Showing posts with label inspiration. Show all posts
Showing posts with label inspiration. Show all posts

Friday, February 1, 2019

One Simple Strategy to Avoid Genealogy Burnout

Does your family tree ever weigh you down? Here's an easy way to push ahead without getting burned out.

I've been off to the races on my 2019 Genealogy Goals. I completed my 1st goal by mid-January. Now I'm making a serious push on my 2nd goal.

I've finished my 1st genealogy goal of the year, but the 2nd one can get tedious.
I've finished my 1st genealogy goal of the year,
but the 2nd one can get tedious.
I'm excited about how many census forms I've added to my family tree in a short time. Fifty-five in 2 weeks!

But sometimes I get bored. I'll find a census for a big family and think, "Now I've got to add all these facts to all these people." I don't want to stop working on my tree. But it can feel like a grind sometimes.

What's a bored genealogist to do?

Try a New Strategy

I've been using an anti-boredom strategy since I was a girl. I still use it when I'm cleaning the house, shoveling snow, or working at my day job.

The secret is this: Jump from small task to small task and trick your brain into thinking you're on to something new.

For example, when I mow the lawn, I tend to shift directions. Carve out a smaller section to cut. I'm purposely not committing myself to an enormous job. I'm committing to one piece of the job at a time. I'm telling myself I can stop whenever I want to. Then I realize I want to do another section. I go on to complete the larger task, one piece at a time.

Why not apply this strategy to genealogy?

I still encourage you to keep a list of genealogy goals—even if you won't complete them this year. But, to battle any boredom, keep a separate, smaller task list. These tasks are the things you can jump to when your bigger goal is bogging you down.

Last night I was getting discouraged with one family because I couldn't find them in 1910 or 1930. I tried all kinds of search tricks, but they kept hiding from me.

That's when I noticed a problem with some of the images in my family tree. They were missing a date or category, or weren't named in my usual style. I'd detached a few unwanted images, but I'd forgotten to delete them.

I overcame my boredom and frustration by fixing the problems with these 30-something images. It was a mental break. A short, easy task. And I'm so happy they're fixed.

I pressed on and edited the captions for all my photos of grave markers. I wanted them to be consistent, and I could never decide if they were tombstones, gravestones, headstones, or what. So I chose "grave marker" and labelled each photo in the same way. I put the cemetery name in the description. If I had the original URL for the image, I made sure each one said "From the Find-a-Grave website" followed by the URL.

Cleaning up a certain file type in my family tree was a quick break to get me back on track.
Cleaning up a certain file type in my family tree was a quick break to get me back on track.


I keep a list of smaller genealogy tasks I want to finish. They're not lofty enough to be on my annual goals list, so I called them my "Rainy-Day Genealogy List". I could call them my "I'm Bored List":
  • Transcribe my Oct 2018 interview of Mom and Dad (should take an hour or so)
  • Sort out my photo collection, scan the non-digitized ones, and add more to my tree (a weekend job)
  • Capture all entries from my old notebook of Ellis Island immigrants (I don't have to do it all at once)
  • Revisit my brother's old genealogy paper for more facts from Grandpa (a couple of hours, tops)
  • File away everything in my catch-all "gen docs" folder (a bigger task, but easy to break into pieces)
It's Time to Start Your List

You must have similar tasks you'd like to complete. Start your list of boredom busters. Choose one as a mental break when you feel frustrated by a brick wall.

Don't avoid genealogy because one family is driving you crazy. Move on to something simpler for a while. Something you can finish with no obstacles.

Break through that boredom while making your end-product better and better. Your family tree is going to be the tidiest family tree in the neighborhood!

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

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

How to Set Realistic Genealogy Goals for 2019

Love crossing things off your to-do list? Set achievable goals to reach that feeling of satisfaction.

A few days ago, I polished off one more of my 2018 genealogy goals. And while I was working through that task, I realized something very important.

Setting goals for yourself that are entirely possible will make you feel so much better at the end of the year.

Set your 2019 genealogy goals with purpose for a better result.
Set your 2019 genealogy goals with purpose for a better result.
Here's what I mean:

Break It Up

Break big, time-intensive tasks into achievable chunks. Don't put all those chunks on the list.

One of my 2018 genealogy goals was "Log Antenati documents into spreadsheet". My "Antenati documents" are thousands and thousands of Italian vital records. I want to enter all the facts from these documents into an Excel spreadsheet. The spreadsheet will make the entire collection easily searchable and shareable.

