to America. He had 4 children who lived to adulthood. Those 4 children had 21 children who lived to adulthood. That makes a ton of cousins, many of whom I've never met.

Imagine tracing the descendants of your 3rd or 4th great grandparents. Where will their descendants lead you?

DNA Unlocks Unknown Relationships

Do you want to figure out your relationship to your DNA matches? I've gotten in touch with cousins I never knew—or whose names I knew but I'd never met.

You need to make your tree as wide as possible to find the connection. Don't add your great grandparents to your tree and move on. Find their siblings. Who did they marry? What were the names of their children? Those families will tie you to your DNA matches.

I mentioned that both my DNA match's parents are my 6th cousins. That means we share 5th great grandparents. I needed to work all the 5th great aunts and uncles into my family tree. A wider tree will give you far more connections.

If you focus on your reasons for building your family tree, that focus will guide your process.

My focus is to connect everyone I can by using available Italian vital records. When it comes to my family in America, I have an in-law rule to keep me on track. Let's say my second cousin's husband is in my family tree. I'm not going to document him (the in-law) beyond his birth and marriage dates and the names of his parents. I'm not putting his siblings or his grandparents in my tree—even if I know their names. Unless my cousin asks me to research their spouse, they get cut off at their parents.

That's why I cut out my sister-in-law's 600-person branch. (I made them a separate tree.) It's why I removed the siblings and grandparents from more distant cousins' spouses. Focus.

Genealogy is a never-ending puzzle. An interesting, entertaining, educational hobby. Find your focus—your purpose—and you'll have a stronger family tree.

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Let Me Demolish Your Italian Brick Wall

If you like the idea of discovering all your Italian ancestors but haven't got the time, let me do it. Read more at Italian Ancestry Services.

22 May 2020

Why Our Ancestors Marched Hours-Old Babies into Town

Were government regulations the reason so many infants died?

It was a surprise to see where my grandfather and 2 great grandfathers were born. The address is right on their birth records. I knew the Iamarino family had land and several houses well outside of the center of town. Why were they born right near the church?

If they were modern-day Americans, they might move to a bigger, better house. But this was the late 1800s–early 1900s. They didn't move.

The solution to this mystery came from my cousin in Italy. Her sister still lives on the old Iamarino land, far from the center of town. My cousin told me that in the old days, when a woman knew she was going to give birth soon, she would go to a house closer to town. It may have been a house that the family kept for this purpose.

If you have to walk a newborn infant into town, the baby may as well be born close to town hall.
If you have to walk a newborn infant into town, the baby may as well be born close to town hall.

The woman needed to be close to a midwife when her time came. She couldn't wait hours and hours while someone rode a mule into town to fetch the midwife. This is why my ancestors were both born at Via Casale, 36, but their families lived a very, very long ride away.

The idea of a convenient place to give birth helped solve another mystery. I always wondered how new fathers in the old days could take a newborn baby to the town hall to record their birth. And then trot them over to the church to for baptism. When I had babies, they weren't supposed to go outside for at least a week. You took them home from the hospital and stayed put.

But what if the babies were born in a convenient house, close to the town hall and the church? The newborn's journey would be much easier. And less likely to lead to their death.

A father, midwife, or close relative had to report a birth to the mayor's office right away. My ancestors didn't report my great grandfather Giovanni's 1876 birth until 1898! They had to report it then so Giovanni could get married. This involved extra paperwork and probably a fine. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon his birth record in the year of his marriage.

I created an online map a while ago to plot many of my Bronx, New York, relatives based on their U.S. census records. It was interesting to see, and fun to imagine, so many relatives living within a few square blocks.

Now I'm wondering how many of my relatives were born in the same convenient birth houses. I can click through street addresses I've recorded in Family Tree Maker. I want to find houses where lots of babies were born.

I focused on the streets I knew were close to the center of town. One address, viewed in Google Street View, has its front door cemented shut. The nearby houses range from lovely to under renovation to flat-out ruins.

