Showing posts with label friends associates and neighbors. Show all posts
Showing posts with label friends associates and neighbors. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

What Do the Records Say About Your Ancestor's Town?

You can get real insight into your ancestor's hometown by looking closely at its birth, marriage, and death records.

Not long ago I discovered the original hometown of my 2nd great grandmother, Colomba. She's the only one of my 2nd great grandmothers to leave Italy and settle in America. I wanted to know which town she left behind.

I had to piece together bits of evidence to learn her hometown. I discovered Colomba was born in 1845 as Vittoria Colomba Consolazio in the town of Santa Paolina, Avellino, Italy. By the time I learned this, I already had years of experience reading and documenting the vital records from a few of my nearby ancestral hometowns.

This town stood out among its neighbors. Reading through all the records uncovered the differences.
This town stood out among its neighbors. Reading through all the records uncovered the differences.
In those other towns, about 9 out of 10 people were farmers. They worked their plots of land to produce enough food and livestock for their own survival. A much smaller number of townsmen were shopkeepers, shoemakers, butchers, and barbers. There was usually one doctor in the town.

But Santa Paolina looked different. It's a very small town. Very small. Most of the marriages in the 1800s involved a partner from another town because there weren't enough potential spouses to go around. That was the case with my 2nd great grandparents. Antonio Saviano came from another town to marry Vittoria Colomba Consolazio in Santa Paolina. Before long, they moved back to his hometown.

Apart from importing marriage partners, Santa Paolina had another noticeable difference. Santa Paolina's men had better jobs. They weren't working their land to survive. This town had a lot more tradesmen (bricklayers, blacksmiths, and manufacturers) and professionals (merchants, notaries, and doctors).

So many spouses came from another town. What drew them to this spot?
So many spouses came from another town. What drew them to this spot?
The fact that fewer people appeared to be scraping by says a lot about the town. And possibly about the mindset of the people there.

This little town is in a stream-filled valley at the foot of a mountain where prehistoric man was known to live. The town's craftsmen from the Neolithic age (which ended about 2000 BC) produced fine pottery. Today the town is known for its wines and handmade lace. Records of this town date back to the year 1083. My roots in the town may run that deep.

Was it their centuries-deep roots that made this town different than its neighbors? Did their fertile land ensure the wealth of the vineyard owners? Did that attract young men and women from other towns to marry into Santa Paolina families? Did it allow people the "luxury" of being craftsmen instead of laborers?

When my 2nd great grandfather Antonio came to Santa Paolina for marriage, he was a shoemaker. He came from such a small town, I walked up and down most of it in a few minutes last year. Antonio had a different occupation each time one of his children was born. He was a bricklayer, a manufacturer, a farmer, a driver, and a merchant.

Based on marriage records, it seems my 2nd great grandmother's brothers may have inherited the family's land. That may be why Vittoria and Antonio moved back to his hometown. It may also be why Antonio kept changing professions.

If Vittoria's father did overlook her, that may have encouraged my 2nd great grandparents to come to America. According to the U.S. census, 10 years after arriving in New York City, 67-year-old Antonio had his "own income". He retired soon after. His family never seemed to want for anything, and Antonio was respected in his community. It looks like my 2nd great grandparents made the right decision.

Thanks to DNA, I've discovered some distant cousins with shared roots in Santa Paolina. I'm busily working to fill out our common branches. Somewhere in those documents I may find out why this town was so different than its neighbors.

What can vital records tell you about your ancestor's hometown when they lived there?


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Friday, October 26, 2018

How to 'Attack' Your Ancestor's Small Town Vital Records

Everyone in your ancestor's small town may belong in your family tree.

Small towns may hold more genealogy gems for you than big cities. Let's use my 2nd great grandmother's little town of Santa Paolina as an example. The town has a very small number of houses, and a very small number of families.

Small towns are a blessing when researching your family.
Small towns are a blessing
when researching your family.
Learn the Names First

There may be only a small number of last names in your small town. Get to know them by looking at each year's vital records index files. Get familiar with the names so you know how to spell them. Later, when you're looking at records, you'll recognize even the most poorly written names.

Most of the names in Santa Paolina were brand new to me. But I learned them fast.

Choose Your Entry Point

You're looking at this town because at least one of your ancestor's was born, married or died there. Start with that ancestor's documents. All you can find.

As you enter the facts in your family tree, you can begin to branch out.

I first found my 2nd great grandmother by going straight for her 1871 marriage record. Now I had her year of birth and her parents' names. I found her birth record and her parents' birth records. I searched the years around her birth and found her siblings' names. I figured out her parents' marriage year and found those documents.

Now I had the names of some of my 4th great grandparents. With those names, I could search for the siblings of my 3rd great grandparents.

The family is blossoming out so quickly!

