29 November 2022

How to Export and Delete Branches from Your Family Tree

Last week I cut my Family Tree Maker file size in half with one move. (See "When Is a Genealogy Harvest Too Big?") The file was impossibly big at more than 7 gigabytes. Quickly removing more than 25,000 obsolete source citations cut the file size in half.

My project to document my ancestral hometowns will make my family tree grow so much more. That's why I decided to make more cuts.

I'm going to export some in-law and distantly related branches out into their own family trees. Years ago I decided to limit in-law branches. I said I would not document anyone but the parents of a relative's spouse. I wouldn't include that in-law's siblings or grandparents—only their parents. (See "When to Cut a Branch Off Your Family Tree.")

But I had one exception to the rule. If my cousin asked me to research their spouse's family, I went all-in.

That rule gets adjusted today. I will research my cousin's spouse if asked. But I'll do it in a separate Family Tree Maker file. Leave my master family tree file out of it.

Three exportable branches came to mind:

  1. My great granduncle Semplicio's wife's family. She came from a huge family that was so easy to document. A relative of hers encouraged me to continue the work. But that are so many people and documents, and they have no relation to me. I'll export them to a separate tree.
  2. My 1st cousin's wife's family. My cousin asked me to document his wife's family. But she is continuing this project herself. I'll export them to a separate tree.
  3. My distant cousins who emigrated to Brazil and had 100 years' worth of descendants. After years of longing for my distant cousin's book on the Brazilian branch, I finally received it. What an amazing work she produced! But I can't get documents for the Brazil-born family members, so it's a dead end. I'll export them to a separate tree.

I also have a lot of people who we know are cousins, but there aren't enough Italian vital records to prove it. I don't want to pull them out, but I may. I can always pull them back in if more documents arise.

Exporting the Branch

I'm starting this process with a 3.846 gigabyte Family Tree Maker file containing 57,831 people. Let's pull out great granduncle Semplicio's wife's family and keep only her and her parents.

I began by going to her in my family tree and choosing File > Export. I selected her name, Giovina Renza, and clicked Ancestors. Many of her siblings' families are in my family tree. To capture them, I checked the box for Include ancestors' descendants.

I excluded the descendants of Giovina and my great granduncle Semplicio. Those people are my cousins. I had to consult my family tree on Ancestry.com to make sure I didn't miss any of my cousins and their spouses. That left 97 people to export to Giovina Renza's family tree. I clicked Apply then OK to export the group, making sure to include all their related document images.

3 steps to help you safely preserve and delete an unwanted branch of your family tree.
3 steps to help you safely preserve and delete an unwanted branch of your family tree.

Deleting Only the Right People

Now things were going to get tricky. I wanted to delete all the right people from my main family tree. I went to Family Tree Maker's company page to find the best method for deleting a branch from your family tree. It was surprising.

The best way to delete the branch is to use Family Tree Maker to create a chart including all the right people. Then there is an option to Delete From File either Selected Persons or All Persons in Chart. (This doesn't work with Relationship charts or Pedigree charts.) To keep Giovina, her parents, and all their documents, I'll have to delete branches within the chart one at a time.

I went to the oldest Renza in my tree, Giovina's grandfather, and created a descendant chart. I found Giovina in the chart so I could make sure to keep her. Then I deleted the descendants of her aunts, uncles, and siblings. To do this, I:

  • Selected the eldest member of a family unit, then
  • Right-clicked to choose Select Person and All Descendants and Spouses.

This highlighted a large group of people that I made sure did not include those I want to keep. I right-clicked any highlighted person and chose Delete From File > Selected Persons. Up popped a list of the people to delete. After again making sure my cousins weren't in there, I clicked OK, then I clicked Delete.

The process took a couple of minutes and gave me a progress report part of the way through. It read, "Persons remaining to be deleted: 22." Then 13, 11, 10, 9, and done. The chart regenerated, and that group of people was gone.

