25 July 2023

How to Share Documents and Citations Within Your Family Tree

A Facebook group for Family Tree Maker Users explains every aspect of the software. But people still have questions, of course. I saw one the other day that was, basically, how do you share facts and media among family members?

I'm focusing on Family Tree Maker in this discussion, but the logic applies to online family trees, too.

When I began collecting census records for my family years ago, I:

  • Named the image file for the head of household. I still do. (Example: SarracinoGiovanni1915.jpg.)
  • Attached it to the head of household.
  • Entered the address and occupation for that person only.
  • Added a source citation to these facts.
  • Added a line to my document tracker spreadsheet to show that I have that image for the head of household. (See "Which Genealogy Documents Are You Missing?")

I soon realized I needed to assign the image, address, and occupation facts to the rest of the family, too. But I knew it was wasteful to have so many copies of the same census sheet in my family tree. Each family needed to share one image.

Adding Efficiency to Your Family Tree

Let's take my great grandfather, Giovanni Sarracino, as an example. He and his wife came to America in 1899, and by 1915 they had 5 children. They're all listed in the 1915 New York State census. Now, you could drag and drop that 1915 census image onto each of the 7 members of the family. But the image file size may be big, and 7 copies of it will weigh down your family tree file.

Your family tree software or website is built for sharing documents and source citations across a family unit.
Your family tree software or website is built for sharing documents and source citations across a family unit.

Instead, attach the image to the head of household. Then add his or her census facts to their profile, and create one source citation. You can and should attach the existing image to the source citation.

Next, go one at a time to each person in your family tree who's listed on that census. For each person:

  • Add their facts from the census. This can include an address, year and place of birth, occupation, immigration year, and more. (The person asking the question in the Family Tree Maker Users group wanted to know how to share facts. Facts are individual items and you can't share them.)
  • Copy the source citation from the head of household to paste onto facts for each person in the household.
  • Connect the head of household's existing census image to each person in the household.
  • Add a census notation to your document tracker for each member of the household to show that you have this item.

You've added only one image and one citation to your family tree. But each family member's individual profile shows it.

Key Points to Remember

The Benefits of Sharing

If you download a census image from a website, the image file may be as large as 3 megabytes or more. Think about all the families in your family tree with census images. Do you really want to bloat your tree's file size by 3 Mb times all the spouses and kids, times all the census years? It's inefficient and wasteful.

But there's an even bigger benefit to sharing, not duplicating, images and citations. When you need to correct a citation, or update the annotation on an image, you can do it in one place rather than 5 or 10 or 15.

I know I've gotten more thorough with my record keeping over the years. I didn't know from day one that I could add a date, category, and description to each saved image in FTM. I've revisited images to improve the descriptions or add a forgotten category. And I was glad to be able to make each edit in only one place.

Earlier this year I reviewed every source citation in my tree, bringing them up to my high standards. (See "How to Weed Out Those Unreliable Sources.") It would have been awful to have to make the same edit to tons of duplicated citations.

It can be painstaking work, but I've made it part of my routine. (See "How to Fully Process Your Census Documents.") Each time I find a census for a family in my tree, I complete the entire process. I make sure each member of the household has all their sourced facts and a connection to the census image.

Are you handling all your genealogy facts, documents, and citations efficiently?

18 July 2023

Pinpoint Important Places in Your Family Tree

When I used the Maps menu in Family Tree Analyzer (FTA), I discovered something I needed to fix. Even though I can find many addresses from my tree on Google Maps or Bing Maps, they weren't recognized by FTA.

I opened my tree in Family Tree Maker, which uses Bing Maps for locations. I noticed it could be very imprecise, or just plain wrong, about some locations. I wanted to improve these results so I could do more with FTA's Maps menu. The solution was to add Latitude and Longitude coordinates. And it's easy to do.

If small-town locations in your family tree are hard to find IRL, these two numbers will bring you right to the front door.
If small-town locations in your family tree are hard to find IRL, these two numbers will bring you right to the front door.

Here's how to add these precise coordinates to your computer-based family tree software:

  • Find the exact location on a map website. I like Google Maps for this because of its streetside view. I want to see that I've got the right place, and even find the front door.
  • Right-click at a precise location to see the map coordinates. (You must exit Street View first.)
  • Enter the Latitude and Longitude numbers in your family tree.

I use Family Tree Maker, but RootsMagic also has fields on the Places menu to enter map coordinates. I'm sure other desktop genealogy programs do, too.

