Showing posts with label Antenati. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Antenati. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

4 Tips to Help You Find that Missing Ancestor

Here's how I'm finding the missing connections for my newly discovered ancestor.

Recently I told you how I found a big error in my family tree. It was the result of hard-to-read documents and my not being familiar with a particular town's families. I wound up following Rubina Cenzullo when I should have been looking for Ruffina Zullo.

Some of my ancestors moved to nearby towns to marry.
Some of my ancestors moved to nearby towns to marry.

When her death record showed me the truth—that Ruffina was born in another town—I knew exactly what I had to do.

The most important documents I needed to find in the new town (Apice, Italy) were:
  • her birth record (around 1816)
  • her marriage to my 3rd great grandfather (around 1843)

But now I have a new family named Zullo, and a whole new branch to discover. Ruffina's parents were Leonardo and Caterina. But I want to learn the names of my 4th and 5th great grandparents in this branch.

Here's what I'm doing to expand my new Zullo branch.

Find Siblings, Marriages, Deaths

Ruffina was born in 1816 when her father was about 27 years old. There could be siblings born before Ruffina, for sure. To find them, I used the GetLinks program to download all the Apice birth records. (Read about how GetLinks works with FamilySearch and the Antenati website. You'll find the download link there, too.)

I downloaded her town's 1809–1815 birth records and looked for Ruffina's siblings. I found:
  • Saverio Antonio Nicola Zullo, born in 1811
  • Saverio Zullo born in 1813

When two children of the same parents have the same name, it's a safe bet that the 1st child died before the 2nd was born. The 1st Saverio, in this case, should have died before the 2nd Saverio was born in 1813.

To prove that, I downloaded the town's 1811 death records. I found that the 1st Saverio died in October 1811.

But I found a surprise, too. A month earlier, in September 1811, another Ruffina Zullo died. She was the daughter of the same parents as the other children, and she was 2 years old. It's only because this Ruffina died that my Ruffina got her name.

The correct name led me to a new family unit.
The correct name led me to a new family unit.

This opens up another avenue for me to explore. I checked the 1809 Apice birth records. Ruffina was not born in Apice in 1809 (not in 1810 or 1811, either).

But I noticed something important. There are lots of people named Zullo in Apice to this day. But there was no one there with the same last name as Ruffina's mother: Trancuccio.

While thinking about this, I formed a theory.

Did Leonardo and Caterina, the parents of the Zullo siblings, marry in another town? Was it Caterina's hometown? That would explain why no other people in Apice have Caterina's last name. If this theory is right, 1809 Ruffina could have been born in Caterina's hometown.

This isn't far-fetched at all. Many times in 1800s Italy a couple would marry in the wife's town but live in the husband's town. My Ruffina's daughter Vittoria has a similar story, but with more complications.

Vittoria married Antonio (these are my 2nd great grandparents). Antonio was from Pastene; Vittoria from Santa Paolina. They married in Santa Paolina and had 1 child. Then they moved to the neighboring town of Tufo and had 2 more children. Then they moved to Antonio's town of Pastene to have the rest of their children. (And that's why my great grandparents met and married in Pastene.)

I used a website to see where Caterina's last name exists in Italy. I find it mostly in 2 nearby towns. Another tip: Enter the last name into a genealogy site search for immigration records. See where those people came from.

I downloaded the 1809 and 1810 birth records from these 2 likely towns. So far, I haven't found my 4th great aunt Ruffina Zullo. But I have found people with the last name Trancuccio.

I still like my theory, but I may have to check more towns.

I won't be visiting this ancestral hometown—at least not the old part of town. It was destroyed and abandoned after a 1962 earthquake.
I won't be visiting this ancestral hometown—at least not the old part 
of town. It was destroyed and abandoned after a 1962 earthquake.

There was another surprise waiting for me when I located my 3rd great grandmother Ruffina's siblings. On her brother Saverio's 1811 birth record, the father of the baby is "Leonardo Zullo di Saverio". That means "Leonardo Zullo, son of Saverio".

That's exactly what you hope to find! Saverio is baby Saverio's grandfather, and my 5th great grandfather. This Saverio Zullo was born in about 1764, possibly in the same town where Ruffina was born in 1816.