Some of the siblings I'm finding have their marriage date and spouse's name on their birth record. Now I can pick nearly anyone and build out their wing of the family.

Leave no stone unturned. Each document could be important to you.
Leave no stone unturned. Each document could be important to you.
Let Nothing Go to Waste

As I identify each relative's vital records, I change the original document's file name. Now I can see which documents I've processed and which may still hold goodies for me.

In a small town, you may have a very manageable number of documents for each year. Unless your only goal is to make yourself a long scroll of a family tree leading back to Charlemagne, harvest all those documents. They're all your people.

Think how many more DNA matches you can identify by spreading out your branches to take in that entire small town.


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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, August 7, 2018

5 Things to Learn from Your Ancestor's Yearbook

My father-in-law, center, as a tough 17-year-old student.
My father-in-law, center, as a tough
17-year-old student.
I hope your ancestors weren't like me. In high school I didn't join any clubs, and I played no sports. My yearbooks won't tell you much about me. Except that I'm a nerd because I was in the National Honor Society.

When my husband (the former high school track star) told me about all the sports his father Ben played, I wanted to find Ben's yearbook. So I searched Ancestry.com and found the 1934 yearbook from Sanger High School in California. That was the year Ben's older brother Abe was a senior, Ben was a junior, and their brother Bill was a freshman.

If you can find your ancestor's high school yearbook, here are 5 key things to look for.

1. Which Sports They Played

I found photos of all 3 brothers on different teams:
  • Abe played basketball and ran track.
  • Ben played basketball, ran track, and played football.
  • Bill played basketball and ran track.
Their faces in each sports photo told me a lot, too. Ben looked determined and angry—nothing like the kind man I knew. Abe looked confident and pleasant. Bill looked sweet and shy.

2. Which Clubs They Joined

Bill grew up to be an accountant, so we weren't surprised to find him in the Scholarship Society and the Latin Club. But finding Abe there with his little brother in the Latin Club was a surprise. We think Ben was too busy with sports to pick a club.

My husband's uncles, Bill and Abe, standing together in the back row of the Latin Club.
My husband's uncles, Bill and Abe, standing together in the back row of the Latin Club.
Maybe your ancestor was in all the school plays. Does that match what you know about them?

3. Who Their Friends Were

In my own high school yearbook the seniors included a quote or a few words. My words seem like utter nonsense. But if you read what everyone wrote, it becomes clear who my closest friends were. We all used the same bizarre phrases.

Look at the candid photos, too. If you find your ancestor goofing around with some other students, try to find them in a class photo and identify them.

4. What Ambitions They Had

In some yearbooks, seniors will write what their plans are. They may say where they're going to college and what they'll study. Maybe they're joining the military. Or they may say which trade or profession they're about to start.

Will you be surprised by what your ancestor was planning to do?

5. What Their Community Was Like

My father-in-law's yearbook includes advertisements from several local businesses. The names of the businesses and their owners reflect a variety of ethnicities. Yet they don't match what I see in the student photographs.

The Sanger High School students in 1934 were about 45% Japanese, 20% Armenian, and a mix of English, Irish and Scandinavian. Of course I spotted the one Italian kid.

My husband's Uncle Abe and father Ben on a pretty short basketball team.
My husband's Uncle Abe and father Ben on a pretty short basketball team.
It may tell you something about your ancestor if you learn they were in a small minority. Or that they were part of a large group.

More than all these facts, it's the photos I'm thrilled by. I love having so many never-before-seen photos of my father-in-law and 2 of his brothers as teenagers.

If you can access Ancestry.com, search for their "U.S., School Yearbooks, 1900-1990" collection. There's also Classmates.com and other sites that may have what you need.

Ancestry has 3 of my father's Bronx, New York, yearbooks, and now I know he was in the school band with my godfather—his future wife's 1st cousin. How cool a discovery is that?


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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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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, June 1, 2018

Weaving Your Family Tree into a Wreath

Rural towns - where every family intermarried like crazy.
The type of town where every family intermarried.
You know that feeling when you're researching an ancestor and you find out they're related to you in multiple ways? You can't quite wrap your mind around the complications and your head explodes.

If your ancestors came from a small town—especially a rural town—that entanglement is commonplace.

I recently visited the rural town in Italy my father's side of the family comes from. His father was born there. His mother's father was born there. If your last name is Iamarino, your ancestor was almost certainly born there.

I visited my cousin Maria who told me lots of family stories. As a youngster, she enjoyed asking her mom (my grandfather's sister) tons of questions. And God bless her memory, she was able to tell me a bunch of them.

One story briefly mentioned a name and relationship I didn't know. Giovanni Paolucci was my great grandfather Francesco Iamarino's brother-in-law. Giovanni and Francesco had both been in the Bronx, New York.

I never knew Francesco had been in the Bronx. Most of my family history in America centers in the Bronx. But Francesco was an itinerant worker in mines and railroads. I had never placed him in the Bronx.

