Showing posts with label documentation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label documentation. Show all posts

Friday, February 22, 2019

This Project Makes Your Family History Larger than Life

This is the next best thing to seeing and holding your ancestor's original documents.

You're so wrapped up in your genealogy treasures. And rightly so! You've found proof for all those birth names, birth dates, marriages, and deaths. You've got immigration and naturalization records. You've got military records and census sheets galore.

Then you visit your cousins and have no good way to share the enormous scope of your family history work. What can you do?

The answer is paper. At least, until I invent the family tree hologram. And big paper, at that.

I've lived my life at a computer keyboard since 1982. I prefer to keep every genealogy document in digital form. Named logically, filed logically, and backed up weekly. But sometimes paper is the most powerful way to share the joy of your family tree.

Here's a project that will help you get those cousins excited about your crazy, obsessive, endless hobby.

An inexpensive paper cutter makes this process so easy, you won't believe it.
An inexpensive paper cutter makes this process so easy, you won't believe it.
Notice the 12" ruler at the top for scale.
This project has just a few steps:
  • print
  • trim
  • tape
  • file
You're going to print over-sized documents that your cousins can read. No magnifying glass required. You'll start with your closest relatives—the ones for whom you've found documents.

You can print across several sheets of paper from certain programs.
You can print across several sheets
of paper from certain programs.
My two grandfathers immigrated to the United States from Italy, so they're a great place for me to start. I can print out full-sized copies of all their major documents:
  • ship manifests
  • census sheets
  • naturalization papers
  • military documents
  • birth, marriage, and death certificates
To make these big printouts at home, you have a couple of options.

Adobe Acrobat and Microsoft Paint (yes, plain old Paint) let you print your image on multiple sheets of paper. I like Acrobat because it can add "cut marks" that come in handy when you're ready to put the sheets together. In Paint, you can choose how many pages to print to. For example, you might find that 2-pages wide by 2-pages high is a good size. For Mac users, whichever application you use, look for Scale options in the Print dialog. Note: I was able to open a document image in Photoshop and export is as a PDF. This is my best option.

Once you print out your images, a paper cutter is the best tool for trimming off the excess. You can find low-priced paper cutters like this one from Overstock. I bought a similar one a few years ago for $15. They should have some in your local craft or sewing store, too.

Now line up your trimmed sheets, two at a time. You're going to want to tape them together on the back side. Don't skimp on the tape. It's going to form a very convenient fold-line for storing your oversized document.

These big documents are very impressive, and so much easier to read than a shrunken down version.

An accordion folder is an easy way to carry a huge number of big documents to your next family gathering.
An accordion folder is an easy way to carry a huge number of big documents to your next family gathering.
Print and assemble all the documents you like for a particular ancestor. Then fold them down, clip them together, and put them into an accordion folder. Fill your accordion folder with documents and bring it with you the next time you visit your relatives.

I dare your cousins not to light up at the sight of these big, old-timey documents with their ancestor's name on them!


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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Closing the Book on One Family at a Time

Follow along as we figure out what's needed to "finish" documenting my grandmother's family.

It's time to work closer to home. Complete your closest families' documents.
It's time to work closer to home.
Complete your closest families' documents.
Last time I talked about 4 keys—4 things to focus on that will make you a better genealogist. One of them was "finishing" your research on individual families.

There's never going to be an end to the things you can learn about any given family in your family tree. But you can "close the book" on getting copies of their major documents.

You'll find this exercise more meaningful if you stick to your closest relatives. I'll choose my paternal grandmother Lucy, her brothers (Mike and Frank), and her parents (Pasquale and Maria Rosa).

The head of this family unit was my great grandfather Pasquale Iamarino. He was born in Italy, came to America in 1902, lived in New York and Ohio, and died in 1969.