What can I do with 1764 Saverio's name to help build my tree some more?

Well, while looking for Ruffina's siblings, I saw several other Zullo babies born to different fathers. I also found some Zullo men and women who married in that town between 1809 and 1815. I can download all those records easily.

I can put together Zullo babies, brides and grooms. I'll match siblings by comparing their parents' names. With luck, I'll find a sibling for my 4th great grandfather, Leonardo Zullo. And maybe one of that sibling's records will tell me my 5th great grandmother's name. (I'll bet it's Ruffina!)

No matter who you're looking for, or which branch you're trying to grow, these basic tasks can help you succeed:
  1. Found an ancestor's birth record? Search the surrounding years for the births of their siblings. Comb each record for more information, like ages, occupations and other relatives.
  2. Based on the oldest sibling's birth, try to find marriage records for their parents.
  3. Starting in the year of the youngest sibling's birth, try to find death records for their parents.
  4. Pay attention to names. If your ancestor is from a big city, this isn't as helpful. But if you're looking at records from a really small town, you should see a lot of last names repeated. These are the long-standing families in that town. If your ancestor's last name is unique, maybe they're from another town.

Finding out Ruffina was born in Apice when I knew she married and had babies in Santa Paolina was a big surprise. Keep your mind and your eyes open. Let the facts you have suggest a theory about the facts you don't have. Then try to prove that theory. Don't give up the search!


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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

6 Steps to Make Your Family Tree 10 Times Better

Did you ever wish you could look over another genealogist's shoulder to see how she does things?

Look at this. I'm doing everything the right way from the get-go so I don't have to double back and fix or add any facts. As I was methodically tackling one item on my genealogy to-do list this weekend, it struck me. There are so many steps to this process!

Does anyone else go to this much trouble? Let's find out.

Take a look at what I was doing so thoroughly this weekend.

The Goal: Replace Several Bad Document Images with Good Ones

Years ago I viewed and transcribed every vital record (1809-1860) from my grandfather's Italian hometown. I used some poor-quality microfilm viewers at 2 Family History Centers.

At the first FHC, I used their computer to capture several of the images as jpg files. But they weren't very clear. At the second FHC I took iPhone pictures of some documents projected on the surface of the microfilm viewer. Terrible, ghastly quality.

Awful, pitiful old image vs. new, glorious image.
Awful, pitiful old image vs. new, glorious image.

Now there are excellent, high-resolution images of those same documents available online. I downloaded the entire town (and others) to my computer to make my research easy. So I'm able to replace those crummy old images in my family tree with the excellent copies.

But I'm also:
  • cropping the images in Photoshop
  • editing each image's properties to include a title and the source URL of the image
  • deleting the bad image from Family Tree Maker
  • adding the new image and editing its date and category fields
    • the date is the date of the event
    • the category is Vital Records
  • recording each document in my document tracker spreadsheet.
The Steps

1. Identify a bad image. The Media tab in Family Tree Maker makes it pretty obvious which documents are the bad ones. So I can pick any one and dive in.


The bad images are dark and fuzzy looking.

2. Find the good image. I've got all these Italian vital records carefully organized on my computer. Since my subject, Benedetta Pisciotti, was from Baselice, I go straight to the Baselice town folder. She died in 1831, so I go to the 1831 deaths folder. I know the date and I can see the document number in the original. This makes it easy to find the image I want.

Organize your digital files like a fiend and things are easy to find.
Organize your digital files like a fiend and things are easy to find.

3. Crop the image and name appropriately. If there's more than one document in the image or it's crooked, I crop it in Photoshop. I save it in the proper folder and name it in my usual style: LastnameFirstnameEventYear, so PisciottiBenedettaDeath1831.jpg.

Using Photoshop to crop out the other document and the huge black border.
Using Photoshop to crop out the other document and the huge black border.

4. Annotate the image's properties. In each of my folders of Italian documents I have a text file called "URL format". It contains the format of the URLs where these documents came from. I simply replace the last 5 zeroes in the saved URL with the last 5 digits of the image's file name. Now I right-click the cropped image and choose Properties, then the Comments tab. I edit the Title field ("1831 death record for Benedetta Pisciotti") and the Comments field ("Benevento State Archives" and the image's original URL).

