Showing posts with label death record. Show all posts
Showing posts with label death record. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Did I Find a Scandal in My Family Tree?

If the people involved are long gone, a scandalous story should be OK to share. Don't you think?

I've read thousands of birth, marriage, and death records in my family tree research. They're mostly in Italian and from the 1800s.

This was flagged as an error, but, unfortunately, it's correct.
This was flagged as an error,
but, unfortunately, it's correct.
In my tiny ancestral hometowns, a few babies were born out of wedlock each year. Sometimes the birth record names the mother, but not the father. Most of the time it doesn't name either one. Only the midwife knows who gave birth to the baby.

Doesn't that seem like it should have been a huge scandal in the early 1800s? Especially for the woman who admits to having a child out of wedlock. But it happened every year. That's just the way it was.

Yesterday, after making a ton of edits to my Family Tree Maker file, I thought I'd better check it for errors. I exported my GEDCOM file and tested it with Family Tree Analyzer. It's a free program with a ton of powerful tools.

What a lifesaver that program is. It found some mysterious duplicate fact entries I didn't know were there. It found a woman, all by herself, connected to no one. She was a forgotten remnant of a marriage I'd decided to delete from my family tree.

But the most interesting thing Family Tree Analyzer found may be a deep, dark family secret.

This baby was born just a little too long after his father died.
This baby was born just a little too long after his father died.
Pasquale Cormano was born on 21 November 1811, a full 10 months after his father died. The death record of his father, also named Pasquale, shows he died on 27 January 1811. Another copy of the record, written for his grandson's marriage in 1841, confirms that death date.

That supposed 10-month pregnancy made me look more closely at all the documents. It was baby Pasquale's uncle, Leonardo Cormano, who presented the baby to the mayor when he was born. That's normal when the father of the baby is dead or unable to bring the baby himself.

It was traditional to name a baby after their father if he died before the baby was born. If the dead man's child was a girl, she got a feminized version of her dead father's name. Like Pasquala, Giuseppa, or Giovanna. When Pasquale Cormano's widow, Maria Saveria Paradiso, gave birth that 21st day of November, she named the baby Pasquale after her late husband.

But…are we to believe that Maria Saveria and her husband had relations as late as the day of his death? And that the baby was in utero for a whole extra month?

Was something scandalous happening when this man was about to die?
Was something scandalous happening when this man was about to die?
I checked out the baby's "Uncle Leo" Cormano. He was a few years older than his brother Pasquale. And when he died, 13 years after baby Pasquale was born, he had never married. He was a 54-year-old contadino—a man who worked the land.

The mother of this miracle baby, Maria Saveria, was a young mother of two when her husband died. When she finally gave birth to little Pasquale, she was 25 years old with 2 toddlers and an infant.

Isn't it easily possible that the ill-fated Pasquale was not the father of the baby? Isn't it intriguing to think that "Uncle Leo" may have been more involved than it seems?

So, what happened after baby Pasquale was born to a dead father? In 1814, widow Maria Saveria had 3 children, ages 7, 6, and almost 3 years old. That's when she married a widower named Giovanni Palmieri. The year before, Giovanni's 9-year-old daughter died, leaving him with 5 young children.

It's hard to imagine that their marriage, creating a household of 8 children, was a better option. But they each needed a partner to help raise the children and keep a house.

Ten years after Maria Saveria and Giovanni married, "Uncle Leo" died alone. Maria Saveria lost her 2nd husband in 1831 when she was 45. By then, another of Giovanni's children had died, the older children were married, and only her 3 Cormano children were still with her.

You know what that means, don't you? I have to search for Maria Saveria's third marriage!


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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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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

This Memento Provides Key Facts for Your Family Tree

Have you added your relatives' funeral cards to your family tree?

In my small collection of paper family tree documents is a small stack of funerals cards. Each is a little bigger than a business card. They have a religious image on one side and a prayer on the other. Some are laminated. One folds out to double its size.

These keepsakes provide some important information about my relatives.
These keepsakes provide some important information about my relatives.
You can expect to find funeral cards at the funeral home to commemorate the deceased. They provide printed evidence of your loved one's date of death. They contain the name and address of the funeral home, which can be important to you.