I've had a lot of luck finding Pasquale's documents. (See "How to Use a Paper Trail to Recreate Your Ancestor's Life".) I have his:
  • 1882 birth record from Italy and his baptismal record from the church
  • 1902 ship manifest when he came to New York City
  • 1905 New York State census
  • 1906 marriage certificate with my great grandmother
  • 1908 Hornell, NY, directory
  • 1910 Federal census and 1915 New York State census
  • 1918 World War I draft registration card
  • 1920 and 1930 censuses when the family lived in Ohio
  • 1931–1935 city directories from Ohio
  • 1940 census
  • 1942 World War II draft registration card
  • 1969 death certificate from the state of Ohio
That's a pretty good haul! But there is a major piece of documentation I've never found for Pasquale. His naturalization papers.

The 1910 census calls him an Alien. The 1920 census says he had filed his naturalization papers. The 1930 census says he is a naturalized citizen. I can narrow it down further with his WWI draft registration card. In September 1918 he was a Declarant.

He began the citizenship process by September 1918, but did he file his papers in New York? He lived in Albany in June 1915, and he was an Alien on the 1915 state census. Or did he file his papers when he moved to Ohio?

I have a theory that Pasquale moved from New York to Ohio for a better opportunity with the railroad. Maybe the Erie Railroad preferred that he become a citizen.

It's a good bet that Pasquale filed his papers in the court nearest to Girard, Ohio, outside Youngstown.

My great grandfather's documents: so close to complete.
My great grandfather's documents: so close to complete.
That's one set of papers I need. What about the rest of this family of five?

For my great grandmother, Maria Rosa, I have her:
  • 1880 birth record from Italy
  • 1906 immigration record
  • 1906 marriage certificate
  • 1910–1940 censuses
  • 1931–1935 city directories from Ohio
  • 1970 death certificate
According to the 1940 census, she never became a citizen. I don't expect to find any other documents for her.

Since she doesn't seem to have become a citizen, my great grandmother's documents are complete.
Since she doesn't seem to have become a citizen, my great grandmother's documents are complete.
I'm missing my grandmother Lucy's birth and death records. Recently I solved the mystery of her missing birth record. I found her in a birth index with a misspelled last name and no first name. Now I have the document number and the wrong last name (Merino). I should be able to order that from New York, and I can order her death certificate from Ohio.

For my grandmother's brothers, my great uncle Mike and great uncle Frank, I have each census and lots of facts. As for their vital records, I have all the dates, but I don't have certificates of their births, marriages and deaths. I don't know about you, but I pay to get certificates only for my closest relatives. My dad loved these, guys, but I'm afraid I never met them.

So, the final tally of what I need before I can "close out" this family:
  • Pasquale's naturalization papers, probably from Ohio
  • Lucy's birth certificate from New York
  • Lucy's death certificate from Ohio
I'm ashamed of myself for not having purchased my grandmother's 1954 death certificate. Somehow I overlooked it. And I'm even more ashamed that I never before figured out when my great grandfather became a citizen. (It still doesn't come up in a search.)

This is exactly why I'm encouraging us all to go back to basics. Look at the families closest to you—each of your grandparents' families for starters. Figure out what's missing:
  • What can you find online?
  • What will you have to send away for?
  • What can you find on a genealogy road trip?

Take a day off from one of your distant-cousin-searches and come closer to home. Find the missing pieces for your closest relatives. Then share what you've learned with your family.

Stay connected! Follow me on Twitter or Facebook and know the moment a new article comes out.

Friday, November 30, 2018

4 Keys to Make You a Better Genealogist

Even 1 key will get you going. All 4 might unlock a ton of treasure.

If you could pick only one, which of these family tree accomplishments would make you a better genealogist?
  1. Perfecting your file, folder and document ORGANIZATION
  2. Cleaning up your FACTS AND SOURCES and doing them right from now on
  3. "FINISHING" your research on individual family groups
  4. SHARING your findings with relatives
Let's take a look at each one so you can decide. And once you do choose one, you've got your 2019 Genealogy Goals in your sights.

