15 June 2021

Tackling Several Genealogy Projects on the Fly

I have several genealogy projects I bounce between every day. But I'm always open to whatever comes my way. This week I helped 3 distant cousins with their family trees—for their benefit and mine.

Project 1: Italian Emigrants to Brazil

First there was a man from Brazil. He found my website that's devoted to my grandfather's hometown: Baselice, Benevento, Italy. He wrote to ask if I could help him discover more about his Italian heritage.

We started with his great grandfather Giuseppe. He was born in Baselice in 1887 to Antonio and Concetta. They left for Brazil the following year.

If I built this family for my Brazilian friend, I'd know why they disappeared from town.

I began by finding Giuseppe's birth record and seeing his parents' ages at the time. Then I found his father Antonio's 1860 birth record. Antonio's parents were already in my family tree. That meant that BOOM! I had 6 generations ready and waiting for my new friend.

The only problem was Giuseppe's mother, Concetta. The clerk wrote the wrong last name for her on his birth record. That made her a dead end. What could I do to discover her real name? The marriage records available for the town end around the year she was born.

To learn this missing name, I could check the birth record of every Concetta born in town at the right time. If I were lucky, the right record would mention who she married. But the birth records around 1860 rarely have a marriage notation in the column.

Luckily this couple had another child, and his birth record had Concetta's real last name. I found her birth record and discovered 5 generations of her ancestors waiting in my family tree.

Project 2: New-found Family Members

My ancestry is like strong espresso coffee. Very concentrated! Most of my people come from 5 neighboring towns. Because my family tree represents these towns so well, I get the same comment all the time. "Your tree keeps showing up in all my hints."

One woman who said that to me has been trying to discover her birth father through DNA matches. She kept matching people with names familiar to me. They were all from my other grandfather's town—Colle Sannita. (Find out how to Harvest Clues from Your DNA Matches.)

On Friday, she had a breakthrough. Instead of hard-to-place 3rd cousin matches, she finally got a very close cousin. Her new match is her birth father's nephew.

I soon found her birth father's uncle and ancestors were already in my family tree. The reason the uncle was there was pure serendipity. In 2018, I photographed lots of graves in Colle Sannita. When I got home, I searched the town's vital records to learn whose graves I had captured.

The birth father's uncle had married my 2nd cousin 4 times removed. Not only that, but her birth father's grandmother was my 4th cousin 3 times removed.

I built out the family with vital records from the town and U.S. census records. In the end, this friend (who is not on my DNA match list) is my 7th cousin.

Project 3: Tying Up Loose Ends

After working on those families, I found a 3-month-old email from a man I learned is my 6th cousin twice removed. He had given me a lead on one of his branches, and I knew I could expand that branch.

It was his grandfather's brother's wife I needed to explore. I found her birth record and discovered a connection. Her maternal grandmother was my 4th great grandmother.

So, the great uncle of my 6th cousin twice removed married my half-1st cousin 4 times removed. Only in genealogy, right?

Handle multiple projects without losing your place—or losing your mind.
Handle multiple projects without losing your place—or losing your mind.

What's the Trick?

The key to being able to shift gears and handle new projects is keeping notes. I have a text file that's always open on my computer. I keep notes on exactly where I am with my genealogy projects when I quit for the day. I made a note to add specific birth record images for my friend in Brazil. I made a note to add census records for my new 7th cousin. And I made a detailed note about where I left off with my own, very complex project.

I'm trying to add as many cousins as possible from one of my ancestral hometowns. Here's that note:

Working on children of Emanuele Ricciardelli and Giovanna Consolazio:

  • down to Samuele's son Ponziano Ricciardelli's son Ruggiero's children who married
  • but 1st look for kids of Marino Ricciardelli

I'd be so lost without that note. Set yourself up for success and pure luck. Keep notes so you can:

  • be ready to pounce on unexpected genealogy projects
  • jump back to your own project without missing a beat.


  1. Great advice. :)
    I'm at the point in life where I definitely need to make notes to keep up with where I'm at in my research. Unfortunately, I am also at the point in life where I often forget to make the notes. Or, I get interrupted in the making of them and, by the time I get back to it, I have no idea what I was intending to write. Such is the life of a caretaker with a noodle brain. :)

  2. When taking notes is it one list or different lists based on family line This one are I have never really worked on. I have notes and notebook pages that I never really use. I need help for sure to do better for once