28 February 2023

Exploring a New Feature You Didn't Know You Need

Last week I discussed using the Manage Facts feature of Family Tree Maker to add or remove custom facts. (See "How to Add or Delete Custom Facts in Your Family Tree.") That led me to explore what else is hiding in that Edit menu.

You may have received an email from Family Tree Maker about a free update recently. In the email they highlighted new capabilities in the Manage Relationships tool. (You can read a list of all that's new in FTM 24.2.)

Fix Broken Relationships

They said you may find couples in your family tree listed with an Unknown relationship. And it's through no fault of your own. I decided to test out this new feature. Here's how you can do it:

  • Open your tree in FTM, click the Edit menu, and choose Manage Relationships toward the bottom of the list.
  • In the Manage Relationships window, the Show relationships menu defaults to Spouse.
  • Click Spouse, then click Couple to open up a list of choices.
  • The 2 choices that should interest you the most are Unknown and Unknown with a Marriage fact. Start by clicking Unknown.
  • You'll see a list of every couple in your tree with an Unknown marriage status.
  • You can choose to Select All or you can click each person you know should have a Spouse relationship.
  • Once you've made your selections, you can change them all to Spouse at once. First make sure that at the bottom you see Change selected relationships to this type: Spouse. Then click the Apply button and it's done.
This new feature fixes a hidden family tree problem quickly and easily.
This new feature fixes a hidden family tree problem quickly and easily.

I realized as I looked through my list of names that some of the couples should say divorced. Make note of their names because you must change them to Spouse before you can mark them as divorced. (To change their status to divorced, go to an individual's Person tab, look at the Relationships view, and change Spouse - Ongoing to Spouse - Divorced.)

Next, follow the same steps, but choose Unknown with a Marriage fact in the Spouse > Couple list. In my results list, I saw some divorced couples. I had to make note of them, set their relationship to Spouse, then visit each couple to mark them as Spouse - Divorced.

There's a good chance these errors happened while synchronizing your FTM tree with Ancestry.

Manage Even More

Back on the FTM Edit menu, choose Manage Repositories near the bottom. Here you can add, edit, replace, or delete the repositories you created to use with your source citations. Click the Usage button for any repository to see its usage. You'll see a list of how many times it's used—no other details.

You know how to get around in your family tree software. But you can always use a shortcut.
You know how to get around in your family tree software. But you can always use a shortcut.

In my case, I found one repository that I'm not using anymore. The Usage button confirmed that it's not in use in my tree, so I deleted it.

The same is true if you choose Manage Sources. But I find it easier to manage your sources from the Sources tab at the top of the FTM window.

One other interesting feature I found on the Edit menu is Edit Person. First navigate to any person of interest. Try clicking the Home button and choosing yourself. Click Edit > Edit Person (or the shortcut, the F3 key). A single window gives you quick access to every fact, note, and media item you've attached to that person.

This is a nice way to view a timeline for the person. Yes, you can see this timeline on any individual's Person tab. But if you need to confirm something quickly, the Edit Person (F3) option is a time saver. Maybe you're wondering if you added a citation to your 2nd great grandmother's 1920 census facts. You'll see that in this window. And you can edit any fact right there in the window.

Finally, the Edit menu has a Find Duplicate People option. I gave up on this after a few moments because my tree has 57,136 people, and far too many of them have the same name. But it may prove useful for you.

If you've been wondering about any other menu option in Family Tree Maker, I highly recommend the Facebook group Family Tree Maker Users. Administrator Nanci Crisp is a marvel. She has created a series of illustrated tutorials explaining absolutely everything to you. Once you've joined the group, click the Guides tab to see all the tutorials.

If you're using another type of family tree software, be sure to check Facebook for a user group. I bet you'll find that someone else has already asked your question and gotten the solution.

21 February 2023

How to Add or Delete Custom Facts in Your Family Tree

I'm still busy making every source citation in my family tree complete and consistent. (See "Take the Time to Improve the Sources in Your Family Tree.") It's been so rewarding! Revisiting the documents and families tied to each citation shows me where I need more research. Sometimes it reminds me of past discoveries or problems.

One citation I reviewed was unique for my family tree. I realized I had a decision to make. I needed a custom fact type to handle a convict in the family.

You can create your own custom fact types in 3 steps with FamilyTree Maker. Your software should have this option, too.
You can create your own custom fact types in 3 steps with FamilyTree Maker. Your software should have this option, too.

This one citation covered 3 images and facts belonging to a man name Frank. Frank's brother married my husband's aunt, and I'd forgotten about my past discovery. Frank committed an unspeakable crime and was sentenced to 7 years in prison.