Family Tree Maker tells me I have 5,323 places in my family tree, so I'm not going to do this for every location. My goal is to use Family Tree Analyzer to see how many people got baptized or married in a particular church. So for starters, I'm pinpointing the locations of different churches in my family tree.

Watch Your Results Get Better

Here's an example of the benefits of this project. Before I added map coordinates to one church in Benevento, Italy, Family Tree Maker had their pin a few miles south of the city. I have no idea why. Now, with the coordinates in place, FTM knows precisely where to find this church. And so do I, should the day come when I want to visit it. As I look at the map, I see that I've been within a few yards of this church, but I didn't know it!

How many people in my family tree were at this address? Family Tree Analyzer can tell you, but you may need to feed it a couple of numbers.
How many people in your family tree were at this address? Family Tree Analyzer can tell you, but you may need to feed it a couple of numbers.

With a few churches pinpointed in my family tree, I'll export a new GEDCOM file to open with Family Tree Analyzer. I'd like to see how many births and baptisms I've associated with the church in Colle Sannita, Italy.

In Family Tree Analyzer, once you open your GEDCOM file, click the Maps menu and choose Show Places. Say No to the pop-up message about Geocode locations. Now choose a particular location.

I clicked through the list of places and drilled down to the church. Italy, Campania, Benevento, Colle Sannita, Chiesa di San Giorgio Martire. There's my answer. I've attached this location to 14,724 baptism or marriage facts. And because of the map coordinates, the location is very precise.

Recently I've been reviewing some of my early research work on the town of Baselice. I was brand new to Italian vital records when I recorded many of these facts. I remember I didn't want to assume each baby got baptized in the town church. Now I know better. And I can see that the church is in fact mentioned on the birth or baptism records. I'd like to correct those baptism facts and increase the number of uses of the church in Baselice.

Make Your Map Pins Portable

I'm excited to use these map coordinates the next time I visit my ancestral hometowns. Family Tree Analyzer can export all the places from your family tree to "Google My Maps." I gave this a try, and it saves a file to your computer in a text-based format. When I go to My Maps in Google, I see that I can import the file.

Sure enough, all 5,323 locations from my family tree are now on this one map! I've never been to my 2nd great grandmother's hometown of Santa Paolina, Avellino. But when I get there, I can use Google Maps to pull up the precise location of the town church and step inside!

Family Tree Analyzer can put every single location from your family tree on one map—complete with names and dates.
Family Tree Analyzer can put every single location from your family tree on one map—complete with names and dates.

To get to Google My Maps, start at google.com/maps and click Saved in the left menu. Then click Maps and Open My Maps. I've created maps before, but uploading thousands of locations at once is fantastic! I can click any location to see who's associated with that place. There's also an option to open this map collection in Google Earth. This seems like the best way to see your places in living color, rather than basic map view.

Now I needed to turn my iPhone into my family tree navigator. I installed Google Earth and put Family Tree Analyzer's exported places file on my phone. In Google Earth, I chose Projects, then Open, then Import KML file. (That's the format of the FTA locations file.)

Now no matter where I am, I can open Google Earth and zoom out see which family tree locations are nearby. Then I can tap any map pin to see what happened there. Don't you want to have this on your phone?

11 July 2023

The Method to My Genealogy Madness

On Saturday morning I mentioned to my husband that my family tree had reached exactly 60,500 people. That afternoon I had 60,854. In May I had a mere 57,238 people. "What changed?" my husband asked.

It's just my usual project. I'm piecing together every family from my Grandpa Leone's hometown of Baselice. That town in southern Italy is where I began this journey more than 15 years ago. Back then, I ordered microfilmed vital records through the Family History Center. I soon realized I needed to document everyone, and fit all the families together. Otherwise, how would I know each Leone and Iammucci's relationship to me?

The available microfilmed records at the time ended with 1860. Now the rest of the records are online on the Italian Antenati website. I have access to the 1861–1915 birth records (with a few years missing) and the 1931–1942 marriage and death records.

I've had all the 1809–1860 people and facts in my family tree for years. But I haven't yet scoured the newer documents for relationships. That's what I'm doing now. And I've only gotten through 1861–1866 so far. (Note: Many of my recent tree additions come from another town that I'm harvesting at the same time.)

Immerse yourself in your ancestor's hometown vital records to unlock all the details they hold.
Immerse yourself in your ancestor's hometown vital records to unlock all the details they hold.

