23 February 2021

Genealogy Challenge Accepted!

I've been working day after day on my ultimate genealogy goal. I'm busily fitting Grandpa's entire town in Italy into my family tree.

It can get tedious sometimes. There are a lot of steps involved in adding a person to my tree with their vital records and source citations. And I want to do it right.

Then a string of genealogy challenges came my way. At first I didn't want to be bothered. Then I accepted those challenges and had a lot of fun completing them!

My first reaction to this genealogy challenge was, "so what?" But it quickly got interesting.
My first reaction to this genealogy challenge was, "so what?" But it quickly got interesting.

Genealogy Challenge #1: Is He Our Relative?

Recently, my father pointed me to a stranger's obituary out of the blue. He was a 90-year-old man in Ohio who was born in my Grandpa's hometown. The obituary provided plenty of clues. The man himself is not in my collection of vital records from the town, but his parents are. And each of their birth records includes a note in the margin confirming who they married.

I kept searching generation after generation until I found a match in my family tree. The man's last name was familiar to Dad and me. But his blood connection to us was through his mother. That connection led to Dad's 6th great grandfather, Giancamillo Martuccio, born around 1667.

This challenge went quickly, and in the end, the man in the obituary Dad found was his 7th cousin. It made me think I should be scouring obituaries for familiar names! I wrote back to Dad with a chart showing their relationship. They were born two years apart, and the man died in a city where Dad once lived.

Genealogy Challenge #2: Who Are My Cousins?

My old friend is a private detective. When an adopted woman came to him for information about her birth family, he referred her to me.

She knew her parents' names, and their families happen to come from a town just north of me. I used a free trial of newspapers.com to learn about her birth mother, including a close brush with disaster.

With access to the woman's DNA matches, I was able to point out three of her 2nd cousins and a possible half-sibling. Now I leave it to her to decide if she wants to make contact.

For me, it was a confidence-building experience.

Genealogy Challenge #3: Who Were His Parents?

I belong to Facebook groups dedicated to my two grandfathers' hometowns in Italy. Once in a while someone will post a photo of an ancestor from the town.

That's irresistible to me! In one case, the photo showed a married couple. Now they're in my family tree. In another case, I helped a distant cousin in South America piece together his ancestors.

Then someone posted a funeral card with a photo of the man on it. I saw the reactions from group members who had fond memories of the man. He was a traffic policeman in the town, which seems strange, knowing how quiet the town is.

I decided to find his ancestors and see if this nice man belonged in my family tree. Luckily, he was born in the second-to-last year of available birth records from the town. Now I knew his parents' names and was ready to keep climbing.

I rarely learn anything about my Italian relatives, so this challenge had a big payoff.
I rarely learn anything about my Italian relatives, so this challenge had a big payoff.

It took almost no time to find a blood connection. The man was my 1st cousin 3 times removed. My color-coded family tree told me at a glance that he is on my paternal grandfather's branch. And his last name told me that Grandpa's mother is the connection. This nice man, so well loved, is the first cousin of my great grandmother.

His mother's family stretched into another town, but I kept building her tree. And the man's wife, whose name is in the margin of his birth record, turns out to be my 5th cousin once removed.

My 26,907-person (and growing) family tree makes all the townspeople relatives!

Do people sometimes ask you to put your genealogy talents to work? Accept that genealogy challenge if it intrigues you. Solving the puzzle can prove that you are the go-to genealogy resource.

Keep your mind open, put your skills to work, and accept that genealogy challenge.

16 February 2021

Get Your Fill of Virtual Genealogy Events

The genealogy conferences I've gone to were within driving distance, or a train ride away. But they were still a hassle. I had to book a hotel room, pay for travelling, and eat at restaurants. Now we're all realizing how much we can do virtually.

Let's take a look at a few of the upcoming, virtual genealogy conferences you may want to experience. These are roughly in chronological order.

Mark your calendar and register now for any or all of these virtual genealogy conferences. Some of them are free!
Mark your calendar and register now for any or all of these virtual genealogy conferences. Some of them are free!

21st Century Italian Genealogy with a New Jersey Focus

I'm attending this February 22, 2021, conference because I'm familiar with the presenter, Michael Cassara. Michael will give an Italian genealogy overview. He'll also talk about some resources that may be new to you. Register for free online.

