Showing posts with label Family Tree Maker. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Family Tree Maker. Show all posts

Friday, January 18, 2019

3 Reasons Why Transcribing Every Document Is Not Crazy

I'm transcribing an enormous collection of vital records for my genealogy research. Here's why I'm not nuts for doing so.

If your ancestors came from a small town, there was most likely a ton of intermarriage going on. And it's very possible that families stayed in one town for hundreds of years. Some may have moved to the next town to marry.

Because my roots are almost entirely in 5 little towns there, I've begun an ambitious project.

This massive project will connect me to thousands of relatives.
This massive project will connect me to thousands of relatives.
I discovered a software app that let me download massive collections of birth, marriage, and death records from my towns to my computer. (See "How to Use the Online Italian Genealogy Archives".)

Here's how I've been using these document images so far.

First, I located the vital records for my closest ancestors: my grandfathers, all my great grandparents, and their parents. I put these images in my family tree software.

Next, I began searching for other babies born to my ancestors. I put their facts and documents images in Family Tree Maker, too.

Then, I started sifting through one town's birth records, pulling out all the babies with a particular last name. This is an exercise that I hope will lead me to a missing link. I need to find the one married couple who are the reason why my parents share DNA. (See "The Leeds Method May Have Solved a Big Family Puzzle".)

The thing is, I know there are countless relationships to me waiting to be discovered. That's why I want to put each image's facts into a searchable, sortable spreadsheet. Each time I discover a relative, I put that image in my tree and color the spreadsheet line green. That lets me know I've already found that relationship.

Yesterday I completed one chunk of this project. It was a reasonable amount of work—not overwhelming. That feeling of accomplishment has me excited to do more. It was one of my 2019 Genealogy Goals: to enter the first 5 years' worth of births from each town into my spreadsheet. (See "How to Set Realistic Genealogy Goals for 2019".)

After typing the names, dates, and places from 1,000s of documents into an Excel file, I realized 3 powerful benefits to this seemingly insane project.

1 Name Recognition

What do you mean, you can't read this?
What do you mean, you can't read this?
My husband can't understand how I can read these handwritten, 1800s Italian vital records. But going over every document teaches you:
  • which family names are common in the town
  • which given names are commonly found together (Nicola Domenico, Maria Antonia, Francesco Saverio)
  • what the street names were (and maybe still are) in this town
With repetition, even if the quality of the document or the handwriting are awful, you'll recognize names in a heartbeat.

2 Spotting Familiar "Faces" As You Type

Excel has an AutoComplete feature that's proving very helpful. As I enter several years' worth of birth records, couples are going to show up, having another baby every couple of years. Thanks to AutoComplete, as I begin typing the father or mother's name, I can see that I've entered their name before.

Sometimes I may be unsure of a name. There's could be a blotch on the page, or ink may be bleeding through from the other side. But as I start typing, the name I'm about to type appears in AutoComplete. That's a confirmation that I was making the right choice.

3 Lightning-Fast Searches

I saved the best for last.

Normally, to find a particular person, I have to look at the files for each year. I go to each year's index and try to find the name I need.

But with all the facts—names, dates, ages, occupations, addresses—in a spreadsheet, searches are faster than any genealogy site's search function. No online connection needed.

Imagine being able to find, in one search, each document where your great grandfather is:
  • the baby
  • the groom
  • the father of the baby
  • the decedent
My spreadsheet inventory of all my ancestral towns will be the single greatest genealogy database for ME. What can you build for your family tree research?

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Friday, December 28, 2018

It's Time to Make Your Family Tree Clear and Consistent

How can you find and fix genealogy inconsistencies? And which style should you choose? Read on.

Have you always recorded facts in your family tree in the same way? Or did you do it one way when you first started, and figure out a better way later?

Being consistent is important to the long-term future of your precious genealogy research. If you leave behind an inconsistent family tree, your work will cause more questions than answers.

It can be hard to stick to a format when you can't work on your tree that often. Make some style decisions now, and you can continue creating your lasting legacy.

Three Examples of Choosing Consistency

1. Fact Types

Recording a deceased relative's Social Security Number can be helpful. Say you find a document for a person with the same name, but a different SSN. That number can prove a document does or doesn't belong to your relative.

I wasn't consistent when I started this hobby. Sometimes I used the SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER fact in Family Tree Maker, and sometimes I used the SSN ISSUED fact. But the SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER fact makes more sense. You can record the number as well as the date and place where it was issued.

Yesterday I:
  • located each SSN ISSUED fact in my tree
  • added the date and place to the SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER fact
  • deleted the SSN ISSUED fact.
2. Immigration Details

The first records I collected for my family tree were ship manifests. Nearly every one of my ancestors passed through Ellis Island. Recording all these immigration facts is very important to my family history.

At first I used only the IMMIGRATION fact type, recording the date and place of arrival with a note about the ship name. Then I realized I could record the date they left Italy, too. That's written on the manifest.