I can't possibly reach this goal in a year. In fact, the sheer size of the project tended to keep me away from it.

This project is still important to me, though. So, in 2019 I need to make it more achievable. I can break it up into achievable chunks.

Goal #1: Log the first five years' worth of birth records from each town into spreadsheet.

When I finish that goal, I may move on to the first five years' worth of death records from each town.

Change Expectations

Another of my 2018 genealogy goals was "Find my parents' connection". I discovered from a DNA test that my parents are 3rd or 4th cousins. I basically asked myself to find a needle in a haystack within a certain amount of time.

If your goal involves a ton of research that may lead nowhere, change your expectations. I made a breakthrough on this front in November. (See "The Leeds Method May Have Solved a Big Family Puzzle".) Evidence tells me to look at the last name Pozzuto in the town of Colle Sannita.

I've started adding every Pozzuto baby in my collection of Colle Sannita birth records to my family tree. If the baby's parents aren't already in my family tree, I give them all same profile picture. It's a blue and yellow graphic that says "No Relationship Established". (See "How to Handle the Unrelated People in Your Family Tree".)

So far I've added babies born between 1809 and 1820 and between 1858 and 1860. Sometimes I went further. I found the baby's parents' marriage documents. I've built out some unrelated families to the point where they became related to me.

One of these families will hold the key. But I don't know when I'll find that connection, so I have to change my expectations.

Goal #2: Enter every Pozzuto baby from Colle Sannita into my family tree.

Get Specific

The rest of my unfinished 2018 genealogy goals were too vague. They had no specific plan:
  • Verify the upstate New York railyard story and the Agostino fight stories
  • Find out Antonio Saviano's position in that Italian-American society
  • Figure out the Muollo connection
That first one contains two completely different goals (bad idea). They both involve finding out the truth about the flimsiest of rumors. I have done a few newspaper searches, but honestly? I don't have enough information to go on.

Rumor #1 says that my great grandfather and his brothers-in-law moved away from their railroad jobs in New York because of an accident. One of their sons was playing in the railyard without permission. He had an accident and lost some toes.

Goal #3: Find a resource for Erie Railroad documents during the years my great grandfather worked in New York state.

Rumor #2 is even flimsier. It says my other great grandfather's brother Agostino had to leave the Bronx and flee to Illinois. He either witnessed or took part in a fight that may have left one man dead.

Goal #4: Gather every available document of Agostino's time spent in the Bronx to figure out the year he moved to Illinois.

The second vague goal involves a ribbon pinned to the chest of my great great grandfather in his coffin. I learned that the ribbon is from a mutual aid society in which Italian immigrants helped out newer immigrants to America. But I haven't been able to find out any more than that.

Goal #5: Search 1920–1925 New York City newspapers for any mention of the mutual aid society to which my great great grandfather belonged.

The third vague goal is about my great great grandmother Maria Luigia's last name of Muollo. A Muollo family from her town came to settle in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania, with Maria Luigia's nephew. I want to find the exact relationship between him and my great great grandmother.

A specific approach to this goal would be to log all the Muollo babies and gather all the documents for the Muollo who came to America. I'll see where that gets me.

Goal #6: Log every Muollo baby born in Sant'Angelo a Cupolo into my family tree, and find all available documents for the one who emigrated to Pennsylvania.

Keep It Interesting

I've listed six genealogy goals for myself in this article. But I'm not sure I'll put them all on my list. I want to keep it interesting, challenging and fun so that I'll do it. Goals #1 and 2 above are definitely going on the list. I'm deeply involved in these now, and I want to see them through.

Goal #6 above is also interesting to me, and I don't think it'll take a lot of time.

But I want to keep thinking about this. I want to add a goal or two that will teach me more about genealogy, or get me excited each time I sit down to work on them.

As you begin thinking about your list of 2019 genealogy goals, remember to:
  • Break It Up
  • Change Expectations
  • Get Specific
  • Keep It Interesting
Set yourself up for success and you'll be eager to work toward completing each goal. Happy 2019!

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

Friday, November 30, 2018

4 Keys to Make You a Better Genealogist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facts and Sources

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

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

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

Finishing

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

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

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

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

Sharing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

How Many of These 5 Gifts Does Genealogy Research Give You?

Do people have a hard time understanding your interest in genealogy? They don't realize all the gifts it gives you.