RootsTech Connect

In the past, RootsTech has streamed many of its lectures and seminars for free. This year, the entire conference is virtual and completely free.

From their website: "RootsTech Connect will be live during February 25–27, 2021, at rootstech.org. All of the content will then be available following the live event for at least 12 months."

If you haven't registered, take a moment to do so right now.

Be sure to mark your calendar for February 25. It's almost here!

Family Tree University

Family Tree Magazine is hosting this conference from March 12–14, 2021, so you'll need to enroll soon. For your enrollment fee, you get unlimited access to 15 video classes on these topics:

  • using DNA to track down ancestors
  • the latest tools and technology to benefit your research
  • strategies and resources for finding your ancestors
  • genealogy organization tips and preservation strategies

The list above comes directly from their website at https://university.familytreemagazine.com/courses/winter-2021-virtual-genealogy-conference.

IGGP German Genealogy Conference

The International German Genealogy Partnership is holding a virtual conference from July 17–24, 2021. But they're offering earlybird pricing through March 31. Go to https://iggpartner.org to see which registration package is best for you.

New England Regional Genealogical Consortium Conference

The NERGC is having their first-ever virtual conference that will last 2 full months, from April 1–May 31, 2021. For full details go to the conference website and click Fees, Agenda, and Featured Speakers at the top of the page.

To find more virtual genealogy conferences, go to https://conferencekeeper.org/conferences. If you're on Facebook, go to the Events section and enter "genealogy" in the search box. I think you'll be surprised.

09 February 2021

How to Weed Out Those Unreliable Sources

Once in a while I spot them in the details of my family tree. Those questionable, unreliable sources.

When we're new to genealogy, we're more likely to borrow facts from the trees of strangers. It's a quick way to move things along. It can flesh out a more distant branch of relatives.

If you want your tree to be a reliable source for others, you cannot keep these lesser sources. You must trade them for the real thing. If it's an immigration fact, find that ship manifest and add the proper source. If it's a birth, marriage, or death record, track it down and record the source.

Our people deserve much better than the unreliable sources we're guilty of using.
Our people deserve much better than the unreliable sources we're guilty of using.

I needed an easy way to find all the low-quality sources hiding in my very large family tree file.

First I exported an up-to-date GEDCOM file. Not familiar with that term? It's a text file containing the names, facts, and relationships of everyone in your tree. Any decent family tree software can export a GEDCOM. If you keep your tree online only, you should be able to download a GEDCOM.

Next, I launched the free Family Tree Analyzer (FTA) program. It can tell you more about your family tree than you can imagine. Then I used FTA to open my new GEDCOM file.

On the program's Main Lists tab, I chose Sources. There I found a long list of every source in my family tree—309 of them. It showed me how many uses there are for each one. I clicked the top of the FactCount column to sort the sources from least used to most used. It won't surprise my regular readers that the bulk of my sources are from the State Archives of Benevento. That's where I find Italian vital records for my ancestors.

For me, it's the least used sources that are most likely to be unreliable. They're the ones I used early on, when I didn't know any better.

While I can see all my sources in Family Tree Maker, Family Tree Analyzer shows me how many times I'm using each one.
While I can see all my sources in Family Tree Maker, Family Tree Analyzer shows me how many times I'm using each one.

I decided to replace the "Someone's Family Tree" sources first. They centered around my 4th cousin 5 times removed, Giovannangela Mascia. She was born in my Grandpa Iamarino's hometown in southern Italy. Her husband came from a nearby town, and that's where they raised their children.

I can't remember how I discovered this family in someone's tree years ago. But now there's no reason on earth for a stranger's tree to be my only source for these people. I have Giovannangela's birth and marriage records on my computer. They're in my collection of all the available records from Grandpa's hometown. Her husband and children's birth records are all available online.

It was time to replace every mention of "Someone's Family Tree" as the source for this family's facts. I started by finding Giovannangela's birth and marriage records on my computer. Then I found birth records for her husband and kids online. I added the document images to my family tree along with a proper source citation.

For her family, I attributed the facts to:

The State Archives of Campobasso
Birth records for (year) in Riccia, Campobasso, Campania, Italy
The exact URL where anyone can find the document

According to this other person's tree, part of the family came to America. I went to Ancestry.com to find their ship manifests for myself. One of Giovannangela's sons spent 14 years in Philadelphia before returning to Italy. He made a trip in 1901 to bring back his parents. I was very surprised by his parents' ages. Giovannangela was 75 years old, and her 83-year-old husband was senile.