  • He went to San Quentin State Prison on 18 June 1942 at the age of 21.
  • He was transferred to the prison in Chino, California, a year later.
  • He was released on 18 March 1947 with parole.

How would you enter these dates in your family tree? It seems I assigned these dates to a fact type I made up—Internment. But that custom fact type is for Japanese family members the U.S. shipped off to the middle of nowhere during World War II.

I needed another fact type for Frank, so I created one called Imprisonment. Right now, only Frank uses this fact type, but I'm still reviewing my family tree.

Identifying Custom Fact Types

I wondered if I'd used Internment for other non-internment facts. To find out, I exported a new GEDCOM file and opened it with Family Tree Analyzer (FTA). On the Main Lists tab of FTA, I clicked the Custom Facts tab.

FTA showed me 7 custom fact types used in my tree:

  • Ahnentafel—I think this fact type should be part of the GEDCOM standard. I use it to identify all my direct ancestors.
  • AKA (Also Known As)—for entering nicknames. This is standard in Family Tree Maker, but FTA doesn't recognize it.
  • Event—this is so generic. Too generic.
  • Imprisonment
  • Internment
  • Passport Application
  • Visa—some ship manifests include facts about travel visas.

While looking at this table in FTA, you can double-click any row to see who is using this fact type.

Don't know if you have any custom fact types in your tree? Use Family Tree Analyzer to spot them.
Don't know if you have any custom fact types in your tree? Use Family Tree Analyzer to spot them.

I had one person using a fact type called Event. What the heck was that? I double-clicked the row to see the name, then I went to the person in my tree. Ironically, the Event was another man's prison stay. I guess I've struggled with how to categorize jail facts before. I switched this fact type from Event to Imprisonment.

There were 6 people with a custom fact type of Visa. Were these all visa applications for travelers? I double-clicked the Visa row, saw the names, and checked them out in my tree. Each one was a tiny entry pulled from a ship manifest. Obviously I don't add this fact to my tree routinely since there are only 6. But I'll leave them there in case these documents become available some day.

The 2 Passport Application facts were appropriate, but I know I have more than 2 passport applications. I'll bet I forgot I created a custom fact type for them!

The fact type that interests me most is the 35 people using the custom AKA fact type. I don't want to use AKA anymore. I've already started using a different style of recording name variations.

If they call someone by a different name on one census, I note it in the description field of their Residence fact for that year. My Aunt Elsie is a good example. I knew her all my life. I'm the baby she's holding in her profile photo in my tree. It came as a big surprise to discover her given name wasn't Elsie. It was Agnes! She's first called Elsie in the 1940 census, so that's where I've placed the name Elsie. It's in the description field of her 1940 Residence fact: "She is called Elsie."

Want to change how you record certain facts? Family Tree Maker can show you exactly where to find them.
Want to change how you record certain facts? Family Tree Maker can show you exactly where to find them.

I've reviewed my 35 uses of the AKA fact type and dealt with them all in the proper description field.

This is what's nice about reviewing all your citations at once. You can bring every fact you've ever added to your tree up to your current standards.

Add or Delete Custom Fact Types

To add a new fact type in Family Tree Maker:

  • Click the Edit menu and choose Manage Facts.
  • In the Manage Facts window, click New to create a new fact type.
  • Type in a descriptive fact label so you'll understand what it is. The program will create its short label and 3-letter abbreviation automatically.
  • Choose whether to share the fact (like a marriage fact), or give it only to an individual.
  • Choose what you intend to fill in. Do you want to have a date and place or only a description? You can even make this fact private by default.
  • Click OK.

Now when you want to use this type of fact, you'll find it in the Add fact drop-down menu.

To delete an unused custom fact type in Family Tree Maker:

  • Click the Edit menu and choose Manage Facts.
  • In the Manage Facts window, select the fact type and click the Delete button.
  • Click Yes to confirm, and the fact type is gone.

Uh oh. I'm seeing something for the first time in the Manage Facts window. You can select any fact type, click the Data Options button, and see a list of every fact you've assigned to that fact type. To my surprise, this method finds another 36 people using AKA. I need to update them with my new style.

As I was writing this article, Family Tree Maker released a free update affecting the Manage Relationships option on the Edit menu. (Find out everything new in this version 24.1 release.) I haven't explored any of the Manage options before because I had the wrong idea of what they were. Now I know what to write about next week.

14 February 2023

Unraveling the Story of My So-Called Cousin

Reviewing the 841 pages of censuses in my family tree has been rewarding. I've been working to clean up all my census source citations (see "Take the Time to Improve the Sources in Your Family Tree"), and it feels like I'm visiting with families I know.