This morning I decided to look for Francesco and Giovanni in New York City. Since I have all the ship manifests I can find for Francesco, I focused on Giovanni.

First I looked at Francesco's sister to see if she had married Giovanni. Nope.

Next I looked at Francesco's wife who had several sisters. Bingo. Francesco's sister-in-law Maria Maddalena Pilla married Giovanni Paolucci. But my family tree file had only one 1913 ship manifest for Giovanni. I needed more information.

That ship manifest says Giovanni was born in 1890. I checked the 1890 birth records for the town. Nope. Not born in 1890. I searched the birth records for several years before 1890. Bingo. Giovanni was born in 1883, and his birth record says he married Maria Maddalena Pilla in 1909. So he's my man.

Now, who was Giovanni Paolucci's mother? Uh oh. The small town syndrome strikes again! Giovanni Paolucci, brother-in-law of Francesco Iamarino, was the son of Maria Cristina Iamarino—my 1st cousin 4 times removed. That makes Giovanni my 2nd cousin 3 times removed AND the husband of my 2nd great aunt.

Kaboom!

Giovanni Paolucci's 1883 birth record shows his mother was an Iamarino.
Giovanni Paolucci's 1883 birth record shows his mother was an Iamarino.
At the moment, I still can't place Giovanni or Francesco in the Bronx. But isn't it amazing how a character in a story about my great grandfather just blew open a branch of my family tree?

That's definitely the stuff that keeps us going. Back to work!


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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Search That Building for More Relatives

562 Morris Avenue, Bronx, New York
This Bronx building has tons of family tree
evidence for me.
My mom and dad grew up a block apart in the Bronx, New York. They went to the same grade school that was part of the church in their neighborhood.

When I first started exploring my family tree, I was using a website with no search function to view the census. I went page by page through the 1930 census for my parents' neighborhood. Virtually every last name I saw on those pages was familiar to me. They were names I'd heard all my life. Some of them were my relatives, others were my family's friends.

It felt like I was walking through the past.

It turns out there was a lot more family history in those few blocks of New York City than I'd imagined. My mother's grandfather owned her apartment building, so everyone living there was my relative. I'd always known that. But my father's building is turning out to be a genealogy treasure trove.

A Bad Job Changed My Father's Life

My dad was born in Ohio. You'd never know it by this thick New York accent, but he was a product of a small town near Youngstown. When he was three years old, his family moved from Ohio to the Bronx. From what I've heard, my grandfather was not happy working for the railroad or the steel mill in Ohio. He found it to be dirty work, and he hated it.

Grandpa's uncle Giuseppe in the Bronx offered the family a place to live. So my dad's family of four moved in with this uncle at 275 East 151st Street. My mom lived on the next block at 260 East 151st Street.

I have to marvel at the fact that if Grandpa hadn't been unhappy with his job in Ohio, my parents would never have met.

Is Everyone Related?

This past week I've been collaborating on my family tree with a new-found cousin-in-law. While her husband is a DNA match to me and my dad, he's also related to Grandpa's sister by marriage. So…that's a puzzle we're working on.

I quickly found that her husband's uncle Damiano, born in Italy, lived in the same Bronx building as my dad! This was dad's second home in the Bronx: 562 Morris Avenue at the corner of 150th Street—still very close to where my mom lived.

To complicate matters, Damiano had the same last name as another man in my dad's building—the man my Grandpa worked for. All these people:
  • my grandfather
  • his uncle Giuseppe
  • Damiano (my DNA match's uncle)
  • the man Grandpa worked for
were from the same small town in Italy. That's no coincidence!

Why Not Look Further?

As I collaborated with my new cousin-in-law, I remembered my dad's lifelong best friend has the same last name as her husband. So I asked my parents a few questions about him and began to dig.

Francesco Paolucci
Dad's best friend's father.
Dad's best friend Johnny grew up in that same building at 275 East 151st Street. His father Francesco died in 1939, but he became a U.S. citizen a few months before he died. His naturalization papers said he was born in Benevento. (The province or the city? It didn't say.) The papers included the exact date he arrived in America.

When I found his ship manifest, well, do you want to guess where in Benevento he was born? Colle Sannita! The same town as my grandpa and everyone else I've mentioned above. I was able to go back three more generations in my dad's friend Johnny's family tree. They lived in Colle Sannita at least as early as the 1700s. Same as my ancestors.

My dad's two addresses from age three to age 20 are jam-packed with family tree treasures for me.

The best coincidence about my dad's childhood building? In another apartment was a boy several years older than him named Ralph. That boy would grow up to marry my mom's sister. So my dad grew up in the same building as my uncle—his future brother-in-law.

Did your ancestors live in an apartment house in a city? Or a multi-family house in any town? Take a closer look at all the names in that apartment building or home.

