Showing posts with label evidence. Show all posts
Showing posts with label evidence. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Don't Give Up When Your DNA Match Has a Puny Little Family Tree

You've got new DNA matches. And their trees are bare. Where do you start?

On Saturday I took a look at my growing list of DNA matches on Ancestry.com. There were so many I hadn't reviewed at all. I chose a match—let's call him Joe—who's also a match to my father.

Joe has a 7-person family tree:
  • Joe
  • his 2 parents
  • his 4 grandparents
I was eager to figure out this relationship. I could see his ancestors' last names are from my grandfather's hometown in Italy.

His tree is so minimal, it has no specific dates or hometowns for his parents or grandparents. Luckily, I have an ace up my sleeve.

When your DNA match doesn't know his roots, why not find them for both of you?
When your DNA match doesn't know his roots, why not find them for both of you?
I have thousands of documents images from the town downloaded to my computer. (See how I built this genealogy research collection.) My match's parents are too young for their birth records to be available. I had to start looking for his grandparents with little information. Joe had a birth year for one set of grandparents, so I started with them.

I went through my document collection, year by year, searching the indexes. I love it when a birth record has the person's marriage mentioned in the column. I knew I had the right Giorgio Zeolla because it said he married Mariantonia Nigro. That's my guy!

All day Saturday I kept looking for more records. When I found a birth record, I had 2 more names to search for. Marriage records helped me go back another generation.

With Italian marriage records, if the bride or groom's parents are dead, you get their death certificates with more names. And if the groom's father and grandfather are dead, you get the grandfather's death record with another generation of names! (See "The Italian Genealogy Goldmine: 'Wedding Packets'".)

I was building Joe's family within my own family tree, but disconnected from me. Each time I added a new name, I compared it to other names in my tree, trying to find a possible match.

By the time I felt I'd followed every possible lead, I'd added about 20 people to my DNA match's branch. That when I noticed something.

One of Joe's great grandmothers was Pietronilla Nigro. I didn't find her birth record, but I knew her husband was born in September 1863. There wasn't a single Pietronilla born around 1863 in the town's records.

How could I prove they were the same person? There are 2 good options.
One of Joe's great grandmothers was Pietronilla Nigro. I didn't find her birth record, but I knew her husband was born in September 1863. There wasn't a single Pietronilla born around 1863 in the town's records.

All I knew about my Pietronilla Nigro was that she was born on May 12, 1857. If she was Joe's great grandmother, she would be 6 years older than her husband. That's not hard to imagine.

How could I prove they were the same person? There are 2 good options:
  1. The town's marriage records between 1861 and 1930 are not available. But I can search for more of this couple's children and hope that one birth record has Pietronilla's father's name or her age.
  2. Since this is a small town, I can search several years' worth of birth records looking for another Pietronilla Nigro. I did this. There was only the one who was already in my family tree.
You may have to add a few generations to the tree before you find your connection.
You may have to add a few generations to the tree before you find your connection.
To be thorough, I will look for those other babies' birth records for more clues. But for now, I'm pretty confident that I've placed Joe into my tree correctly. He's my 4th cousin once removed. He's related to me through my father's mother.

I've got other search options, too. My new cousin's tree tells me his father died in the Bronx. That means there are U.S. records to find. Right now I'm looking at a military compensation record for Giorgio Zeolla. It's as jam-packed with facts as a good naturalization record, death record, or passport application. It has his wife's full (maiden) name, his children's names, and his parents names, including a misspelled Pietronilla Nigro.

You know what the best part of all this detective work is? Adding these extra branches will help me find my connection to lots of other DNA matches.

If you have relatives who've taken a DNA test, search for your shared matches. Start working with their information and see what you can piece together. Whether you have a breakthrough or you get hopelessly stuck, reach out to your match. Tell them what you've found. Ask them what they think.

Hopefully this type of genealogy research will draw more and more matches to you and your glorious tree. Then, none of your research work will go to waste.


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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, December 14, 2018

How Much Can Your Learn from Your Relative's Obituary?

A well-written obituary can tell you so much about a relative's descendants.

I am in awe of professional genealogists like Megan Smolenyak. She finds the living descendants of long-lost military servicemen so their remains can be returned to the family.