I repeated the process carefully 4 more times. In 3 cases I had to delete people individually. Either they had no descendants or their descendants included Giovina. Now I had only what I wanted: Giovina, her parents, and her descendants who are my cousins.

Taking Care of Associated Media Files

Next I went to the Media tab of Family Tree Maker to check that:

  • Giovina had her pre-marriage immigration record and all her census forms
  • Her father had his birth record and even his census forms where his now-deleted son was the head of household.
  • Her mother had all her document images.

When I looked only at my collection of census files, I spotted one for a now-deleted Paul Renza. I clicked to see the details, and sure enough, the document was linked to no one. That means I'll have to find and delete any orphaned document images myself.

To do this, I opened my exported Family Tree Maker file for the Renza family in a new window. It contains all the appropriate documents. I can compare the two Family Tree Maker files side-by-side to make sure I delete all the right ones from my main file.

The Renza branch removed 92 people from my family tree. When I finished removing the other 2 branches in my list, I had removed 714 people from my family tree!

With a slimmed-down tree, I can continue adding my 18th- and 19-century cousins from Italy. That is my focus and my purpose. I'm eager to get back to it once International Genealogy Loose Ends Month is over.

22 November 2022

When Is a Genealogy Harvest Too Big?

Note: The problems I described in this article were entirely my laptop's fault. I replaced it after 9 months of needless suffering.

Halfway through International Genealogy Loose Ends Month I faced up to a big problem. (See "Make November Genealogy Loose Ends Month.") My Family Tree Maker file is too bloated with 57,827 people. It can take 3 hours for me to compact the file, which is an important maintenance step. I have to leave my computer running overnight so my files can upload to the cloud.

Something's got to give!

Early last week I was fixing existing images in my family tree—not adding new ones. I edited every World War I and II draft card to crop out the black space. I love the results! (See "How to Improve Your Digital Genealogy Documents.") I replaced bad images with good ones of a smaller file size. That's a worthwhile task, and I planned to move on to bad census images next.

Then I remembered a loose end from earlier this year. The New York City Municipal Archives released vital records for the city's boroughs, and I have tons of relatives from the city.

You've hit the jackpot in vital records for your family tree. Can you accept them?
You've hit the jackpot in vital records for your family tree. Can you accept them?

In my family tree, whenever possible, I used the NYC vital record indexes on Ancestry.com to note certificate numbers. For example, my grandmother was born in the Bronx in 1899. In the description field for her birth, I added "Bronx birth certificate #3072." I did that for every birth, marriage, and death record from the city when possible. (See the "Day 5" section of "7 Days to a Better Family Tree.")

This past week I spent a day gathering 172 documents from the Municipal Archives' website. The most efficient way to tackle this task was to use the latest GEDCOM file exported from my family tree.

I opened my GEDCOM in a text editor and searched for:

  • Bronx birth certificate
  • Bronx death certificate
  • Bronx marriage certificate

…doing that for Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens as well. The certificates are downloadable as PDFs, but I can export the certificate from Acrobat as an image. Two-page certificates export as two images. Now I have 172 PDFs plus 309 document images!

With my Family Tree Maker file already struggling under its own weight, I'm not about to add 309 images to it. Holy cow, that would take forever anyway.

Instead, I know I have the information available whenever I need it. I can create a source citation for each certificate that includes a link to the PDF. This way, anyone who finds their relative in my tree on Ancestry can get the document for themselves.

Sticking to the True Goal of My Family Tree

I began thinking of what I could do next without adding more documents to my tree.

My family tree's goal is to help people with ancestors from any of my ancestors' hometowns. It has names, dates, and places for TONS of people. But most of those facts have no sources or documents.

To add value to my tree, I can build useful source citations that include a link to the original documents. I don't have to add the documents themselves.