Family Tree Maker tells me I have recorded births and deaths of 24 people at this address. The dates range from 1877 to 1902, and they all have one thing in common. All 24 people have the last name Pozzuto.

I have a ton of people named Pozzuto in my family tree because I sought them out. This is a last name that has some connection to both of my parents. I located all the Pozzuto vital records in my downloaded Italian records collection. I worked most of them into my family tree. These 24 are not from the same nuclear family. Maybe this house was the preferred birthing place for an extended Pozzuto family.

Were all of your rural ancestors born at home, or did they have a special place in town?
Were all of your rural ancestors born at home, or did they have a special place in town?

What were the legal requirements for reporting a birth in your ancestral home? To find out, go to the Family Search Wiki. In the search field, enter "civil registration" along with your ancestors' country.

The wiki page for your country should begin with some historical background. Look for the year when the country began enforcing civil birth registration. Italy began civil record keeping in 1809 on Napoleon's order. (He was busy taking over the country at that time.) England began civil record keeping in July 1837. Before these dates, they may have recorded your ancestor's birth at the church. Being French is a good deal because their civil records start in 1792. If your ancestors are German, the beginning of record keeping depends on their exact area. But it was mandatory in all German states beginning in 1876.

I don't think you'll read anything about midwives' practices in the wiki. But as you discover birth records for your family members, check the document for an address. You may find that many members of an extended family have their very first address in common.

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19 May 2020

Who Is This Man Who Isn't My Uncle?

Sometimes a rabbit hole is well worth the tumble.

I let a mistake guide my research this past Sunday. I must have been enjoying myself because I managed to forget it was my wedding anniversary. Again.

Here's what happened. I was randomly choosing people in my family tree and checking if they had good source citations. I want to bring all my source citations up to my new standards. I was working on my 2nd great uncle, Giuseppantonio Iamarino, who has a bunch of U.S. documents.

Then I noticed an error. He had arrived in America in 1903 and I had his 1920 census. But I'd also attached an immigration record from 1920—a few months after the census. That couldn't be him, could it?

I checked the facts on the ship manifest. The name and age were a match, and it mentioned his wife Libera back in his hometown. Aside from the date, the only fact that didn't fit my uncle was his destination: Girard, Ohio. My 2nd great uncle never left New York City.

If the document facts don't fit your person, what do you do?
If the document facts don't fit your person, what do you do?

Who was the Giuseppantonio Iamarino on this ship manifest? Was it a coincidence that Girard, Ohio, is where my great grandfather lived? And where my father was born?

I turned to my collection vital records from Colle Sannita, Italy. I needed to find a Giuseppantonio Iamarino, born around 1876, who married a woman named Libera. There was only one good candidate, and he was not in my family tree.

Giuseppe Antonio Iamarino, born on 10 Jan 1876, was the son of Salvatore Iamarino and Costanza Nigro. Giuseppe's father was 30 years old at the time, so I jumped to the 1846 birth records.

I found Salvatore Iamarino's birth record. When I saw the names of his parents, I found they were already in my tree. His father, Giovannantonio Iamarino, is my 2nd cousin 5 times removed.

Anyone with that name definitely gets a spot in my family tree.
Anyone with that name definitely gets a spot in my family tree.

The man from the wrongly attached 1920 ship manifest was my 4th cousin 3 times removed. The ship manifest says Giuseppantonio was going to Girard, Ohio, to join his cousin with the last name Piccirillo. I eventually found out Piccirillo is the last name of Giuseppantonio's mother-in-law.

What else could I find? Which other documents and names could I add to firm up this branch of my family tree? Giuseppantonio's 1876 birth record had 2 big clues for me:
  • He married Liberantonia Nigro (the Libera from the ship manifest) on 12 Oct 1899 in Colle Sannita.
  • He married Maria Teresa Mutino on 8 August 1935 in Colle Sannita.
I'm very familiar with my Italian document collections. I knew that the 1899 marriage record would not be available. But, since Liberantonio died between 1920 and 1935, I could find her death record. It would tell me her age and her parents' names. Then I could find her birth record and her parents' marriage record.

