Showing posts with label draft registration card. Show all posts
Showing posts with label draft registration card. Show all posts

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 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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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

4 Key Places to Discover Your Ancestor's Hometown

The exact address where my grandfather was born in Italy.
The exact address where my grandfather was
born in Italy.
When my in-law's father died, she knew nothing about his family but his parents' and his sister's names. I offered to build her family tree. With only a few names and the states where they lived, I was able to add several generations to her tree.

It wasn't hard because they'd lived in America for so many generations. Census records offered a way to trace the family's moves from state to state.

But only a few groups of people have lived on the same continent since before recorded history. At some point, everyone else immigrated.

To trace your family back to another country, you must find out exactly where they came from. Once you find that town name, you'll know where to search for birth, marriage and death records.

Here are 4 of the best places to find your ancestor's hometown.

1. Ship Manifests/Immigration Records

The later your ancestor came to your country, the better. Before the 1890s your ancestor's ship manifest may tell you only their home country. A later immigration record can give you that important hometown.

While researching my great grandmother Maria Rosa Caruso, a cousin said Maria Rosa mentioned her Italian hometown often. She called it "Pisqualamazza".

My great grandmother's hometown, seen on her immigration record.
My great grandmother's hometown,
seen on her immigration record.
Unfortunately, there is no such town. My research was at a standstill. So I searched for anyone named Caruso coming to New York from a town that sounded like "Pisqualamazza".

And I found it. My great grandmother's 1906 ship manifest shows it, and the transcription on helped me read it. My great grandmother's Pisqualamazza was Pescolamazza!

When I found no such town on a map, I Googled it. Pescolamazza changed its name to Pesco Sannita in 1948, so my great grandmother knew it by its old name.

2. Draft Registration Cards

My great aunt told me our Saviano family was from Avellino, but that's not specific enough. Avellino is both a city and a province with many towns. I was stuck.

It was my 2nd great uncle's World War II draft registration card that changed everything. He was 64 years old in 1942, but he still had to register. Thank goodness. Because, despite 2 spelling errors, I learned he was born in Tufo, Avellino. I looked at an online map to find the correct spelling.

This 1942 draft registration card gave me the exact location I needed.
This 1942 draft registration card gave me the exact location I needed.
Shortly after that discovery, I found his 1877 Tufo birth record, and that of his older brother none of my cousins had ever heard of.

3. Naturalization Papers

My grandfather came to America in 1920 at the age of 18. He first went to live in Newton, Massachusetts, where his uncle lived. Then he went to work in Western Pennsylvania where he applied to become a U.S. citizen.

His "declaration of intention" papers include his hometown of Colle Sannita, Italy, and his birth date—which is not what we thought it was. Knowing his hometown, I was able to get his 1902 birth record from the Italian archives. This confirmed that he was born on October 8, just like it says on his declaration of intention.

Naturalization papers can provide birth dates and places -- sometimes for an entire family.
Naturalization papers can provide birth dates and places—sometimes for an entire family.
4. Passport Applications

It's always a thrill when you can find your ancestor's passport application, complete with a photo. My cousin Attilio Sarracino's passport application confirmed that he was born in New York. But his father, Carmine, lived in Pastene, Italy.

There may be typos, but a passport application provides solid information you need.
There may be typos, but a passport application provides solid information you need.
Members of this family went back and forth between Italy and America a couple of times. I found a record of Attilio's 1907 U.S. birth in Pastene, Italy's 1909 register book. They needed him on the record books because his family was planning to stay in Italy and raise him.

Finding these documents helped me make sense of family lore. "Pisqualamazza" wasn't a place. "Avellino" was too vague. And there are 2 towns (Pastene and Pastena) with families named Sarracino!

Before you dive into a new collection of foreign vital records, find all the domestic records. Make sure you know your ancestor's hometown so you don't end up chasing documents that aren't there.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Was Your Ancestor in the Military? It May Not Matter

One of my best family history clues came from a World War II draft registration card for a 64-year-old man.

My grandmother's uncle barely made the deadline for the "old man's registration". In late April 1942, local draft boards recorded facts about men born between 28 April 1877 and 16 February 1897. The men were 45 to 64 years old. How badly did the war have to go before they called up 64-year-old men?

Born four months into the date range, my great uncle was about to turn 65 when he went to the draft board in the Bronx, New York.