But before I build my missing source citations, I have another, really big loose end. Many years ago I documented my Grandpa Leone's entire hometown of Baselice, Italy. I did this by viewing microfilmed vital records (1809–1860) at a local Family History Center. It took me about 5 years to do. (See "Why I Recorded More Than 30,000 Documents.")

All those countless facts have well-crafted but useless source citations. Why is that? Because they cite the microfilm number you would need to order from a Family History Center. And they ended their microfilm program a few years ago.

Source citations can become obsolete. I know. I had 25,000 of them in my family tree. Here's the format for the updated citations.
Source citations can become obsolete. I know. I had 25,000 of them in my family tree. Here's the format for the updated citations.

Today all the documents I was citing are available on Italy's free Antenati website. (See "How to Use the Online Italian Genealogy Archives.") It would be fantastic to rid myself of these 25,000 bad source citations and create usable ones to replace them.

In fact, I'm going to delete every one of the outdated citations in one fell swoop. Then I'll work on adding good citations. I can go to the Sources tab in Family Tree Maker and rip out all the bad source citations at once. They're gone now. The process was scary, but all is well. And it cut my 7GB file size in HALF!!

Wrapping Up "Loose Ends Month"

I'll close out November by creating or improving source citations for documents and facts already in my family tree. Then I'll return to my previous project which documents the town of Baselice after 1860.

It's been a tremendous experience focusing on loose ends this month. I'm so excited by all I found. I don't know about you, but I'd like to dedicate one week a month to genealogy loose ends. Who knows? There may come a time where everything is all tied up.

Yeah, right!

15 November 2022

How to Improve Your Digital Genealogy Documents

I've been having such a productive month tying up loose ends in my family tree and in my genealogy tasks. I discovered lots of emigrants from my ancestral Italian hometowns. Then I gathered and added tons of documents for these people, including:

  • ship manifests
  • naturalization papers
  • draft cards
  • censuses
  • death records
  • family members

It felt great to "finish" these people as much as I can. And I know the descendants I added to my family tree will help me identify DNA matches.

These people were all leads I found in my Ancestry.com shoebox. I followed through on every saved lead—more than 100—until they were all gone. And I searched for every available document I could find for each person in the shoebox.

I downloaded so many new documents during the past two weeks! But I wanted to switch things up. For my next cleanup task, I wanted to avoid downloading anything new.

That's when I remembered my unfinished work with the 1950 U.S. Federal Census. That project fits the bill. Here are my current and next genealogy loose ends to tie up. I'll bet you can relate to these.

Recent Document Collections

Two critical document collections to come out recently are the 1950 U.S. census and the 1921 U.K. census. Have you downloaded and documented the most recent census forms for your family?

I've had a folder of 50 or more 1950 census forms on my computer since their release. Now, finally, I've cropped and renamed the images. I've also added the source information to each file's properties. They're 100% ready to add to my family tree.

Working on a ton of census documents in one sitting keeps you consistent with your source citations.
Working on a bunch of census documents in one sitting keeps you consistent with your source citations.

And I know what I'll do right after that's completed.

Image Enhancement

One of my pet peeves is a ton of black space at the edges of different genealogy records we can download. You wouldn't want to print that document, would you? It'll suck up all your printer's black ink or toner.

You can get rid of that waste by using photo editing software.

You also shouldn't tolerate document images that are either too light or too dark to read. You can fix those problems before you add the images to your family tree.

In recent years I've made a habit of fixing documents as best I can before putting them in my family tree. But I have lots of older documents in my tree that need improvement. One great example is World War I draft registration cards.

Don't keep all that awful black space that comes with some genealogy documents? Crop it out!
Don't keep all that awful black space that comes with some genealogy documents? Crop it out!

There's almost always a thick black border around the image. And there's a huge black space between side one and side two of the draft card. Now I make sure to fix all that, but I have older draft cards I want to go back and replace.

To fix these draft card images:

  • Surround and select the left-hand card and move it to the top left corner of the image.
  • Surround and select the right-hand card and move it beside the left card.
  • Crop the image and adjust the contrast if needed.