These annotations stay with your image file and are pulled into your family tree software.
These annotations stay with your image file and are pulled into your family tree software.

5. Replace the image in Family Tree Maker. To remove the old image from Family Tree Maker's media library, I detach it from Benedetta and put it in the trash. Now I drag and drop the new image into Benedetta's Media tab. The image retains the title and comments I gave it in step 4. But I also want to enter the date of the event and select the Vital Records media category. When I synchronize, all these details are on Ancestry.com for potential cousins to see.

Check the boxes and click Unlink Selected in Family Tree Maker to remove the old image.
Check the boxes and click "Unlink Selected" in Family Tree Maker to remove the old image.
Don't skimp on the annotations.
Don't skimp on the annotations.

6. Update tracking spreadsheet. Finally, I record Benedetta's death in my spreadsheet of all documents. I add a line for Benedetta and put "1831 (cert.)" in the Death column to show that I have a copy of a certificate of her death in 1831.

Updating my inventory at the moment is critical to being thorough.
Updating my inventory at the moment is critical to being thorough.

Detailed, yes. But it's a simple enough process.

The Result

When I complete this project, I'll be rid of those dark, fuzzy document images. And I'll have fully annotated images. They'll have a descriptive title, date, category, and source citation.

I think it's worth all the steps and the juggling of File Explorer, Photoshop, Family Tree Maker and Excel.

What do you think? Is your tree's validity worth this kind of effort?


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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

How Are Your 2018 Genealogy Goals Coming Along?

My father-in-law, Ben Ohama, crushing it on the track, leading the pack.
My father-in-law, Ben Ohama, crushing it on the track,
leading the pack.
It's nearly August already! How are you doing with your 2018 genealogy goals?

Last December I encouraged you to set some genealogy goals. The point was to help push yourself to work on or finish important genealogy tasks.

So how are you progressing? It isn't too late to hack away at those goals.

Here's my own list of 2018 goals. Let's look at how I'm doing and see if that can inspire you.

1. Create a Weekly Backup Plan

Genealogy email folders are part of my backup plan.
Genealogy email
Done! But it is ongoing. Each Sunday I consult my list of file types to back up. I've only missed a couple of weeks, but at this very moment, my files are 100% backed up.

My list contains some non-genealogy files:
  • My Microsoft Outlook email file (which has tons of genealogy information)
  • My bank and credit card statements and QuickBooks files
  • My 3 latest Family Tree Maker complete backup files
  • All the genealogy document images I've collected since my last backup
I back up my files to a neat little external, 1 terabyte Seagate drive and to OneDrive by Microsoft. I get a free terabyte of space there because I subscribe to Microsoft Office Online.

2. Find My Parents' Connection

When I uploaded my raw DNA to GEDmatch.com, I discovered that my parents are 4th or 5th cousins. Boy, did that leave them with their mouths hanging open.

My goal is to find their connection. Somewhere there is a pair of 5th or 6th great grandparents that they share. I haven't found the connection yet, but I am actively working on it.

I'm going through the vital records from their ancestors' neighboring hometowns and building out their families. I'll find that connection eventually. I just hope I'll find it while they're still alive to laugh about it.

3. Log the Antenati Documents Into a Master Spreadsheet

I feel like I talk about this every day. If you don't know or you have no Italian ancestors, Antenati is a website with TONS of Italian vital records. The word antenati means ancestors.

Using a free software program called GetLinks by Carlos Leite, I've downloaded to my computer every available vital record from each of my Italian ancestors' hometowns:
  • Baselice, Circello, Colle Sannita, Pastene, Pescolamazza, and Sant'Angelo a Cupolo in the province of Benevento
  • Santa Paolina in the province of Avellino
I have—easily—several hundred relatives in those records. Sometimes I search the documents for someone in particular. Sometimes I go year by year searching for every baby born to a particular couple.

But I really want to record the facts from all the records in a spreadsheet. I've completed several years' worth of records. It makes searching for someone so much easier.