Living descendants are hard to find! Let's say you're looking at a family in the 1940 U.S. Census with lots of little children. Unless the boys' names are very unusual, how can you be sure where they are today? And what about the girls? How can you find them if they married? What are their names now?

The only tool I have—one that can be incredibly helpful—is a long, detailed obituary.

Do you know how many names and facts you can learn from a well-written obituary?

Imagine the deceased is your mother's third cousin. You don't know what became of her, who she married or who her kids are. Let's take a closer look at everything there is to learn from a detailed obituary.

The following is a real obituary. I've changed every single name and place to protect the family's identities. The obituary text is in black and my notes are in reddish brown.

Let's examine this obituary and put together a family tree based on the facts presented.

Joan G. Ericson Logan passed away on December 13, 2018 at the age of 96. [Ericson is her maiden name; Logan is her married name.] She was the oldest of seven children born to the late Howard B. and Grace Ann Ericson on April 15, 1922 in Jefferson City, MO. [That's a packed sentence! We have Joan's birth date and place, her parents' names, but not her mother's maiden name, and the facts that she has 6 younger siblings. We know her father is dead, but it doesn't specifically say her mother is dead, although that may be what was meant.]

Joan graduated from Jefferson City High School. She received her B.S. degree in Education from Logan State College. Then attained further studies at Indiana University, majoring in school librarianship. [We now have the names of 3 schools where Joan may be found in yearbooks, school newspapers, or other records.] Joan's teaching career, which included English, band, choir and elementary school librarian, spanned over 33 years in the State of Missouri. After retiring from the Logan Public School System, she went on to become a 9-year volunteer in the Ashcroft College Library System where she received the Volunteer of the Year Award in 2003. [We know where she was working, geographically. As a volunteer, we may expect to find her in several local newspaper articles. There was almost certainly a 2003 newspaper article about her being named Volunteer of the Year.]

Joan united with Mr. Anthony Mark Nelson, Sr. and to this union [Were they married? This seems like an unusual way to say it.], one son was born, Anthony Mark Nelson, Jr. (deceased). [We can look for an obituary for Anthony Mark Nelson, Jr. some time before Joan's death.] Anthony, Jr. married Darlene Stanton, a high school classmate and to this union, 3 children were born. [This time it says they were married, even though it's using that "union" word again. Knowing his wife's name, we can look for a marriage announcement.]

Subsequently, Joan met and married Mr. James Emery Logan, Sr. while students at Logan State College. To this union [See what I mean? This time it does say they were married.], one son was born James, Jr. He married Angela Marie Thompson and to this union 4 children were born. [Here's another marriage announcement to look for.]

Joan was a lifelong member of the United Methodist Church in Jefferson City. She served as the church pianist, organist, coordinator of the annual Christmas and Easter presentations. She was especially proud when James, Jr. was ordained as a United Methodist Elder. [Between Joan's extraordinary involvement and her son being an elder, this church definitely has information to offer about this family. Church newsletters and other publications could be very helpful to telling this family's history.]

Joan was preceded in death by her siblings, Henry, Howard, Andrew and Anthony Ericson. [We've already learned that these siblings were younger than Joan, but we now know we can look for their death records.] She leaves behind to cherish her memory two siblings Anna Elena Worthington [Anna Elena may be widowed or divorced since she has a different last name, but no husband's name is given.] and William (Irene) Ericson [William is Joan's brother and Irene is his wife. While it seems odd, this is how it's done. The spouse who is not the blood relative is mentioned in parenthesis.]; a son, James Emery Logan, Jr. (Elaine), grandchildren: Fred Nelson [the Nelson grandchildren should belong to Joan's first son Anthony Mark Nelson, Jr. and his wife Darlene Stanton.], Edgar (Maryann) Nelson and Victoria Nelson, James Emery Logan, III (Colleen), Valerie T. Simpson (Tyler) [Valerie was a Logan, and this tells us she married Tyler Simpson.], Christian F. Logan (Elizabeth) and Jacklyn Logan, 12 great grandchildren, 1 great great grandchild and a host of nieces and nephews.