But I had to make another choice. I can choose ARRIVAL, DEPARTURE, EMIGRATION and IMMIGRATION as fact types. Which should I use? A more experienced friend suggested I use EMIGRATION and IMMIGRATION for a person's first trip to their new country. I'd save DEPARTURE and ARRIVAL for:
  • Pleasure trips, like a honeymoon or vacation, or
  • Return trips, like visiting the old country to see your parents or bring back the rest of your family.
I made my choice and updated my fact types. I added in the missing emigrations or departures, too.

3. Names, Dates and Places

If you're using a decent family tree program, you can select how you want to display these types of facts.

Your family tree software should give you the option to choose how to present your data.
Your family tree software should give you the option to choose how to present your data.
People's Names

Some genealogists choose to display everyone's last name in all capital letters. I don't want to do that because I have many names that begin with a small letter, like deBellis. I don't want to lose sight of that.

Some people choose to display a woman's married name rather than her maiden name. I don't want to do that because:
  • my female Italian ancestors kept their maiden name for life, and
  • which name do you use for a woman who married more than once? The last name that relates to you, or the final husband's name, even if he's nothing to you?
Dates

Working for an international company made me aware of writing simply and clearly. Avoid local phrases and use international dates. In the United States we're used to the Month/Day/Year format (12/28/2018). But some countries use the Day/Month/Year format (28/12/2018). Others prefer Year/Month/Day (2018/12/28).

Think of how many dates can be misunderstood by someone in another country. Is 5/4/2019 May 4th or April 5th? It depends on where you live.

To avoid confusion in my family tree, I use DD Mon YYYY, as in 28 Dec 2018. Any English-language speaker will understand this, and many Romance-language speakers will understand it, too. Their month names aren't so different from ours.

Places

For a long time I wouldn't let Family Tree Maker "resolve" addresses or place names for me. For one thing, I thought it was silly to put "USA" at the end of a New York City address. Where else do you think New York City is?

As time went by and my tree's international members outnumbered the Americans, I decided adding "USA" wasn't a bad idea.

But one difference I've stuck to is county names. Leaving out the word "County" can lead to confusion. What if you have only the name of the county someone lived in, and not the town? Will that be clear? So rather than Beaver, Pennsylvania, USA, I'll enter Beaver County, Pennsylvania, USA.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure it's easy for anyone to understand, and stay consistent.

Finding and Fixing Your Inconsistencies

What brought this to my attention was a free program I've written about several times: Family Tree Analyzer. (Now available for Mac users.) When I ran the program and opened my family tree's GEDCOM file, I saw a few things on the main screen that I didn't like:
  • Found 14 facts of unknown fact type SSN ISSUED
  • Found 13 facts of unknown fact type OTHER
  • Found 1 facts of unknown fact type RELEASED
This free program will uncover inconsistencies in your family tree.
This free program will uncover inconsistencies in your family tree.
I wanted to find these facts and change them. I discovered an option in Family Tree Maker to Manage Facts from the Edit menu. I chose a fact type, clicked Data Options and saw a list of every person using that fact type. I visited each of these people in my tree and made adjustments.

The fact type OTHER turned out to be something I did because I didn't know how to characterize these facts. Each person using OTHER had been in the Japanese-American prison camps of World War II. These particular facts were the dates they were incarcerated and released. I changed each of these entries to use my custom fact type, Internment.

One man named Luigi was using the RELEASED fact type. This was the date they released him from quarantine on Ellis Island. Because it was a medical quarantine, I switched to the MEDICAL CONDITION fact type.

For other types of changes, you may be able to use Find and Replace within your family tree software. Be careful. Before you click OK to make a global change, think about what else might change.

If you're changing a county name, is there a person with that name? Will their name change from John Sullivan to John Sullivan County?

Running Family Tree Analyzer showed me a Find and Replace blunder I'd made. I messed up some Italian last names that are the same as Italian occupations. Everyone named Canonico became "canonico (member of the clergy)". Oh boy. I fixed this with some careful one-at-a-time finding and replacing.

Even if you're not thinking of your genealogy hobby as your legacy, think about your own sanity. If you don't work on your tree for a while, how many of these inconsistencies will make you say, "What was I thinking?"


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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

How to Make Custom Family Trees for the Holidays

On Friday I watched a presentation by a woman who creates one-of-a-kind family tree charts. (You can see it now.)

Her designs inspired me to work on a special family tree design for my sister-in-law. We're going to her place for a party soon. My husband is making a traditional Japanese dish they grew up with. And me? I'm carrying the bottle of wine.

Now I'm thinking, why not give her a keepsake she'll treasure? I can create a custom family tree chart for her. Wouldn't this be a unique and heartfelt gift for someone on your gift list? (If you answered "no", see How to Share Your Family Tree Research with Relatives.)

I don't own a separate program for making family tree charts. I have only what's built into Family Tree Maker. But after seeing that online presentation, I want more than Family Tree Maker can offer.

Imagining the Family Tree Chart

I'm envisioning a tree with my father- and mother-in-law in the center, his family to the left, and her family to the right. I'd like to add some photos and more details for special memories.

Now I need to figure out a good format to use. One where I can have design freedom.

Earlier in my career I had a lot of desktop publishing experience. I created brochures and newsletters for big companies. But now I design web pages, not print pages.

What software do I have that I can use for this? Microsoft Publisher comes free with my Office 365 subscription, but I've never used it. I launch it and start looking at templates. When I type in "family tree", Publisher offers me a PowerPoint template.