A sliver of my ambitious master file of tons of vital records.
A sliver of my ambitious master file of tons of vital records.
Someday, when it's all done, I can share the results and benefit everyone else who's a descendant of these towns.

So, I'm actively working on it, but I can't finish it in 2018.

4. Fill in the "Need to Find" Column on My Document Tracker

A near-disaster with my "document tracker" spreadsheet has forced me to make a ton of progress on this goal.

Last week I wrote about a screw-up in my master spreadsheet where I keep track of every document image or date I gather for someone in my tree. I took full advantage of a glitch in the file to make progress with my 4th genealogy goal.

Line-by-line, I'm examining my document tracker. I'm comparing each person's line in the spreadsheet to their documents and facts in Family Tree Maker. I'm filling in all the columns, and determining what's missing.

My spreadsheet of everything I've found, and everything I need, helps guide my research efficiently.
My spreadsheet of everything I've found, and everything I need, guides my research efficiently.
I'm adding the missing facts to the "Need to Find" column. Then I give the person's entire row a green background color to make it clear I've examined that person.

I'm not following alphabetical order because I'm also working on goal #5. I have completed my review of the letters A through C (that's last names) and S through Z. I've done all my Leone relatives and my Iammucci relatives. Those areas contain some of my closest relatives.

I'm making progress and absolutely will complete this in 2018.

5. Replace Family History Center Photos with Antenati Document Images

Around 2008, before the Antenati website and FamilySearch.org made the Italian vital records available online, I ordered microfilm of the vital records from my maternal grandfather's hometown.

I viewed every record from 1809 to 1860 on nasty old microfilm viewers at Family History Centers in Philadelphia and Poughkeepsie, New York.

The Philadelphia Family History Center had one computer that read microfilm. When it was available, I could grab JPEG files of the documents I wanted the most. In Poughkeepsie I had to take iPhone photos of the projected images. Those are awful. They're dark, fuzzy, and show the texture of the surface on which the image is projected.

This dramatic before-and-after comparison makes it clear why I need those high-res documents from Antenati.
This dramatic before-and-after comparison makes it clear why I need those high-res documents from Antenati.
My goal is to replace all the crummy iPhone photos with high-resolution images from the Antenati site.

I'm making headway on goals 4 and 5 at the same time by focusing on the families from the town I researched on microfilm. I can replace those bad images, fill in the blanks for those people on my document tracker, and make double the progress.

It's August-eve. We're seven twelfths of the way through 2018. That's about 58%. I believe my goals are at least 58% complete.

But I'm not taking my foot off the gas pedal. I need to keep on track and keep that finish line in sight.

Now it's your turn. And it's not too late in the year to begin! Which genealogy tasks are most important to you this year?

How are you doing?


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Friday, July 13, 2018

How to Find the Most Important Genealogy Documents Quickly

A portion of my newly downloaded vital record collection.
A tiny portion of my newly downloaded
vital record collection.
Seems like every day I read that a new genealogy document collection is coming online. Some are available through subscription services, but plenty is out there for free.

If you stay tuned in to social media, you can learn about these new collections early. That's how I discovered a document collection I needed badly was coming online this past week.

Finally, a branch of my family tree that's been a dead end was opening up. And I was ready.

Even before the vital records from the town of Santa Paolina, Italy, were fully published, I was downloading them to my computer. I now have all the available records from 1809–1945 to comb through offline. I stored the documents in 386 folders—separating births, marriages and deaths by year. I have no idea how many thousands of documents there are.

Imagine this is you. Imagine these documents hold the missing information about your great great grandmother Colomba.

Where do you begin?

A little background:
  • Colomba's 1920 New York City death record shows her last name was Consolazio and she was born around 1845, somewhere in Italy.
  • Her son's World War II draft registration card said he was born in Tufo, Italy.
  • Last year I looked at microfilmed records from Tufo. I found two sons for Colomba plus a few Consolazio babies who were her nieces and nephews. It was their records that told me the Consolazio siblings were from the next town—Santa Paolina.
I've been waiting impatiently for the Santa Paolina documents to show up online.

Here's how I'm surgically extracting the most important records first.