They're not just shiny objects. They are the heart of solid genealogy.
They're not just shiny objects.
They are the heart of solid genealogy.
Organization

How quickly can you locate your maternal grandparents' 1940 census document? Your great grandfather's ship manifest? Your great uncle's World War II draft registration card?

If you don't know exactly where to look and exactly how you would have named the file, you may need an organization upgrade.

Create your organization style, and stick to it. Almost from the beginning, I decided:
  • how I wanted to name my document images and
  • how I wanted to organize those images in file folders.
I'm 99.8% digital; so little paper that it's in one manila folder.

I name my folders, all within my FamilyTree folder, for the type of document:
  • census forms
  • certificates (that's all birth, marriage and death records)
  • city directories
  • draft cards
  • immigration
  • passports, etc.
I name my document images for the person (or head of household, if it's a census) and the year: LastnameFirstnameYear. The file names can get very long for a marriage, where I include both the groom's name and the bride's name, plus the year. But then the file name is very descriptive.

This system has worked incredibly well for me ever since I started this crazy hobby.

Facts and Sources

As you work on your family tree year after year, you may find you do things differently than you did before. Hopefully you're doing them better than you did before.

If you want others to recognize your family tree for the good work it is, fix your facts and sources.

Revisit your earliest work and put in the sources you skipped in your excitement. (See 6 Easy Steps to Valuable Source Citations.) Add annotations to your document images within your family tree. (See How to Increase the Value of Your Family Tree Images.)

Finishing

Yes, I know all the jokes and memes. Genealogy is never finished.

But you can finish gathering all the known documents for a given family. Pick a particular nuclear family—like your grandparents, your mother and her siblings.

You can finish your search for their:
  • census forms
  • birth, marriage and death records
  • immigration records
  • military records
Your family tree probably has lots of nuclear families you didn't finish working on. Why not finish searching for their key documents now?

As you "finish" each family unit, you can consider moving on to this next goal.

Sharing

Imagine your mother and her family again. You've got as many documents for that family as you can get.

This would be the perfect time to create a booklet or a scrapbook about them. Write their story, based partly on the documents and facts you've collected. Put something together and share it with your loved ones.

I wrote a brief life story for my grandfather recently, and it made my mother incredibly happy. (See 5 Steps to Writing Your Ancestor's Life Story.)

If one or more of these ideas hits home for you, why not make it happen in 2019? I haven't finished annotating my document images (Facts and Sources), so I definitely want to do that. I'm also very eager to finish some families, or at least finish gathering all the census forms that I'm still missing.

I want us all to be better, more thoughtful and accurate genealogists. These 4 keys can definitely put you on your way.

Stay connected! Follow me on Twitter or Facebook and know the moment a new article comes out.

Friday, November 9, 2018

5 Steps to Writing Your Ancestor's Life Story

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

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

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

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

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

Step 1: Gather Basic Facts

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

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

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

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

Step 2: Add Historical Context

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

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

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

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

Step 3: Add Documents and Photos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 5: Add Memories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Stay connected! Follow me on Twitter or Facebook and know the moment a new article comes out.

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, April 27, 2018

Bringing in Your Genealogy Harvest

Each time you explore a new branch on your family tree, you're sowing seeds that may take years to sprout. Then, one day, it's harvest time.

Yesterday a rich and bountiful crop was suddenly ready, waiting for me to gather it all in.

Do you know that feeling? The moment you realize a dead end is about to connect to the rest of your tree in a meaningful way?

meeting my cousins in 2005
This is me with our mutual cousins in
Colle Sannita in 2005.
This new breakthrough is going to keep me busy for quite a while. I know this family has a bunch of connections to me.

A long-time reader of this blog reached out to me yesterday with her own breakthrough. She'd been studying my tree on Ancestry.com and knew her husband and I had lots of last names in common.

More importantly, we had a small ancestral town in rural Italy in common: Colle Sannita. It's very hard to have roots in that town and not be somehow related. Oh, and by the way, her husband and my dad are a DNA match.

