17 July 2020

It's Time to Review Old Genealogy Messages

I've been messaging people on Ancestry.com for many years now. My messages go back at least 3 years before I took a DNA test. Since then, my family tree has exploded with people pieced together from 1,000s of Italian documents.

This week I was paging through my old messages. Some of my answers surprised me! I found myself replying, "Sorry, I don't know that last name," or, "Those records are impossible to find." That's not true anymore.

It was as if my clone had answered these messages. The current me disagreed with the past me so many times.

I realized there are lots of hints in these old conversations. There are names and leads that can expand my family tree. They may break down some brick walls. They deserve a fresh look, don't you think?

Ancestry.com was about to push their new messaging system on me (yuck, but I'll give it time). I emptied and deleted my message folders on their website. (Folders are incompatible with their new system.) I pasted the contents of the old conversations into a Word document.

Using last names as section headings, I pasted conversations about a name into the matching section of the document. Now I can see, for example, a bunch of conversations I had with people about the last name Pilla. (That's my great grandmother's name.)

Take this conversation from 2015. A woman wrote to me about the last names Cecere, Musto, Frusciante, and Lombardo. I didn't know any of those names in 2015, but I know them all now.

She provided a long, detailed history of these names in her family tree. She said they came from Santa Paolina, Avellino, Italy. I knew in 2015 that my 2nd great grandmother was born in Santa Paolina. But not much more.

You're further along in your family tree today. It's time to revisit the hints in those old potential-cousin messages.
You're further along in your family tree today. It's time to revisit the hints in those old potential-cousin messages.

It was purely coincidental that she wrote to me. I didn't have Cecere (her mother's maiden name) in my tree, but I had Cece. There's no relationship between the names. Cece comes from another province. But because she mentioned Santa Paolina, I told her, "There may be something between us, but I can't tell what it is."

Today I have tons of vital records from Santa Paolina. They weren't available in 2015, but they're on my computer now. Lately, I've been sorting through the files and getting familiar with the town's last names. Names like Cecere, Musto, Frusciante, and Lombardo.

Now, after 5 years, I can provide this contact with more facts than she knew. I can send her the birth records of her ancestors. I can work out how they fit into my family tree.

Once they're in my family tree, I'll check my contact's details about what became of these people in America. I can use Ancestry to find documents for the family in the U.S.

And I wouldn't know any of this if I didn't revisit those old messages. One down, HUNDREDS to go. I'll start with the last names that are the closest to me.

Do you have old genealogy emails and messages you filed away and forgot about? Pick a few to re-read and see if they make sense to you now. This is why we do genealogy: to find new connections to our past.

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