That was a LOT of information. We can build a family tree from this information, plugging in the facts we have. We'll make some guesses for birth years. My rule of thumb is to estimate that a husband and wife are about the same age, they had their first child at age 25, and the children were born 3 years apart. An estimation like this will put your people's ages in the right ballpark. Your research will be a little easier when you have a rough idea of their ages.

Now, with a basic tree, we can search for all these names and find hard facts.

This tree is made entirely from information in the obituary.
This tree is made entirely from information in the obituary.
If Joan were your distant cousin, how happy would you be right now?

When the day comes that you're asked to write an obituary for a loved one, like your parent, how many genealogy clues will you include for future generations to discover? Don't skimp on the details.

Maybe it's time to let your immediate family know what you'd like your obituary to say.


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Friday, December 7, 2018

3 Ways to Prove Your Family Tree is Correct

You may not trust someone else's family tree, but you can stand behind your facts. Right?

Every now and then you're going to find a very intriguing hint. From what you can see, it looks like it's your family. It's got a lot of names you're missing. You get a little excited.

Then you realize this potential jackpot of a family tree has no sources. No documents. They haven't even capitalized all the proper names. This is not a carefully crafted family tree.

Excitement over.

This sad story should motivate you to fortify your family tree. Make your tree be the exciting find that keeps on giving.

Here's how other genealogists are going to know your family tree is the real deal. It's extremely well-crafted. These 3 things will prove to anybody that your family tree is correct.

If your tree has this much solid evidence, who could doubt you?
If your tree has this much solid evidence, who could doubt you?

1. Official Documents

Gather and add to your tree as many government-issued documents as possible. Whatever country your ancestor is from, their government will have created certified-reliable documents, including:
  • birth records
  • census forms
  • marriage records
  • death records
  • citizenship papers
  • military records
  • passports
Other official records don't come from a government:
  • ship manifests
  • church baptism records
  • school yearbooks
  • city directories
  • newspapers
The last 3 might be the most likely to have errors, but they can provide supporting evidence.

What aren't official are stories passed down through the generations, family bibles, and my brother's college project to write about our family history. (Sorry, Jay.) You've got to strive for those official documents.

2. Official Sources

Lots of times you can't find an official document or an image of a document to support a fact. A good example is the "last place of residence" listed on the Social Security Death Index (SSDI). That's a fact you want to put in your family tree, but you haven't got any document.

That's when it's important to record the source of the fact. You can find details about the source wherever you're viewing it. If it's a website like Ancestry.com, there is a detailed description of the source. If you're in the archives looking at microfilm, the film's box or the beginning of the reel will hold some information.

What's most important is to capture the accurate name and origin of the source. "U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014; Social Security Administration. Social Security Death Index, Master File."

Then capture something more specific to your ancestor. My late step-grandmother's SSDI listing has an additional source citation: "Number: 081-07-1687; Issue State: New York; Issue Date: Before 1951".

If someone's tree has that level of documentation, are you seriously going to doubt them?

3. Supporting Sources

I spend tons of time going through Italian civil records, piecing together my ancestors' families. I love it when an ancestor's official birth record has annotations in the column. Those notes may include their marriage date and place, spouse's name, and their death date.

That's official and corroborating evidence.

Do your best to gather all a person's documents, and you'll find that you have supporting sources, too. A mother's maiden name on your ancestor's death record is not reliable. But if it matches the name on your ancestor's birth and marriage records, it is very reliable.

Make Your Tree Provable

If you've been reading this and thinking, "I'm not sure I can prove my tree is correct," you've got some work to do:
  • Start replacing your sketchier sources with more official ones. Some of my sources are "my cousin told me." That might be fine if your cousin told you "this person's nickname was Baldy." But if the facts are important, track down an official source or an official document.
  • Try to get as many documents as you can for your people. This way you'll have supporting evidence that says, "Yes, he was born on this date in this place. It says so here, here and here." Find each major, available document for the people in your tree and close the book on them.
  • Be consistent in how you record dates and names. Your online tree should show each person's full name. If you're not using software that automatically formats your dates, take the time to type them in the same style.
Hopefully you're thinking your tree is in pretty good shape. If so, keep these ideas in the back of your mind. The next time you're reviewing someone in your tree, think about how you can make their facts more bulletproof.

Make your family tree be exactly the type of tree you'd love to find as a hint!