As I began to dig into this new lead, all the last names were important to me. But one captured my immediate attention. I'd seen this name, Polcini, in the town's vital records I downloaded from the Antenati website. It was always in the back of my mind that my grandfather worked for a man named Polcini in the Bronx in the 1930s and 40s. This man lived in his apartment house.

On one of my computer monitors I clicked through my Colle Sannita birth records. I was locating birth records for the Polcini siblings whose names my new contact had given me. On another monitor I opened my family tree software and went straight to my grandfather's 1940 census.

Imagine my "small world" feeling. The 1891 birth record for Damiano Polcini on one screen matched my grandfather's next door neighbor on the other screen! The birth record included his wife's name, and there she was on the census, too.

But that was the tip of the iceberg. My new contact told me where she thought her husband's family fit into my tree. After a little exploration, I discovered an important connection.

One of the Polcini siblings was the grandmother of a distant cousin I met in Canada many years ago. That cousin had given me lots of names to fill out his branch of the tree, but no hard facts. I had zero documentation for his family. Yet.

In one evening, I found lots of hard facts to support my connection to my Canadian cousin.

But hold up. The Polcini side of my new friend's family wasn't even the possible blood connection to my dad and me. I was so excited to find that one sibling in my dad's 1940 census that I hadn't explored the more urgent connection.

You see, my new friend's husband is related to me through the cousins I'm going to visit in Italy in a couple of weeks. They are my father's first cousins, though closer in age to me. I'm related to them through their mother.

But now, it looks as if I'm related to them through their father, too!

Does this hobby make your head feel like it's going to explode sometimes? I expect to put in a short work day today because I must figure out this connection.

The seeds I've planted by going far out on many branches of my family tree are sprouting. And just as the trees are budding outside my window, my family tree is producing new connections.

Isn't this why we never grow tired of this hobby?


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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Climbing Up, Down and Across Your Family Tree

Following a Hunch

More facts about my great grandparents from my great aunt's marriage.
My great aunt's 1942 marriage.
Yesterday I was taking a looking at my grandfather's sister, Assunta Iamarino.

My oldest cousin from that family was born in 1948. The online marriage records from their hometown of Colle Sannita only go as far as 1942. It seemed unlikely that Assunta married any earlier than 1946, but I decided to take a look anyway.

What a huge payoff I found in 1942! Much to my surprise, Assunta and her husband Donato announced their intention to marry in September 1941. They married in February 1942. Their marriage documents confirmed their birth dates for me, too.

Finding More Clues

But 1942 wasn't finished surprising me. Paging through the marriage documents for that year, I saw two more brides named Iamarino. Checking my family tree, I realized they both belonged to me.

Two sets of marriage records filled out one family.
Filomena is 2 years older than her Aunt Maria,
and each married in 1942.
Maria Iamarino wasn't in my tree yet, but when I saw her parents' names, I knew exactly who she was. You see, her father Teofilo was the brother of my great grandfather Francesco. And her mother Filomena Pilla was the sister of my great grandmother Libera. Two brothers married two sisters and mushed together the branches of my family tree.

Then I found Filomena Iamarino's marriage. Filomena was born two years before Maria Iamarino, but she was Maria's niece! Her grandparents were Teofilo Iamarino and Filomena Pilla.

More mind-bending revelations.

Finally, 1942 gave me the marriage of Vincenzo Pilla and Teresina Piacquadio. They were already in my tree with no details. I knew their names only because a distant cousin, the nephew of Teresina Piacquadio, had given them to me. Now I have more facts and proof.

In one whirlwind session, leafing through one town's marriage records for one year, I found four marriages that matter to me.

Adding More Facts

This highlights the importance of finding more than your direct ancestors. Marriage records give you another data point for those ancestors and help fill in the gaps.