I could find the 1935 marriage record for Giuseppantonio and Maria Teresa Mutino. That would tell me her parents' names so I could climb her family tree.

And then there were Giuseppantonio's parents, Salvatore and Concetta Nigro. Their marriage would not be in the document collection. But I found Concetta's 1937 death record. That gave me her age and parents' names. I discovered her full name was Maria Concetta Pasqualina Nigro. Her parents weren't in my tree yet, but her grandparents were.

I kept going. I searched for records for Concetta's grandparents, and I started seeing familiar names. Something strange was happening. Concetta (Salvatore Iamarino's wife) and Liberantonia (Giuseppantonio Iamarino's wife) were 1st cousins. Their fathers were brothers.

But wait. There's more! The father of these 2 brothers was Giuseppantonio Nigro. When his 1st wife died, he married Margherita Callara. They were in-laws. Giuseppantonio's daughter-in-law's mother was Margherita. And Margherita's son-in-law's father was Giuseppantonio.

This family tree branch just turned into a pretzel!

Just when I thought I'd make a terrible mistake, I realized what was going on in this family.
Just when I thought I'd make a terrible mistake, I realized what was going on in this family.

My little mission to find the man on a ship manifest added dozens of people to my family tree. They each opened more avenues to explore. Giuseppantonio's (from the ship manifest) 2nd wife had 2 husbands before him. Remember that this pre-1970s Italy. You remarried only after your spouse died.

She buried her 1906 husband and her 1909 husband before marrying Giuseppantonio Iamarino. She and her 2 previous husbands open up many more exploration routes. It's time to get all "Lewis and Clark" on them.

I believe I can take nearly anyone from these old vital records and find them a place in my family tree. I want to keep exploring these new avenues. Which personal milestone or national holiday will I forget this time?

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Let Me Demolish Your Italian Brick Wall

If you like the idea of discovering all your Italian ancestors but haven't got the time, let me do it. Read more at Italian Ancestry Services.

15 May 2020

Step-by-Step Source Citations for Your Family Tree

Any genealogy task is less daunting when you break down the steps.

You know more about genealogy research now than when you started. If you were finding your first census records today, you'd handle them better than you did way back when.

Why not double back and improve your early source citations? If that seems overwhelming, break it into logical chunks. Divide up the work by:
  • Document type. Handle all your census records a year at a time. Or your ship manifests, a decade at a time.
  • Family group. Who is your first-born immigrant ancestor? Work your way down their direct-line descendants.
  • Direct lineage. Forget all the cousins for the moment. Climb your tree one direct ancestor at a time, improving their source citations as you go.
I used to recommend a very simple source citation method. But when my Family Tree Maker file got corrupted, it was an opportunity to do a much better job with my sources. I learned about a feature I hadn't understood before, and I wanted to use it.

My favorite source citations to do are for my thousands of Italian vital records. It's an easy process, and I can complete a lot of them in one sitting.

Develop and stick to a thorough routine when you add a new document image to your family tree.
Develop and stick to a thorough routine when you add a new document image to your family tree.