Did you know that a funeral home can tell you where you ancestor is buried? They can check their records for the burial place.

I had no luck finding my great grandfather Pasquale Iamarino's Ohio death record. Then I contacted the funeral home from his 1969 funeral card. They sent me a copy of the death record. It had been impossible for me to find because of a bad typewriter. A dirty O key looked like an E.

The crown jewel of my card collection is the fold-out card for my other great grandfather, Giovanni Sarracino. It lists the names of his wife and five children. And while all the names but one are Americanized, it's still pretty awesome. It even has enough room to include his photograph.

This unusual funeral card format includes a photo, family names, and a prayer, plus 2 religious images on the other side.
This unusual funeral card format includes a photo, family names, and a prayer, plus 2 religious images on the other side.
If you don't have funeral cards for your relatives, other members of your family probably do. Ask them to photograph them for you.

I've scanned my funeral card collection, and I'm attaching them to my family tree. Each one is a highly unique item that deserves to be in your family history collection.


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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, September 28, 2018

How to Find Official Sources for Family Facts You Just Know

Imagine your grandchild inherits your family tree. How reliable will the information be for your generation?

Marriage registers, yearbooks, newspaper clippings...these are official sources for your living relatives.
Marriage registers, yearbooks, newspaper
clippings…these are official sources for your
living relatives.
I don't need a document to tell me I was born in Mother Cabrini Hospital in New York City. Or that I was baptized in Our Lady of Pity Church in the Bronx. (Both gone now, by the way.)

But years from now, if my grandchild wants to carry on my genealogy work, what proof will they have for facts about me, my siblings and my cousins?

Everyone says to start your tree with yourself and the facts you know. Then you move on. Finding census forms, draft registration cards, death records and so much more. But have you returned to yourself and your generation to find proof for your facts?

Your Own Documents

You should have your own birth certificate in your possession. I even have my baptismal certificate, along with two marriage certificates.

I need to scan those documents and put them in my family tree. (For the worriers: You can mark individual images as private in Family Tree Maker. Hopefully in your software, too.)

Of course, I'm not going to ask my brother and my cousins to let me scan their birth certificates. So what do you do?

Public Records Index

On Ancestry.com you can access volumes 1 and 2 of the U.S. Public Records Index, 1950–1993. The information in these databases comes from a combination of:
  • telephone books
  • post office change-of-address forms
  • other public documents.
In my experience, the birth dates given in these collections are often wrong. For me, an entry might say I was born on the 1st of the month instead of the 24th. But it generally has the right year.

So, when all else fails, a public records source proves the person in your tree existed:
  • by their name
  • in a specific place
  • in a specific range of time.
Newly Released Indexes

It pays to watch social media for genealogy news. That's where you can learn about groups like Reclaim the Records. They're on a mission to get access to the genealogical and archival data we genealogists want so much.

They've scored tremendous wins, particularly for New York and New Jersey documents. But they're also working to release data from many U.S. states.

Thanks to them, I've found documentation for several events, including:
  • my parents' marriage license
  • my grandfather's 2nd marriage license
  • my and my close cousins' births
  • my grandmother Lucy's birth
Seeing the index of New York births, I finally found my grandmother's birth certificate number.
Seeing the index of New York births, I finally found my grandmother's birth certificate number.
Lucy's birth record has eluded me for years. Now I know her New York State birth certificate number is 60968. On the index she has no first name and a badly misspelled last name. No wonder I couldn't find her certificate! It's definitely her because my father has always known she was born on 10 Dec 1908 in Hornell, New York.

Newspapers

I haven't found much historical information on my family in the newspapers. But I'm constantly finding references to my brother in newspapers. His career has always had a big public relations aspect to it. So any search for Iamarino brings up my brother. I found his North Carolina marriage announcement that way.