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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

6 Easy Steps to Valuable Source Citations

Your family tree is not reliable without sources. Don't let creating sources intimidate you.

When you started your genealogy research, were you noting the source of each and every fact? Or were you so happy to find grandma in the 1920 census that you rushed off to find her in the 1930 census?

Create your source citations by copying a few bits of information.
Create your source citations by copying a few bits of
information.
No one is going to trust your family tree if it has no sources. If you're ignoring your sources because it's too complicated or you don't know where to begin, let's make it easy.

As of today, my family tree has 19,464 people, about 2,900 document images, and just 242 sources. That's because I believe in having the source be general:
  • The name of the collection
  • What it contains
  • Where to find it.
Where I get specific is on the document image or fact notation:
  • Title of document image: 1910 census for Timothy Kinney and family
  • Date of document: 23 Apr 1910
  • Where to look: lines 28–29
  • Collection: Columbia Township, Columbia City, Whitley County, Indiana census enumeration district 143, supervisor's district 12, sheet 8A
  • Image number: image 15 of 18
  • Exact URL: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7884/31111_4328284-00540/7066655
Here's how you can easily create your general source citations and specific image and fact notations.

1. Find the Document or Fact Again

Can't find grandma in the 1920 census again? Aha! That's the main reason you must make note of your sources. Try to find an easy one to start with.

2. Copy the Exact Name of the Collection

Simple reference notes keep the family tree software uncluttered.
Simple reference notes keep the
family tree software uncluttered.
If your source is a national census, a passport application, or a passenger list, it's part of an official document collection. Put the exact title of the document collection in your source citation.

I like to use the same title as my reference note in Family Tree Maker because it's nice and short, easy to understand, and doesn't take up a lot of room.

3. Copy the Root URL of the Website or the Name of the Repository

Think of this as the address where the document collection lives. It may be ancestry.com, the New York State Library or familysearch.org. Write down the basic URL or building name.

4. Copy the Recommended Citation Detail and Text

Document collections found on a website or in a book will usually give you a suggested description or "source citation". Take the suggestion.

5. Copy the URL of the Collection

Let's say the document collection you're using is the 1930 U.S. Federal Census. And let's also say you're accessing it on ancestry.com. Go to the main page of the collection. This is the search screen for the collection. Or, if you find the collection in the website's catalog, it's the link that's in the search results.

From this URL, you can search for and find every 1930 census fact and document image in your family tree.

That's the basics of source citations! That wasn't so tough, was it? But there's one more thing to do. And it's going to take you longer.

Link to your general source, but pack all the specifics into the document image.
Link to your general source, but pack all the specifics into the document image.
6. Add More Specifics to the Document Image or Fact

How many census, ship manifest, draft registration card and birth record images do you have in your family tree? I have about 2,900.

Do you want your family tree to be your incredibly valuable legacy? Don't skimp on the details. All your document images need individual, more specific notations.

Yes, it's a big task! I devoted time to annotating my 513 census images earlier this year. I'm making sure I add all the details each time I add a new document of any kind to my tree. But my next task is to annotate my 337 ship manifest images. Work your way through, one type of document at a time. You'll get there.

Here are some facts to include:
  • Descriptive title
  • Date on the document
  • Document category (census, immigration, military, vital record, etc.)
  • Document collection title, and specifics from the page
  • Image number if it's part of a set
  • Exact URL of the image online
This level of detail makes my work easy to verify. Even without an ancestry.com subscription, the breadcrumbs are there. You can find the document in another repository.

Creating or fine-tuning your basic source citations should not scare you. Stop putting it off. Tackle them in groups and it will go quicker:
  • census sources
  • passenger list sources
  • military records, and so on.
You'll be the envy of every genealogy hobbyist you know!


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Friday, October 12, 2018

Find Out What You're Missing on Those Immigration Records

Who and what are you overlooking on that ship manifest?

On 10 February 1909 my great grandfather boarded the S.S. Cretic in Naples, bound for New York City. He came to America a handful of times, earned money and went back home to Italy.

But his 1909 ship manifest is absolutely my favorite. His name is on line 3. But the men on lines 2, 4, 5 and 6 are all from his hometown. In fact, they're all related. Closely related.