Document-Handling Process

To make citing your source easier, stick to a multi-step process each time you find a new document. Here's my process:
  1. Download the document to your computer and name it according to your style. My style is LastnameFirstnameTypeYear.jpg. My great grandfather's birth record is IamarinoFrancescoBirth1878.jpg. For a marriage record, I include both names: IamarinoFrancescoPillaLiberaMarriage1901.jpg.
  2. Crop and enhance the image. If there is more than one document in the image, crop out the ones that aren't your family member. And I'll bet the document could use more contrast. I leave census sheets and ship manifests as is. But I enhanced and crop every vital record.
  3. Add a title and comments to the image's file properties. This step is the key to making your source citations easy to create. If the title begins with a year, all document images appear in chronological order in your tree. "1878 birth record for Francesco Iamarino." The comments field includes the source of the image and its URL. My format is "From the [Italian Province] State Archives: [URL]."
  4. Place the processed document image in your family tree, attached to the person(s) in the document.
  5. File the image in the proper folder. I file documents by their type. Some of you may file by family name.
  6. Make note of the image in a document tracker. This gives you a quick view of what you have and what you need for any given person.
When it comes to U.S. census sheets or ship manifests, I add quite a bit more to the image file's comments field. Most of my U.S. records come from Ancestry.com. I click the title of the document in the search results so I can copy the source citation and details from that page. Then I continue to the image for more details to record.

The source citation details you need are available when you find that document online.
The source citation details you need are available when you find that document online.

Here's the comments field from my grandfather's 1920 ship manifest:

line 10; New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957; Roll - T715, 1897-1957 - 2001-3000 - Roll 2883; S.S. Lapland; image 308 of 627

https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7488/NYT715_2883-0308?pid=4016695711

Source Citation:
Year: 1920; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 2883; Line: 10; Page Number: 161

Source Information:
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

And here's Grandpa's 1930 census:

lines 88-90; 1930 United States Federal Census; Ohio - Trumbull - Girard - District 0045; supervisor's district 8, enumeration district 78-45, ward of city 3, sheet 16B; image 32 of 36

https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/6224/4661200_00206?pid=68966506

Source Citation:
Year: 1930; Census Place: Girard, Trumbull, Ohio; Page: 16B; Enumeration District: 0045; FHL microfilm: 2341618

Source Information:
Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2002.

Source Citation Creation

Since my images have all this wonderful info attached to them, it's easy to build the source citation. Let's take Grandpa's 1920 ship manifest as an example. I'm using Family Tree Maker as my software.
  1. Copy the document image's entire comments field to a temporary text file.
  2. Click to add a new source citation for the immigration fact.
  3. Select the document collection title from your list of existing sources. This one is "New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957." (If it isn't in your list, you'll need to create it now.)
  4. Remember that temporary text file you created? Paste the Source Citation and Source Information text into the appropriate fields in the source template. Paste the URL in the Web address field.
  5. Before saving your citation, you can add the document image to the citation itself. This was the feature I learned only recently that I like so much. Click the Media tab in the source template. Link to the document image you've already placed in your family tree.
  6. Save and close your source template.
Did you record more than one fact from the same document? I have the date Grandpa's ship left Naples and the date it arrived in New York City as 2 facts. You can copy the source citation you created and paste it as a source for all the related facts.

Your family tree software does all it can to simplify the creation of source citations.
Your family tree software does all it can to simplify the creation of source citations.

It's a big job, I know. A really big job. But here's how I see it. I do some genealogy work every single day. Sometimes I'm not in the mood for that whole process of finding and processing a document. That's when I'll choose an easier task. Like renaming the files in my huge collection of Italian vital records. Or improving some sub-set of source citations. I like having tasks to choose from that need different levels of effort.

Choose how you'd like to divide and conquer this big task: by family group, by document type, by direct lineage. Then do it, because the benefits are worth it. Your well-sourced family tree is far more reliable than an unsourced tree. People "borrowing" relatives from other trees will choose your sourced facts every time. DNA matches who view your tree will see that your family tree is correct, and has the receipts to prove it.

I'll bet your well-crafted source citations will inspire you to push on and get the job done.

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Let Me Demolish Your Italian Brick Wall

If you like the idea of discovering all your Italian ancestors but haven't got the time, let me do it. Read more at Italian Ancestry Services.

11 May 2020

This Genealogy Research Log Boosts Your Efficiency

Keep track of potential finds as-you-go with this free research log.