Proof of a modern-day marriage may be found in the bride's hometown paper.
Proof of a modern-day marriage may be found in the bride's hometown paper.
You may have more luck searching for your family. Think about all the events you could search for when it comes to your contemporary relatives:
  • birth, marriage and death announcements
  • public relations announcements for various professionals
  • graduating class lists
Your facts and your closest, living relatives' facts may not be your top priority. But documenting these things you've known all your life:
  • your mom's birth date
  • your brother's middle name
  • your aunt's home address
…will go a long way toward strengthening your legacy.

Set aside some time to find documents or public sources for your own nuclear family. Some day your grandchild may thank you from the bottom of their heart.


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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

4 Tips to Help You Find that Missing Ancestor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find Siblings, Marriages, Deaths

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

While thinking about this, I formed a theory.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Tuesday, 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, July 13, 2018

How to Find the Most Important Genealogy Documents Quickly

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

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

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

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

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

Where do you begin?

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

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

Find That First Birth Record

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

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

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

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

Start Collecting the Babies

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

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

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

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

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

Hunt for the Parents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Friday, June 15, 2018

Genealogy is the Joy of Names

Yesterday I used a set of 1819 marriage records to make a big discovery. An acquaintance I assumed is my relation to me is in fact my 6th cousin.

He and I share a set of 5th great grandparents. I know their names, their approximate years of birth, and some of their children's names. But that's all.

A word cloud of my closest relatives.
A word cloud of my closest relatives and the frequency of names.
My ancestors all came from little hilltop towns in rural Southern Italy. I visited their towns last month and got a better feel for these places. My ancestors lived simple lives that were basically undocumented and unexceptional.

That means I'm not going to find a letter from my ancestor to the king. My ancestor wasn't the mayor of the town or instrumental in a revolution. My ancestor's name and exploits weren't in the newspaper.

Without the possibility of a direct line of ancestors leading to the King of England, why do I do it?

Why do I spend countless hours gathering the documents that tie me to such distant cousins?

For me, it's the sheer joy of names. I adore all the names I find in my vast collection of birth, marriage and death records. They're repeated over and over because of the Italian tradition of naming children after their grandparents.

Although each of my ancestors' towns are close to one another as the crow flies, each town has a core set of surnames. For example, my maiden name barely exists in my grandfather's hometown anymore. But people in the town recognized it and responded to me warmly.

It's some of my closest last names that enable me to assume someone is my relative. If their name is Pozzuto, for example, and their ancestors came from the town of Colle Sannita, we've got to be cousins. It's an exciting challenge to try to find that exact relationship.

Some purists may look down on me as nothing more than a "name collector". But I love collecting those names. I've learned a little bit about life in my ancestral hometowns in centuries past. I can't expect to find much more.

Here are two specific things I learned about my ancestors' lives in Italy:
My grandfather's one-page military record told me volumes.
My grandfather's one-page
military record told me volumes.
  1. My grandfather told us he was a prisoner of war with the Italian Army during World War I. He had to eat rats to survive. Last month I photographed his military record at the archives in his home province.

    Now I know:
    • when he was captured
    • the name of the battle
    • where he was imprisoned
    • how long he was imprisoned.
    That's a lot of detail in a few lines on a page.
  2. My great grandfather was rumored to be an Episcopal minister. An usual thing in a Roman Catholic country. It was only by visiting my cousins in Italy (his granddaughters) that I learned the story.

    This is not written anywhere. And even my cousins have never seen a photograph of their grandparents.

    My great grandfather Francesco and his brother-in-law were living and working in the Bronx, New York. It was one of Francesco's many trips to America to earn money. One day he passed by a church in the Bronx. He heard singing and loud voices, and he felt drawn to go inside.

    This was the type of church where people are so overwhelmed, so deeply moved by the presence of God, they begin speaking in tongues.

    Francesco brought his new faith back home to Colle Sannita and started his own church. His great grandchildren hold prayer services and follow Francesco's teachings to this day.
Those two stories won't get me on TV, but they're all I have so far.

Meanwhile, I'm more than happy to indulge my love of Italian names. I collect the siblings of my ancestors and their spouses and children. I love seeing the names get passed down. My 4th great grandfather was Francesco Iamarino. My great grandfather was Francesco Iamarino. My father is Frank Iamarino.