That can work. I've done some design in PowerPoint when I needed to produce PDFs for my current company.

I open up the PowerPoint family tree template, and it looks like this:

This family tree is a free PowerPoint template.
This family tree is a free PowerPoint template.

I can use these elements to make the type of tree I have in mind.

Print Considerations

Before I go any further, I have to think about how I'll print this tree. My husband has access to a plotter at work with a 24" maximum width. He'll be more than happy to print a chart for his sister.

You may not have access to someone's plotter at the office. But you should have some nearby commercial options. The first time I printed a big family tree, it was 2 feet wide and 5 feet long. I had 40 copies printed at Kinko's (now called FedEx Office Print & Ship Center) and gave them out to all the cousins.

Your local FedEx, Staples or UPS store can take your digital file and print it out on a big plotter. Check with them for their requirements and size limitations.

Design Time

Start by looking for inspiration. Watch the video linked at the top of this article, Google family tree charts, or check Pinterest. You're bound to find something you like.

I want to include my in-laws' wedding photo and any photos I have of their parents. I want to make room for my late father-in-law's 5 siblings and my late mother-in-law's 7 siblings.

I begin by changing the page size in my PowerPoint file. I copy the tree format, then flip the copy so I wind up with a bow-tie tree format. I take out the template's colors and go with grayscale. Here's how my template looks now:

You can duplicate and move pieces of the template to create what you want.
You can duplicate and move pieces of the template to create what you want.

I want to add some more space at the bottom for photos and captions. But first, I can fill in all the names I have. Here's how it looks with a tall stack of my in-laws' siblings in the center:

I used an unusual format to accommodate lots of siblings.
I used an unusual format to accommodate lots of siblings.

The template comes with a sample paragraph. I add some formatting to the paragraph so I can use it to add captions to the photos I'll choose.

I find a generic Japanese landscape photo to use as the background of my sister-in-law's tree. I fade it way back and push it to the bottom layer. All the text boxes and photos are in front of the image, so it doesn't interfere with anything. Here's my final product:

The final product didn't need a plotter. It fit on an 11"x17" sheet of paper.
The final product didn't need a plotter. It fit on an 11"x17" sheet of paper.

With the holidays upon us, it's best not to get too caught up in what's missing from the tree. Focus instead on the personalized touches you can add that will make your loved one so happy. Those touches can include:
  • A special family photo
  • Their parents' marriage certificate
  • A war hero's military record
  • A picture of the family home
Which family tree chart do you want to create first?

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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

My Genealogy Jigsaw Puzzle: DNA Matches and Vital Records

Like any big puzzle, it helps to start with the edges and find pieces that fit one another.

Last time, I told you about a DNA color-clustering method. It shows you visually how you're connected to your DNA matches. This method, and the online tree of a crucial DNA match, showed me where I need to focus. Right down to a specific last name.

You see, my parents share DNA. This was a surprise to them, and I'm eager to be able to show them exactly which set of ancestors they share.

I'm focusing on the last name Pozzuto in the town of Colle Sannita, Italy. There were a lot of people in town with that name. And they must have been distinct families, because a high number of men married women with the same name.

I began by looking at the parents of one key DNA match, both named Pozzuto. The tree is not well sourced, and much of the information comes from my 97-year-old DNA match herself.

I have 77 people in my tree with this last name, but that's not enough pieces for this puzzle.
I have 77 people in my tree with this last name, but that's not enough pieces for this puzzle.
I turned to the massive collection of Italian vital records that I have on my computer. When you've got all your ancestral town's documents on a local drive, research is fast and easy. (Find out how you can download a collection like mine.)

I've been trying to confirm the names and birth dates of the people on both sides of the Pozzuto-Pozzuto tree. I find a person's birth record, then try to find their father's birth record and their grandfather's birth record. The goal is to identify someone who is already in my tree with a blood relationship.

After adding several people to my tree this way, I realized something. I have a cousin in Italy who's about my age and is named Pozzuto. His mother's side of the family is related to my father's side of my family. So his being a Pozzuto is a coincidence.

But…I've always thought he looks like my cousin on my mother's side of my family. What if this cousin, related to my dad but with a resemblance to my mom, is the key?

I started digging into the little bit of information he'd given me about his father. I quickly found his father's parents' 1932 marriage documents. I learned my cousin's grandparents' names and kept going until I had some of his great grandparents' names.

But I couldn't tie this Pozzuto family to that of my DNA match. Time for a new strategy.

Last summer I read about a genealogist's massive effort to build out family trees for everyone in his DNA match list. I think the Pozzuto family is my key. Why not put together every Pozzuto family sitting in my collection of vital records?

That's how I built a tree of 15,000 people from my maternal grandfather's hometown. I took the information from each vital record and entered people into a Family Tree Maker file. I placed babies with their parents. I found the parents' marriage records and gave them their parents. After a while, all the families fit together.

These are some of the files I've identified with this name so far. Lots more work to do!
These are some of the files I've identified with this name so far. Lots more work to do!
I'm going to pick a year, like 1860, and find each Pozzuto baby born in the town. I'll put them in my tree and give them my "no relationship established" marker (find out why that's important). As I go from year to year, I'll find babies that are siblings to the babies I found earlier. I'll build each family.

