29 August 2023

Overlooked Website Finds Immigrant Ancestors

I'll bet we all do it. We save notes or bookmarks to remind us of a genealogy find we need to explore. And then we forget all about it. I found a web address and single sentence on line 420 of my constantly updated text file named Notebook.txt. It says this:

Search for family names; based on dates and ship names, piece together families.

This free-access Italian website belongs to CISEI, an organization that translates to the International Center for Italian Emigration Studies. The site provides a simple search form that lets you find Italian relatives who emigrated to:

  • Brazil
  • The United States
  • Argentina
  • Canada
  • Australia

And you can search all 5 locations at once.

The key benefits of this site, which does not show you the actual ship manifests, are:

  • Italians compiled much of the information. They're less likely to mangle the spelling of an Italian name.
  • You'll get each key detail from a manifest typed out clearly and with great care.
  • You'll get details about the ship, a photo*, migration statistics, and links to more information.
    * The photo may not be the actual ship, but it will say so.
  • You'll see a map of the long migration path across the ocean.
  • It's free!
Search 5 countries at once on this free website to see where your cousins disappeared to.
Search 5 countries at once on this free website to see where your cousins disappeared to.

Start Your Search with a Name

Remember, you can copy the site's URL into Google Translate and click the result to see the site in your language.

To use the search form:

  • Enter a last name in the first box. This is mandatory. Wild characters like * and ? do not work. Incomplete names do not work.
  • Enter a first name if you choose. This can be helpful if you would otherwise get too many results.
  • Choose a destination country, or keep the Everyone/Tutti selection, to search all available ports at once.
  • Click the button to submit your search.

To test this search engine, I searched for a record I know very well. It's my 2nd great grandfather's 1898 trip back to America with his whole family. He'd been to New York 2 or 3 times before this, and the last time, he left his eldest son in the Bronx to await the whole family.

When you find the result you want, click the icon in the column on the right. You'll see a full transcript of this line from the ship manifest. I was happy to see that the results were all correct. I already knew the ship name (California). I knew my relatives were heading to 149th Street in the Bronx, New York. I knew they were joining the eldest son in the family, Simplicio Saviano.

A second search for only the last name Saviano let me find the rest of the family. I already saw that the arrival date was 8 June 1898 (written here as 08/06/1898), so they were easy to spot.

With a few more clicks, I found:

  • 13 people named Saviano who emigrated to Brazil
  • 6 who went to Argentina
  • 8 who went to Australia
  • 122 who came to the USA.

I can check my family tree and vital records to try to identify cousins in these lists.

The immigration path looks daunting, doesn't it? Find out more about your ancestor's journey.
The immigration path looks daunting, doesn't it? Find out more about your ancestor's journey.

Be on the Lookout

The main page tells you which years this database includes for which ports. There's such a variety that I won't list them here. But if you don't find your person, check to see if the database covers their year of arrival.

I didn't find my great grandparents' arrival in July 1899, and the website says it should be there. I didn't find either of my grandfathers' arrivals, either. Still, I'm excited by what I can learn from this very concentrated database of emigrants. I'm especially interested in family members who went to Australia, Argentina, and Brazil. They could help tie up some loose ends.

I noticed a few name abbreviations that tell me that's how the manifest shows the name. For instance, I found one Francesco Iamarino listed as "FCO." complete with the period at the end. Another Francesco is "FRANCO" on his manifest. Yet another, this one a Francesco Saverio, is "FRANO.SAVO." These people will be harder to find, so you should leave the first name blank on the search form and try again.

Once you've done a search or two, you shouldn't need Google Translate to get the facts you want. Some headings on the pages are images, so Google can't translate them for you. But, with the Google Translate app on your phone, you can aim your phone at the screen to see a translation. (If you're doing the search on your phone, you may need to borrow a second phone!)

Hurray! Another genealogy project! How late can you stay up tonight?