Back in the olden days (before 2017), the vital records from my grandfather's hometown were not online. I had to spend long hours in my nearest Family History Center to view the documents on microfilm.

At first I was entering likely relatives right into Family Tree Maker on the laptop I brought with me. That took way too much time. I needed to capture as many vital records as possible or else I'd be visiting that darkened room forever!

I switched to a super-efficient method instead. I entered a shorthand version of the information in every vital record into a text file on my computer. Then I could figure out where everyone belonged when I got home. (My "shorthand" was a format like this for birth records: "Maria Bianco b 12 Jan 1810 to Francesco di Giovanni and Angela Leone bap next.")

The sight of this notebook full of genealogy notes makes my hand cramp.
The sight of this notebook full of genealogy notes makes my hand cramp.

Now I need a new system for logging the research I do online. Most of the time I'm doing very focused research. "Find this person's birth record. Find his parents' marriage and their birth records." When concentrating on one person, I can collect the documents one at a time and add them to Family Tree Maker. I prefer to do it that way and complete my whole process in one sitting:
  • Save, crop, and rename the image file
  • Add a title and description to the image file's properties
  • Add the image file and all its facts to the person in Family Tree Maker
  • Create the source citation and apply it to all the facts derived from that image file
  • Make note of the document in my Document Tracker spreadsheet
  • File away the image file
But if I'm researching for a client, or going off on a tangent on behalf of a cousin, I need a better way to track my findings.

This month I was researching a family from Perugia, Italy. The Family Search website has a limited range of records available for the town. I committed to combing through them all to figure out who belonged to this particular family.

I was searching for a short list of last names. I copied and pasted names, dates, and URLs for every record I found into a text file. I had problems with this method, like overlooking family members in the long list. I could imagine a lot of benefits I wanted to add to this research process.

I turned to an Excel spreadsheet for the solution. How did I not think of this from the start? I practically live in a spreadsheet. Well, spreadsheets and text-file lists.

I converted all my findings to a spreadsheet, using a careful cut and paste process. I discovered 2 relatives I'd overlooked before. A spreadsheet is infinitely better than a text file. And light-years better than handwritten notes. I can sort the information by any column and click the links I saved to go straight to the vital record online.

With a research log like this, you'll never have to worry about retracing your steps.
With a research log like this, you'll never have to worry about retracing your steps.

I decided to turn this test case into a research log template. From now on, when I'm researching someone else's family, I'll enter everything I find into a copy of this spreadsheet.

I can capture the important information quickly, and figure out who belongs in the family tree later.

Of course I'm going to share this research log template with you. Download your copy from my Dropbox folder. Remember that you can make any changes you may need. You can add or edit columns…whatever makes sense to you. Never lose track of your past discoveries again. Note: Need this in Google Sheets? Here's your link.


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Let Me Demolish Your Italian Brick Wall

If you like the idea of discovering all your Italian ancestors but haven't got the time, let me do it. Read more at Italian Ancestry Services.

08 May 2020

Finding Relatives Who Sailed to South America

There are online tools to help you identify family members who went to Argentina and Brazil. Recently we looked at Brazilian documents with photos of my Italian townspeople. Today we'll look at another resource to find family members who went to Argentina.

CEMLA is the Centro de Estudios Migratorios Latinoamericanos (Center for Latin American Migratory Studies). Their website offers a simple search form where you can enter:
  • Apellido (last name)
  • Nombre (first name)
  • A date range, Desde (from) and Hasta (until)
Type in the jumble of letters and numbers you see and click Buscar (search). (Tip: You may only have to enter the jumbled code the first time.)

The database:
  • covers more than 75 years of immigration
  • has more than 4.4 million names
  • includes more than 200 countries.
But their website does not have the ship manifest images for us to see. That's disappointing, yes. But let's see what we can do with the information they do provide.

This simple search form can turn up a list of possible relatives for you.
This simple search form can turn up a list of possible relatives for you.