Find That First Birth Record

Hoping that her death record was correct about her age, I went straight to the 1845 births. I found Colomba! Though her name is a little different and her father's name isn't what I expected, I know it's her. On her birth record is a note of her marriage to my great great grandfather, Antonio Saviano.

This is unusually lucky, but her birth record say my great great grandparents married in Santa Paolina on 1 June 1871.

This 1845 Italian birth record includes the addition of her husband and marriage date.
This 1845 Italian birth record includes the addition of her husband and marriage date.
Go After the Marriage Record

Your ancestor's marriage record can provide tons of detail, including:
  • Bride and groom's birth dates
  • Death dates of their deceased parents
  • Death dates of their deceased grandfathers if their fathers are dead (this won't be true everywhere)
  • Names and death dates of any previous spouses
Santa Paolina's marriage records are a different format than I'm used to. But they gave me important facts I'd been missing: My great great grandfather Antonio's parents' names, occupation, and town of birth. It also confirmed his year of birth.

Start Collecting the Babies

Knowing my ancestors married in June 1871, I started looking for babies beginning in 1872.

I also know from earlier research that this couple had baby boys born in the town of Tufo in 1875 and 1877. So I needed to check the birth indexes only for 1872, 1873 and 1874.

I found one baby girl, Maria Grazia, born on 26 April 1872. She and the two boys born in Tufo are my great grandmother's siblings. So I knew this little girl must have died. We simply have no Maria Grazia in the family. I was sad to find she died 4 days later.

Death record for Maria Grazia Saviano.
Maria Grazia Saviano, the first-born child of my 2nd great grandparents, died at the age of 4 days.
These were Colomba's earliest babies. The rest of her children are well known to my family. They were born in another town called Pastene. And now I know that's where their father Antonio was born!

But we can't stop there. We need to find Colomba's grandparents, and maybe her great grandparents.

Hunt for the Parents

Colomba's birth record gave me names for her parents, but not their ages. Luckily Santa Paolina had a very small population. I subtracted 25 years from Colomba's birth year, bringing me to 1820. I began checking the birth indexes for 1820, 1819, 1818. I found my 3rd great grandmother, Rubina Maria Censullo! Now I have her parents' names—my 4th great grandparents.

Keep going. 1817, 1816. There he is! My 3rd great grandfather Semblicio Fiorentino Conzolazio. Now I have his parents' names—also my 4th great grandparents.

Getting close to the earliest records, I searched for Semblicio's parents' marriage. He was born in 1816, so I looked at 1815, 1814. Oh my gosh, I found it! His parents, Gaetano and another Colomba, were married on 29 December 1814.

The paragraph at the bottom includes the names of 4 of my 5th great grandparents.
The paragraph at the bottom includes the names of 4 of my 5th great grandparents.
Now I have each of their parents' names. That's 2 sets of my 5th great grandparents. I can't find Rubina Maria's parents' marriage because they were quite a bit older. I'd need church records to find them.

With one document collection, boom! 4th and 5th great grandparents.
With one document collection, boom! 3rd, 4th and 5th great grandparents.
That's a Great Start

Using targeted searches, I got the juiciest information out of this record collection in no time. But there's a ton more to find. I want to find the births of Colomba's siblings, their marriages and their babies. I need death records for the 3rd, 4th and 5th great grandparents.

I hope you'll try this methodical approach. First looking for very specific records, then expanding to the related records. Be logical and you'll go far. You can do this!


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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

6 Building Blocks of Genealogy Research, Part 1

These are the building blocks of a strong family tree.
Six months ago I wrote about my general approach to genealogy research. Let's look at the specific building blocks that can make anyone a productive and efficient family tree researcher.

I don't want to short-change any of these concepts, so this article is in two parts. You'll find a link to part 2 at the bottom of this article.

1. Spell Out Your Goals

Did you make your list of genealogy goals for 2018? I made a list that I look at anytime I feel like I'm searching for documents without a specific goal.

Sometimes it's fun to go off on research tangents. But it's far more rewarding to focus on a goal and make real progress. Your goals might be to:
Come back to your goals again and again and whittle down the list.