22 August 2023

Visualization Tool Highlights a Family Tree Surprise

During RootsTech 2021 I typed and saved this note: Go to learnforeverlearn.com/ancestors to visualize endogamy. I know I tried it in 2021. Yet this time, it had a dramatic revelation for me.

All you do is go to the website linked above and upload a GEDCOM file exported from your family tree. You'll see the results in seconds. If your tree has pedigree collapse—ancestors with more than one direct ancestral relationship to you—you'll see pairs of lines that don't go straight up. They'll be horizontal or diagonal. (See The DNA Problem We Aren't Talking About.)

The website will show each direct ancestor in your family tree as a pink or blue dot. (Pink for maternal, blue for paternal.) Hover over any dot to see:

  • The ancestor's name and lifespan
  • Their birthplace
  • How much DNA they contributed to you (by percentage)
  • Their relationship(s) to you—the root person of the family tree.

When I hover over the pink dot at the apex of one of my horizontal lines, I see Cristina Iapozzuto. Under relationship it says she's my 4th great grandmother "twice." And I knew this. Cristina Iapozzuto married Francesco Iamarino. Two of their sons were Giuseppantonio and Pasquale. Giuseppantonio's great grandson is my paternal grandfather, Pietro Iamarino. Pasquale's great granddaughter is my paternal grandmother, Lucy Iamarino. I learned in 2007 that Pietro and Lucy were 3rd cousins. I'll forever wonder why no one in my family knew this—especially when they had the same last name.

Wait a minute. I have TWO sets of double ancestors? This free tool doesn't lie.
Wait a minute. I have TWO sets of double ancestors? This free tool doesn't lie.

Since Cristina Iapozzuto and Francesco Iamarino are my 4th great grandparents twice, they each have two different Ahnentafel numbers. Ahnentafel is a numbering system that gives a unique number to each of your direct ancestors. (See A Roadmap for Your Genealogy Research.) If they're double ancestors, they get 2 different Ahnentafel numbers. So Cristina gets Ahnentafel #65 and #81. I list my double ancestors twice in my Ahnentafel spreadsheet, once for each number. I use a special color of orange to highlight them.

An Unexpected Double Relationship

But the second example of endogamy in my family tree had escaped me until now. Salvatore Piacquadio (born 1716) and Donata diRuccia (born 1718) are my 6th great grandparents AND my 7th great grandparents. Their son Giorgio is my 6th great grandfather, an ancestor of my grandmother Lucy Iamarino. Their son Pietro is my 5th great grandfather, also an ancestor of my grandmother Lucy Iamarino.

My huge family tree has tons of multiple relationships. That's thanks to countless marriages within small towns. (See The Method to My Genealogy Madness.) Because it's so big, I'd overlooked the uniqueness of this particular family unit.

Family Tree Maker knew they were my double ancestors. But it took another tool to make me see it.
Family Tree Maker knew they were my double ancestors. But it took another tool to make me see it.

The signs were there in my Family Tree Maker file, but I'd missed them. The easiest sign to spot required only one thing: I needed to lay eyes on this family. If I had, I'd have seen that 2 of Salvatore and Donata's children had the yellow arrow that says they're my direct ancestor. But I didn't see it. That's why this online endogamy tool is such a gift. A free gift.

If your family tree has a good number of generations, I urge you to try this online endogamy tool. The tool has many functions. You can read about them at http://familytreeviz.blogspot.com/2015/09/features-of-family-tree-visualization.html.

15 August 2023

Digging Into a DNA Match's Family Tree

A while ago I uploaded my AncestryDNA test results to Geneanet.org for free. I like their website because I can upload a complete replacement tree after I do a lot of work on it on my computer. (See "A Major Family Tree Change to Fix an Ongoing Problem .")

The good thing about having my DNA test on that site is access to European DNA matches I may not find on Ancestry. I don't have any close matches yet, but one match, Giovanni, has a family tree that reeled me in right away. I recognized the last names as coming from Circello, Italy. That's the hometown of my 3rd great grandfather Francesco.