Have you ever noticed on any of your relatives' ship manifests that people are often listed by town? You'll see several lines of people from one town, then several lines of people from another town.

Are you looking carefully at the other people from your relative's town? What are their last names? What are the names of the relatives they're leaving at home? Who are they joining at their destination, and what address are they going to?

If you look at these facts, you may find that some of the townspeople are related to your ancestor.

Take a look at my 5 townsmen.

Their relationships may not be obvious. Find all the clues and do some digging.
Their relationships may not be obvious. Find all the clues and do some digging.

On lines 3 and 4 you have 2 Iamarino brothers. They happen to be married to 2 Pilla sisters. Those sisters have a brother Innocenzo on line 5. They also have a sister who's married to Antonio Paolucci on line 6. So the men on lines 3–6 are brothers or brothers-in-law.

They're all travelling with another Paolucci on line 2. He is their cousin, and with some more research, I'm confident he'll be a closer cousin. Maybe he'll be another brother-in-law, too!

The first thing to catch my eye on this ship manifest was the name of my great grandfather's hometown: Colle Sannita. I saw it there with several ditto marks, meaning here were several people from the same town. Not a husband and wife and their kids—but 5 men.

This makes a messy graphic, but humor me.

Look beyond the name and ages, and see all there is to learn.
Look beyond the name and ages, and see all there is to learn.

When I found this ship manifest, I was searching only for my great grandfather, Francesco Iamarino. But all those Colle Sannita people were calling out to me.

This was the first time I learned of my great grandfather's brothers: Teofilo, on the ship with him, and Giuseppe, who they were going to join.

I checked the column where passengers list the name of a relative they left at home. Francesco lists his wife Libera. That's my great grandmother. Teofilo lists his wife Filomena.

Suddenly I had proof for a family story I'd heard. Two Iamarino brothers had married two Pilla sisters. Sure enough, Libera and Filomena were the sisters who married the brothers Francesco and Teofilo.

But wait! There's more!

Notice how all 5 men are going to the exact same destination. They are going to an address in New York City to join Giuseppe Iamarino.

Giuseppe is:
  • Giorgio's cousin
  • Francesco's brother
  • Teofilo's brother
  • Innocenzo's brother-in-law
  • Antonio's cousin

Wait. What? Is Antonio Paolucci on line 6 both my great grandfather's cousin and my great grandmother's brother-in-law? I've got more research to do.

If you're downloading your ancestor's ship manifest and simply filing it away, go back and look at it. How many names, relationships and clues are waiting there for you to discover?


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Tuesday, October 9, 2018

3 Housekeeping Tasks for a Professional-Quality Family Tree

No rubber gloves necessary. Family tree housekeeping uses no rags, cleansers or mops.

I don't enjoy cleaning my house. The dog's gonna mess it up in no time anyway. But I will make time for family tree housekeeping. Unlike my house, my beautifully polished family tree will stay pristine forever. Don't you want your family tree to be your legacy? Can you imagine the joy of the relative who inherits your amazing family history research?

Most of us jump into this genealogy hobby all excited, grabbing names and documents left and right. We learn more and get more professional about it as we go. But there's a good chance our earlier work doesn't live up to our current standards.

Here are 3 important family tree housekeeping tasks you can do while you're watching something boring on TV.

1. Add breadcrumbs and links to your documents

Your family tree should have lots of images of:
  • census sheets
  • ship manifests
  • draft registration cards
  • vital records
In your family tree software, add all the important facts into the description. It's a lot more efficient to do this at the moment you first add an image to your tree. (Try to make that a habit.)

Add facts to each document in your family tree.
Add facts to each document in your family tree.
But you need to go back to those older document images. Add enough facts to allow anyone to retrace your steps and prove you're right.

I like to add:
  • the line numbers containing your people
  • the name of the document database
  • the image number if it's one of many
  • the web address (URL)
Let's say you add the URL of the document on ancestry.com. What if someone without a subscription needs to know more? What if the URL changes? Add enough detail to help someone find it somewhere else.

2. Upgrade your sources

How many times have you kicked yourself for not writing down where you found a particular fact?

Make a habit of creating good, reliable sources each time you add a new type of image to your family tree. All the unsourced facts and images in your tree need your attention.