2. Cast a Wide Net

I spent five years making trips to my local Family History Center. I ordered microfilm (it's available online now) from my maternal grandfather's hometown in Italy. I knew nothing beyond his parents' names, so I wanted to find out more.

I soon realized I couldn't tell who was related to me unless I pieced together all the families. So at the center I typed the data from each birth, marriage and death record. At home I entered it all into Family Tree Maker. In the end, I had a tree with 15,000 people. More than 10,000 of them had a connection to me.

Cast a wide net to capture all your ancestor's siblings and their children.
Cast a wide net to capture all your ancestor's siblings and their children.
If you don't want to go that far, at least gather all your ancestor's siblings. Say you find your 3rd great grandmother's birth record. Now you know your 4th great grandparents' names. Next you can search the surrounding years for babies born to the same couple.

Find those siblings and you can begin to identify your ancestor's close cousins. You're going to want those names when you're reviewing your DNA matches.

3. Take Advantage of Software


A small piece of my priceless vital record collection.
Here's a small piece of my priceless
vital record collection.
There are a lot of talented programmers out there creating free genealogy software. I finally gave up trying to write my own program when I found Family Tree Analyzer. This program takes the germ of an idea I was playing with and puts it on steroids. You can run reports, correct errors, and slice-and-dice your family tree in a bunch of ways.

And thank goodness I found GetLinks. Using GetLinks, I easily downloaded thousands and thousands of vital records from 7 of my ancestral hometowns in Italy.

Don't do things the hard way when other genealogy whizzes have created a solution for you.

Please continue to part 2 of this article. I get into the nuts and bolts of my genealogy philosophy with 3 more building blocks.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Collaborating with Your DNA Matches

Finding this record of an 1802 birth was the key.
Finding this record of an 1802 birth was the key.
In an average family situation, you grow up with your biological mother and father and know many of their relatives.

That doesn't describe everyone—I know. But stick with me for a moment.

If your DNA match list includes 1st and 2nd cousins, you should know who they are. If it includes 3rd cousins, you may be familiar with their names or know who their grandparents were. I've met a couple of 3rd cousins this way, and they helped me fill in their parts of my tree.

It's that 4th to 8th cousin DNA match that presents the real challenge. If you're 4th cousins, you share a set of 3rd great grandparents. And who (besides a genealogist) can name their 3rd great grandparents?

The most productive DNA match to collaborate with is likely the one with familiar last names in their family tree. And if your match has a family tree online, they've probably done some worthwhile research.

It's OK if you're concerned about your privacy. You don't need to share the identities of anyone younger than your great grandparents.

Go ahead and show one another what you've found—focusing on a branch where you think you'll find a connection. Together you can advance one another's work. How will you know which branch to look at? Last names and hometowns could be your clue. Or you may start out with no clue at all!

I'm incredibly lucky that all my ancestors come from a single province in Southern Italy. (One exception: My great great grandmother Colomba came from the neighboring province.) Better still, the vital records from my five ancestral hometowns are available online.

I used a simple program called GetLinks to download thousands of vital records to my computer. Having the documents makes searching for records quicker and easier than paging through the website that hosts them. (To learn how to do this, see How to Use the Online Italian Genealogy Archives.)

On Sunday one of my DNA matches reached out to me. Each of our last names comes from the same little town in Italy. We found one another years ago, but we've never found our actual family connection.

When your tree is really big, there are tons of avenues to explore. So I'd never gotten around to exploring her family tree on Ancestry.

Then she asked for my collaboration in the best possible way. She said, "Here's my ancestor, and his mother Maria had your last name. I know her father was Pietro and her grandfather was Francesco. I think her grandfather could be this Francesco in your tree. What do you think?"

Not only was that enticing, but her question showed me exactly where to jump in and start exploring.

This tree connects me to my DNA match...sort of.
This tree connects me to my DNA match...sort of.
She and I both realized that if my Francesco was the same man as her Francesco, he had to have been married twice. That's because I have his 1820 marriage record, and Pietro was born well before that. So I searched for evidence.

Francesco's 1820 marriage documents mentioned no first wife. I needed his son Pietro's birth record so I could see his mother's name. But Pietro was born before the start of civil record-keeping in 1809.