I've been spending time making a searchable database of Circello vital records. They records are all available on the Antenati website. (See "How to Use the Online Italian Genealogy Archives.") On Saturday I randomly noticed a man in my tree from my paternal grandfather's hometown. I saw that he married a Circello girl named Pasquala Gigante in the 1890s, so I decided to build her family. And I got very far. I added all 8 of her great grandparents and 6 of her 2nd great grandparents.

Finally I had a strong reason to use my vital records database for the town of Circello.
Finally I had a strong reason to use my vital records database for the town of Circello.

Pasquala has no blood relationship to me yet. And her husband is the cousin of the husband of a cousin. I would love to find a true connection between Pasquala's Circello family and my own.

Find Your Entry Point

When I saw Giovanni's family tree on Geneanet, filled with Circello names, I had to investigate. Could I find a way for his tree to connect to mine? As I clicked around his tree, expanding different family units, my mouth fell open. There was the very same family I'd built into my tree earlier that day! The woman whose family I added to my tree, Pasquala Gigante, is my DNA match's great grandaunt.

Giovanni's family tree is very impressive. It goes back so far that I can tell he knows how to get the most out of Italian vital records. (See "The Italian Genealogy Goldmine: 'Wedding Packets'.") I can use his tree as a guide while I view the town's vital records to confirm names and dates. I'll start by adding Pasquala Gigante's siblings. I'll find spouses and children, and put lots of families together using the vital records.

After hours of piecing together Circello families, I still don't know why Giovanni is my DNA match. This is common with people whose ancestors spent several hundred years in a small town. Once again, I believe our shared DNA comes from the soil itself, and not a specific shared ancestor. (See "What Good Are Distant DNA Matches?")

With 3 key points, you can expand your #familytree and tie into that of your DNA match.
With 3 key points, you can expand your family tree and tie into that of your DNA match.

How to Get Started

Even though I haven't solved this ancestor jigsaw puzzle, I enjoy the daylights out of this type of project. And you can, too. Here are the basics for diving into your DNA match's family tree:

  1. Concentrate on DNA matches with a multi-generation family tree. There's no use wasting time on someone with a 1-person family tree. And they're out there.
  2. Search every branch for familiar last names and places. If their hometown is one of your ancestral hometowns, you need to explore some vital records.
  3. Find a solid starting point. I was lucky to spot someone I'd added to my own tree hours earlier. Be sure to choose a person with lots of data points: a birth date, spouse's name, parents' names, children's names. Those extra facts will help you make a positive ID.

You may find, as I did, that your DNA match has connections to your family tree even if there's no direct relation to you.

08 August 2023

Leave Breadcrumbs for Future Genealogy Research

I have a handful of stock descriptions I routinely add to people in my family tree. Using the same language each time speeds up the process and adds consistency. As I type, Family Tree Maker suggests text based on other entries, and I choose the right comment. Easy.

Some of my stock descriptions include:

  • "His brother [Her sister] of the same name was born on this date." Without a death record, this is my reason for saying this child died before this date.
  • "His wife [Her husband] remarried on this date." Other variations are "died on this date" and "had a child on this date." Without a death record, these are my reasons for saying someone died before this date.
  • "From his [her, both] birth record[s]." I add that as a marriage date description when the date is only available as a notation on a birth record.
  • "His [Her] father was in America when he [she] was born." I add that as a birth date description when the birth record notes this fact.

I've always meant to follow up on that last description about being in America. And that's today's project. I'll search for immigration records for fathers who were in America when their child was born in Italy.

Without this description, I'd never remember to follow up on this immigration fact.
Without this description, I'd never remember to follow up on this immigration fact.

There's a reason they mention this fact on an Italian birth record. Fathers had a duty to report their child's birth to the mayor right away. If someone else reported the birth, like a midwife or grandparent, the mayor recorded a reason why. Sometimes the father is in another town working. Or he's ill. And sometimes they delay reporting the birth because of terrible weather. But many times, he's gone to America to earn money.