Take a look at your digital document collection. I'll bet you can find a lot that need improvement.

If you know you can fix this genealogy documents, what's stopping you?
If you know you can fix this genealogy documents, what's stopping you?

These two tasks will keep me busy during this 3rd week of International Genealogy Loose Ends Month. I'm sure along the way I'll find more tasks I've been meaning to tackle. What about you?

08 November 2022

Loose Ends Month: Week 1 Successes

Last week I declared November to be International Genealogy Loose Ends Month. (See Make November Genealogy Loose Ends Month.) But first I needed 3 days to tie up a different kind of genealogy loose end!

Once I was free to start, I had my sights set on my Ancestry.com shoebox. There were 15 screens full of saved items dating back to 2007! I started with the oldest ones and immediately realized I had some treasures there.

He's Been Waiting All This Time

One of the oldest items was a ship manifest for a 19-year-old man with my maiden name: Iamarino. He was traveling with his mother, and they came from my Grandpa Iamarino's hometown. That meant they should be in my family tree.

I launched Family Tree Maker and looked for a Giuseppe Iamarino of the right age. He needed to have a mother named Libera Paolucci. There was only one choice. What a shock it was to see his photo there in my tree! You see, several months ago my dad sent me a link to a 2020 obituary for a man in Florida with our last name. He asked me if I could figure out his relationship to us, and I did. He was my 4th cousin twice removed.

Now I know when he came to America and that his parents were here, too. He started as an obituary. Now I know his whole family.

Your own notes from the past may lead to a treasure trove of documents for your family tree.
Your own notes from the past may lead to a treasure trove of documents for your family tree.

A Chance to Update Source Citations

There were a bunch of older items in my Ancestry shoebox that I'd already placed in my family tree. I decided to update the sources for those items before deleting them from my shoebox. They were so old that I'd used a very simple source citation style that I don't use anymore. I went ahead and updated each source to my new, much more specific style. (See Step-by-Step Source Citations for Your Family Tree.)

I skipped over a few older shoebox items, saving them for the end of this process. I know I can place those items in my family tree, but they need a bit more research first. For example, there's an item for a man with the last name Luciano. He isn't in my tree yet, but he was born in my other grandfather's town, so I know I can fit him in.

Follow up on your past hunches and you may discover there was more to a cousin than you ever knew.
Follow up on your past hunches and you may discover there was more to a cousin than you ever knew.

Then I spent an entire day gathering U.S. documents for my 3rd cousin 3 times removed, Giovanni. He was born in Grandpa Iamarino's hometown, and I never knew he left Italy. There were a ton of documents for him, including:

  • censuses
  • naturalization papers
  • military papers, including draft registration cards and veterans benefit applications
  • a death certificate

I built his entire U.S.-born family, some of whom may lead me to connect to DNA matches. How sad it was to learn that he died from injuries sustained in a terrible car crash. And how weird that in 1961 they called it a telegraph pole, not a telephone pole, that his car crashed into.

There Was More to His Story

Another distant cousin came to America and completed the citizenship process in 1931. For some reason he went home to Italy in 1932—and died! I already had his Italian birth and death records, and since he never married, I thought that was all there was. Now I know he came to America, following his father, to earn money. Then he decided to become a citizen, and did so.

Unfortunately I'll never know what went wrong in that last year of his life. Was he badly injured on the job? Did he become ill and want to see his mother again? That one old shoebox item filled out his life in a very unexpected way.

Picking Up a Dropped Stitch

Right now I'm working on the newest items in my shoebox. I saved them recently when I didn't feel like finishing my research on that family that day. They are ancestors of my husband's 1st cousins, all from Liverpool, England. My husband told his cousins that maybe I could connect them to the Beatles or the royal family. I doubt it, but I'll give it a try.