For example, take the 1930 census for my grandmother's uncle Semplicio Saviano. This was the year he had a family of 3 living with him, bringing the total number of people living in his apartment to 11. The husband in that family of 3 is Patsy Ferro, and he's listed as Semplicio's nephew. But he isn't his nephew.

This mystery has been with me for a while. I must have blogged about Patsy before, because a reader named Annette wrote to me about him in 2021. She gave me a few clues about Patsy and his family. But I didn't get very far.

Finding New Clues

Last week the censuses had more to offer on this mystery. In 1940, Patsy and his wife and daughter are once again living with my Saviano relatives. Uncle Semplicio had a ton of children, and in 1940 four of them are living in the same apartment as in 1930. Patsy and his family are each listed as cousins of Semplicio's sons and daughters. But that's not true.

Of course I had to check out the 1950 census for this Saviano family. I finally found something that ties in perfectly with the story Annette told me in her 2021 email. In 1950, Patsy Ferro is the head of household, living a few doors away from his 1930 and 1940 apartment building. His wife is with him, but his daughter recently married and moved away.

Annette said that on her deathbed, Semplicio's wife asked Patsy to look after her children. She died in 1926 and Patsy did as she asked. In 1950, two of the Saviano children are living with him and his wife, listed as cousins. Mind you, they aren't children. These two Savianos are 34 and 40 years old and single.

Is There a Connection?

The question remained, though. How did my relatives know Patsy? Patsy and his wife and daughter were born in the town of Baselice, in the Italian province of Benevento. My Saviano family lived far enough from Baselice that they would never have met Patsy back home. Even Semplicio's wife was born too far from Baselice to know Patsy. But they were paesan since they all came from the province of Benevento.

Three families appeared in my family's home census after census. Who they were supports my theory about my family.
Three families appeared in my family's home census after census. Who they were supports my theory about my family.

I checked more censuses for the apartment building Semplicio co-owned with my great grandfather, Giovanni Sarracino. Patsy wasn't there in 1910 and 1920, but so many people were!

I remember this building from my childhood. There were 4 apartments, and 2 belonged to my family when I was a kid. They were "railroad apartments"—each room led straight into the next like the cars of a train. There was no hallway. You entered into the kitchen, which led to the next room, which led to the next room, which led to the master bedroom. No privacy for anyone.

But in 1920, according to the census, these 4 apartments held 5 families totaling 39 people! Three of the families are members of my extended Saviano family. The other 2 had names I recognize from the Benevento province: Campanile and Cardone. They're also in the building with my family in the 1910 and 1915 censuses. Who are they?

Was This a Pattern?

Suddenly I remembered my 2nd great grandfather, Antonio Saviano. The only photo I have of him shows him lying in his coffin in 1925 (see "1925 Death Photo Holds a Clue to My Ancestor's Life"). He's wearing a ribbon on his lapel which seems to represent an Italian mutual aid society. This group of immigrants helped other Italian immigrants thrive in their new country.

Maybe my Saviano and Sarracino relatives opened their homes to their paesan. I researched the Cardone family from the building and found some enticing details:

  • Husband Francesco Cardone came from San Nicola Manfredi, Benevento. This town is NEXT DOOR to Sant'Angelo a Cupolo, the home of my Saviano and Sarracino families.
  • When Francesco's wife (Maria Mirto) and daughter arrived, they called Sant'Angelo a Cupolo their hometown.
  • Francesco and his wife had their first American-born child in 1906. I found his birth certificate. They lived in my family's building, and the Mrs. lists her maiden name as Maria Mirda Sarracina. Sarracina? Is this a nod to my great grandfather Giovanni Sarracino?

At the end of the day, my so-called cousin Patsy Ferro is in my family tree. Not because he's my Uncle Semplicio's nephew. He isn't. And not because he's my cousin. He isn't. He's in there because he and his wife were born in Baselice, my grandfather Leone's hometown. (Grandpa Leone is no relation to the Savianos except by marriage.) I've found that 90% of the people born in Baselice have a family relationship (see "Why I Recorded More Than 30,000 Documents").

I'm missing key pieces in both Patsy's and his wife's family trees. Until I can fill in those gaps, their closest relationship to me is through my 2nd great grandfather Leone's first wife. So that's no good.

What's the lesson here? Take a closer look at your family's census records. Are there families living with or near them, census after census? Is it a coincidence, or is there a hidden connection? You're the family-history investigator. Start digging!