I've been exporting a new GEDCOM file from my family tree each day because my tree is growing so fast. I'm currently working through every available vital record for my maternal grandfather's hometown. Almost everyone fits into my tree. (See "The Method to My Genealogy Madness.")

Using a text editor, I can open my GEDCOM file and search for each instance of "in America when." There are 63 of these descriptions. The first one is for my 4th cousin 3 times removed, Domenico Saccone. I searched Ancestry for his father Giuseppe Antonio Saccone, entering his year and place of birth, his wife's name, and his parents' names.

With minimal effort, I found three different crossings for Giuseppe Antonio Saccone:

  • 1893, going to New York
  • 1900, along with his eldest son, going to join an uncle in the Bronx, NY
  • 1906, going to join his son-in-law in Connellsville, PA

This adds 3 new and unexpected data points to this family, plus a lead on that son-in-law. I didn't expect a man born in 1852 to make all those crossings. For my Italian hometowns, the men who sailed to America were a lot younger than Giuseppe Antonio. One very notable exception is my 2nd great grandfather. Born in 1843, Antonio Saviano made 4 trips to America, finally bringing his whole family with him in 1898.

Make stock descriptions a habit, and you'll leave yourself breadcrumbs for future research.

As I work through the 63 descriptions of a father in America, I'll update these notes. I'm thinking, "His father was in America when he was born. Immigration facts documented."

Using a handful of standard phrases in your family tree eliminates confusion and doubt.
Using a handful of standard phrases in your family tree eliminates confusion and doubt.

Another type of description I add saves me from a lot of confusion. Sometimes I'll note that a person died before a certain date, but it isn't obvious where that date came from. Note: It would be obvious if I had source citations for every fact in my family tree, but I've got more than 64,000 people in my tree. I'll get to it!

One example is Giorgio Pozzuto who was born in 1788. I've documented his marriage and the births of his 8 children. But there's no death record for him. (The town's available death records end in 1860.) Then I noticed his grandson's 28 Dec 1868 birth record says Grandpa Giorgio is dead, so I took note of it. I gave Giorgio a death date of "Bef. 28 Dec 1868," and a description of "From his grandson Francesco Saverio Giovanni Pozzuto's birth record."

That very specific description ends any confusion about the source of this fact. Plus, when I add his grandson's birth record and source citation to my family tree, I can copy the source and paste it on the grandfather's death date.

I know I have more examples of stock descriptions in my family tree. Looking through my GEDCOM I see:

As more vital records come online, I'll revisit many of these comments to see if I can add a more reliable source.

What other types of breadcrumbs would you leave in your family tree?

01 August 2023

Genealogy Skills Make You a Keen Detective

Sometimes my innocent genealogy detective work scares me. Using detective skills is an important part of genealogy research. We're always trying to find a family connection, or searching for important documents.

Many times we need to investigate living people. And that feels a lot like stalking. Our intentions are pure—we just want to figure out that connection! But it can get creepy when you realize how much you can learn.

This weekend I found myself looking once again at the DNA matches my parents have in common. One person in particular, let's call him JS, intrigued me. I always thought his face looked familiar. He looks like he could be my cousin.

When looking at my mom's DNA test, JS is her 4th–6th cousin on her paternal side. And I know her paternal side has its roots only in one town: Baselice, Italy. JS doesn't show up in my dad's DNA match list, but Mom and JS's shared matches are another story. They have 3 shared matches, not counting me:

  1. WL is the descendant of my 3rd cousin 3 times removed, Donato Zerrillo. Donato came from my father's ancestral hometown of Colle Sannita. According to AncestryDNA, WL is my mom's 4th–6th cousin as well as my dad's, and mine, too!
  2. MN has no family tree on Ancestry. AncestryDNA says he my mom's 4th–6th cousin, but he shows up as my dad's 2nd–3rd cousin and my 3rd–4th cousin.
  3. PD is someone I've contacted before, but we can't figure out his connection to my mother. He has a possible Leone in his tree (my primary name from Baselice), but the connection isn't verified. The surprise is he has close ancestors from Dad's Colle Sannita. AncestryDNA says he is my mom's, my dad's, and my 4th–6th cousin, and I have the paper trail that says he's my dad's 4th cousin.