For example:
  • When I visited Assunta's children in Italy in 2005, they showed me the remains of Grandpa's house. It's on the property of one of Assunta's children. Grandpa left Italy in 1920.
  • In 1922 when Assunta was born, my great grandparents lived at Via Leandro Galganetti, 46. Google Street View shows that address as a pile of rubble now, far from Grandpa's house.
  • In 1942 when Assunta married, the family lived in Decorata. That's past Grandpa's house, and a good distance from Via Leandro Galganetti.
This expands what I know about my great grandfather Francesco. He came to America five times, leaving his family behind in Italy. He must have earned money and gone back home each time.

Now I can add to that profile that the family moved around within their town. They didn't stay in an ancestral home.

How much will your family history benefit from looking in all directions for relatives?

Don't stay only on the straight and narrow path. Each data point you find paints a richer portrait of your ancestors.


Stay connected! Follow me on Twitter or Facebook and know the moment a new article comes out.

Friday, March 9, 2018

4 Ways to Make Big Genealogy Progress When You Have Little Time

You've seen the memes. Genealogists would rather spend every moment working on their family trees than, say, eating, sleeping or dealing with people.

Got a little time? You can make real genealogy progress.
It doesn't take a ton of time to
make real genealogy progress.
Do you have the luxury of 100% free time? I don't either!

Don't worry. You can still make significant progress on your family research in short bursts of time.

Have about an hour after the dinner table is cleared? That'll do. Have some free time in the late afternoon before the family gets home? That's great! Are you an early riser? It's genealogy time!

Arm yourself with a list of tasks and a progress chart, and a small window of time can yield big genealogy progress. Here are some examples.

1. Choose a Specific Ancestor from your Grandparent Chart

Last night I was too exhausted to spend much time on genealogy. So I chose a specific ancestor from my "grandparent chart".

The chart shows me exactly which direct-line ancestors I've identified, and which ones I haven't. (See "How to Visualize Your Ancestor-Finding Progress".)

I chose one ancestor from the chart whose parents were missing. I found him in my tree to see what I knew about him. Then I examined his children's marriage records to see if they contained the names of their grandparents.

In the short amount of time I had (before I fell asleep at the keyboard), I added a few marriage document images to my tree. I can pick up where I left off when I have another chunk of time.

2. Improve as Many Source Citations as You Can

I have a few items on my Task List in Family Tree Maker that involve making my tree better. One task is to replace some of my weaker sources with strong ones.

For example, I received some relatives' information from a distant cousin. That's not very scientific. I'm happy to have the information, but I need to verify it with proof. (See "Trade Up to Better Family History Sources".)

So, when I have some time, I can go to these people in my tree and do the legwork. I can replace the "a cousin told me" source citation with more concrete facts and documents. That's a great use of time.

3. Enhance Your Tree's Document Images with Facts and URLs

Ever since I discovered this trick, it's been a must-do task for me. Before I attach a downloaded document image (vital record, census sheet, ship manifest, etc.) to my family tree, I add facts to the image itself.

You can add a descriptive title and comments to an image's properties. Many or all the facts will be pulled into your family tree file. (See "How to Increase the Value of Your Family Tree Images".)

Each time I have a new document to add to my tree, I edit its properties. I include a descriptive title, the name of its source and the URL it came from. Once I add it to my family tree, all I need to edit there is the date field and the category.

4. Create or Update Your List of All Gathered Documents

I'm a strong believer in keeping a spreadsheet inventory of my found documents. My document tracker contains more than 1,500 names of people in my tree, and each document I've found for them. (See "Track Your Genealogy Finds and Your Searches"

When I have some time, I can choose someone in my tree, like my grandfather. I can see exactly which documents I have for him, and which are missing. In his case, I have his:
  • 1902 birth certificate
  • 1920 ship manifest
  • 1927 naturalization papers
  • 1930 and 1940 census
  • 1992 death certificate
There are only three important documents I would like to find for him:
  • His 1928 marriage to my grandmother
  • His 1959 marriage to my step-grandmother (I do have a record of their marriage license)
  • His 1958-or-so trip back to Italy—his one and only trip home since arriving in New York in 1920.
My document tracker makes it very easy to see what I can search for when I have some time.

Don't worry about not having countless hours to spend working on your family tree.