When you find a fact online or in a reference book, look for a description of the document collection. You can copy the citation detail and citation text for the collection from its source. That may be a page on Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, or in a book.

Add enough facts to your source to make it official and retraceable.
Add enough facts to your source to make it official and retraceable.
There's no need to go overboard. I don't have a separate source for each document or fact, because I would have more than 3,000 sources. I have one source for the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, for example. The source includes the URL to the collection, a description and citation. Each 1910 census image includes the URL to that specific page. And each fact taken from a 1910 Census links to the one source.

3. Standardize your place names

My parents lived a block apart as kids. So my early family tree research focused on their Bronx, New York, neighborhood. Nearly every family lived on numbered streets, with very similar addresses. After a while I realized I needed some consistency. I decided to spell everything out with no abbreviations:
  • 221 East 151st Street, Bronx, New York, USA
  • 237 East 149th Street, Bronx, New York, USA
  • 615 West 131st Street, Bronx, New York, USA
Once I standardized the addresses, my Family Tree Maker software offered me suggestions. I'd type "237" and it would immediately suggest "237 East 149th Street, Bronx, New York, USA". It's a great time-saver.

I love it when I start to type an address, and the suggestion shows I've got another relative living there.

This orderly arrangement of addresses makes it easy to see which relatives lived near one another.
This orderly arrangement of addresses makes it easy to see which relatives lived near one another.
I also like to use my software's ability to locate each address on a map. Every address is neatly arranged. I can drill down by country, state or region, county or province, town and address. For each address, I can see the list of people I've associated with the address.

If your tree has only a few thousand people, you might tackle these housekeeping tasks in a weekend. If you've gone wild and have 19,000 people like I do, it's more of a challenge. But set aside time now and then. Chip away at it. You can get this done.

In the end, you'll have a high-quality tree that will show genealogy newcomers how it's supposed to be done.


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Friday, October 5, 2018

Do These 3 Things Before You Add Another Name to Your Family Tree

Put that person's facts down! You don't know where they came from.

I'll never forget the time someone took my grandfather and added him to their family tree. They didn't care that my grandfather was born in a different town and province than their family. They weren't concerned that his last name—Leone—is practically the Smith of Italy. They just took him and my grandmother!

That's actually one reason why I started this blog. I want us all to be more professional in our genealogy hobby. Do your research with care and skill, and your family tree won't be riddled with non-relatives.

I'll admit I've been guilty of accidentally adding non-relatives to my family tree. It tends to happen when I'm way out on a limb, gathering facts for a 3rd cousin's husband's mother's family. When you get into that level of not-my-people territory, you have no family lore and memories to guide you.

It's too easy to add a man with the right name and the right hometown—even though you haven't proven he's the right guy.

To avoid adding the wrong people to your family tree, set these unbreakable ground rules.

Shaky leaf hints for my grandmother revealed trees that copied from me before I had the facts right.
Shaky leaf hints for my grandmother revealed trees that copied from me before I had the facts right.
#1 Find the Documentation Yourself

A shaky leaf or someone else's tree is nothing but a lead. Promise yourself you will look at the hint or tree, jot down the facts, and seek proof on your own. Find the census forms, ship manifests and draft registration cards yourself. Weigh those documents yourself. Decide if the person belongs in your family tree for yourself.

Remember: The person whose tree you're looking at may be newer to genealogy than you are.

#2 Don't Ignore Contradictory Information

Let's say you found a woman named Mary Bianco in someone else's tree as a search result. Some of her facts match the Bianco family in your tree. She has the right last name, her father has the right first name, and she lives in the right town.

Is that enough to add her? No, it isn't. Examine all the facts about her.
  • Does she have the right first name, or is it a variation of what you expected?
  • Does her mother's name match the family you have?
  • Are her siblings' names right?
  • Is she the right age?
  • Was she born in the right place?
If some of her facts don't match the family you want to add her to, stop a moment. You need to prove or disprove her relationship to your family with more research.

Can you find her in other documents? Let's say you have her with a Bianco family in the 1900 census. But her mother's name seems wrong.

Search for this family with the wrong mother in another census year. You may find this is a different family than yours. They have similarities, but other documents prove they're the wrong family. Not your family.

You just saved yourself from making a big mistake.