This will take lots of hours, but I'll wind up grouping together Pozzuto families. Some of them will be people I have in my tree already. Eventually I will find a direct line to my DNA match.

Still, that's not the goal. I need to find someone in that gene pool who married someone with a last name from my mother's side of the family.

All my ancestors came from neighboring towns. The prospect of marrying someone from the next town is very real. I've seen it. I'm eager to find a girl from Colle Sannita who married a guy from either Baselice or Pastene (most likely).

It's exciting to have all those documents waiting for me to read them. The answers are there! I simply need to dig and dig until I find them.

Can you do this with your ancestors' towns and your DNA matches?


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Friday, November 9, 2018

5 Steps to Writing Your Ancestor's Life Story

You've got the raw materials. Now let's shape them into a remembrance of your ancestor.

Have you ever thought of writing about your family history? Do you have an ancestor who's interesting enough to write a whole book about, but you don't know where to start?

It's very possible you haven't started because the whole project seems too big.

Your tree on Ancestry.com has a LifeStory view.
Your tree on Ancestry.com has a
LifeStory view.
Let's end that problem here and now. Stop thinking of your ancestor's story as a book. Don't even think about it as a short story.

Break things down to 5 simple steps and watch the project take on a life of its own. To show you this simple process, I'll use my grandfather Adamo Leone as an example. Since he was a World War I veteran, this is good timing.

Step 1: Gather Basic Facts

I've gathered almost every major document possible for my grandfather. Only his naturalization papers are missing. I'll start this process by looking at this facts chronologically.

In my Family Tree Maker software I can view a timeline of every recorded fact. On Ancestry.com I can view his "LifeStory".

No matter how you view your collected facts, this is where you'll begin. Use whatever word processing software you prefer. Put your ancestor's name at the top and start a bulleted list using the simple format of Date: Event.

Family Tree Maker has a nice timeline view. Does your software?
Family Tree Maker has a nice
timeline view. Does your software?
Copy the main facts, in order, into your outline. Try to use complete sentences, but don't worry about making things perfect. If you're inspired to add a sentence or two to describe something about a fact, go right ahead.

Step 2: Add Historical Context

My grandfather fought in World War I and was a prisoner of war in Austria for a year. I've gathered facts about the battle where he and 300,000 other Italian soldiers were captured. Earlier this year I went to Italy and photographed his Italian military record. That document is packed with dates I can add to his timeline.

I'll add the name and date of his battle. I'll add the dates of his imprisonment. I'll add the time he spent recuperating before returning to New York.

I'll add some facts I've gathered about the places he worked or owned a shoe store.

In short, I'll try to paint a picture of what was going on in my grandfather's life and in the world.

Step 3: Add Documents and Photos

You don't want to make your file too big to share. So don't add every document you've collected to this file.

There's probably no one who cares as much about every single census record as you do. Be conservative as you add images to your ancestor's life story.

Place some photos and document images where they belong in the timeline.

When you break it down, writing your ancestor's story can be pretty easy.
When you break it down, writing your ancestor's story can be pretty easy.
Step 4: Personalize Facts with Basic Details

Now that you've got so many facts listed in chronological order, it won't be hard to make them more fun to read.

Go through all the facts one by one. Add words to make more complete sentences. Add details that you know from memory or from family stories.

For instance, when my grandfather had his own shoe repair store, he once made shoes for the famous actress Gloria Swanson. She was only 5’1” tall and had tiny feet. She wore a size 4 shoe. Sometimes he would make sample shoes for her. If there were any that she didn’t want, Adamo brought them home to his wife, Mary. No matter how tiny the sample shoes were, she would cram her feet in there and wear them proudly. Eventually he stopped bringing them home, maybe because he saw how much pain they caused his wife.

Step 5: Add Memories

Step outside of your list of dates. After all the facts, start writing some of your personal memories about your ancestor. If you're too young to remember them, ask your parents or older relatives for their memories.

When I think about my grandfather, I mostly think about when I was a little girl—even though I was 28 when he died.

I remember being in my grandfather’s house for every holiday. The house was actually an apartment building. He and my grandmother lived upstairs, and my great grandparents lived downstairs. As kids, we were running up and down those stairs all the time. My grandfather would take a chair and sit in the hall outside his apartment. All he ever said, in Italian, was something that sounded like "sorda sord". I understood it to mean "quiet down, stop running, behave". Now I think he was saying "sotto, sotto", short for sottovoce: whisper or quiet down.

Put each story in a separate paragraph. Once you're done, arrange those paragraphs in chronological order as best you can.

Now all you need is an ending. It may be a quote from the person or a quick summary of their life.

My grandfather was a quiet man who always had a smile on his face. He loved his family and his life in his adopted country. How I wish I could have him with me when I've gone to visit his hometown in Italy. But, of course, I do feel his presence when I'm there.

You can complete a life story for one ancestor in a single day. Where and how will you share them? Consider:
  • saving the file as a PDF so it's easy to share
  • adding the file to your family tree
  • printing the file to create a booklet to give to your interested relatives
  • publishing the contents on your blog or your Facebook page.
Several years ago I went to a seminar about writing your ancestor's story. I was focusing on my great grandfather. But I never wrote his story. I didn't know how to dive in.