So call me a name collector. I am a name collector. These names "are" my ancestral hometowns, and I love them dearly.


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Friday, June 8, 2018

How to Find Your Pre-Civil Records Ancestors

On yet another episode of "Who Do You Think You Are" a celebrity learned she's descended from a king. The 20-foot-long ancestor charts they unroll so dramatically on TV are likely to frustrate us mere mortals.

Other celebrities' ancestors were on the Mayflower, fought in the Revolutionary War, or were among the Founding Fathers. All have deep, traceable roots in America.

That can make an Italian-American like me feel like a newcomer and a nobody. Antonio was my first ancestor to arrive in New York City in 1890. I had no useful documentation for him other than his 1898 crossing when he was 55 years old and brought his wife and children to America.

So how does someone from Southern Italian peasant stock wind up with the names of a handful of her 9th great grandparents born in the early 1600s?

Here are 2 ways to learn the names of these early, low-profile ancestors.

Hire a Pro to Search Local Church Records

An 1821 marriage record I hired a professional genealogist to find.
An 1821 marriage record I hired a professional genealogist to find.
One of my brick walls was my first immigrant ancestor, Antonio, born in 1843. I still don't know anything beyond the names of his parents.

I hired a pair of Italian genealogists to search church records from Antonio's tiny hometown. The town, Pastene, is basically one long street with a church in the middle and a cemetery at one end.

Unfortunately, it was not mandatory for this little hamlet to keep civil records. And my genealogists learned there wasn't even a church birth record for my Antonio. Thankfully, they focused on another of my Pastene ancestors. I'm absolutely thrilled with what they found for me on his family.

Find "Secondary" Vital Records within the Civil Records

A 1791 church death record found within 1848 marriage documents.
A 1791 church death record found within 1848 marriage documents.
Shortly before I hired the professional genealogists, I wasn't sure where Antonio was born. But I knew he lived in Pastene in 1898 when he brought his family to America. Then a World War II draft registration card told me his eldest son was born in another town called Tufo.

I used my nearest Family History Center to view the Tufo civil records and learned that the family hadn't lived there for long. They came from nearby Santa Paolina, so I had to view those records.

In Antonio's 1871 Santa Paolina marriage documents, I learned:
  • Antonio's wife Colomba was born in Santa Paolina.
  • Colomba's parents were Semblicio and Rubina.
  • Antonio was, in fact, born in Pastene on 7 July 1843.
  • His parents were Raffaele and Grazia.
All 4 of Antonio and Colomba's parents were alive in 1871. If any had been dead, their death records would be in the marriage documents. And you know what's on the death records, don't you? The names of the deceased's parents.

In 19th century Italian marriages, if the bride or groom's father was dead, they needed their paternal grandfather's consent. If that grandfather was dead, guess what's included in the marriage documents? The grandfather's death record and his parents names!

But all 4 of Antonio and Colomba's parents were alive. (Darn?)

That's not the end of the trail. Pastene may not have civil records, but Santa Paolina has plenty. That's how I wound up learning that one of my 5th great grandfathers was Saverio Consolazio.

Here's how I got back that far:
  • Colomba was born in 1845 to parents who were 27 and 29 years old. There had to be more children. I searched birth records for the surrounding years and found 3 of her siblings.
  • I found marriage documents for two of her siblings and learned some more ancestors' names.
  • I found birth records for some of her siblings' children and learned even more names.
Despite finding no death records, I found the names of Colomba's parents, all 4 grandparents, and one great grandparent, Saverio. Always look into your ancestor's siblings!

Remember what I wrote earlier about death records within the marriage documents? If the bride or groom's father and paternal grandfather are dead, that grandfather's death record could pre-date the town's civil records.

These early documents tend to be handwritten copies of church records that include:
  • The name and age of the deceased.
  • The date of death and burial.
  • The name of their spouse (if it says they were a widow, you know that spouse died first).
  • The names of their parents (if it says "fu" or "furono", you know one or both parents have died).
The church records within the marriage documents may include the names of your fifth great grandparents. I found the names of 68 of my 128 5th great grandparents using these two methods.

How many do you have? How many more can you find now?


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