I searched for immigrants with my maiden name, Iamarino, and got 19 results. All 19 Iamarinos arrived in Argentina between 1896 and 1954.

You can open Google Translator in another browser tab to translate the immigrants' professions. I used it to make sure "desconocido" in the Place of Birth column means unknown. And I found that C or S in the "Estado Civil" column means Married (Casado) or Single (Soltero).

Let's see what we can do with this table of search results.

Click on any column in the search results to sort by that value. I clicked the "Fecha de Arribo" (Arrival Date) column. You can also type a value in the "Filtrar resultados" box to filter your results. I can type the town name of Colle Sannita in the box to filter by my ancestral hometown.

That leaves me with 7 people who came from Grandpa Iamarino's hometown. The first one, Carmine Iamarino, was 29 years old in 1924. I can search for him in the towns' 1895 birth records. These are available on the Antenati website, and I've downloaded them to my computer.

There is a Carmine Iamarino born in 1895 to Pasquale Iamarino and Orsola Marino. Is he in my family tree? I searched my tree for him, and he isn't there. Yet. His parents are in my tree, and his father Pasquale is my 2nd cousin 4 times removed.

That means Carmine, whom I've just learned sailed to Argentina in 1924, is my 3rd cousin 3 times removed. Now I can enter Carmine into my family tree with his 1895 birth record and his 1924 immigration facts. I'll use the CEMLA website as my source and add all the facts I see:
  • Carmine was a married man in 1924
  • He was a laborer
  • He arrived in Argentina on 31 December 1924
  • He sailed out of Naples on the ship Belvedere
Let's try another one. Innocenzo Iamarino arrived in Argentina in 1935 at the age of 31. I searched my vital records for Innocenzo Iamarino born in 1904 and found him. He isn't in my family tree yet, either. But his parents are. And he's a closer relative than my first search.

Innocenzo's father, Giuseppantonio Iamarino, is my 2nd great uncle. He's the brother of my great grandfather Francesco. Innocenzo, who I'll be putting into my tree immediately, is my 1st cousin twice removed. (He's Grandpa's 1st cousin.)

Innocenzo's birth record tells me he married Rosa Paolucci in 1925. I searched the CEMLA site to see if she followed her husband to Argentina. It looks like she did not, so Innocenzo probably earned money in South America and returned to his wife in Italy. (Tip: There is no button to start a new search, so refresh the page in your web browser.)

Did Innocenzo sail to Argentina more than once? I removed the Colle Sannita filter from my search. There is another result for an Innocenzo born in 1904. He arrived in Argentina in 1926, married, listing his hometown as Benevento. Benevento is both a city and the name of the province to which Colle Sannita belongs. I'm fairly confident that this is my same 1st cousin twice removed.

The search screen offers many controls to help you find your relatives.
The search screen offers many controls to help you find your relatives.

I'm eager to work through every Iamarino in this list. You can't use an asterisk or question mark in your search, but I know the usual misspellings of my maiden name. I search for Jamarino and found 10 more results, one of which lists Colle Sannita as their place of birth.

It's great to have this bit of information to add to the stories of my relatives. If you have family members who traveled to and from another country to work, try the CEMLA website. You, too, may find relatives who sailed to Argentina to support their families.

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05 May 2020

Attracting a New DNA Match

I received an Ancestry email for my dad's DNA test account. It says he has a new 2nd cousin once removed that he can find using ThruLines™. Dad's 2nd cousin once removed would be my 3rd cousin, so I took a look.

This new DNA match is the granddaughter of a cousin I identified some years ago. You see, when my paternal grandfather came to America in 1920, he went to join his uncle Antonio Pilla. Grandpa worked for a baker in Newton, a suburb of Boston. But he didn't stay long.

I researched Uncle Antonio's wife and kids in Newton found a living daughter. I wrote to her, but I didn't hear back. Unfortunately, she died in 2014. This new DNA match is her granddaughter.