Birds of a Feather *Live* Together

Our immigrant ancestors often arrived intending to join a relative or friend. Were they all in the same apartment building? How much does that apartment building have to offer your family tree?


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Friday, April 27, 2018

Bringing in Your Genealogy Harvest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

How to Connect the Dots to Your Possible Relatives

You've got your DNA matches. You've got people who share a bunch of your last names. You've probably ID'd a lot of possible relatives.

How will you find your connection to them? How will you connect those dots and figure out if and how you're related?

I've got a handful of these challenges on my plate right now.

broaden your genealogy search
Your roots probably spill over to the next town. Don't overlook them!
All my ancestors came from a small area in Italy, not much bigger than my home county here in New York. So when someone has a family tree filled with last names I know well, we're probably distant cousins.

Discovering that one marriage from long ago that connects you to your leads will be tough. It'll take a lot of time. You'll need to examine a ton of documents.

That's why you must follow the first rule: Enjoy the search! If you're not pursuing this mystery because it gives you pleasure, you may as well skip it.

To work with my possible relatives, I ask for details at their grandparent and great grandparent level. What names and dates do they have?

Last year I downloaded every available vital record from my ancestors' four Italian towns. Now I'm branching out. I'm downloading a neighboring town and looking at still another.

With these document collections on my computer, I can try to find birth and marriage records for the names I know. Then I can look for their siblings' births.

I can piece together that family while checking familiar names against my own family tree. If I'm very lucky, I may find a set of marriage documents that includes death records.

In Italy in the 1800s, if a couple married and any of their four parents were dead, that death certificate was included in the marriage records. If either of their fathers was dead and their grandfathers were also dead, the documents include the grandfathers' death certificates. You know what's on their grandfathers' death certificates? Their grandfathers' parents names.

Think about that for a second. A couple's marriage records can give you the names of their great grandparents!

The wider you expand the family of your possible relative, the more likely you are to find a connection. There's a good chance you'll provide them with names and documents they don't have.

Right now I'm searching the documents from that neighboring town because:
  • A contact with my great grandmother's last name has roots there.
  • My first cousin, whose DNA matches him to BOTH of my parents, has roots there.
  • A contact with my first cousin's last name (and ancestors with my maiden name) has roots there and in my grandfather's town.
  • One branch of my father's tree has roots there.
There's a good chance I have some relationship to a big chunk of that neighboring town.

And the search does make me happy. I'm connecting myself to thousands of people across the world.

If you enjoy this hobby, cast a wide net. The genealogy community is a friendly, sharing, welcoming network of people. In the end, we've got more in common than meets the eye.


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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Climbing Up, Down and Across Your Family Tree

Following a Hunch

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

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

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

Finding More Clues

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

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

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

More mind-bending revelations.

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

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

Adding More Facts

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

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

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

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

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


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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Finding New Cousins on Facebook

Have you ever heard of "trolling for cousins" or "fishing for cousins"?

You can use social media like Facebook to find distant cousins. These cousins may have the key to a family tree branch that has you stumped.

There's nothing sinister about it. It's a simple way of gaining an introduction and making a new connection.

The idea is to post a bit of family history that will interest the cousins you know. Tag those cousins in your post and ask a question.

If they don't have the answer, they may tag their cousins from the other side of their family. Engage those cousins in the conversation. Share what you know, and ask them for any details they can offer.

Example 1

Found by accident, I recognized the names!
This week I posted a photo I took of a tombstone. It contains several names I knew—the names of my distant cousins' grandmother's family. Her family is not related to me, but they came from my parents' neighborhood. My dad remembers her fondly. I'm very interested in them, so I've documented them in my family tree.

But there was one name on the tombstone I didn't know. Luckily, one of the cousins I tagged reached out to her cousin from her grandmother's family. He had lots of answers for me, and his elderly mother gave him even more information to share.

Example 2

A while ago I used Google Street View to capture an image of the house in Italy where my grandfather was born. I posted it in a Facebook group dedicated to my grandfather's hometown. My goal was to see if anyone knew who lives there now.

My grandfather's house still stands.
I mentioned my grandfather's last name of Leone. Someone responded that no one with that name lives in town anymore. I replied using the name of a Leone cousin I know, saying that he lives nearby. Then I listed out the names of his siblings. These were names he told me years ago when we first me online.

Two of the siblings I mentioned responded, saying "Here I am!" in Italian. Now I have two more connections to my grandfather's town. I'd like to try to meet them when I visit again.

Facebook is still a place for those dog and baby photos, and that's great! At no other time in history has it been this easy to reconnect with old friends and find unknown relatives.

Remember: Treat any genealogy facts you learn on Facebook, or from someone's own mouth as leads. It's up to you to find the documents that prove the names and dates you may learn from a cousin's cousin.

What documents or photos do you have that someone else can help you better understand?


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