His name was Semplicio Saviano, known as Sam. His World War II draft registration card tells me was was 5'6" and had an artificial left eye. My mother remembers being so afraid of him, and her mother would scold her for it. "He's my uncle. Don't be silly!" But maybe it was that fake eye that spooked her as a little girl.

Sam's registration card also tells me that he was living in my mother's building. That confirms her story of seeing him at the end of the hall, staying in a little room that wasn't much bigger than a closet. He lists his sister (my great grandmother) as the person who will always know his address. That makes sense, too, because Sam's wife had died, and my great grandparents owned my mom's building.

But the fantastic clue needed so badly was his place of birth. All I'd ever heard for so many years was that my great grandmother's family was from Avellino, Italy. The problem is Avellino is both a city and a province. So where did they come from?

Although riddled with errors, this draft registration card holds a vital key to my family history.
The answer, though completely misspelled, is printed neatly on the card. It says "Tofo - Province Avilino". I had no doubt that "Avilino" was meant to say "Avellino". So I checked an online map of Avellino for a town with a name anything like Tofo.

Aha! Finally, I had hard evidence pointing to the town of Tufo, Avellino.

Shortly after this discovery, I was visiting the Family History Center in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. It was my first time at a Center, so I was just checking it out. One of the volunteers suggested I look at which films were sitting in their "Italy drawer". Would you believe I found a reel of film from Tufo?

I made a big discovery thanks to that film. Sam was born there, and so was an older brother that no one in my family knew about.

If you're searching for someone in the World War II draft registration cards, keep those birth dates (28 April 1877 and 16 February 1897) in mind. I'd been searching for my paternal grandfather's card for a long time before I realized he was too young. He was born in 1902—probably too old to serve, but too young for this registration.

World War I draft registration cards are important to gather, too. It's another moment in time to see where your relative lived and worked. These cards were filled out on three separate dates, each with its own birth date ranges:
  • On 5 June 1917 they registered men born between 6 June 1886 and 5 June 1896.
  • On 5 June 1918 they registered men born between 6 June 1896 and 5 June 1897.
  • On 12 Sept 1918 they registered men born between 11 Sept 1872 and 12 Sept 1900.
My paternal grandfather fell through the cracks again! He was too young to serve or be registered.

Draft registration card images are available on and If your ancestor didn't serve, you may have overlooked this important family history resource. Which of your male ancestors should be in these record collections?

If this all seems a bit familiar, I did write about draft registration cards 9 months ago. Finding Sam's place of birth was such an important breakthrough for me, I want to encourage you to find your ancestors' cards, too.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Answers Lead to More Questions About My First Immigrant Ancestor

Growing up, the family members I knew and saw on holidays were almost entirely the descendants of one man: Antonio Luigi Saviano.

Most of us didn't know his name. He was the father of our grandparent or great grandparent.

But four years ago my mother pulled out a photo of Antonio lying in his coffin. He died in the Bronx, New York, several years before she was born.
Was my first immigrant ancestor a shrewd businessman?

I'd been researching my family tree for about 10 years at that point. The branch of the family where I'd made the least progress was Antonio's branch—the very branch I'd known my whole life.

This year I went on a quest to find out where Antonio and his wife Colomba Consolazio came from. Here's what I knew already:
  • According to his World War II draft registration card, their son Semplicio was born in Tufo, Avellino, Italy.
  • I had looked at microfilm of vital records from Tufo. I found Semplicio's birth and the earlier birth of a son—Raffaele Vitantonio Saviano. I knew this baby did not survive because it was a younger Raffaele who came to America in later years.
  • Antonio and Colomba moved less than 10 miles from Tufo, Avellino, to Pastene. Pastene is a small section of Sant'Angelo a Cupolo in the neighboring province of Benevento. They had 3 children there: my great grandmother Maria Rosa, Raffaele, and Filomena.
  • It was in Pastene that Maria Rosa met and married my great grandfather, Giovanni Sarracino. They had their first child there, but he did not survive.
  • Antonio began travelling to America in 1890, three years after the birth of his youngest child. He was my first ancestor in any branch to do so.
  • He was 47 years old at the time. That's a bit on the old side for the first of his three cross-Atlantic trips.
  • He brought his son Semplicio to America and left him there. Then in May of 1898, Antonio returned to the Bronx with his wife and his children Raffaele and Filomena.
  • The family left for America one month after the marriage of my great grandparents. That means my great grandmother did not have her family there to support her when she gave birth to her son Carmine in December 1898. And she didn't have their support when Carmine died a short time after.
Let's stop there for a moment. Something strikes me about my great grandparents and their ill-fated baby boy, Carmine.