Ancestry's ThruLines™ takes the guesswork out of your DNA match's identity.
Ancestry's ThruLines™ takes the guesswork out of your DNA match's identity.

Pay It Forward

I've got a ton of Uncle Antonio's ancestors in my family tree, but not for his wife Angelina Iarossi.

I thought it'd be good to build Angelina's branch as much as I can, and then reach out to my newfound 3rd cousin. What if she has photos of Uncle Antonio? If I offer her a ton of info on her grandmother's parents, she may be more likely to share photos.

To keep my enormous family tree from getting out of control, I made a policy a while ago. When it comes to in-laws, I'll record their facts and the names of their parents. That's it. I don't care about their siblings or their grandparents.

I made this decision after a few people contacted me, wondering why their grandfather was in my tree. I didn't have a great answer, and I didn't plan to investigate them any further. So out they went.

I will make an exception to the rule if a relative asks me to do the work. Two weekends ago I added an in-law's siblings and ancestors because my cousin asked me to.

Now I'm concentrating on my DNA 3rd cousin's great grandmother, Angelina Iarossi. She came to America at the age of 2 with her mother. The ship manifest says they came from Castelvetere in Val Fortore, Italy. That's a bit north of the 2 towns where my grandfathers were born.

I'm eager to climb Angelina Iarossi's tree and see what I can find. I know her last name exists in my maternal grandfather's hometown of Baselice. Is there any chance Angelina had roots there and a blood connection to me?

Researching their Family as an Incentive

My first choice for Italian genealogy research is the Antenati website. This government-run site offers free access to countless birth, marriage, and death records. Luckily, they have records for the town of Castelvetere in Val Fortore.

Her naturalization papers say Angelina was born on 6 February 1901. So I went straight to her birth record. It confirms that her parents were Pietro Iarossi and Maria Iarossi. They had the same last name.

A few quick document searches helped me climb my great uncle's wife's family tree.
A few quick document searches helped me climb my great uncle's wife's family tree.

I love it when a birth record includes one of the parent's father's name. Angelina's 1901 birth record told me that:
  • Her paternal grandfather was Antonio Iarossi
  • Her maternal grandfather was Costanzo Iarossi
I searched the indexes of several years (1872–1882) for the birth records of Pietro and Maria Iarossi. I found Maria Iarossi's 1879 birth record. It confirms her father's name of Costanzo, and adds her mother's name. She was Angela Maria Lupo, the daughter of Nicolangelo Lupo.

Could I climb another generation? I found an 1847 birth record for Costanzo Iarossi. I checked several surrounding years to make sure I didn't have the wrong Costanzo. His parents were Giovanni Iarossi and Catarine Forte.

I got that far while drinking my morning coffee. I'd like to get 3 or 4 solid generations of Angelina's ancestors. Then I'll contact my 3rd cousin DNA match. Her family tree on Ancestry is very small, so these findings may totally blow her away.

We all complain about DNA matches not answering us. But are we doing our best to attract them? You've got to put out the bait to score the information you want.

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01 May 2020

5+ Ways to Share Your Tree with Family

I know this much is true: I'll keep adding people and documents to my family tree for the rest of my productive life.

My tree grows each week. I keep my up-to-date family tree on Ancestry.com so distant cousins and DNA matches can keep on tapping into my work.

Ask yourself this: "How many people connected to my tree have any idea what I'm doing?" I know I haven't made many efforts to draw relatives in. I tend to share with those who ask questions.

When a relative wants to see what you've learned, how do you show them? Here are 5 ways you can share your family tree research with your family.

1. Grant them access to your online tree

Seeing the family tree laid out makes more sense than a list of who had which children. The visual format works much better for me. It's immediately clear.

If you can put your family tree on a site like Ancestry.com, you can invite your family to see it. They don't need a subscription to see your tree. I like having the Ancestry app on my phone, too, so I can show it to a cousin when we're together.