I'll need about another week to empty out my Ancestry shoebox. What's next? I may pull out my old notebook of ship manifest entries for people I haven't yet placed in my family tree. The notebook is from my earliest days of genealogy. Back then I wrote down the facts for anyone with a last name from my close family. Now I can figure out who everyone is.

Let me know how your International Genealogy Loose Ends Month is going. What surprises did you find? What will you tackle next?

01 November 2022

Make November Genealogy Loose Ends Month

Every day of the year seems to be National [something very specific] Day. National Checklist Day. National Candy Corn Day. November 1st is World Vegan Day. I propose we make November International Genealogy Loose Ends Month. Let's devote this month to finding and tying up loose ends in our family trees.

It's not unusual to focus on one branch of a family tree, or a big file organization project. Believe me, I know. I recently finished a two-year project to fit my Grandpa Iamarino's entire hometown into my family tree. And now I'm busy working on my Grandpa Leone's hometown.

But I know there are lots of loose ends in both my family tree and my genealogy research in general. I have people in my tree whose parents I haven't identified. I have a notebook full of very promising ship manifests listing people who should be in my tree. I have a virtual shoebox on Ancestry that I never look at.

Let's put a pin in our current research obsessions and clean up our trail of loose ends. This November let's make loose ends our top priority.

You know all those family tree details you meant to go back and add? This is the best month to get it done.
You know all those family tree details you meant to go back and add? This is the best month to get it done.

Here's the plan. Go through your different resources looking for missing information:

1. Notebooks

Do you keep any handwritten or digital notebooks while you're researching? I have an old notebook from my earliest days of genealogy research. I wrote down facts from tons of ship manifests I found online containing key names from my family tree.

A long time ago I went through the notebook and highlighted every entry that is in my Family Tree Maker file. But what about the rest? They need another look now that my family tree has grown so much.

Do you have a notebook or folder filled with potential leads?

2. Charts

If you track your findings in a spreadsheet, a binder, or a chart you hang on the wall, look it over for loose ends.

My document tracker shows me each document I need to find for each person before I can "close the book" on them. Before my recent mega-project, I checked my document tracker line-by-line to find those missing documents. I left off halfway through last names beginning with C. That's not very far at all.

What documentation do you have that needs your attention?

Your own documents can show you the loose ends in your family tree. This month, see how many of them you can tie up.
Your own documents can show you the loose ends in your family tree. This month, see how many of them you can tie up.

3. Unattached Items

How many family photos have you collected but not attached to your family tree? Maybe you haven't scanned them yet. If you don't have a flatbed scanner (they're not expensive), there are phone apps that can capture and perfect your photos. But please don't capture the photo at an odd angle or under glass with a reflection spoiling the image.

Do you have any folders, either paper or digital, with goodies you've found but haven't dealt with yet? If you have an Ancestry.com account, how's your shoebox looking? Mine has more than 99 items in it stretching back many years. Boy oh boy. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

What items have you put on the back-burner? This month, give them the attention they need.

4. Family Tree Index

My family tree may be a tad bigger than yours with 57,749 people. (Oh my God!) If yours isn't that huge, you can more easily view your list of people and look for holes you might be able to fill.

If you keep your tree on Ancestry, click Tree Search and choose "List of all people." I'm sure other family tree websites have a similar feature. Or, if you work in desktop family tree software as I do, your index is right there for you.

Check your index for people who are missing an exact date of birth. What research can you do to discover that birth date? Your family tree software may let you sort your index of people by their birth, death, or marriage date. Who do you see in the list whose dates you may find with some more research?

This second look will help you tie up loose ends you planned to get to later. Later is now!

5. Go Home

Go to the home person in your family tree, which is probably you. Make sure everyone from you through your 24 second great grandparents is fully documented. When they're done, work on all their children. Start with your own children, if you have any, then your siblings and their families, 1st cousins, 2nd cousins, etc.

Give everyone the once-over and see what you can add to make your family tree stronger.

Come on. Let's make International Genealogy Loose Ends Month a reality!