By spending a little time on your family tree more frequently, you will see true progress. You'll feel a sense of accomplishment. And you'll know your family tree—your legacy—is better and stronger than it was yesterday.


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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Genealogy: Where Endless Searching is Part of the Fun

All last week I was looking forward to my three-day weekend. I would have so much fun with non-stop genealogy!

Chasing genealogy facts is this much fun.
©The Simpsons
Saturday was great. I identified more than 200 people in my family tree who were not connected to me. These are families I think belong to me, but I haven't yet found the connection. And I also found 11 people to delete from my tree.

I attached one image to each of these people so I could find them again anytime. (See How to Handle the Unrelated People in Your Family Tree, and be sure to read my comments at the end.)

Sunday was full of distractions. Once things settled down, I got productive. I documented in a spreadsheet every 1810 marriage from my Grandpa Iamarino's hometown.

I'm documenting births, marriages and deaths to meet two of my genealogy goals for 2018 (see What Are Your Genealogy Goals for 2018?):
  • Log my downloaded documents from the Antenati website into a spreadsheet.
  • Find my parents' connection (our DNA says they're distant cousins).

I hope these early Italian vital records contain the ancestors my mom and dad have in common.

Yesterday I had a wonderfully productive day documenting these towns. I'm using a time-saving, productivity-boosting technique that you can use, too.

I record the basics from each document. When I find someone I need, I fill in
all the facts and put them straight into my family tree.
A Tip for Large-Scale Research Projects

I have thousands of vital record images from my ancestral Italian hometowns on my computer (and backed up in two places). Now I have to harvest them for family tree information.

Slogging through one year of marriage records for one town, as I did on Saturday, is very slow and tedious. If I weren't obsessed, I'd have given up.

Then I realized I can find the juiciest documents faster by using this method:
  • Open up your family tree software.
  • Go through an image collection, such as one year's marriages, one at a time. Enter the most basic information for each document into your data spreadsheet. This could be nothing more than the document number and the names and ages of the bride and groom.
  • When you see a last name of interest, check your family tree. Are the bride or groom in your tree already? How about their parents?
  • When you find a match, even if it's a distant match, examine that document. Enter all its facts into your spreadsheet.
  • If this document belongs in your family tree, put the facts and image into your tree now.

I followed this method yesterday with Photoshop open, too, so I could crop the images before putting them into my tree.

Thanks to this more efficient method, I completed the 1811 and 1812 marriages. All the basic information from these hundreds of documents is in my spreadsheet. Plus, the 10 or so marriages including my maiden name of Iamarino are now in my family tree.

Oh, and I had one more document open. That was my document tracker where I keep my up-to-date inventory of every document image I've placed in my family tree. (See Track Your Genealogy Finds and Your Searches.)

I can see it now. I can see how I'm going to spend nearly every waking moment when I hit retirement age. This passion for genealogy gives us all a reason to live to at least 100. We'll never be finished with our genealogy research. But the search is very much part of the fun.

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Friday, December 8, 2017

Becoming Italian Was a Long, Hard Journey

The history of Italy is one of conquest, invasions, and turmoil. If you identify as all-Italian (although you were born somewhere else) expect to find a smorgasbord of ethnicities in your DNA.

The Papal States of Italy
For more history, see Understanding Italy.
By the late 1700s, Italy the Visigoths, Attila the Hun, the Lombards, and many more had attacked Italy. The pope was getting a little tired of the commotion. He convinced the Frankish King Pepin to kick out the invaders. Pepin then donated all of Italy to the pope and his successors.

That's how the Papal States came to be:
  • Kingdom of Sardinia
  • Republic of Genoa
  • Republic of Venice
  • Duchy of Palma
  • Duchy of Modena
  • Grand Duchy of Tuscany
  • Kingdom of Sardinia
  • Kingdom of Sicily

Months ago I published an article titled What's Napoleon Got To Do With Italy? to explain how each Italian town collected vital records in the 1800s.