#3 Make Note of Your Sources

If you're using an unofficial source, make careful notes!
If you're using an unofficial source, make careful notes!
You may decide you totally believe someone else's tree. You recognize the author's name. The woman you're researching is the tree owner's grandmother. You really want to add "Mary Bianco" to your tree.

If you're feeling confident enough to add her, add the source to your tree, too. Note that these facts came from "The Bianco Family Tree". Capture the URL of the tree.

If Mary Bianco is important to you, someday you may add better, stronger sources for her name, birth and other facts.

Imagine for a moment that you hired a professional genealogist. Would you still want to pay his fee if one of his sources was "Mary Bianco's granddaughter's tree"?

Allow me to harp on one of my favorite themes again. Your family tree is your legacy. Make it as valuable as possible!


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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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Friday, July 27, 2018

4 Age-Related Rules for Building Your Family Tree

4 logical rules to help you with your family tree.
Do you have a set of standard rules you follow when working on your family tree?

Some common sense rules can steer you away from people who have no place in your tree. There will always be lots of exceptions to these rules. But having them as your foundation will help guide you in your research.

Let's focus on rules related to a person's age. Here are 4 rules for you to consider.

1. Age at First Marriage

Depending on where and when your ancestors lived, you may find a pattern. If you can look at a bunch of marriage documents from your ancestor's town, notice the brides' and grooms' ages.

What was the customary age to marry?
What was the customary age to marry?
Setting aside the widows and widowers who are remarrying, how old are the couples in general? Let's say you find a lot of people getting married between the age of 23 and 27. Take note of that! That's probably the customary age for marrying in that town at that time.

To put this rule into action, imagine you've found an ancestor's birth record. Now you'd like to find his marriage record. You can jump ahead 25 years (or whatever age the evidence tells you) and start looking. You may have to check a bunch of years, but you also may get lucky pretty quickly.

Note: If you're finding some ridiculously young brides and grooms, like ages 12 through 16, look at the details. Are their parents all alive? Many times a terribly young daughter is married off if her parents have died and her grandfather wants someone to provide for her.

2. Age When Children Were Born

You can estimate the mother's age based on local customs.
You can estimate the mother's
age based on local customs.
Forget about men. They can make babies practically forever. But women have a limited amount of years during which they can possibly have a baby.

Being practical, the women in your family tree were probably capable of having a baby from age 16 to about age 48. You can expect your ancestor to have had her first baby as soon as one year after her marriage. And she most likely continued having babies every couple of years until she was too old.

To put this rule into action, be very skeptical of adding a baby in your family tree to a mother who's more than 48 years old. (The poor woman!) Some family tree software will alert you if you're giving a woman a baby she wasn't likely to have had.

3. Age at Immigration

When did your foreign-born ancestor immigrate to your country? Depending on the era, it may have been a difficult journey of two weeks to two months or more.

I can't imagine how awful that was. On my last 9-hour flight home from Italy I thought I was going to die of discomfort and lack of sleep. When I saw the movie "Brooklyn" about a 1950s journey from Ireland to America, I felt that I, too, would have been throwing up. A lot.

To put this rule into action, figure on your ancestor making that journey no later than their 40s. In my tree, most of the men who came to America to work came in their 20s when they were able-bodied. If they brought their families over, they did it in their 30s or 40s.

My 2nd great grandparents and a cousin were pretty old for this journey.
My 2nd great grandparents and a cousin were pretty old for this 1898 journey.
If you don't know when your ancestor came over, start by looking at the years they were in their 20s.

4. Age at Death

This is the simplest age-related rule. Don't expect your ancestor to have lived more than 100 years.

Maybe you've got fabulous genes and have an ancestor who lived to be 115. But in general, you'll probably find it unusual to have an ancestor who lived that long.

To put this rule into action, look at the average age of death in your ancestor's town during their lifetime. If no one else is living beyond their 70s, your ancestor probably didn't live beyond their 70s.

Use that knowledge to narrow down the years when your ancestor may have died.

Don't forget to look at your ancestor's children. Their marriage documents can tell you if their parents are alive or dead at the time.

These are pretty logical rules. You can make them more scientific by learning all you can about the place where your ancestor lived.

Make logic work for your family tree!

When you look closer, you can find:

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