Maybe my great grandparents never planned to come to America. Baby Carmine was born just shy of eight months after their wedding. There was nothing stopping them from coming to America with the rest of the family.

Maybe it was only the shock of Carmine's death, and his possibly premature birth, that drove the couple to leave their home.

Maybe if Carmine had lived, I would be an Italian national.

That aside, let's look at what I learned about my great grandparents Antonio Saviano and Colomba Consolazio this year.

Working backwards from the Tufo births of their children Semplicio and the first Raffaele, I discovered that Colomba had two brothers living near her in Tufo. I found the marriage record for one brother.

His place of birth, and the town where his parents still lived, was not Tufo. It was the neighboring town of Santa Paolina.

My next step was to view microfilm of the vital records from Santa Paolina. Sure enough, I discovered that Antonio and Colomba were married there. They had a baby girl before Raffaele and Semplicio named Maria Grazia. She died after four days.

Colomba was born in Santa Paolina, but her real name was Vittoria Colomba. I learned her parents' names and her grandparents' names.

And on their marriage documents I learned the origin of my great great grandfather, Antonio Saviano. He was not born in Santa Paolina where he married and began his family.

He was not born in Tufo where he moved and had more children.

He was born in Pastene! The very town to which he returned, had more children, and from which he left for America.

Antonio Saviano, my first ancestor to come to America, travelled in lots of circles. He went from Pastene to Santa Paolina to Tufo to Pastene, completing a very small circle. He went to America and back to Pastene three times. Finally, he brought his family to America and settled down…age of 55!

Antonio lived to be 82 years old. He outlived his wife Colomba by five years, but he died surrounded by this four surviving chlidren.

I learned that he was:
  • a shoemaker (calzolaio) in his youth
  • a dealer or merchant (commerciante) shortly before his first documented trip to America
  • a day laborer two years after settling in America, and
  • had his "own income" by the time of the 1910 census.
Was Antonio an independent businessman? Are his accomplishments the reason his son Semplicio and my great grandfather Giovanni Sarracino became the owners of apartment buildings and agents for a local brewery?

Was Antonio a wheeler and dealer? What was the source of his "own income"? It may be nothing, but his cause of death was a toxic infection of the kidneys and the heart's inner lining. Were these infections related to the Bronx's underground beer cellars of the time, owned by the breweries with which his son and son-in-law did business?

I've often wondered if my family owned those particular apartment buildings because of their access to the beer cellars. This would make them good partners for the breweries.

The discovery of Antonio Saviano's origin and travels shed a lot of light on him. But now I find I have a ton more questions.

I think it's time for some Bronx brewery history lessons!

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Today I Demolished My Family Tree's Only Brick Wall

You know that guardedly ecstatic feeling when you think you're looking at the answer to your biggest family tree mystery?

Should you shout out EUREKA! or keep reading the document you've found to make sure you've got it right?

This happened to me a few times today, and I was giggling with joy!

my great great grandfather Antonio Luigi Saviano in his coffin
I had his death photo. Now I have his birth and marriage records!
Recently, I filled out my chart of direct ancestors, color-coding the names to correspond to each of my four grandparents. That's when I realized I hadn't gotten further than my third great grandparents on my maternal grandmother's branch. And those names were from an unreliable source.

I needed to find Italian documents for my grandmother's grandparents: Antonio Saviano and Colomba Consolazio. Only then could I be sure of their parents' names. And maybe I'd learn their grandparents' names.

My great great grandfather Antonio Saviano presented me with another problem besides his ancestors' names. I didn't know where he was born, and he seemed to move a few times before coming to America. I haven't found any other Italian family in my tree that moved more than once in 1800s Italy.

The Saviano and Consolazio origins were my only brick wall.

How I Broke Through…Slowly

First I found Antonio and most of his family on an 1898 ship manifest coming to New York. They stated they were from Sant'Angelo a Cupolo. That's a little town in the province of Benevento. But I'd always heard they were from Avellino.

Next I found the World War II draft registration card for Antonio and Colomba's son, Semplicio Saviano. It said he was born in Tufo, Avellino, Italy. Great! Now I was onto something.