But now I've created this story about my grandfather so easily. (Here's how it turned out.) There's nothing to stop me from doing the same for:
  • my great grandfather
  • my other grandfather
  • my parents
  • and anyone else for whom I've collected enough facts.
What's stopping you?


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Friday, September 14, 2018

One Report, Endless Possibilities for Improving Your Family Tree

Update: Family Tree Analyzer is now available for Mac.

Go to ftanalyzer.com to download Family Tree Analyzer for free.
Family Tree Analyzer
It's always fun to create an up-to-date GEDCOM from my family tree and get the latest insights from Family Tree Analyzer.

I've written about this free PC-based program several times now (see links at the bottom of this article). Today let's look at how you can use its Main Lists tab to produce an all-in-one report.

First, your family tree software should have an export option. You can use the export option to create a GEDCOM. If you keep your family tree online only, and not in desktop software, you've given up some control of your family tree. Ancestry.com lets you export a GEDCOM from your online tree, but other sites, like FamilySearch.org, do not.

Second, there are other ways to do what I'm about to describe besides using Family Tree Analyzer. But to me, this program is the best way to do it. (Do a Google search for "convert GEDCOM to spreadsheet".)

Now let me show you what you can do with an all-in-one report from Family Tree Analyzer.

After loading your GEDCOM in Family Tree Analyzer, click Main Lists.
After loading your GEDCOM in Family Tree Analyzer, click Main Lists.
Launch Family Tree Analyzer and open your most recent GEDCOM file. The software will analyze your GEDCOM for several facts.

When it's finished, click the Main Lists tab. With the Individuals tab clicked, you'll see a table containing every person and fact in your tree!

Click the Export menu at the top of the program window to generate a "csv" file. This is a file you can open with any spreadsheet software, like Excel.

Excel gives you tools to sift, sort and manipulate the data any way you like. But I don't want to turn this into a long Excel tutorial. If you don't know how to filter and sort your contents, here's a good, short YouTube video. Jump ahead to 1:44 and watch until 2:24. Short and sweet.

In your spreadsheet, choose a Fact Type (column E) to filter by, such as Occupation. Now click Excel's Sort button and sort by Fact Comment (column H).

Now you have:
  • a simple view of all the occupations in your family tree
  • an alphabetical list of what you typed in for the description.

I'd like to do 2 things with the occupation descriptions:

1. Fix Errors. I can scroll down the list and scan for typos. In the image below, you can see there's an address instead of an occupation. I can fix that. In my family tree software, I'll go to the person named in columns B and C. It turns out I'd entered an address for the place of work, but left out the word "dentist" for these 2 men.
A filtered, sorted spreadsheet of your family tree facts simplifies a lot of tasks.
A filtered, sorted spreadsheet of your family tree facts simplifies a lot of tasks.

2. Complete My Job Translations. Most of my genealogy research work is in Italian documents. I thought it was cool to enter a person's occupation in Italian, so I made a separate translation list for my own use. But one day I realized there's a Find and Replace function in Family Tree Maker. So now I'm including the English translation in parentheses, like this: "calzolaio (shoemaker)".

Family Tree Maker is smart enough to make suggestions as I type in a field. So if I type "calz", it suggests "calzolaio (shoemaker)".

But I'll bet I overlooked a lot of jobs when I did my find and replace. This spreadsheet helps me find those untranslated Italian words, like agrimensore, benestante, eremite, and so on. Now I can finish this translation task and make my family tree more valuable for myself and others.

Let's pick another Fact Type.
  1. Click the Filter button at the top of column E.
  2. Click Select All to make every fact type available again.
  3. Click it again to uncheck the whole list.
  4. Now click to select the Birth fact type and click OK.
  5. Click the Sort button and sort by Fact Location, column G.
Scroll down through the alphabetical list of all the birth locations. Do you see a lot of blank locations toward the bottom? In a recent article (see "5 Clean-up Tasks to Improve Your Family Tree"), I explained the value of having approximate birth dates and places in your tree. It can give you better hints and search results.

For example, I have a man named Salvatore Martuccio who was born in about 1873. I don't want to see a hint for finding him in the 1880 census in America when he and his family were always in Italy. So I need to add Italy as his place of birth. I think I know which town he was born in, but I have no documentation. So I'll keep it loose and say he was born in Italy.

This spreadsheet makes it easier to find facts—and missing facts—so I can finish my clean-up tasks.

Here's another idea. I'll filter the Fact Type column by Immigration and sort by Fact Comment. When I first started recording immigration facts in my family tree, I used this format:

Arrived aboard the [ship name] with [wife, children, brother, etc.] to join [person's name and relationship] at [address].

Then I realized I could use the Emigration fact type to say:

"Left on the [ship name] to go to [destination city]."

With the ship name in the emigration or departure field, I could shorten my immigration or arrival description to:

"Arrived with [wife, children, brother, etc.] to join [person's name and relationship] at [address]."

I can use this filtered and sorted spreadsheet to find all the descriptions I want to edit in Family Tree Maker. Hurray! More work to do!