2. Print large documents at home

This is a project I began a long time ago. I had an accordion folder that expands and has a slot for each letter of the alphabet. I wanted to fill it with folded-up ship manifests, census sheets, and vital records.

Create a family-history-to-go collection of full-sized documents.
Create a family-history-to-go collection of full-sized documents.

I began with my 2 grandfathers. I printed out ship manifests and census forms. At that time, I didn't have their Italian birth records or U.S. marriage or death records. I continued on to my maternal grandmother's parents. They also sailed from Italy to America. I printed their ship manifests and census sheets.

The best part of this project is that I didn't shrink the documents to fit onto a letter-sized sheet of paper. I used my printer to spread the image across several sheets of paper. There were 4 to 6 sheets of paper for each large document.

Then I trimmed the pages, taped them together on the back side, and had nice big documents. I folded the documents down to fit into my accordion folder. Then I gathered all the documents for one person and paper clipped them together. Finally, I put the batch into the slot with the first letter of their last name.


3. Order an oversized family tree

Years ago, my cousin Theresa encouraged me to share our Sarracino family tree.

I told her that branch was far from complete, but she urged me not to wait. So I used Family Tree Maker to make a chart of the descendants of the earliest Sarracino ancestor I had found.

I saved it as a PDF file with very large dimensions. Then I brought the file to a local print shop (Staples or the UPS Store can do the job). They used a plotter to print the tree on a sheet of paper 2 feet wide by 6 feet long.

At home, I laid them on my dining room table and folded them to fit into standard manila envelopes. I had copies for the heads of 40 families. I carried many of them to a Christmas family gathering and sent the rest out by mail.

Everyone seemed amazed. They'd never seen the whole clan laid out that way.

4. Create a book of life

My "Book of Life" article from March 2019 is still drawing lots of readers each week. I wrote about a one-of-a-kind binder I made for my mom's 1st cousin on her milestone birthday.

To create the book, I printed regular page-sized family trees and documents. I split some documents onto 2 pages to make them more legible, and I put them on facing pages in the binder. I slipped each item into a plastic sleeve (I had a few of these), making the pages easy to turn.

Use common stationery items to create a Book of Life.
Use common stationery items to create a Book of Life.

I created "call-outs" by printing important facts on leftover yellow paper. I cut them down to size and placed them on top of images like ship manifests. This is helpful when a document is hard to read. You can use a call-out to make it clear who we're looking at.

The binder had an extra pocket inside its back cover. I slipped in an oversized document, folded down to fit. It also had a clear pocket on the front cover where I put a title page and photo.

5. Create a digital experience

This is one I still need to try. Picture any DVD you may own. The opening screen usually has an image from the movie and a menu of choices to select. What if the image were your ancestors and the menu had different family members to choose?

Each selection might lead to a photo of the ancestor, or their hometown, with some large text to read. That might lead to a view of their ship manifest with a photo of the ship and a closeup of their line(s) on the manifest. Next there might be a photo of their first home and a look at their family on the census. Your time and imagination are the only limits. Plus any learning curve for using various software.

You can distribute this work by CD or place it online for relatives to download. (Remember that most new computers don't have a CD drive.) Or you may want to create this just for yourself. What a great way to preserve your legacy!

Think outside the box to create something special out of your family tree.
Think outside the box to create something special out of your family tree.

There is also another way to share your work, and that's in a book you create. See "How to Share Your Family Tree Research with Relatives." Your book may be filled with small family trees, document images, stories, and life stories you write.

I'm grateful to my cousin Theresa who pushed me to print that large family tree so many years ago. Her daughter still has it and cherishes it. Another cousin (my Book of Life recipient) has hers up on a wall.

Which of these projects will you choose for sharing your family tree work with relatives? Start with the one that sounds the easiest and move up from there.

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If you like the idea of discovering all your Italian ancestors but haven't got the time, let me do it. Read more at Italian Ancestry Services.