How to Identify Every Family in Town

When I began, I knew my grandfather's parents' names, and that's it! I found my great grandfather's birth record to learn his parents' names. Then I searched the surrounding years' birth records for any siblings. I did the same for my great grandmother's family.

I kept going back in time, finding the parents' marriage records to learn their parents' names, and looking for siblings. Then I came forward in time, seeing who all the siblings married and finding their children. Next, I built out the families of everyone who married into my bloodline. It was clear that 99% of the people in town had a relationship through blood or marriage. Those who didn't usually came from another town.

My method with the 1860s birth records is this:

  • I check each birth record in a given year one at a time to see if:
    • I have the child in my family tree already, or
    • I have the parents.
  • After adding the baby to my tree, I find every other baby born to the same couple throughout the years and add them. (I use a Windows program called Everything to instantly search all the records on my computer.)
  • If a birth record mentions a marriage date and spouse, I add the spouse, look for the couple's children, and find the spouse's parents and siblings.
  • When I've exhausted all paths, or my head is swimming and I've lost my place, I go on to the next birth record in the given year.

As I move on to the next year, I'll find that I've recently added many of the children because of the process above. (Of course I'm tracking all my finds in a spreadsheet.)

You can build out an entire family easily once you have all the basic facts.
You can build out an entire family easily once you have all the basic facts.

I can do all that pretty easily because of the preparation I did in the past. I downloaded all the document images for the town to my computer. (Today you have to download document images one at a time. Here's how.) Then I reviewed each one and renamed it. For a birth or death record, I include the name of the father. That way, I can search my computer for every Iammucci born to Antonio, for example.

Renaming the files is a great way to get familiar with all the names in a town. That helps you overcome bad handwriting.

If I hadn't downloaded and renamed all the document images, I wouldn't be able to move back and forth in time so easily. And that's how it was when I was viewing microfilm in a Family History Center. What I did then was add the main facts from each document to a text file. For each birth, I recorded:

  • the baby's name, birth and baptism dates
  • parents' names, ages, and occupations
  • any other family names or addresses mentioned.

When I got home from the Family History Center, I began entering everything into Family Tree Maker to show all the connections. That's when I saw how the whole town was related.

You can still document your entire ancestral hometown by taking simple notes about each document you view.
Can't download all the records? You can still document your entire ancestral hometown by taking simple notes about each document you view.

How to Get Around Missing Document Years

Since there are no available marriage records for my town from 1861–1930, things can get a bit tougher. How can I be sure who is a baby's father when so many people in town have the same name?

But I know the ins and outs of the available documents. I know, for instance, that from 1866–1873, birth records often have the name of the baby's two grandfathers. That helps me identify the right mother and father. And I know that the death records from 1931–1942 tend to be very accurate with the decedent's age. I can't say that for most records.

That means if I can't be sure which of many Maria Cece's had this baby in 1865, I have to first look for all her other babies. Finding a record that includes Maria's father's name can set her apart from the others. And if I'm lucky enough to find a death record for someone I wasn't quite sure of, the names of their parents and spouse can seal the deal.

Last week I did some research for a woman with ancestors from northern Italy. World War I must have destroyed a ton of records up north. These towns are challenging, with huge chunks of years missing from the documentation.

But I managed to push the family lines back another generation. How? I searched death records to find all the relatives' whose birth and marriage records were destroyed. How thrilling it was to find the death record of the eldest-known relative with the family name. Now I had his parents' names. I got very lucky when I found his 1811 birth record as confirmation of the names. And learned the name of his grandfather, taking the tree back to about 1746.

Get familiar with your town's records and exhaust all possibilities. Then there's no limit to how far you can expand your family tree.

04 July 2023

What Good Are Distant DNA Matches?

I've recently added more than a thousand people to my family tree from one town—Pesco Sannita, Italy. And I've barely begun to harvest the vital records. I'm eager to use the new families in my tree to connect to my unsolved DNA matches.

That's the exercise for today. I went to my DNA match list on Ancestry and searched for people with the name Pennucci in their trees. I chose that name because it's common in the town and my 3rd great grandmother was a Pennucci. I selected the first match who wasn't my father or someone from his 1st cousin's family.

I've looked at this match's tree before. It's a good one—46,234 people. But checking how his ethnicity compares to mine, I see that he's only a quarter Italian. That means a big chunk of his family tree has no connection to me.

My jumping-in point in his family tree is his great grandmother Immacolata. I recognize my match's last name (it's also his great grandfather's name), but it doesn't come from my target town. His grandmother falls into the sweet spot. Her 1902 Pesco Sannita birth record is available on the Italian ancestry website, Antenati. (See "How to Make the Best of the New Antenati Website.")