In 1796, Napoleon was on a tear, conquering as much of the world as possible. He defeated his enemies, kicking Austrian and Spanish rulers off the Italian peninsula. By 1809, Napoleon controlled all of Italy.

That's why we're so lucky to have birth, marriage, and death records available to us starting in 1809. Napoleon ordered the creation of these vital records.

Even better, they defeated Napoleon in 1813, but the record-keeping continued.

Italian hero Giuseppe Garibaldi
Giuseppe Garibaldi.
One tough cookie.
After his defeat, our ancestors were back in a state of turmoil. They lost the northern parts of Italy Austria. The southern parts were Papal States once again. But no one was happy.

Do you have any ancestors who were born in Italy around May 1860? That's when all hell broke lose. During an uprising, Giuseppe Garibaldi kicked out foreign forces and took back Italy.

Now Garibaldi has streets and piazzas named for him throughout the land.

The kingdoms and duchies of Italy began their unification process. Lucky for us, because now we get to visit "Italy" instead of the Kingdom of Sicily or the Republic of Venice.

If you have Italian ancestors and haven't visited the Antenati website, you must! It's a treasure trove for genealogists. Here are some instructions and success stories:

If you have visited the site and did not find your ancestral hometown, check the News page regularly. You'll be the first to know when new records are added.

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Trade Up to Better Family History Sources

Check your list of sources. Which ones aren't certified reliable?
Reliable sources make a reliable family tree.
No offense to my third cousin once removed, but I can do better. If my family tree has facts whose only source is my cousin, that's not good enough.

Hearsay—even if it's someone's first-hand knowledge—is not a reliable, reproducible source for your family research.

That's why I'm on a mission to verify every fact in my tree that has a person or someone's online tree as my source. They're good leads, and I appreciate them tremendously. But without evidence, they are only leads. I need to find proof.

Clean-Up Makes Your Family Tree More Reliable

I've been scrubbing my family tree in a bunch of ways lately.
  • For every census form in my tree, I added complete details and a link to where to find it online. (Ship manifests are next!)
  • I cleaned up every address in my family tree to have a consistent format and take advantage of Family Tree Maker's address verification.
  • I attached every census form or ship manifest in my tree to each person named in the document.
  • I beefed up my source citations with more information and weeded out duplicates.
Now I'm going after imperfect sources. I started by picking two sources that are far from bulletproof. I'm not happy at all with one large branch from Virginia that relies on (a) someone else's tree and (b) "One World Tree" as its sources.

Two collections on Ancestry.com have a lot to offer this branch. I found Virginia marriage listings and death certificates for several people. I added the two Virginia source citations to the facts and removed the sources I don't find as valuable.

Now It's Your Turn to Trade Up

Some sources carry much more weight than others.
My reliable sources.
You, too, can fortify your family tree by using the most reliable sources. First, see if your family tree software can show you a list of all the sources you've created or attached to people in your tree.

Family Tree Maker lets me view my sources in a few ways, including by repository. The repository tells others where you found this fact.

I added the Repository (ancestry.com, familysearch.org, etc.) to each source citation that's from a website. I added the New York City Municipal Archives as a repository, too. That's where I went to see lots of birth, death, and marriage records for myself.

I can also view the complete alphabetical list of source titles in use in my family tree. That list shows me which sources I want to replace with something better. When I select a questionable source, like One World Tree, I can see exactly which facts are using it as their source.

If you have FTM, or your family tree software acts in a similar way, look for sources that come from another person's tree or a name. (When the source is a cousin, I name it to make that clear, e.g., "Joseph Collins, my cousin".) While you may believe your cousin, other genealogists have no reason to!

Start working through those facts. Search for a recognized, reliable source to back up your cousin's information. You can keep your cousin's name there if you want to, or put their name in your notes.

An online tree is not a good source. It's just a lead for you to investigate.
Zero in on sources that don't carry much weight and trade up to better ones.
The goal is to make every fact in your family tree provable.

Trade up to more reliable sources and you will fortify your family tree.


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