Then I ordered microfilm of Tufo vital records to view at my nearest Family History Center. I found that Antonio Saviano and Colomba Consolazio had a son before Semplicio named Raffaele.

I looked in the Tufo microfilms for Antonio and Colomba's births and marriage. But they weren't there!

Thanks to Colomba's brother's marriage records, I discovered that the Consolazio family came from the neighboring town of Santa Paolina.

So, with only days left to order microfilm, I ordered four reels from Santa Paolina, Avellino, Italy. Today I went to see them.

I immediately set out to find Antonio Saviano's 1843 birth record. It wasn't there, and I was disappointed. but I continued looking.

And then it happened.

I wasn't sure at first, so I kept quiet. But there I was, looking at Colomba Consolazio's birth record. My great great grandmother was not born on the date I saw on her death record. She was born three years earlier, and her name was Vittoria Colomba Consolazio.

There was an extra paragraph in the center of the birth record. It stated that Vittoria Colomba Consolazio married Antonio Luigi Saviano on 1 June 1871 in Santa Paolina!

I rewound that reel of film faster than I thought possible. I had to get to the 1871 marriage records ASAP.

From uncertainty to 3 more generations!
And the bricks came tumbling down.
When I found the marriage banns and marriage record, I had an answer I never expected. Antonio Luigi Saviano was born on 7 July 1843 in Pastene.

Pastene is a small section of Sant'Angelo a Cupolo in Benevento! That's where the family was living before they came to America. That's where my great grandmother and her younger siblings were born.

So Antonio was born in Pastene, moved to Santa Paolina to marry Vittoria Colomba, had one baby who died at four days of age, moved to Tufo to have two more children, and moved back to Pastene to complete his family.

I learned Antonio's parents' names were not what I saw on his death certificate. They were Raffaele Saviano and Grazia Ucci. Grazia died before 1871. I learned Antonio's birth date and his town of birth.

I learned Vittoria Colomba's real name, real birth date, and her parents' full names. These facts were almost entirely wrong on her death certificate. Her father was Sembricio Fiorentino Consolazio, son of Gaetano who was the son of Saverio. Sembricio's mother was Colomba Ricciardella.

Finally, I learned about Vittoria Colomba's mother. On her death record, her mother was Rafina Zinzaro. In the Tufo documents, she was Rufina Zullo.

But on an 1818 birth record I discovered Rafina Zinzaro / Rufina Zullo was born Rubina Maria Consullo (sometimes written as Conzullo). Her parents were Simone Consullo and Domenica Iacobellis.

During my visit today I jotted down the facts for every Consolazio I could find, and I will go back to finish that work. Suddenly my family is much bigger thanks to the Consolazio ancestors that had been hiding behind that brick wall.

Now it's time to scour the Pastene and Sant'Angelo a Cupolo records I downloaded to get the facts on every Saviano and Ucci.

Can I shout EUREKA now? EUREKA!!!!

Friday, June 2, 2017

How to Use a Paper Trail to Recreate Your Ancestor's Life

Maybe I remember a long drive from New York to Ohio to visit my great grandparents when I was five. Maybe I have a single image in my mind of great grandma's kitchen. But that's it.
Pasquale Iamarino

Before I began researching my family tree, I knew next to nothing about my great grandfather Pasquale Iamarino—or Patsy Marino, as he was known. He lived in Ohio and worked for the railroad. Nothing more.

Genealogists enjoy piecing together our ancestors' paper trails and mapping out their locations. If we're lucky, we can wind up with enough facts to bring our ancestors back to life in a way.

Italian church records from the 1880s told me that Patsy and my other paternal great grandfather were second cousins. A ship manifest told me that Patsy came to America at age 20, heading first to his uncle in New York City.

Four years later, in 1906, he was working for the Erie Railroad in Steuben County, New York. In the rail yard he must have met the Caruso brothers who came from a neighboring town in Italy.

By late 1906 he married the only sister in the Caruso family, in Hornellsville, New York. Hornellsville was a boom town at that time, achieving city status that year, thanks to the railroad.

The Erie Shops and Roundhouse, Hornellsville, New York
When my grandmother was born in 1908, Patsy and his little family lived at 95 Front Street—a short walk from the railroad station.

Between 1910 and 1914 Patsy moved to Albany and continued working as a railroad laborer.

Then, suddenly, in 1918 Patsy registered for the draft in Youngstown, Ohio. Perhaps he had to move to keep his job.