I pulled up Immacolata's birth record and discovered she's in my tree already. She and I don't have a blood relationship. Immacolata (who's mother was a Pennucci) is the 1st great grand niece of the wife of my 4th great uncle. I've already built Immacolata's family tree back 5 or 6 generations. What more can I do to establish a true relationship to this DNA match?

I realized Immacolata is in my tree because of a previous attempt to connect to this DNA match. Now I need to search the vital records for her siblings, aunts, and uncles to see where it takes me.

I get the impression some people think the only way to use the Antenati website is to search for a name. Not true. Not every record is searchable. You need to navigate to your town and to each year's index pages to scour them for the name you want.

But I'm the lunatic who downloaded entire towns when it was possible. Then I renamed each document image on my computer to make them truly searchable. For me, it's easy to search the vital records for someone's siblings, and their parents' siblings.

Swimming in the Same Gene Pool

I built out several families related directly to Immacolata with no breakthrough. Then I looked at our original relationship: 1st great grand niece of the wife of my 4th great uncle. Immacolata's 2nd great aunt Agnese married my 4th great uncle Giuseppe. That's something like "crossing the streams" in the Ghostbuster movies. Their marriage created people who carry DNA like mine and like my match's.

What I haven't mentioned yet is that this DNA match, the great grandson of Immacolata, is in my 5th–8th cousin range. We share only one segment of 17 cM. Our shared roots are in a remote town where families intermarried for centuries. There's a very good chance that instead of a pair of shared ancestors, we have DNA from the same community pool.

I've been thinking about this notion for a long time. I haven't put it out there because it seems evasive and hard to put into words. It started taking shape when tests showed that my parents share DNA—37 cM across 4 segments. They could be 3rd to 5th cousins. But they aren't. I can name their ancestors and they're all different. (See "When DNA Says You're Related, You Determine How.")

Here's what I think. My documented ancestors, going back to the late 1600s, lived in neighboring towns, laid out like links in a chain. Each town is small, and even with modern roads, it can be hard to get from one to the next. (I know from personal experience.) That led to centuries of intermarriage within the towns or between close towns.

Doesn't it make sense that deep roots in a small geographical area result in shared DNA?
Doesn't it make sense that deep roots in a small geographical area result in shared DNA?

All those neighboring towns produced generation after generation of people with shared DNA. You know how the big DNA companies compare your DNA sample to a reference panel? The panel consists of DNA from people with roots in one place for several hundred years. Well, that's me! Until my recent ancestors came to America, my people were tied to one spot for centuries.

Studies show that the characteristics of a place exist in its people's teeth and bones. Is that why you can "feel it in your bones" when you arrive at the place your ancestors came from? I believe my parents and I, and many of our distant DNA matches, share the characteristics of the place we come from. That's why we carry some identical DNA.

We've been simmering in the same pot for centuries!

My DNA match, great grandson of Immacolata, has DNA from a mixture of Pesco Sannita and a town 9 miles away—Molinara. I get all my DNA from a mixture of at least 7 towns in the same area. We have the very soil in common.

Adding Up Your Ancestral Roots

I took a tally of the birth places of my 1st through 3rd great grandparents—all 42 of them. Here's my percentage of roots in each town. (The 7th town, Circello, doesn't appear until a pair of my 4th great grandparents.)

  • Colle Sannita 40.48%
  • Baselice 23.81%
  • Pastene 21.43%
  • Pesco Sannita 7.14%
  • Santa Paolina 4.76%
  • Apice 2.38%

Seeing this list in order justifies the extensive research I've done. I've completely harvested the vital records of Colle Sannita and Baselice. I've worked everyone possible into my family tree. I've harvested Pastene's limited records, too. Now I'm working my way through Pesco Sannita. Obviously Santa Paolina and Apice will be next, then Circello.

This type of relationship to my distant DNA matches changes how I view them. I don't expect to find a common ancestor with most of them. But I do search their family trees for marriages without documentation. Immacolata and her family are in my tree, but there's no documentation of her marriage to a man from Molinara. It's my match's tree that holds that detail.

If your family tree has no non-parental events and few missing ancestors, you may ignore your DNA matches. I encourage you to review matches with decent-sized family trees. What are they good for? They may contain the marriage that brought your great aunt to a new country. They may help explain a great uncle who seemed to disappear from his hometown. They can extend your tree's dead ends.