I'd like you to think of this method as a way of seeing everything that's hidden from plain sight in your family tree. Work on what's important to you. No matter how much you decide to correct, improve or simplify, you'll wind up with a better, stronger, more reliable family tree.

So filter, sort, and see how much you can accomplish!


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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

How to Spot and Fix a Big Mistake in Your Family Tree

The further back you go in your family history, the more branches you have to explore. And if you have a lot of branches, you probably have a bunch that need more research work.

At some point, your research may toss some new facts at you that make you realize the sad truth. You've got a big old mistake in your family tree.

What will you do when that happens?

How a Mistake Can Pop Up

I realized I'd swapped Rubina for Rufina when I found her married to the wrong man.
I realized I'd swapped Rubina for
Rufina when I found her married
to the wrong man.
Let me give you a concrete example using one of my 16 third great grandmothers. (We're all entitled to 16 third great grandmothers and 16 third great grandfathers.)

One year ago I discovered that my 2nd great grandmother was born in the little town of Santa Paolina, Italy. I learned this important piece of information when I found the marriage records of 2 of her brothers.

Those records (from a neighboring town) said my 3rd great grandparents lived in Santa Paolina.

So I ordered a few films for Santa Paolina. This was days before the end of the FamilySearch microfilm program. Everything was going online. But at the time, the vital records for Santa Paolina's province were not online. And I didn't want to wait.

I spent a few hours going through the dark and fuzzy document images and found some pay dirt. I found my 2nd great grandparents' Santa Paolina marriage record. That led to my 2nd great grandmother's birth record and that of their first baby.

I found that my 3rd great grandfather's name was different on each document. He was:
  • First name: Semblicio or Simblicio
  • Middle name: Fiorintino or Fiorentino or Fiorinto or Florindo
  • Last name: Consolazio
The first name makes sense because of my 2nd great uncle (his grandson) Semplicio. But I made a note that this man sometimes goes by a variation of Fiorintino.

There was more confusion with my 3rd great grandmother's name. It was Rufina Zullo, but I didn't see anyone else named Zullo in Santa Paolina. I saw Zuzolo and Cenzullo. When I found a Rubina Cenzullo, I started to think this was a spelling variation of Rufina Zullo. Eventually I convinced myself Cenzullo = Zullo.

Now the Santa Paolina and Tufo documents are available online. I downloaded all the Santa Paolina records to my computer, and a few select years of Tufo records. (See "How to Use the Online Italian Genealogy Archives".) This past weekend I was going through the downloaded vital records for more facts and people.

My 3rd great grandparents' marriage record was missing. I began searching every logical year for it. When I didn't find it, I thought, "What if they married after their first child was born?"

That's when I found something that made me gasp. In 1844, after the first baby was born, I found a marriage record for Rubina Cenzullo…and another man! What? But she kept having babies with Simblicio Consolazio!

At that moment I realized she wasn't my 3rd great grandmother. I returned to my 2nd great grandmother's birth record and that of her sister Catarina. Both documents said their mother was Rufina Zullo. I'd gone off in the wrong direction!

Working to Fix the Error

How would I find the right woman? I searched every logical year of birth records and found no one in town named Zullo. So I had to find her death record.

I know she had a baby in 1856, so I started there. I search the death indexes of each year looking for Rufina Zullo or Simblicio Consolazio. I found Simblicio's death record in 1891. Rufina was still alive, so I kept searching.

I found her death record in 1898, and with it, the answer to the mystery. Rufina Zullo was born in another town called Apice—a new ancestral hometown for me!

Luckily, the Apice vital records are online. I found the real Rufina's 1816 birth record, so now I had my real 4th great grandparents' names. Then I found Rufina's 1843 marriage to my 3rd great grandfather, named as Fiorintino.

Since they married in Apice, there should be marriage banns recorded in his hometown of Santa Paolina, too. And there are! I'd overlooked them because I'd checked only the index for 1843. They didn't marry there, so they aren't in the index.

Learning from Mistakes

Here are the specific lessons I learned:
  1. Don't make assumptions without a lot of evidence to support them. Some document convinced me her last name was Cenzullo. But there was so much evidence saying it was Zullo. I don't know what I was thinking.
    Detaching a person from the wrong family in Family Tree Maker.
    Detaching a person from the wrong
    family in Family Tree Maker.
  2. Search for all the major documents for your person and their immediate family. Notice when the facts on some documents contradict the facts on others. Then search for what's missing. Finding Simblicio's death record confirmed Rufina's name. Finding Rufina's death record confirmed why she was the only Zullo in town.
  3. Look beyond the indexes. They are a tremendous help, but there are times when you won't find the document you want in the index—especially when it comes to marriages.
Now I had to fix this problem in my family tree. I had Rubina Cenzullo as the wife of Semblicio and the mother of his 8 children. I also had her parents, 2 grandparents and 2 siblings. In Family Tree Maker I selected Rubina. In the Person menu, I choose Attach/Detach Person and Detach Selected Person. I clicked the checkbox for Semblicio and the 8 kids and clicked OK.

Next I attached my No Relationship Established image to Rubina and her people. I'm hold onto them for now because Santa Paolina is so very small. There may be a relationship to her.

Finally, I added my Rufina as the wife of Simblicio and mother of his kids. I attached her parents to her.

At last! My great great grandmother's family is complete.

My Consolazio family, complete with the right mamma.
My Consolazio family, complete with the right mamma.


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Friday, September 7, 2018

How to Decide Who to Cut from Your Family Tree

It's Time to Give a Whole New Meaning to 'Trimming the Tree'

In my newbie genealogy days it was a ton of fun to find people in the census. I'd trace a family through the years. I'd add names and facts and build out the family with glee.

Before long, I had 8 generations of my great uncle's wife's family. I don't know my great uncle's wife. I never met my great uncle! I had no plans to do any research for this family. And I had borrowed a lot of the people from other trees.

Why keep these hastily recorded people in my tree? I want my tree to be more professional than that.

I've written here before about lopping 600 or so people from my tree. Their only connection to me was my brother's wife. So I carefully separated them all out into their own tree for my sister-in-law.

Now it's time to prune more people who don't belong. This will improve the value of my family tree.

I deleted my great uncle's wife's ancestors one at a time. I checked first to see if they had a document image attached to them. If so, I detached the image, deleted it from Family Tree Maker's media collection and from my folders. Then I deleted the person, their spouse and children.

I did this carefully so I wouldn't leave any detached people floating in my family tree file.

That was a good family to delete. They had little or no documentation. I didn't know anything about them. They were not my people.

Here are some ways to decide who to cut from your family tree.

Where Did These People Come From?

Start by scanning your tree for a name you don't recognize. Can you find their connection to you? If the relationship is absurdly distant, maybe you should cut their branch.

Take a look at your source information for them. Did you find these facts yourself, or did they come from someone else's tree? Do you have good sources? No sources?

If the sourcing is unreliable or non-existent, maybe you should cut their branch . Give it some thought before cutting. Do you think you might ever be sorry about your decision?

The way I see it, if the names didn't have good documentation, they weren't worth much to my family tree anyway. If I did want to build out that branch, I'd rather start from scratch and do it based on evidence.

What Can These People Offer My Family Tree?

The sources in my family tree start out very simple and straightforward.
There are some very unofficial 
sources hiding in my tree.
With more than 19,000 people, my tree has tons of ridiculously distant relatives. Picking a person at random, I find she's the mother-in-law of the wife of the father-in-law of the husband of the sister-in-law of my 2nd great grandfather. In short, she's related to me through the 1st wife of my 2nd great grandfather.

She's not my relative, but I'm keeping her. I've met a few people online who are related to my great grandfathers 1st wife. Plus, my ancestors in their little Italian towns were basically all related by blood or marriage. That's kinda my thing. That's what my tree is all about: finding all the ties that bind these towns together.

Because that's my thing, I'm not deleting any of my 18th- and 19th-century Italians.

Look for Strange Sources

Looking at my long list of sources in my family tree software, I see a few unofficial sources. They're named for the family tree I looked at when adding people to my tree.

These days I avoid looking at other people's trees, but I used to follow leads.

One of these family tree sources is attached to 22 facts. This might be a branch I should cut.

I'll choose someone from the list of 22 facts and use Family Tree Maker's Relationship Tool to see their relationship to me. Of course. They're related to my 2nd great grandfather's 1st wife again! A couple of generations of the family are in my ancestral hometown, and then they came to New York state.

Family Tree Maker shows me every facts associated with a particular source.
Family Tree Maker shows me every fact
associated with a particular source.
Instead of deleting this branch, I'm going to flag the descendant who was born in America. I want to replace as many "Somebody's Family Tree" sources as possible with official sources.

Round Up the Out-Laws

Have you put together a branch for your cousin's husband, only to have your cousin divorce her husband? Do you care about keeping that branch?

My new policy is to keep only the parents of in-laws. I have exceptions, of course. I've had fun building out my 1st cousin's wife's tree. (I'm a sucker for Italian ancestors!)

Here's what I'd suggest to you. Give some thought to what you want from your family tree. If you're doing this just for the fun of it, then set your own rules and have a blast!

If you're more like me, and you've found a true passion in your tree, focus on that. Are you working toward applying to the Sons or Daughters of the America Revolution? Are you trying to map out our ancestors' migration paths so you can follow in their footsteps? Are you trying to fill your living room wall with a cool display of your immediate ancestors?

Whatever you hope to achieve…
  • cutting the fat
  • improving the sources and
  • deciding where to focus
will make your family tree stronger.


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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

5 Clean-up Tasks to Improve Your Family Tree

Stop! Don't add another person to your family tree until you read this.
  • How you ever looked at facts in your tree and not known where they came from?
  • Have you seen hints that made no sense for your person at all?
  • Did you ever need to find a document online again, but you couldn't because it was so hard the first time?
You can solve these problems and more. And you'll make your tree more professional and reliable at the same time.

These 5 clean-up tasks will improve your search results and fortify your family tree. And, in some cases, restore your sanity.

1. Add Approximate Birth Dates

In my family tree of 19,709 people, I have about 250 with a blank birth field. How can I expect a good search result if there's nothing to say which century they were born in?