07 February 2023

Report Finds Marriage Mishaps in Your Family Tree

Anytime you do a lot of work on your family tree, it's a smart idea to let Family Tree Analyzer have a look at it. This free software seems to offer me a new way to dissect my GEDCOM file each time I use it. And I've been doing a lot of work on my tree recently.

Last week I finished perfecting the citations in my family tree for these sources:

  • 1851 England Census
  • 1861 Census of Canada
  • 1861 England Census
  • 1871 England Census
  • 1880 U.S. Federal Census
  • 1881 England Census
  • 1891 England Census
  • 1900 U.S. Federal Census
  • 1901 England Census
  • 1905 New York State Census
  • 1910 U.S. Federal Census
  • 1911 England Census
  • 1915 New York State Census
  • 1920 U.S. Federal Census
  • 1925 New York State Census

That adds up to 944 citations shared among family members found on the same census. Before I fixed them, a few sources had more than 700 citations each due to a catastrophic sync failure with my tree on Ancestry.com. I've given up trying to sync, but by next year I'll upload a clean version of my tree using a new tree name. I won't sync with it once it's uploaded.

Time for a Quick Check-Up

After all that editing, I wanted to see what Family Tree Analyzer (FTA) thinks of my latest GEDCOM file.

My GEDCOM Stats in FTAnalyzer had a strange line item telling me my family tree had some errors. Here's how you can find and fix them.
My GEDCOM Stats in FTAnalyzer had a strange line item telling me my family tree had some errors.

When you open your GEDCOM in FTA, you get a summary screen filled with basic facts about your tree. This time, I spotted something unusual. FTA said I had 4 lone individuals listed as single families. I needed to find them and see what was going on.

I found them by doing something I hadn't tried before. Usually I click FTA's Main Lists tab which opens to the Individuals tab. This lists everyone in your tree. But this time I clicked the Families tab next to the Individuals tab. I scrolled way to the right and found a column called Family Size. I sorted the data in that column from A to Z, putting all the families with a size of 1 at the top of the list. To my surprise, there were 41 families of 1.

5 Types of "Marriage Problems"

I opened my Family Tree Maker file and found each person from the FTA list, one-by-one. These "families of 1" fell into the following categories:

  1. An unwed parent whose child's name you know from their birth record. In these cases, there's nothing you need to do. It really is a single-person family with a child.
  2. Someone you meant to delete from the file but overlooked. Before you delete them, delete any of their citations or images. And detach them from an Unknown Spouse* if necessary.
  3. Someone whose parents you deleted because you don't want to trace their family. (That's my in-law rule in action.) You may need to detach them from unknown parents. Otherwise leave them be.
  4. Someone with a marriage date but no spouse. Take the time to search for the source of this incomplete fact and add their spouse. I've found Italian birth records with a marriage date, but no spouse's name!
  5. A complete mystery, unattached to anyone, who you may as well delete.

*Unknown Spouse—As I worked through the list of 41 people, I found that many had an Unknown Spouse attached to them. Even babies who died young had these mysterious spouses. To see the unknown spouse in Family Tree Maker, go to a person's detail page. Then click Relationships rather than Facts or Timeline. If there is a partial marriage fact, delete it. Then detach the individual from their unknown spouse. Now the phantom spouse is gone from your file.

How many of these lurkers are hiding in your family tree? Here's how to find and eliminate them.
How many of these lurkers are hiding in your family tree? Here's how to find and eliminate them.

When I finished dealing with the 41 people with a family size of 1, I exported a new GEDCOM. Then I opened it in Family Tree Analyzer. Now I have 9 people with a family size of 1 because I made the decision to keep each of them. (Almost all are single parents.) The initial message from FTA saying I had 4 lone individuals listed as single families is gone.

This week I'll tackle my 1930, 1940, and 1950 U.S. Federal Census citations. Then I want to jump straight to the passenger lists of people coming through Ellis Island. Most of the immigrants in my family tree arrived in New York, so this is an important source to whip into shape. Then I'll continue working through my sources in alphabetical order.

After that, I have to deal with my countless Italian document citations. That's fine—I've wanted to work on those for a long time.

How Healthy is Your Family Tree?

If you've been working on your family tree for a while, you've no doubt gotten better at it with practice. That means your earliest work isn't as good as it should be. In my case, I know that censuses and ship manifests for my closest relatives are what I added first. And I'm fixing them as I work my way through my citations.

How did you begin your family tree? Were you searching for certain types of documents  first, like me? Did you begin with an inherited tree that someone else created? Take a look at the different reports FTA can offer you, such as: