Showing posts with label census. Show all posts
Showing posts with label census. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Try This Tool to Find a Missing Census

When a search doesn't find your relative in the census, there is a tool that can help.

It's been 7 years since they released the 1940 United States Federal Census. And I still can't find a handful of my relatives. I've tried searching for them a bunch of ways. No luck!

Locate the group of census pages you need.
Locate the group of census pages you need.
If only I could go page-by-page through what I think was their neighborhood. Luckily, there's a tool to help us do that.

Computer professional Stephen P. Morse decided to make genealogy searches easier. His collection of tools focuses on the census (U.S., Canada, and U.K.), ship manifests, DNA, and more.

His Unified Census ED (Enumeration District) Finder helps you find the census pages for a particular address. Then you can start paging through the collection.

Let's walk through an example. My great aunt Edie married in 1936, but I've never found her in the 1940 census. Her marriage certificate says she and her husband-to-be lived 2½ blocks apart in the Bronx, New York. When I was a little girl, they lived next door to my grandmother. That building is between both of their 1936 addresses. I'll start my search there.

4 steps to narrow down your search for the right census page.
4 steps to narrow down your search for the right census page.
In the Stephen Morse tool I can enter a street address and it's smart enough to offer me the short list of cross streets. I can click a link to open Google Maps to that address to see which streets are near this address. Since this is a city address, I can enter several cross streets. I have the option of entering the 1930 enumeration district for this address if I have it (which I do). But we're already narrowed down to a single enumeration district as a result.

Click a button to find an address on the map and see its cross streets.
Click a button to find an address on the map and see its cross streets.

Where to locate the enumeration district on a U.S. Federal census sheet.
Where to locate the enumeration district 
on a U.S. Federal census sheet.
To find the enumeration district for an address, look at the top right corner of any Federal census sheet. You should see the supervisor's district and the enumeration district numbers.

Click the result link, then choose where you want to view the census pages. I'll go with Ancestry.com. In this case, my neighborhood of interest is part of a 26-page collection. I can focus on the names—particularly on the first names—and try to find my great aunt, her husband, and her daughter.

I found a military record that makes me think my great uncle was away from home in 1940. I'll concentrate on my great aunt and her daughter's first names. And I'll keep in mind that my great aunt went by at least 4 variations of her first name.

I've gone through these 26 pages a few times without finding my great aunt Edie. My grandparents, my great grandparents, and some cousins are in these 26 pages. But not the great aunt I'm looking for!

If my great uncle was away, were my great aunt and her baby staying with or near her mother-in-law? I can use the Stephen Morse website to search for that address, too. I'll follow the same steps as before:
  1. Choose the right census year
  2. Enter an address
  3. Click to view the map and find cross streets
  4. Start searching the pages
My great aunt's mother-in-law lived about a block away, but she was part of a different set of census pages. The Stephen Morse tool narrows down my search to 2 enumeration districts. One has 43 pages; the other has 32.

Side-note: I have so many relatives who lived in the Bronx, I'm seeing lots of familiar names on these pages. It helps to keep your family tree open to see if you need the page where you've found another relative.

I'm sorry to say I struck out and did not find my great aunt. But I found lots of people I know, like my Uncle Silvio as a little boy. I even found the guy my mom was once engaged to!

This is a good method that's worth trying. I'm going to pick another missing relative and try again.


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Friday, February 1, 2019

One Simple Strategy to Avoid Genealogy Burnout

Does your family tree ever weigh you down? Here's an easy way to push ahead without getting burned out.

I've been off to the races on my 2019 Genealogy Goals. I completed my 1st goal by mid-January. Now I'm making a serious push on my 2nd goal.

I've finished my 1st genealogy goal of the year, but the 2nd one can get tedious.
I've finished my 1st genealogy goal of the year,
but the 2nd one can get tedious.
I'm excited about how many census forms I've added to my family tree in a short time. Fifty-five in 2 weeks!

But sometimes I get bored. I'll find a census for a big family and think, "Now I've got to add all these facts to all these people." I don't want to stop working on my tree. But it can feel like a grind sometimes.

What's a bored genealogist to do?

Try a New Strategy

I've been using an anti-boredom strategy since I was a girl. I still use it when I'm cleaning the house, shoveling snow, or working at my day job.

The secret is this: Jump from small task to small task and trick your brain into thinking you're on to something new.

For example, when I mow the lawn, I tend to shift directions. Carve out a smaller section to cut. I'm purposely not committing myself to an enormous job. I'm committing to one piece of the job at a time. I'm telling myself I can stop whenever I want to. Then I realize I want to do another section. I go on to complete the larger task, one piece at a time.

Why not apply this strategy to genealogy?

I still encourage you to keep a list of genealogy goals—even if you won't complete them this year. But, to battle any boredom, keep a separate, smaller task list. These tasks are the things you can jump to when your bigger goal is bogging you down.

Last night I was getting discouraged with one family because I couldn't find them in 1910 or 1930. I tried all kinds of search tricks, but they kept hiding from me.

That's when I noticed a problem with some of the images in my family tree. They were missing a date or category, or weren't named in my usual style. I'd detached a few unwanted images, but I'd forgotten to delete them.

I overcame my boredom and frustration by fixing the problems with these 30-something images. It was a mental break. A short, easy task. And I'm so happy they're fixed.

I pressed on and edited the captions for all my photos of grave markers. I wanted them to be consistent, and I could never decide if they were tombstones, gravestones, headstones, or what. So I chose "grave marker" and labelled each photo in the same way. I put the cemetery name in the description. If I had the original URL for the image, I made sure each one said "From the Find-a-Grave website" followed by the URL.

Cleaning up a certain file type in my family tree was a quick break to get me back on track.
Cleaning up a certain file type in my family tree was a quick break to get me back on track.


I keep a list of smaller genealogy tasks I want to finish. They're not lofty enough to be on my annual goals list, so I called them my "Rainy-Day Genealogy List". I could call them my "I'm Bored List":
  • Transcribe my Oct 2018 interview of Mom and Dad (should take an hour or so)
  • Sort out my photo collection, scan the non-digitized ones, and add more to my tree (a weekend job)
  • Capture all entries from my old notebook of Ellis Island immigrants (I don't have to do it all at once)
  • Revisit my brother's old genealogy paper for more facts from Grandpa (a couple of hours, tops)
  • File away everything in my catch-all "gen docs" folder (a bigger task, but easy to break into pieces)
It's Time to Start Your List

You must have similar tasks you'd like to complete. Start your list of boredom busters. Choose one as a mental break when you feel frustrated by a brick wall.

Don't avoid genealogy because one family is driving you crazy. Move on to something simpler for a while. Something you can finish with no obstacles.

Break through that boredom while making your end-product better and better. Your family tree is going to be the tidiest family tree in the neighborhood!

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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

When Documents Disagree, Get More Documents

Mo' documents, mo' proof. When researching a distant relative, supporting evidence is a must.

When you're going out on a limb of your family tree that isn't quite yours, it's easy to make mistakes. You have no personal knowledge of this branch. How will you know if the census taker made a mistake? Or if the death certificate informant was wrong?

How can you avoid putting bad information in your family tree?

Your best option is to gather every available scrap of evidence. Some facts will contradict each other. What if 3 documents say one thing and the 4th says another? Are the 3 sources reputable? Could the 4th source contain a human error?

Here's an example I found yesterday.

I'm working on one of my 2019 Genealogy Goals. I'm going line-by-line through my document tracker spreadsheet. Each time I find a U.S. census noted in a person's "Need to find" column, I'm searching for it. My goal is to do a "reasonably exhaustive search" for every missing U.S. census in my family tree.

After a productive weekend of searching, I was up to the name Foster in my alphabetical list of almost 2,000 names.

Elvia Foster was born in 1884 and married my ex-husband's grandmother's uncle. A 1916 Michigan marriage register was my only source of information for Elvia. The register lists the parents of the 32-year-old bride as Albert and "Unknown".

Poor Elvia needed more documents badly. Here's what I learned from several searches:

Go after every major document so you can see the whole picture.
Go after every major document so you can see the whole picture.

1. 1910 United States Federal Census

I found a 1910 census with an "Elva" Foster. She was from the right state (Michigan), but her father is Alfred J. Foster, not Albert. Her mother is either Lillie or Nellie. So I started looking for Elvia (or Elva) after her marriage.

2. 1920 United States Federal Census

In 1920 "Elvah" was still in Michigan, married to James Kinney. Their ages and places of birth supported the 1910 census information. I saw that she was a bookkeeper in a casket company. That's helpful. The 1910 census I'm not so sure about shows Elva Foster working as a bookkeeper in a cabinet company. Caskets are sort of cabinets…

But something caught my eye. Listed right above the Kinney family in the 1920 census are Alfred J. and Nellie L. Foster. The Fosters have one son with them: Everitt born in 1899. I checked that 1910 census again. There is a son listed as E. Lesley born in 1900. Taken together, these are good reasons to believe these Fosters are Elvia/Elva/Elvah's family.

Be careful not to overlook another part of the family.
Be careful not to overlook another part of the family.

3. 1930 United States Federal Census

In 1930 James and Elva are living in the same house as in 1920, but the Fosters are gone. Elva has worked her way up to office executive at the casket factory. Her husband James has changed careers. He's now a cabinet maker at a furniture factory. Maybe Elva's father, a carpenter, taught James a thing or two.

4. 1940 United States Federal Census

In 1940 James and Elva are still at the same address. There are no Fosters nearby. They're getting on in years. Elva has retired and James is in another industry.

5. 1900 United States Federal Census

I did one more search for an earlier census. The 1900 census lists Alfred J. Foster as James A. Foster. His year and place of birth agree with the other censuses. His wife is again listed as Nellie L., and Everitt or E. Lesley is now Lesley E. Pick a name, dude!

Luckily there was one more entry: Alfred's mother-in-law. She's listed as Elizabeth Beaumont, widow. So Nellie's maiden name must be Beaumont, right?

Normally I'd say "Yes…most of the time." But this was not enough data to be sure Nellie was a Beaumont. What if her mother had remarried?

6. Death Records

Since I had all the censuses I needed for Elva, I wanted to search for her death date. If I could find that, she would be complete in my document tracker. I'd have all the major documents I wanted.

Here's where I got really lucky. A Michigan death record and a Find-a-Grave link appeared at the top of my search results. The Michigan death record provides her birth date, town of birth, and death date. It confirms that her father was Alfred James Foster. It tells me why her mother was called Nellie: her given name was Cornelia. But Nellie's full maiden name is Cornelia Leona Peck, not Beaumont.

On the Find-a-Grave website, someone added photos and detailed information about the Foster family. Nellie's father was named Peck. Her mother (Elizabeth Beaumont from the 1900 census) had the maiden name Blackford. Hey! That's the name of a boarder living with the Foster family in the 1900 census.

Sure enough, Elizabeth Blackford did marry twice. Her first husband was John Peck, father of Nellie. Her second husband was Frederick Beaumont.

I'm not going to go any further on documenting the Foster family. They're way too unrelated to me. My policy is to capture the names of an in-law's parents. But I'm not going to add Nellie's siblings or parents. All I wanted to do was confirm Nellie's maiden name.

Now I have lots of data on Elva (that's the spelling that's used the most) Foster Kinney. There's nothing more I need to find on such a distant in-law.

Finding and processing the documents mentioned here took less than 2 hours (see "How to Increase the Value of Your Family Tree Images"). Now my tree, shared on Ancestry.com, has the right names for James Kinney's wife and her parents.

This example shows why I encourage you to keep an inventory of the documents you have and the ones you're missing.

Those missing documents may completely change the facts in your family tree.

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Friday, January 4, 2019

5 Ways to Find Your Female Relative's Married or Maiden Name

Are lots of distant female cousins dead ends in your family tree? Here's some help.

How great is it when an elderly relative can tell you the married names of all the women in your family tree? Or the maiden names of all the in-laws? These women are in your tree, but your research on them is stuck.

You have to be more of a detective to find out who those young ladies married. Or what their maiden name was. Here are a few tools to help you find out.

Using examples from my family tree, I'll show you how these 5 resources led me to missing married or maiden names.

1. Census Sheets

Make sure you search for every possible census form for the family you're researching. Sometimes an elderly parent will come to live with the family. If that parent is the head of household's in-law, they'll have the maiden name of the head of household's wife.

I have one family in the 1940 census that has the man's mother-in-law living with him. Because of her, I now know the wife's maiden name is Abbate. When Mrs. Abbate was younger and her husband was alive, her parents lived with them. Because of that earlier census, I found out her maiden name and married name were both Abbate. (See "3 Unique, Key Facts about Every U.S. Federal Census".)

Check the census to see if her parents are living with her.
Check the census to see if her parents are living with her.

2. U.S. Social Security Indexes

Catherine Theresa Leone, born in 1917, was my mother's 2nd cousin. I found her in the U.S. and New York State Censuses for 1920, 1925, 1930, and 1940. She was only 23 in 1940, so it isn't surprising that she was still living with her parents.

Dead end, right? No! A simple search brought up her record in the U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index. I know it's my Catherine Theresa Leone because the index lists both her parents' names. They match what I already knew.

It turns out Catherine Theresa died at age 76 and did not go by another other name. She never married. I found another record to support these facts. The U.S. Social Security Death Index has the exact same birth and death date for her. (See "This Expanded Resource Provided an Elusive Maiden Name".)

3. Marriage Indexes

I never knew my Aunt Sophie's maiden name. Without her maiden name, I can't find her parents or siblings.

Fortunately, almost all my recent ancestors married in New York City. I can use the Italian Genealogical Group's online database to search for my uncle's marriage to Aunt Sophie. I entered his name into the Groom's Index and found him. The listing gives me the marriage date and certificate number in Manhattan.

When I click the Bride Lookup link, there's Aunt Sophie's real name: Serafina Eufemio. With that name, I was able to find Aunt Sophie earlier in her life, living with her parents and siblings.

Search marriage indexes to find out who she married...or who he married.
Search marriage indexes to find out who she married...or who he married.

4. Family Obituaries

My aunt's sister-in-law died in 2004. I knew only a little about my uncle's family. I knew his sister's first name, that she was born in Italy, and the name of one of her sons. Her obituary, as short as it was, told me several facts about her. I learned:
  • She moved from New York to Florida in 1974, but she died in New York.
  • She married twice, and had converted to Judaism for her 2nd husband.
  • Her 2 sons' names, and their different last names.
  • The married name of her 2nd husband's daughter.
  • Her sister's married name. (That's my uncle's other sister, so this tells me the maiden names of her 2 daughters.)
  • Her 2nd husband died before her.
A more detailed obituary can tell you the names of siblings and their spouses, children and their spouses, and grandchildren, too.

Even if the woman you're researching is still alive somewhere, you might find an obituary for one of her parents or siblings.

5. DNA Matches and their Trees

Emma Leone, born in 1906, was also my mom's 2nd cousin. She was living with her parents on census forms through 1930. It was a DNA match—Emma's son—who told me who and when Emma married. With her married name, I was able to find her Social Security death records. These contained her birth date, which matches the 1906 birth index listing for Emma Leone.

Because my DNA match (my 3rd cousin) told me her married name, I found her and my new cousin in the 1940 census, too. (See "Bringing in Your Genealogy Harvest".)

One big caveat to finding facts in another person's tree: That's not proof. You must find documents to support the details you find in anyone else's tree.

An obituary tends to be more reliable, but may contain errors. My own first cousins didn't know our grandmother's maiden name. They had it wrong in their mother's obituary. When my sister-in-law wrote her father's obituary, she knew no one's names but her aunt and grandparents.

Whatever evidence you do find, take it as a clue, but don't take it for granted. All the clues I've mentioned in this article were details I was able to support with other evidence.

Don't give up on the ladies. They're the reason we're all here.

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Friday, August 24, 2018

3 Unique, Key Facts about Every U.S. Federal Census

Diagram of U.S. Census Changes from 1790 to 1940

Here's an infographic to show you the states or territories included in each U.S. Federal census, 1790–1940. Knowing these facts can save you from trying to find your ancestor in a state that didn't yet exist.

After the first census box for 1790, each year in the infographic shows:
  • The new states and territories counted that year.
  • New questions asked and facts recorded that year.
It's interesting to see the increasing detail gathered from census to census. In another article I'll explain some of the history that led to adding those particular questions to the census.

You can download this graphic as a PDF. I've also created a printer-friendly version in black and white for letter-size paper (8½" x 11").

Diagram of U.S. Census Changes from 1790 to 1940
Diagram of U.S. Census Changes from 1790 to 1940


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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

This Genealogy Report Shows You What's Missing

Update: Family Tree Analyzer is now available for Mac.

How would you like a tool that shows you exactly which census forms you haven't found for each person in your family tree?

Sound like a time-saver? You'd better believe it is. Let's take a look at the Census Report tool in the free software program, Family Tree Analyzer (FTA). (See their website for the free download and their Facebook page for support.)

This is a simple process of (1) open file, (2) run report, (3) work with your results.

Before You Start
An approximate birth year and country of birth will give you the best results.
An approximate birth year and country of birth will
give you the best results.
Learn from my experience and get better results:
  • Enter an estimated birth date for everyone in your tree. When you don't know someone's date, make them about 25 years older than the oldest child you've found for them. There's a big difference when searching for someone born in 1850 vs. 1900.
  • Enter a country of birth and death whenever possible. Say you've researched several generations of a family and they stayed in one area. If someone's children never emigrated, assume the person was born and died in that country. Add a note that this is not verified.

Now the FTA Census Report will be much smarter and you'll need to do very little editing of your Census Report.

Open Your Data File

Once you install FTA, all you need is your tree's latest GEDCOM file (see the definition). Check your software's File menu for an Export option. If your tree is on Ancestry.com, but not on desktop software, go to your Tree Settings online. Find the green Export tree button. Some websites believe in one shared tree. That means you don't have full control of your tree, and you cannot download a GEDCOM. The control freak in me can't imagine going that route.

Launch FTA and open your GEDCOM file.

Run the Census Report

To run a report showing which census records you're missing:

Make 2 selections, and click to run the report.
Make 2 selections and click "Show Missing from Census" to run the report.
  1. Click the Census tab at the top.
  2. Check the boxes for the Relationship Types you'd like to include in your report:
    • Direct Ancestors
    • Blood Relations
    • Related by Marriage
    • Married to Blood or Direct
    • Unknown
  3. Choose a census report from the Census Date menu. You'll find:
    • UK Censuses from 1841–1911
    • the UK National Register of 1939
    • Ireland Censuses for 1901 and 1911
    • US Federal Censuses from 1790–1940
    • Canadian Censuses from 1851–1921
    • Scottish Valuation Rolls from 1865–1925
  4. Click the button labelled Show Missing from Census. Your report will open in a new window.
Your report is ready to export to Excel.
Your report is ready to export to Excel. Notice the status line at the bottom of the report. You can double-click an entry from this report view to go to FamilySearch and find the census you're missing.
FTA is smart. It knows if someone in your tree was alive and living in the right country for a particular census. By default, it doesn't search for anyone over the age of 90, but you can change that.

Now that you have the report, click the Excel icon at the top of the report window. Save the file to your computer in the default CSV (Comma-Separated Values) format. Now go back to step 1 and repeat the process for each census year you need.

Analyze Your Results

Now it's time to work with the data. I found a small number of people who didn't belong in this report. So before you start working through people one line at a time, let's check a few things.

To work with your report more easily, hide the spreadsheet columns you don't need right now. To hide a column, click the letter at the top of the column, like G. This will select the whole column. Then right-click the selected column and choose Hide from the menu.

The most important columns to keep visible are:
  • CensusName (a married woman's maiden name is in parentheses)
  • Age
  • BirthDate
  • BirthLocation
  • DeathDate
  • DeathLocation

The first people I'll look for have a birth location and death location in another country. I see only a couple of people who match this description. The first one is a familiar name: Domenico Sarracino. I know he never came to America, so I can remove him from this report.

Next I want to remove everyone with an unknown birth and death date. I know that in my family tree, these are most likely relatives of relatives. I might know nothing beyond their names. They shouldn't be my focus, so I'll remove them from my spreadsheet.

Finally, I'll sort the entire spreadsheet by the CensusName column. Now I can scroll through the names and remove duplicates. I found about 15 people who appeared to be duplicates with the same name and birth date.

One more step. For each name in the spreadsheet, I'll check their entry in my family tree. I quickly spot some more who I know never came to America.

The reason FTA doesn't know they never left Italy is that my birth and death dates don't always say they were born or died in Italy. I didn't want to make that assumption, but now I think I'd better. When it's a safe assumption, I'll put in the country and add a note that this is not confirmed.

More lines deleted.

Now I have a list of 120 people who need me to find them in the 1900 U.S. Federal Census. That may sound like a lot of people, but my family tree has almost 20,000 people. It's about 0.6% of my total tree. That sounds manageable. And finding those missing census forms will make my tree that much more valuable.

I'm ready to begin searching for those census sheets. I'll whittle down my list as I go, keeping track of my progress. Then it's on to the census reports for 1910, 1920, 1930 and 1940.

Go Fill in the Blanks

Now you're ready to make targeted searches for those missing census sheets. Family Tree Analyzer is a must-have if you want to make your family tree your legacy.

Want a cheap thrill? When you're done, create a new GEDCOM and run the report again. Look at your results!


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Friday, August 10, 2018

6 Ways to Add Another Generation to Your Family Tree

When you started building your family tree, you may have known only your 4 grandparents' names. What fun it is each time you discover a relative's parents' names. You've added another generation to your tree!

Here are 6 places to look for the names of that previous generation. Some may surprise you.

1. Census Sheets

Look closely at each member of your relative's household in each census. You may find the Head of Household's mother, father, mother-in-law, or father-in-law living with the family. The best find is the male head of household's father-in-law. Now you've got the wife's maiden name!

2. Draft Registration Cards

If your male relative was single and the right age, his draft registered card may name his father or mother as his nearest relative. In this example, Tony Jr. is not his real name—it's Anton Jr. But this card is evidence that he is, in fact, named after his father.

The draft registration card for a single man may give you his mother or father's name.
The draft registration card for a single man may give you his mother or father's name.

I'd heard stories about "Uncle Anton" from my mother-in-law. When I found this card, I realized his father's name was Anton, too.

3. Ship Manifests

If your ancestor emigrated during a particular span of years, you're lucky. Their ship manifest may include a column labelled, "The name and complete address of nearest relative or friend in country whence alien came."

Your relative may give the name of their spouse. But an unmarried traveler may name their father or mother.

Your immigrant ancestor's ship manifest can tell you their hometown - and their parent's name.
Your immigrant ancestor's ship manifest can tell you their hometown—and their parent's name.

You may not understand this scribble, but this is my grandfather Adamo naming his father Giovanni as the relative he's leaving in his town of Baselice.

4. Social Security Applications and Claims Index

A while ago I found a collection on Ancestry.com called "U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1935-2007".

If your relative worked in the United States after the 1935 founding of the Social Security Administration, they should have Social Security records. Hopefully you're already familiar with the SSDI—the Social Security Death Index. That can give you dates and places of birth and death.

But the Applications and Claims Index can give you much more! With some luck, you can learn the decedent's father's name and their mother's maiden name.

Plus, if you're looking up a female relative by her birth date, you can learn her married name.

5. Passport Applications

If your relative was a U.S. citizen going to another country at a certain time, they needed a passport. These applications can be a treasure trove. And you even get a photo.

Here's some of what you might learn about your relative:
  • birth date and place
  • address
  • occupation
  • father's name, birth date or age, birthplace and address
  • wife's name
If the applicant is a married woman, you'll get details about her husband rather than her father.

A passport application provides lots of names, dates and places you need.
A passport application provides lots of names, dates and places you need.

This example is from a relative named Walter Smith. It provides birth dates and countries for Walter, his wife Elizabeth, and his father George. It also says when he sailed from Liverpool to the U.S., and on which ship. The next page has photos of Walter and Elizabeth.

That's some valuable info when you're researching a guy named Smith!

6. Vital Records

Of course all genealogy fans want to find their ancestor's birth, marriage and death records. Keep in mind that:
  • The parents' names on a birth record should be pretty reliable. But either parent may be using a nickname rather than their true, full name.
  • All information on a death record is obviously supplied by someone other than the person who died. What if the decedent is an 85-year-old who was born in another country? Will their child, who's supplying the information, know the correct spelling of their grandparents' names? What if they never even met those grandparents?
  • If the couple getting married is pretty young, you can have more confidence in how they list their parents' names. (The "nickname" rule still applies.) But if the couple is older—2 widows getting remarried—the information is more likely to have an error.
  • If your couple got married in the same little town where they were born and raised, the clerk writing the names is more likely to get them right.

The lesson to take away is this: Don't give up on that previous generation if you can't get your relative's vital records. You have 5 other types of records to find, each of which can help you fortify your family tree.


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Friday, August 3, 2018

A Genealogy Challenge You'll Love

The 1st good clue in my challenge: naturalization papers.
The 1st good clue in my challenge:
naturalization papers.
What if a simple genealogy challenge could:
  • Show you how good your genealogy skills are?
  • Help you connect with a new friend?
  • Teach you some new research tricks?
Would you accept it?

A Challenge Arises

The other day a woman reached out to me longing to know about her lost Italian roots. Her grandfather Matthew had given up his Italian name to blend into American society. After Matthew and his wife divorced, their children had very little contact with either of their parents.

The woman who wrote to me loved her grandfather, but knew nothing about his origins. She offered me the few clues she had, and asked if I could help.

Challenge Accepted

When an assignment comes my way in life or at work, I like to take a peek at it and figure out how hard or easy it might be. Many times this quick peek hooks me. I'm interested, and I'm making progress. So I dive in and get to work. That's exactly how I began this challenge.

Here are the few facts I had:
  • Mattio d'Arcangelo was born in 1900 to Valentino and "Ginny"
  • He married Evangeline McElroy and owned a shoe company in Boston
  • His children, Eleanor and Robert, were given Mattio's adopted last name of Matthew.
  • Mattio and Evangeline divorced.
I wasn't getting anywhere searching Ancestry.com for Mattio. I switched to searching for his father, Valentino. I thought his distinctive name would make him easier to find.

Right away I found naturalization records for Valentino d'Arcangelo. I scoured the information, but I had no proof yet that this was the father of Mattio. His naturalization papers did not mention any family members. But they did include his exact birth date.

That May 10, 1873 date helped me match him to other records for Valentino d'Arcangelo. I found a Massachusetts marriage registry book showing the January 12, 1900, Haverhill, Massachusetts marriage of:
  • Valentino d'Arcangelo, age 26, a shoemaker from Italy, son of Mattio d'Arcangelo and Maria Porrea, and
  • Giovannina d'Arcangelo, age 25, from Italy, daughter of Raffaele d'Arcangelo and Felice Subrizio.
There was a good chance Giovannina is the real name of Mattio's mother "Ginny". But I needed more proof.

This 1910 census provides 2 great aunts and a great uncle.
This 1910 census provides 2 great aunts and a great uncle.
I found the 1910 census for Haverhill, and there they were. A family of 6: Valentino and Giovannina (now called Jenny or Jinny), and their children Mattio, Assunta, Pastiano and Mary. Mattio was born in Massachusetts, but his younger sister was born in Italy. The census taker crossed out Massachusetts for Assunta, and wrote in Italy.

A 1902 ship manifest supports the idea of the family returning to Italy for a while. In November 1902 Valentino is returning to America—to Haverhill—without his family. Giovannina and her first 2 children must have returned at a later date.

I found out from the manifest that Valentino was from the town of Bisegna in the province of L'Aquila. Unfortunately, there are no birth records available online for Bisegna after 1866.

I went on to find Valentino as a widower in the 1920 census. A death index shows he died in 1942.

I wanted some more documentation for Mattio—my new friend's grandfather. I saw that his memorial on Find-a-Grave has his name as Matthew F. Matthews. When I couldn't find him in the 1930 census, I looked for his wife Evangeline, and his kids Eleanor and Robert.

Mattio d'Arcangelo, aka Francis Matthews.
Mattio d'Arcangelo, aka Francis Matthews.
I found them living in Needham, Massachusetts, but the head-of-household was Francis Matthews. That memorial with the middle initial F. turned out to be a good clue.

They were a family unit in 1930. But in 1932, Evangeline McElroy Matthews remarried right there in Needham. I went back to the 1920 census to discover Evangeline's parents. That family of 4 consisted of:
  • Robert the father
  • Evangeline the mother
  • Evangeline the daughter, and
  • Robert the son!
I'd discovered quite a bit in one sitting. Mattio's granddaughter was just about in tears.

Your Challenge

Here are 3 ways you can find a genealogy challenge:
  1. Join any genealogy group on Facebook. Every day people ask for help. They may list some of their ancestors' names and dates and ask how to find out more about these people.
  2. Got DNA? You may belong to websites that suggest DNA matches to you. I read about an avid genealogist who is researching and building trees for all his DNA matches so he can figure out their connection.
  3. Maybe you have a friend who's mildly interested in your genealogy hobby. Help get them hooked by starting their tree for them. Ask for some basics about their parents and grandparents: names, dates and places.
Use the clues, your genealogy resources and skills and see how much you can find. Be careful not to make assumptions. Let the facts point you in the right direction.

Document everything you find clearly and thoroughly. List the facts in chronological order and show where each fact came from. Provide this person with the facts and the documents you've found.

Imagine that you are a professional genealogist, and do the best work you possibly can.

Once you've tackled this challenge, you may want to take a fresh look at your family's brick walls!


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Friday, December 15, 2017

Moving Your Family Tree to a New Computer

The last time, I wrote about how important it is to be ready for the sudden loss of your computer. You must be prepared to move your genealogy files if your computer is about to die. And sure, you'll have to move non-genealogy files, too.

I'm lucky that my 4-year-and-8-month-old computer gave me warning that it was on its last legs. Every program I tried to run was unresponsive. I had to move on to new technology.

My new laptop arrived two days ago, and I began installing my most important software:
  • Microsoft Office
  • Adobe's Photoshop, DreamWeaver, and Acrobat
  • Quickbooks
  • Some specialty software I need for work
  • Family Tree Maker
Family Tree Maker can fix this problem for me.
A tool to fix the problem.
When I launched Family Tree Maker on my new machine for the first time, I was surprised that it displayed my media files. I have 2,634 images attached to people in my tree. They are mainly census forms, ship manifests, and photos.

I was surprised to see them because the file structure on my new computer is different. I'm storing all my genealogy images on the "E" drive, which is enormous.

It turns out I made a bad choice when I first began using FTM in 2003 or so. The program asked me if I wanted to save media files in the family tree file, or link to their location on the computer.

I figured that saving the media in the file would make the file way too big. So I linked to them instead.

I knew I couldn't move files around or rename the files or folders. They would become unlinked if I did. I accepted that, and I never changed anything.

Imagine my face two days ago when I realized all my media was now unlinked!

Thankfully, Family Tree Maker has a fix for this. I hope your family tree software does, too. If you're not sure, check your software's website or click the Help menu to see what it says about media files.

In Family Tree Maker, I clicked the Media menu and chose Find Missing Media. This brought up a window showing the long, long list of my 2,634 missing media items.

FTM is getting me out of a jam.
"Click to search manually"? No thanks.
In the right column, labelled Attach, there's a choice between Attach a Copy and Attach a Link. I'd always chosen to attach a link before. Here was my chance to bring a copy of every single media item into my Family Tree Maker file.

Sure, my family tree file is going to be much fatter than it used to be. But I've got a 1 terabyte hard drive now, so who cares?

The process is very simple, but as I write this, it's still running.

All I had to do was click to Select All, make sure the Attach column was set to Copy, and click Search. Immediately, I saw that the program found my files on my new E drive. So it's working! It's more than halfway done, and progressing nicely.

Better graphic cards make working on your family tree easier.
I would have been pretty upset if I had to locate the 2,634 images one at a time! But let this be a lesson to you. If you plan to move your family tree to a new computer, and your file doesn't contain all the images, pull them in now.

And here's a nice benefit to upgrading that computer. Aside from it being faster, I've got a really high-resolution screen. So I'm able to see so much more of my family tree at a glance than before.

At this point, my house contains more obsolete computer equipment than it should. But genealogy is a high-tech hobby. It pays to have good tools for the job.


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Sunday, October 29, 2017

What To Do When You Can't Solve the Mystery

Mixed in with my relatives in the 1930 census I have a mystery family. I've been gathering evidence, but I still don't know who they are.

This 1930 census shows the Ferro family living with my Saviano family. Who are they?
How is Patsy Ferro my great uncle's nephew?
The more pieces I find, the closer I get to solving this mystery. That's why I created a timeline of found facts.

You can use this process to help solve your own family tree mysteries.

It all began with an extra family in the 1930 census. Living with my grandmother's uncle Semplicio Saviano and his children were:
  • Patsy (a nickname for Pasquale) Ferro, age 29, married for 10 years, born in Italy, a building contractor. He is listed as Semplicio's nephew.
  • Josephine Ferro, age 26, born in Italy. She is listed as Semplicio's niece.
  • Antonette Ferro, age 6, born in Italy. She is listed as Semplicio's grand-niece.
If Patsy was really Semplicio's nephew, then either his sister or his wife's sister should have married a man named Ferro. But they didn't.

I found five more documents for the Ferro family.

1923 Ship Manifest

On 12 November 1923, Pasquale Ferro arrived in Boston. He was from Baselice, Italy, which happens to be the hometown of my grandfather, Adamo Leone. Since my grandmother was Semplicio's niece, is Adamo Leone the relative of Pasquale Ferro?

Pasquale states that he is joining his cousin Leonardo Canonico at 260 East 151st Street in the Bronx. Well, now. Isn't that a coincidence? That is where my newlywed grandparents lived. The building had only three or four apartments, and all but one belonged to my closest relatives.

I recognize the name Canonico as a common name from Baselice, Italy, too.

The ship manifest originally stated that Pasquale Ferro was leaving "nobody" behind in Italy. That was crossed out and "wife Gusolo" was typed in. I'll come back to that name in a moment.

1925 New York State Census

On 1 June 1925 there is a Pasquale Ferro, carpenter, boarding with a family named Ria at 310 East 153rd Street in the Bronx. This is only a couple of blocks away from his 1923 location. It says Pasquale has been in the U.S. for two years.

I'm not entirely sure this is the Pasquale Ferro I'm looking for.

1930 Ship Manifest

Pasquale Ferro went back to Italy to retrieve his wife and daughter.
Pasquale Ferro returns to the USA with his family.
On 10 January 1930, Pasquale Ferro arrives in New York City with his wife and daughter. He is a U.S. citizen with a passport issued on 12 July 1929. He lives in my grandparents' building at 260 East 151st Street in the Bronx.

His wife's name is Giuseppina (Josephine, in English) Chiusato. I've done extensive documentation of birth, marriage and death records from the town of Baselice, Italy. Chiusato is not a name I've seen in the town. But Chiusolo is a common name there. "Chiusato" was typewritten on the ship manifest.

My educated guess is that "Chiusato" and the "Gusolo" typewritten on Pasquale's 1923 ship manifest were both meant to be Chiusolo. This is a tidbit I would have overlooked if I hadn't gathered these documents together.

Also on the ship in 1930 is Pasquale and Giuseppina's daughter Antonetta. She is six years old, just as she was on the 1930 census where I found her the first time.

1930 Census

This is the same document I discussed in the beginning of this article. Two facts to add are:
  • Patsy was naturalized in 1923. But since he arrived in the U.S. in November 1923, this seems like a mistake.
  • The family was living at 1010 Van Nest Avenue in the Bronx.
1940 Census

Now Pasquale and his family are living with several of Semplicio Saviano's grown children at 1010 Van Nest Avenue in the Bronx. Pasquale is 40 years old and not working. He is listed as the cousin of Anthony Saviano, who is the head of household. Pasquale and his daughter Antonette are naturalized, but his wife is still an alien.

1950 Ship Manifest

Pasquale Ferro traveled alone to Italy in 1950 and planned to stay for three months. The manifest states that his passport was issued on 28 June 1929. This is not an exact match of the date on his 1930 ship manifest, but I know this is the same man.

His home address is 980 Van Nest Avenue in the Bronx. At the time of her 1947 death, Semplicio Saviano's daughter Columba lived at this same address.

Taken altogether, these six documents tell me a lot about Pasquale Ferro.

But they don't tell me how he's related to me.

I found two Social Security records for Pasquale's wife, Josephine. These records provide her birth date in Baselice. But I've downloaded the 1904 Baselice birth records to my computer, and she is not there. I have her parents' names, too, so I will work with those and see where it gets me.

The trail goes completely cold on the young girl, Antonette Ferro.

There is one more document that I viewed on my iPad the other day, but can't seem to find again. It was a New York City deed or mortgage that included Pasquale Ferro. I don't remember what other name was on this document, or who I was searching for at the time. I viewed every page in my browser history without finding it.

That one missing document may be a big piece of this puzzle. Or it may be a different Pasquale Ferro.

One thing is certain: You've got to take notes on your searches. The very next thing you find may be the answer to your mystery. But you'll need those notes so you can be sure.


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