Showing posts with label family tree analyzer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label family tree analyzer. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Did I Find a Scandal in My Family Tree?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Friday, December 28, 2018

It's Time to Make Your Family Tree Clear and Consistent

How can you find and fix genealogy inconsistencies? And which style should you choose? Read on.

Have you always recorded facts in your family tree in the same way? Or did you do it one way when you first started, and figure out a better way later?

Being consistent is important to the long-term future of your precious genealogy research. If you leave behind an inconsistent family tree, your work will cause more questions than answers.

It can be hard to stick to a format when you can't work on your tree that often. Make some style decisions now, and you can continue creating your lasting legacy.

Three Examples of Choosing Consistency

1. Fact Types

Recording a deceased relative's Social Security Number can be helpful. Say you find a document for a person with the same name, but a different SSN. That number can prove a document does or doesn't belong to your relative.

I wasn't consistent when I started this hobby. Sometimes I used the SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER fact in Family Tree Maker, and sometimes I used the SSN ISSUED fact. But the SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER fact makes more sense. You can record the number as well as the date and place where it was issued.

Yesterday I:
  • located each SSN ISSUED fact in my tree
  • added the date and place to the SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER fact
  • deleted the SSN ISSUED fact.
2. Immigration Details

The first records I collected for my family tree were ship manifests. Nearly every one of my ancestors passed through Ellis Island. Recording all these immigration facts is very important to my family history.

At first I used only the IMMIGRATION fact type, recording the date and place of arrival with a note about the ship name. Then I realized I could record the date they left Italy, too. That's written on the manifest.

But I had to make another choice. I can choose ARRIVAL, DEPARTURE, EMIGRATION and IMMIGRATION as fact types. Which should I use? A more experienced friend suggested I use EMIGRATION and IMMIGRATION for a person's first trip to their new country. I'd save DEPARTURE and ARRIVAL for:
  • Pleasure trips, like a honeymoon or vacation, or
  • Return trips, like visiting the old country to see your parents or bring back the rest of your family.
I made my choice and updated my fact types. I added in the missing emigrations or departures, too.

3. Names, Dates and Places

If you're using a decent family tree program, you can select how you want to display these types of facts.

Your family tree software should give you the option to choose how to present your data.
Your family tree software should give you the option to choose how to present your data.
People's Names

Some genealogists choose to display everyone's last name in all capital letters. I don't want to do that because I have many names that begin with a small letter, like deBellis. I don't want to lose sight of that.

Some people choose to display a woman's married name rather than her maiden name. I don't want to do that because:
  • my female Italian ancestors kept their maiden name for life, and
  • which name do you use for a woman who married more than once? The last name that relates to you, or the final husband's name, even if he's nothing to you?
Dates

Working for an international company made me aware of writing simply and clearly. Avoid local phrases and use international dates. In the United States we're used to the Month/Day/Year format (12/28/2018). But some countries use the Day/Month/Year format (28/12/2018). Others prefer Year/Month/Day (2018/12/28).

Think of how many dates can be misunderstood by someone in another country. Is 5/4/2019 May 4th or April 5th? It depends on where you live.

To avoid confusion in my family tree, I use DD Mon YYYY, as in 28 Dec 2018. Any English-language speaker will understand this, and many Romance-language speakers will understand it, too. Their month names aren't so different from ours.

Places

For a long time I wouldn't let Family Tree Maker "resolve" addresses or place names for me. For one thing, I thought it was silly to put "USA" at the end of a New York City address. Where else do you think New York City is?

As time went by and my tree's international members outnumbered the Americans, I decided adding "USA" wasn't a bad idea.

But one difference I've stuck to is county names. Leaving out the word "County" can lead to confusion. What if you have only the name of the county someone lived in, and not the town? Will that be clear? So rather than Beaver, Pennsylvania, USA, I'll enter Beaver County, Pennsylvania, USA.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure it's easy for anyone to understand, and stay consistent.

Finding and Fixing Your Inconsistencies

What brought this to my attention was a free program I've written about several times: Family Tree Analyzer. (Now available for Mac users.) When I ran the program and opened my family tree's GEDCOM file, I saw a few things on the main screen that I didn't like:
  • Found 14 facts of unknown fact type SSN ISSUED
  • Found 13 facts of unknown fact type OTHER
  • Found 1 facts of unknown fact type RELEASED
This free program will uncover inconsistencies in your family tree.
This free program will uncover inconsistencies in your family tree.
I wanted to find these facts and change them. I discovered an option in Family Tree Maker to Manage Facts from the Edit menu. I chose a fact type, clicked Data Options and saw a list of every person using that fact type. I visited each of these people in my tree and made adjustments.

The fact type OTHER turned out to be something I did because I didn't know how to characterize these facts. Each person using OTHER had been in the Japanese-American prison camps of World War II. These particular facts were the dates they were incarcerated and released. I changed each of these entries to use my custom fact type, Internment.

One man named Luigi was using the RELEASED fact type. This was the date they released him from quarantine on Ellis Island. Because it was a medical quarantine, I switched to the MEDICAL CONDITION fact type.

For other types of changes, you may be able to use Find and Replace within your family tree software. Be careful. Before you click OK to make a global change, think about what else might change.

If you're changing a county name, is there a person with that name? Will their name change from John Sullivan to John Sullivan County?

Running Family Tree Analyzer showed me a Find and Replace blunder I'd made. I messed up some Italian last names that are the same as Italian occupations. Everyone named Canonico became "canonico (member of the clergy)". Oh boy. I fixed this with some careful one-at-a-time finding and replacing.

Even if you're not thinking of your genealogy hobby as your legacy, think about your own sanity. If you don't work on your tree for a while, how many of these inconsistencies will make you say, "What was I thinking?"


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Friday, September 14, 2018

One Report, Endless Possibilities for Improving Your Family Tree

Update: Family Tree Analyzer is now available for Mac.

Go to ftanalyzer.com to download Family Tree Analyzer for free.
Family Tree Analyzer
It's always fun to create an up-to-date GEDCOM from my family tree and get the latest insights from Family Tree Analyzer.

I've written about this free PC-based program several times now (see links at the bottom of this article). Today let's look at how you can use its Main Lists tab to produce an all-in-one report.

First, your family tree software should have an export option. You can use the export option to create a GEDCOM. If you keep your family tree online only, and not in desktop software, you've given up some control of your family tree. Ancestry.com lets you export a GEDCOM from your online tree, but other sites, like FamilySearch.org, do not.

Second, there are other ways to do what I'm about to describe besides using Family Tree Analyzer. But to me, this program is the best way to do it. (Do a Google search for "convert GEDCOM to spreadsheet".)

Now let me show you what you can do with an all-in-one report from Family Tree Analyzer.

After loading your GEDCOM in Family Tree Analyzer, click Main Lists.
After loading your GEDCOM in Family Tree Analyzer, click Main Lists.
Launch Family Tree Analyzer and open your most recent GEDCOM file. The software will analyze your GEDCOM for several facts.

When it's finished, click the Main Lists tab. With the Individuals tab clicked, you'll see a table containing every person and fact in your tree!

Click the Export menu at the top of the program window to generate a "csv" file. This is a file you can open with any spreadsheet software, like Excel.

Excel gives you tools to sift, sort and manipulate the data any way you like. But I don't want to turn this into a long Excel tutorial. If you don't know how to filter and sort your contents, here's a good, short YouTube video. Jump ahead to 1:44 and watch until 2:24. Short and sweet.

In your spreadsheet, choose a Fact Type (column E) to filter by, such as Occupation. Now click Excel's Sort button and sort by Fact Comment (column H).

Now you have:
  • a simple view of all the occupations in your family tree
  • an alphabetical list of what you typed in for the description.

I'd like to do 2 things with the occupation descriptions:

1. Fix Errors. I can scroll down the list and scan for typos. In the image below, you can see there's an address instead of an occupation. I can fix that. In my family tree software, I'll go to the person named in columns B and C. It turns out I'd entered an address for the place of work, but left out the word "dentist" for these 2 men.
A filtered, sorted spreadsheet of your family tree facts simplifies a lot of tasks.
A filtered, sorted spreadsheet of your family tree facts simplifies a lot of tasks.

2. Complete My Job Translations. Most of my genealogy research work is in Italian documents. I thought it was cool to enter a person's occupation in Italian, so I made a separate translation list for my own use. But one day I realized there's a Find and Replace function in Family Tree Maker. So now I'm including the English translation in parentheses, like this: "calzolaio (shoemaker)".

Family Tree Maker is smart enough to make suggestions as I type in a field. So if I type "calz", it suggests "calzolaio (shoemaker)".

But I'll bet I overlooked a lot of jobs when I did my find and replace. This spreadsheet helps me find those untranslated Italian words, like agrimensore, benestante, eremite, and so on. Now I can finish this translation task and make my family tree more valuable for myself and others.

Let's pick another Fact Type.
  1. Click the Filter button at the top of column E.
  2. Click Select All to make every fact type available again.
  3. Click it again to uncheck the whole list.
  4. Now click to select the Birth fact type and click OK.
  5. Click the Sort button and sort by Fact Location, column G.
Scroll down through the alphabetical list of all the birth locations. Do you see a lot of blank locations toward the bottom? In a recent article (see "5 Clean-up Tasks to Improve Your Family Tree"), I explained the value of having approximate birth dates and places in your tree. It can give you better hints and search results.

For example, I have a man named Salvatore Martuccio who was born in about 1873. I don't want to see a hint for finding him in the 1880 census in America when he and his family were always in Italy. So I need to add Italy as his place of birth. I think I know which town he was born in, but I have no documentation. So I'll keep it loose and say he was born in Italy.

This spreadsheet makes it easier to find facts—and missing facts—so I can finish my clean-up tasks.

Here's another idea. I'll filter the Fact Type column by Immigration and sort by Fact Comment. When I first started recording immigration facts in my family tree, I used this format:

Arrived aboard the [ship name] with [wife, children, brother, etc.] to join [person's name and relationship] at [address].

Then I realized I could use the Emigration fact type to say:

"Left on the [ship name] to go to [destination city]."

With the ship name in the emigration or departure field, I could shorten my immigration or arrival description to:

"Arrived with [wife, children, brother, etc.] to join [person's name and relationship] at [address]."

I can use this filtered and sorted spreadsheet to find all the descriptions I want to edit in Family Tree Maker. Hurray! More work to do!

I'd like you to think of this method as a way of seeing everything that's hidden from plain sight in your family tree. Work on what's important to you. No matter how much you decide to correct, improve or simplify, you'll wind up with a better, stronger, more reliable family tree.

So filter, sort, and see how much you can accomplish!


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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

This Genealogy Report Shows You What's Missing

Update: Family Tree Analyzer is now available for Mac.

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

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

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

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

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

Open Your Data File

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

Launch FTA and open your GEDCOM file.

Run the Census Report

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

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

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

Analyze Your Results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More lines deleted.

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

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

Go Fill in the Blanks

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

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


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Friday, July 20, 2018

Use This Tool to Discover Family Tree Insights

Update: Family Tree Analyzer is now available for Mac.

There's a new version of Family Tree Analyzer—the must-have genealogy software program from Alexander Bisset. This free program offers almost unlimited insights into your family tree. It also helps you find problems so you can fix them and fortify your family tree.

I've installed it on my Windows 10 computer and imported my up-to-date GEDCOM file. Let's take FTA for a spin.

This is the program I wanted to create. Mr. Bisset has done it expertly.
This is a free genealogy toolbox. A big, big toolbox!
Please visit FTA's Facebook page for announcements and help with using the program. To find the latest download link, see the FTA website. The program runs on Windows; a Mac version is currently in development.

There's so much genealogy goodness to explore! Let's start with a very appealing table view of your entire database of people. Here are a few of the valuable insights you can learn from the program's Main Lists tab.

Insight #1: Your Ancestors' Jobs

On the Main Lists tab, click to sort by the Occupation column.

On the Main Lists tab, click the Occupation column header.
On the Main Lists tab, click the Occupation column header.
I recently learned that my 2nd great grandfather was a shoemaker when he married. That's a surprise. He wasn't a shoemaker when my great grandmother was born. I wonder how many shoemakers are in my family tree.

My ancestors are all from Italy, so I record shoemakers as "calzolaio (shoemaker)". If I scroll down to the letter C in the alphabetical list of Occupations, I see the TON of shoemakers in my family tree. I also see they're mostly from one town. That's a lot of shoemakers for one town, even when you consider the span of these relatives' birth years.

Quickly find the errors hiding in your family tree.
Now you can quickly find the errors hiding in your family tree.
That's nice to see, but here's something much more useful.

Click the Occupations tab to see all the jobs you've entered for people in your tree. I immediately see errors in the first 2 lines. There are addresses where the job title should be. By double-clicking this bad entry, I see it's attached to a man named Vincenzo.

Now I can go to Family Tree Maker to correct this error. Sure enough, I accidentally entered an address and left out his occupation.

Wonderful! I can scroll through the Occupation list in FTA to find typos, untranslated Italian words, or other errors to fix. This is just the kind of "assist" we can all use.

Insight #2: Your Progress, By the Numbers

On the Main Lists tab, scroll to the right to find the Ahnentafel column. Click it once to sort by this column, then again to reverse-sort the column.

Ahnentafel comes from a German word meaning "ancestor table". Each of your direct ancestors has a number in the Ahnentafel system. You are #1. After you, each man in your tree has an even number (your father is #2) and each female an odd number (your mother is #3).

I asked you to reverse-sort your Ahnentafel column for the maximum "wow" factor. Your earliest direct-line ancestor will be the first person in the list. In my results I see four 9th great grandparents at the top of the list with really high numbers! 2691, 2690, 2689 and 2688.

See how far you've gotten in your family history research.
Here's an easy way to see how far you've climbed up your family tree.
Notice the RelationToRoot column a few to the left of Ahnentafel. Here you'll see how many of each level of grandparent you've found. I've found a bunch of 7th and 8th great grandparents, and even more 6th great grandparents.

As I scroll down the numerical list, I can also see where Ahnentafel numbers are missing. In fact (this is exciting!), the lowest-numbered ancestor whose name I don't know is #59, one of my 3rd great grandmothers.

You can use this Ahnentafel view to zero in on the missing relatives you most want to find.

These are two very important insights to help you fortify your family tree. And that's only the tip of the iceberg! I'll explore some more of FTA's useful tools in upcoming articles. Even if you don't have the FTA program, I know you'll find inspiration in these articles.

You owe it to yourself to try this program! My hat's off to Mr. Bisset for having written the program I could only imagine.


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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

6 Building Blocks of Genealogy Research, Part 1

These are the building blocks of a strong family tree.
Six months ago I wrote about my general approach to genealogy research. Let's look at the specific building blocks that can make anyone a productive and efficient family tree researcher.

I don't want to short-change any of these concepts, so this article is in two parts. You'll find a link to part 2 at the bottom of this article.

1. Spell Out Your Goals

Did you make your list of genealogy goals for 2018? I made a list that I look at anytime I feel like I'm searching for documents without a specific goal.

Sometimes it's fun to go off on research tangents. But it's far more rewarding to focus on a goal and make real progress. Your goals might be to:
Come back to your goals again and again and whittle down the list.

2. Cast a Wide Net

I spent five years making trips to my local Family History Center. I ordered microfilm (it's available online now) from my maternal grandfather's hometown in Italy. I knew nothing beyond his parents' names, so I wanted to find out more.

I soon realized I couldn't tell who was related to me unless I pieced together all the families. So at the center I typed the data from each birth, marriage and death record. At home I entered it all into Family Tree Maker. In the end, I had a tree with 15,000 people. More than 10,000 of them had a connection to me.

Cast a wide net to capture all your ancestor's siblings and their children.
Cast a wide net to capture all your ancestor's siblings and their children.
If you don't want to go that far, at least gather all your ancestor's siblings. Say you find your 3rd great grandmother's birth record. Now you know your 4th great grandparents' names. Next you can search the surrounding years for babies born to the same couple.

Find those siblings and you can begin to identify your ancestor's close cousins. You're going to want those names when you're reviewing your DNA matches.

3. Take Advantage of Software


A small piece of my priceless vital record collection.
Here's a small piece of my priceless
vital record collection.
There are a lot of talented programmers out there creating free genealogy software. I finally gave up trying to write my own program when I found Family Tree Analyzer. This program takes the germ of an idea I was playing with and puts it on steroids. You can run reports, correct errors, and slice-and-dice your family tree in a bunch of ways.

And thank goodness I found GetLinks. Using GetLinks, I easily downloaded thousands and thousands of vital records from 7 of my ancestral hometowns in Italy.

Don't do things the hard way when other genealogy whizzes have created a solution for you.

Please continue to part 2 of this article. I get into the nuts and bolts of my genealogy philosophy with 3 more building blocks.

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Friday, January 12, 2018

How to Handle the Unrelated People in Your Family Tree

Update: Family Tree Analyzer is now available for Mac.

They probably belong in your family tree, right? Those families with your name, from your town. You have every reason to believe they're related to you.

But you haven't found that connecting ancestor yet.

So you've got these disconnected families floating in your family tree file. They sit there, waiting for you to find the connection.

How easily can you find those families you added long ago, so you can work on finding out more about them?

Here's a solution I hope you'll try.

A graphic like this helps you find disconnected people in your family tree.
Use an image like this to identify unattached
people in your family tree at a glance.
I've written three times in the past about a software program called Family Tree Analyzer. I was astonished when I discovered this free program. It does exactly what I'd been struggling to write a program to do. But it does it better than I could ever have done. And it does much more than my program ever would have done.

Get the latest version of the program at http://ftanalyzer.com (for Windows only at this time). You may need to uninstall the previous version before you can install this one.

Here's the feature I want you to look at. First, export a current GEDCOM file from your family tree software. Then run Family Tree Analyzer and import the GEDCOM.

Click the second tab, labelled Individuals, to see a line for every person in your tree. Go all the way over to the Relation column and click it to sort your people by their relation to you.

You'll see:
  • Blood relations
  • Relations by marriage
  • Direct ancestors
  • People married to your direct blood relations
  • The root person (presumably you), and finally,
  • Unknown
These are the people in your tree who are not attached to you—whether by accident or on purpose.

If you can print to a PDF file, go ahead and print this relation-sorted view. You can refer to it again and again, taking advantage of the search function of the PDF file. Don't print to paper! It's going to be a lot of pages. Mine is 1,358 pages.

Click back to the first tab for a second; the one labelled Gedcom Stats. Beneath the "Loading file" messages you'll see how many of each type of relationship you have. My file says:

Direct Ancestors : 189
Blood Relations : 1456
Married to Blood or Direct Relation : 543
Related by Marriage : 12480
Unknown relation : 4959

That last number, 4,959 unknown relations, comes as a big shock to me. That's a lot! How many families have I collected on speculation? Further inspection shows me that very distant, convoluted relations are labelled Unknown. That includes father-in-law of cousin of sister-in-law of me.

Now you've got the list of unrelated people. Forgive me, but I can't remember where I heard this next tip. I wrote it in a notebook that makes me think I saw it on a YouTube genealogy video. And I subscribe only to Ancestry.com's Crista Cowan, so this tip may belong to her.

Here it is: Create a graphic image (or borrow mine from this article) that says something like "No Relation". Attach this image to each person on your list of unknown relations from Family Tree Analyzer. Make it their profile picture.

Now, the unrelated people will be easily visible. Better yet, in Family Tree Maker I can select an image from my tree's image library and see a list of who it is attached to.

The goal now is to focus on these unrelated families. Do the legwork. Find out all you can about them, keeping an eye open for that missing link to you.

After some research, you may decide to remove some unrelated people from your family tree.

And one day, you may find that your "No Relation" people, are no more!


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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

How to Find Errors in Your Family Tree

Update: Family Tree Analyzer is now available for Mac.

The mission of this blog is to encourage genealogists to improve their family trees. To fortify your family tree means to:
  • Use the best sources for your facts.
  • Locate as many pieces of documentation as possible.
  • Analyze your tree for errors and fix them.
  • Add thorough, consistent, provable facts throughout your tree.

This one report shows me how many great grandparents I've found for my family tree.
This quick report lets me see the oldest direct ancestors in my tree.

The more your tree grows, the harder it can be to find its errors. Maybe you added lots of facts when you were first building your tree and didn't add any sources. Maybe you borrowed from someone else's tree and later realized they were wrong. Or maybe you accidentally transposed the numbers in a bunch of birth years.

Family tree errors can happen to a professional genealogist as well as an excited newcomer.

How can you find the errors when your tree is big and you've been working on it for years? How do you find a handful of needles in a haystack?

Reporting Software

Reporting tools can point out all kinds of family tree errors, showing you exactly where to jump in and start fixing.

I've written about the free software tool called Family Tree Analyzer (FTA) twice this year. (See Why You Should Be Using the Free "Family Tree Analyzer" and Run This Genealogy Report To Help Clean Up Your Dates to download the software and see what it's about.)

Get the latest version from the source: http://ftanalyzer.com. Go to the Software.Informer website for free GEDCOM analyzers that work on Mac or Windows.
I knew I'd barely scratched the surface of what FTA can do. Now I'm using it to identify a variety of errors I can fix in my family tree.

The first step is to run your family tree software and export a standard GEDCOM file. This is the agreed-upon standard that makes your family research transportable and sharable.

Then run FTA and import your GEDCOM. The first thing you'll see is a long summary of the types of facts found in your tree. My favorite part is this list:
  • Direct Ancestors: 189
  • Blood Relations: 1,451
  • Married to Blood or Direct Relation: 541
  • Related by Marriage: 12,452
Click the Data Errors tab. You might see a long list of errors. Some are more important than others, so click the Clear All button. Now click to select one type of error, such as Birth before father aged 13.

My tree has nearly 20,000 people, and I discovered the majority of them in old Italian vital records. Some of the documents had errors. Others had conflicting information. In tons of cases, I had no age or birth year for parents, so I chose to make them 25 years older than their oldest child.

For Maria Giuseppa Verzino, shown in this error report, I have evidence that she was born in 1799. But her father Paolo has a birth year of "About 1791".
An example of an error report showing something that's easy to fix.
Error report for seriously under-aged fathers.

I try to be very consistent in my family tree. Whenever I see "About" for someone's birth year, I know that I subtracted 25 from the birth year of the person's oldest child. But maybe I found more of their children later. Maybe when I found Maria Giuseppa and her birth year of 1799, I forgot to update her parents' birth years. Maria Giuseppa probably has a sibling born in 1816. When I recorded that sibling, I subtracted 25 from 1816 and marked the parents as being born "About 1791".

This is easy for me to fix. I can go to Paolo Verzino in my tree and see if I've found any children born before Maria Giuseppa in 1799. If not, Paolo and his wife's birth years should be updated to "About 1774".