He was a boilermaker for the Erie Railroad, working in the railroad roundhouse in the 1920 and 1930 census.

City directories show him on Dearborn Street in Girard, Ohio in the early 1930s. This is the same house I feel as if I remember.

By 1940, at the age of 58, Patsy retired. I'm closing in on 58 and wish I could retire! But my dad recently told me that Patsy had to retire because of lung issues. Did all those years as a boilermaker give him something like black lung disease?

Patsy on Dearborn Street
According to the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, "Railroad Boilermakers service and repair locomotives, and manufacture parts, including hundreds of items used every day in the railroad industry. They also perform welding on tracks and general maintenance work."

With today's worker safety rules, a boilermaker probably isn't at any risk of lung disease. But something incapacitated Patsy in his fifties. He lived to be 87 years old.

During his long retirement, Patsy enjoyed tending to his garden and his roses at the house on Dearborn Street. I wish I could remember him.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Why You Need Your Ancestor's Draft Registration Cards

As the song teaches us, war is good for "absolutely nothing". Unless you're a genealogist.

Military records are filled with data points every genealogist wants. Perhaps the easiest military records to find are draft registration cards for World War I and II.

World War I

The U.S. declared war on the German Empire on April 6, 1917, entering World War I.

In 1917 and 1918, 98% of men in the United States who were born between 1872 and 1900 had to register for the draft. Each man went to a local place to have his information and signature (or mark) collected on a registration card.

It's interesting to note that although my grandfather was the right age to fight in World War I, there is no registration card for him. That's because he went back to Italy to fight for his native country.

The exact information collected depends on the state where your ancestor lived.
This tells me where his father lives in Japan

For genealogists, the World War I registration card for your ancestor can provide:
  • full name and current address
  • age and date of birth
  • race:
    • White
    • Negro
    • Oriental
    • (American) Indian
  • citizenship status
  • place of birth
  • occupation, employer and address of employment
  • list of dependents including parent, wife, and sibling or children under 12
  • marital status
  • name and address of nearest relative (could be in another country)
  • military service
  • exemption from draft
  • your ancestor's signature
  • physical characteristics:
    • height: tall, medium or short
    • build: slender, medium or stout
    • hair and eye color
  • "Has person lost arm, leg, hand, foot, or both eyes, or is he otherwise disabled (specify)?"
  • date the information was collected
  • location of the draft board

World War II

We all know it was the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 that forced the U.S. to officially enter World War II.

A staggering 16.1 million Americans fought in World War II, so a draft became necessary. This was the Selective Service Act.

The government registered more than 10 million men from November 1940—before the U.S. entered the war—until October 1946—after the war ended.

Better safe than sorry, I guess.
Front side of a World War II draft registration card

The government took the extra measure to register older men between the ages of 45 and 64. Think about what a 64-year-old man probably looked like in 1941. Ancient, no doubt. Ten years away from reaching the limit of life expectancy!

These "old man" draft registration cards were somehow completed in one day: 27 April 1942. The men had to have a birth date between two very specific dates: 28 April 1877 and 16 February 1897.

A World War II registration card for your ancestor can provide:
  • full name and current address
  • mailing address
  • telephone number (if they had a telephone)
  • age and date of birth
  • place of birth including county (if within the U.S.) or country
  • name and address of someone (usually a relative) who will always know where to find you
  • employer's name and address
  • place of employment or business
  • your ancestor's signature
  • physical characteristics:
    • race: White, Negro, Oriental, (American) Indian, or Fillipino
    • height
    • weight
    • hair and eye color
    • type of complexion: sallow, light, ruddy, dark, freckled, light brown, dark brown, black
  • Other obvious physical characteristics that will aid in identification"
  • date the information was collected
  • location of the draft board

A World War II registration card gave me a breakthrough. My grandmother's Uncle Semplicio's card gave me his Italian home town. That told me where my great great grandparents came from.

Because of that card, I was able to find Semplicio's birth record, along with that of an unknown brother. The brother died as a child.

These draft registrations took place between census years. You may find that they provide additional addresses to help you map your ancestor.

Maybe they will provide an address that helps you find your ancestor within the previous or next census.

And maybe you'll learn about a physical disability you might otherwise have never known. For example, my grandmother's Uncle Semplicio had an artificial eye.

So that's why my mother was always afraid of him!