For instance, in my tree there's a woman named Angelina Tedesco. But, was this Angelina born in 1920? 1840? 1780? That makes an enormous difference in a search.

Both parents are missing birth years. I'll subtract 25 years from their oldest child's birth year.
Both parents are missing birth years. I'll subtract 25 years from their oldest child's birth year.
I follow these rules for adding an approximate birth year:
  • If I have a birth year for the spouse (say, 1915), I give this spouse the same year (Abt. 1915—Abt. is short for About).
  • If I have birth years for a set of parents, I give all their children an approximate birth year 25 after the younger parent's birth. For example, if a man was born in 1920 and his wife in 1930, I'll mark all their children as Abt. 1955.
  • If I have a couple's marriage year, I'll mark their children as being born about the following year.
Granted, they weren't all born the same year, and I could easily be off by 10 or 15 years for some. But "Abt. 1955" will avoid any comparisons to someone born in the 1800s.

2. Fill in Probable Country of Birth/Death

I get tired of U.S. Federal Census hints for people I know never came to America. I can solve that by adding Italy as their country of birth and death even though I have no documented proof.

I'll be cautious about assuming everyone died in Italy. But if their children died in Italy, it's highly likely they did, too. And if I haven't added a source, I'll know this is an assumption.

3. Include Details for All Images

Lots of my relatives lived near one another in the Bronx, New York, from about 1900 to the 1960s. So, when one family is hard to find in the census, it pays to locate another family and keep turning the page.

But what happens when the family whose census you have was nearly impossible to find? Their name was so mangled and the transcription was awful. You can't even find them again!

You can avoid that hassle. Add notes to each document image when you find it. Make a note of how the name was transcribed (if it's dead wrong) and the URL where you found it.

Enough detail makes your documents retraceable.
Enough detail makes your documents retraceable.
Here's a great clean-up task—especially if you are sharing your family tree. Go back and add details to all the document images you've collected.

If you do one category at a time (census, ship manifest, draft registration cards, etc.), you'll be more consistent in how you annotate them.

Because my addresses are consistent, I can see  everyone associated with any given address.
Because my addresses are
consistent, I can see everyone
associated with any given address.
4. Make Place-names Consistent

When my ancestors were living in the Bronx, their streets had names like E. 150th St., Morris Ave., and Van Nest. I had so many families living nearby that many were on the same street or in the same apartment building.

Being consistent in how I type the addresses makes it easy to see when I have multiple families in the same building. Family Tree Maker starts suggesting places as I type. It makes suggestions based on what I've typed before.

If the program suggests the right address as soon as I type the house number, I know I have someone living else there. So I spell out each address consistently:
  • 260 East 151st Street, Bronx, New York, USA
  • 562 Morris Avenue, Bronx, New York, USA
  • 234 Dearborn Street, Girard, Trumbull County, Ohio, USA
  • Via Casale, 36, Colle Sannita, Benevento, Campania, Italy
5. Be Consistent with Sources

I admit it. Professional genealogists will tsk-tsk my sourcing style. But we can all agree you've got to include a source that allows someone to find a document or fact again and verify it.

I use a simple style for my sources. I don't want my Person view in Family Tree Maker cluttered up with 10 lines of text for each source. So the text that displays is brief:
  • 1860 U.S. Federal Census
  • 1861 Census of Canada
  • 1861 England Census
Or I use the full, exact title of a database on Ancestry.com:
  • New York, Naturalization Records, 1882-1944
  • Ohio Births and Christenings Index, 1800-1962
  • U.S., Departing Passenger and Crew Lists, 1914-1966
An example of a simple source note. This matches the database name on Ancestry.com.
An example of a simple source note. This matches the database name on Ancestry.com.
But I add more detail in the Sources tab of Family Tree Maker. In the Citation detail field, I'll copy the citation details from Ancestry.com. For example, for that last Passenger and Crew Lists database, the citation detail is "Ancestry.com. U.S., Departing Passenger and Crew Lists, 1914-1966 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016."

In the Citation text field, I add a bit more info from Ancestry, like "Sources vary by state: http://search.ancestry.com/search/dbextra.aspx?dbid=60882".

I don't often use the Web address field. But if there is a single URL that's the best place to find a source, that's where it belongs.

Finally there's a Reference note field. This is where I put the brief text I want to see on the Person tab. It almost always matches the title I used, like "U.S., Departing Passenger and Crew Lists, 1914-1966".

I don't want to have a unique source for each document. I'd have 3,244 sources! That why I put the exact URL and details on the image document itself (see #3 above).

My source is more generic. My image is completely specific.

An example of a more complete source citation.
An example of a more complete source citation.
Today I'm tackling my people with no birth year. While I'm there, I'm also adding Italy as the birth and death place for my 19th century and earlier relatives. I've already annotated my 544 census documents, but I need to finish my ship manifests. Then I'll move on to draft registration cards and the rest. I'm already pretty confident in my place names and sources.

It's a lot of work, but aren't you doing this to find and preserve your history? Isn't it worth doing well?

These are 5 clean-up tasks you can tackle. Make a start on each one so you can develop your style and be consistent. The longer you put it off, the more of a chore it becomes.


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