This brings me back to JS, the match who has a connection to all the people listed above. You can see the ethnicity estimates of your DNA matches. This tells me that JS has 23% Italian ethnicity and the rest is Germanic and Ireland. He should have an Italian grandparent or a couple of Italian great grandparents.

Since he has no tree on Ancestry, I began my detective work. I searched Ancestry for his name and found some public record indexes. These told me he had lived in 3 different U.S. states and that he's my age. I found his father's obituary easily. This told me JS's parents' names, his 2 uncles' names, and his 2 siblings' names as well as a sister-in-law. I found JS's father's family in several U.S. censuses and other documents. Then I found an Ancestry tree clearly owned by JS's sister-in-law.

If you know a lot about your DNA match, you just might be a detective.
If you know a lot about your DNA match, you just might be a detective.

I looked on Facebook and found JS using the same profile photo he uses on Ancestry (bless him for that!). I found his siblings, sister-in-law, and a cousin or two. But the main thing I noticed on Facebook and in the tree his sister-in-law built: ZERO Italian names. (And I'm only Italian.)

I now know which names provide JS's Germanic and Irish ancestry. But where is that 23% Italian hiding? The family tree of "S" ancestors goes back several generations, and all the names look German or Irish.

My only thought was Northern Italy. JS's ethnicity was 13% Southern Italian and 10% Northern Italian. What if one of his Germanic names was from the part of Italy that's so close to Switzerland that the lines blur? There are families in this part of Italy with Germanic names. I used to work for one; it was shocking to find out he was Italian.

I used an old favorite trick of mine to see which of JS's family names might be from Italy. I went to Ancestry and searched for passenger lists with only that last name. Then I looked at where people with the name came from.

I started with JS's own last name—a German-sounding name. I found a small number of people from Switzerland with that name. Ah, but a draft registration card told me JS's grandfather was born in New York City. I'd have to track down his ancestors. I discovered that even JS's "S" great grandfather was born in New York to parents who were born in New York. It's time to try another branch of JS's family tree. But his sister-in-law's family tree shows the mother's family was born in Germany. And his father's mother's family all came from Ireland!

While trying to figure out what to do next, I returned to the search results for JS's grandfather's name. I clicked a German birth and baptism record. It listed a birth place of Hirschthal and I thought, go ahead—see where that is. It turns out to be in Switzerland, but much further from Italy that I'd hoped.

Still, I may as well step out a bit further on this limb. I went to the Cognomix website where you can check for the location of family names throughout Italy. I put in JS's last name. The numbers are small, but that Germanic name does exist in Northern and Central Italy. But now I'm too far up in JS's family tree to account for his 23% Italian ancestry.

His DNA connection to my mom and me, and his connection to my dad's connections, has me so curious. I'm going to write to him on both Ancestry and Facebook and hope for the clue I need. Of course I can't mention all I've learned about him. I made that mistake once and scared off an interesting DNA match forever! I'll lead with "Who are our shared Italian ancestors?" That sounds both specific and un-stalkerlike.

Have you discovered more than you ever imagined about a potential cousin? Does it worry you? Try searching for yourself in various places. I searched Bing.com for myself under my maiden name. I found tons of these blog articles, photos I uploaded to memorial pages, and my comments about genealogy. On Ancestry, nothing came up, even though I know there's an index for my first marriage on there—that came up when I searched on Google.com. My favorite discovery is seeing all the times someone mentioned this blog that I never knew about.

How has genealogy improved your detective skills? Remember to always be a benevolent detective with genealogy as your only goal.