They may be the oldest Italians I've seen coming to America. Both died a few years later.

Now I have a proper "New York, Passenger and Crew Lists" source citation for these facts. As I add these reliable sources, I can remove the unreliable source.

You may have developed good genealogy habits along the way, as I have. But your early work can cast doubt on the value of your family tree.

I encourage you to examine your source list and find any that you know are not high quality. Concentrate on replacing them one at a time. Pull your early work up to your current, more professional standards.

02 February 2021

Reaping the Benefits of Genealogy Legwork

Two weeks ago I wrote about searching the treetops to break through your dead ends. Let me tell you about the great success I had. Here's how I did it:

  • I printed out a large fan chart of my ancestors.
  • I used a highlighter to mark the names of my oldest known ancestors.
  • Three-eighths of my family lines come from one Italian town, Colle Sannita. I began there because I've created the ultimate database of every available vital record from that town.
  • One by one, I searched my database for the names of my highlighted ancestors.
  • I found the death records of EIGHT of my 6th great grandparents! They were sitting there, waiting for me to find them. Now I know the names of their parents—my 7th great grandparents.
Printing a fan chart of my ancestors made it clear where most of my roots come from. I'm researching that town full blast!
Printing a fan chart of my ancestors made it clear where most of my roots come from. I'm researching that town full blast!

In some cases, things got even better. Take my 6th great grandfather, Giorgio Iacobaccio. He was one of my dead ends, born in 1733. I knew his wife was Antonia Cioccia, and I had plenty of information about 3 of their children.

When I found a record of Giorgio's 1791 death, I had the names of his parents, born in the very early 1700s. That made them suitable for my favorite research aid.

I'm the proud owner of a book that details every living person in my ancestral town in the year 1742. That year the town performed a full census, listing:

  • the head of household and his age
  • whether he owned or rented his home
  • everything he owned, from donkeys and sheep to vegetable gardens and vineyards
  • the name, age, and relationship of everyone living in the household

It's a freaking gold mine of information. Exploring my treetops often leads me to search for a family in the 1742 census. I found my 6th great grandfather Giorgio Iacobaccio in the book because I knew his parents' names.

There I learned so much more.

Giorgio lived in the home of his uncle Carlo. Carlo was a 51-year-old shoemaker who lived in his own house, and owned 2 other houses. He had a donkey and 5 different plots of land.

Carlo didn't have a wife or children in his home. He had his mother, Camilla Grasso—my 8th great grandmother born in 1669. And he had his sister-in-law (my 7th great grandmother) Caterina and her children. This told me that my 7th great grandfather (Carlo's brother Nicola) was dead by 1742. His widow Caterina diPinto lived in Carlo's house with her 4 children.

My 6th great grandfather Giorgio, formerly my dead end, was the 2nd oldest child at age 9. The youngest child, Margherita, was only 4. So I know my 7th great grandfather Nicola must have died between 1738 and 1742.

When I searched for my next dead end, Giorgio's wife Antonia Cioccia, I had the same luck. I found her family in the 1742 census, and I found the name of my 8th great grandfather Carlo Cioccia, born about 1677.

Pairing up my own hometown database of vital records with an historian's book about the town is breaking through to new generations.
Pairing up my own hometown database of vital records with an historian's book about the town is breaking through to new generations.

Before I search the treetops of my other ancestral towns, I want to keep exploring the 1742 census. Each time I place a 1742 family into my family tree, I put a checkmark by their listing in the book. And I cross out their listing in the index. My goal is to place the entire book in my tree.

This is the ultimate jigsaw puzzle. I'm viewing each unchecked family in the book and searching for their names in my town database. Sometimes I get lucky and make a positive ID. Then the whole family goes into my tree.

This entire exercise is making my family tree grow so fast! I'm busy adding facts, documents, and sources. After a long day of adding details, I synchronize my Family Tree Maker file with my tree on Ancestry.com.

Why am I doing all this, going so far? I'm creating the ultimate resource for every descendant of this town. (I have shared my database, too.) We are all over the world, living in different cultures, but formed by the same roots.

This will be my legacy. What will yours be?