What to do?

I approached the problem from the other side. I should be able to find a copy of Pietro's birth record in his marriage documents. But I didn't know when he got married.

How would you try to figure out when he got married?

I took another look at his daughter Maria. I found her birth record in 1855 and saw her mother's full name. I went backwards, year by year, looking for Maria older siblings. This helped me zero in on her parents' marriage.

Now I had Pietro's mother's name. I confirmed that she died shortly before Francesco remarried in 1820. My Francesco and my DNA match's Francesco were in fact the same man.

Here's the kicker, though. It's Francesco's second wife who's my blood relative. Not Francesco or Pietro or Maria.

So, my dear DNA match, we still haven't found our real connection! It's back to work, but now we have more to work with.

On the plus side, my DNA match has the same last name as my first cousin. And I've learned a lot from my match's tree that could help me with my cousin's tree.

So pick out your most intriguing DNA match and reach out to them. Collaboration may get you both further than you'd ever have gotten on your own.


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Friday, May 25, 2018

Finding Relatives in Your Ancestral Hometown's Cemetery

The entrance to the cemetery in my grandfather's Italian hometown.
The entrance to the cemetery in my grandfather's
Italian hometown.
I've twice visited the cemeteries in my ancestral hometowns in Italy. In 2005 I visited three towns and photographed each grave that had a last name from my family tree.

Over time, I learned the identities of just about every person whose grave I photographed. Some were closely related, like my grandmother's first cousin Vincenzo. Others were more distant relatives, but they have a place in my tree.

I learned exactly who most of them were from other relatives. For instance, my mom's cousin knew grandmother's first cousin Vincenzo. She had photos of him and his family.

Two weeks ago I visited the cemetery in Colle Sannita for the first time, and two other towns for a second time.

You can't go to an Italian cemetery and find graves from the 1700s the way you can in America. Be sure to research the burial customs in the country you'll be visiting. They may condense remains into a single family grave. They will remove those who died a long time ago.

The first thing I noticed on my second trip to one cemetery was this reuse of graves. I remembered there was a Leone family grave on the left wall, so I went straight to it. The names and photos of the husband and wife who were in that grave in 2005 were now placed to the left of the marble slab. A baby who was in his own grave in 2005 was now placed to the right of the marble slab. And in the center of this single grave was a newly deceased Leone relative.

I visited the Colle Sannita cemetery on the day before I was to visit my cousins. I found their father in one grave, their brother somewhere else, and their mother in a third location. My cousins were waiting for the cemetery to say their parents could placed together with their brother. "But the cemetery never called," my cousin told me.

If you have the chance to visit a cemetery where your ancestors lived, you may also find that it has changed over time. Some people will have moved, and others will be gone.

Two headstones ready to be removed.
I don't know you now, Angela. But I will find you.
Was Innocenzo your husband?
My task now, having taken so many new photographs of graves, is to try to identify as many people as possible. Thanks to the Antenati website, I have thousands of birth records from my ancestral hometowns on my computer.

The plan is to find birth records for the deceased and learn who their parents were. Finding their parents may be enough to place the person in my family tree.

I took many photos while thinking, "This person is too young. I probably can't find out who their parents were." But, as time goes by, I may someday learn who they were.

I adore my family names. Each and every one is special and beautiful to me. Pausing to look at the photos on their graves, I did feel as if I were paying my respects to a beloved family member.

If you ever have the chance to visit a cemetery containing one or more of your relatives, look around. Especially if the cemetery is in a small town. Find other names you recognize and do a bit of research.

A dedication to my relative, Michelina Leone.
A dedication to my relative, Michelina Leone.
One of my 2005 grave photos was for Michelina Leone. I didn't know who she was. A couple of years later, while corresponding with a distant cousin, I learned how important Michelina was to my family.

When my grandfather's sister Eva died from an accidental poisoning, her cousin Michelina stepped in and raised Eva's young sons. Two weeks ago, in a church my Leone family hometown, I found a plaque dedicating a church pew to Michelina Leone.

Now I knew she was someone important to me.

And that's how I feel about everyone in my ancestral hometown cemeteries. They're all important to me.


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