That's one less needle in the haystack of errors.

Now uncheck that error and select another one, like Marriage after death. I have one of these errors. My family tree says that Giuseppe Antonio delGrosso was married on 11 December 1859. But I have his death recorded as "Before Dec 1859". That needs to be looked at.

Work Through the Errors

You can work your way through the errors and correct them one by one.

FTA contains a lot of tabs and menus. Click them to see what may be useful to you. The Facts tab can show all of your direct-line ancestors in a list. Choose only Direct Ancestors in the Relationship Types section. Then choose any fact, such as Birth. Click Show only the selected Facts for Individuals.

The resulting table shows me at a glance that I've identified two sets of my 9th great grandparents born in the early 1600s! I can click any column to sort by relationship, last name, date of birth, etc.

That isn't an error to fix, but it is a way to double-check my ancestor chart where I'm keeping a list of all direct-line ancestors. (See How to Visualize Your Ancestor-Finding Progress.)

So take a break from finding new ancestors, and make the time to fix the errors in your family tree. After you've fixed a bunch of them, export a new GEDCOM. Open it in Family Tree Analyzer and see how much shorter your errors lists are.

Fixing errors is every bit as important as finding that missing census file or death record.


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Friday, June 16, 2017

Run This Genealogy Report To Help Clean Up Your Dates

Update: Family Tree Analyzer is now available for Mac.

I've written before about my indispensable Document Tracker (see Haven't I Seen You Before?). It's a spreadsheet that shows at a glance which facts or documents I've collected and which I'm missing.

I've also written about Family Tree Analyzer (see Why You Should Be Using the Free "Family Tree Analyzer"). It's a program that does what I was struggling to write a program to do. And it does it so much better than I could have imagined. (Get the latest version.)

Now I'd like to show you how Family Tree Analyzer can quickly produce a document tracker for you.

Step 1: Export a GEDCOM

Export a standard GEDCOM file from whichever family tree software you're using. You may need to click File / Export in your family tree software. You can also download a GEDCOM from Ancestry.com if that's where you work on your tree.

Step 2: Open GEDCOM in Family Tree Analyzer

Launch Family Tree Analyzer and open your new GEDCOM file. Click the Individuals tab to view a grid of every single individual in your tree. My tree has 19,341 people at the moment, and that's not a problem. There is no delay at all in displaying the information.
The Individuals view in Family Tree Analyzer

Step 3: Export a Spreadsheet

Now click Export in the menu across the top and click the first option, Individuals to Excel. The program will ask you to name your file and pick a location for it.
Exporting your Individuals report

The file will be in CSV format. That stands for Comma Separated Values. You can open a CSV file with any spreadsheet software at all—not only Excel.

Step 4: Work with Your New Report

Now you have a spreadsheet of everyone in your tree and several basic facts about them. You can hide or delete the columns you don't want, and add some that you find more helpful.

Try some creative formatting: Find every cell with the word UNKNOWN and highlight it in yellow. Now you can spot these items quickly.
With all your people in one file, your imagination is the only limit.

I can review all the yellow-highlighted UNKNOWNs and work on filling in approximate birth, marriage and death dates. Entering an approximate birth date, such as Abt. 1900, makes it easier to distinguish people with similar names in your tree.

You can enter an approximate birth year for someone based on what else you know about them. For example, subtract 25 from the eldest child's birth year to approximate the parents' birth years. Or, if you have the mother's birth year as 1900 but not her husband's birth year, you can fill in Abt. 1900 for him.

Be sure to use the standard abbreviations of Abt. for about, Bef. for before, Aft. for after, and Bet. for between, if you're giving a range of years. (Note: Family Tree Analyzer prefers that you don't use a period—Abt instead of Abt.—but Family Tree Maker puts it in automatically. You can change this in Tools / Options on the Names/Dates/Places tab. Look for "Fact labels".)

How many ways will you use this Family Tree Analyzer report to fortify your family tree?