We get into genealogy for different reasons and with different expectations. I met a man who thought after 3 clicks on an unsourced genealogy website that he was related to Adam and Eve. That's it. I win genealogy.

Others are eager to learn about where their ancestors came from. What was their family name before their grandfather changed it? Can they find living cousins they never knew before? Why did their ancestors leave their homeland?

Our motivations can change over time, too. I've learned from my research that all my ancestors came from a compact geographical area—my mom's side and my dad's side. Then DNA testing showed me my parents are not-too-distant cousins. That's an important motivation for me now.

My genealogy research gives me an appreciation for my lost culture.
My genealogy research gives me an appreciation for my lost culture.
Give the following genealogy research gifts some thought. Then, get ready to fire back some knowledge at the next person who says you're wasting time on your family tree.

1. My genealogy research gives me an appreciation for my lost culture.

As the grandchild of immigrants, I was raised in a much different culture than my ancestors. Most immigrants to America tried their best to assimilate and blend in. Their cultural influence diminishes with each new generation.

Your genealogy research teaches you about the names, places and customs of the old country. It makes you wish your ancestors were still here to tell you all about it.

2. My genealogy research inspires me to visit to my true homeland.

The first time I set foot in my grandfather's hometown in Italy, the earth moved. I felt a sense of belonging. I loved everything I saw. Every stone, garden and poppy. After that visit I spent time studying the language and preparing for my next visit. I've been there a few times, and going back is all I can think about.

3. My genealogy research urges me to learn more about history.

My maternal grandfather was a prisoner of war in Italy during World War I. As a prisoner, he had to eat rats to stay alive. But he never told us anything more.

I researched Italian army battles where prisoners were taken. I narrowed down my search to a particular battle where an astonishing number of prisoners were captured and sent to one of two camps. That was my theory of what happened to my grandfather.

During my last visit to Italy, I went to the archives to see my grandfather's military record. Imagine my tears when I saw for myself that he really was in the battle I had guessed. And they sent him to one of those two prison camps.

Who inspires your genealogy research?
We each have our own reasons for taking up this hobby.
4. My genealogy research has made me more analytical.

Newcomers to this hobby haven't yet seen how easily you can follow the wrong lead. How quickly you can put the wrong family into your family tree.

These mistakes can still happen to us after years of research. But with each mistake, we learn what to look for, and what to look out for. We become more analytical and keep an open mind.

Those skills will spill over into your everyday, non-genealogy life.

5. My genealogy research has made me more organized and efficient.

As a contractor, I've always worked for more than one company at a time. I like to take the skills I learn on one job and apply them to the other. I get better at my job and both companies benefit. Everybody wins.

Genealogy has become like another client to me. The tricks I learn with Excel spreadsheets on the job, I now apply to my genealogy work. I take the Photoshop skills I develop while enhancing document images and apply them to my paying clients. And my organization skills are always improving.

It seems clear to me these gifts are the reason you find so many helpful amateur genealogists on Facebook paying it forward. People are always ready to help you with a difficult search. Or to translate a birth record. Or to recommend where to go next in your search.

We're ready to help the next genealogist because we're grateful for all our gifts.

You think I'm wasting my time with family tree research? You clearly don't see what's going on here.


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

Friday, June 15, 2018

Genealogy is the Joy of Names

Yesterday I used a set of 1819 marriage records to make a big discovery. An acquaintance I assumed is my relation to me is in fact my 6th cousin.

He and I share a set of 5th great grandparents. I know their names, their approximate years of birth, and some of their children's names. But that's all.

A word cloud of my closest relatives.
A word cloud of my closest relatives and the frequency of names.
My ancestors all came from little hilltop towns in rural Southern Italy. I visited their towns last month and got a better feel for these places. My ancestors lived simple lives that were basically undocumented and unexceptional.

That means I'm not going to find a letter from my ancestor to the king. My ancestor wasn't the mayor of the town or instrumental in a revolution. My ancestor's name and exploits weren't in the newspaper.

Without the possibility of a direct line of ancestors leading to the King of England, why do I do it?

Why do I spend countless hours gathering the documents that tie me to such distant cousins?

For me, it's the sheer joy of names. I adore all the names I find in my vast collection of birth, marriage and death records. They're repeated over and over because of the Italian tradition of naming children after their grandparents.

Although each of my ancestors' towns are close to one another as the crow flies, each town has a core set of surnames. For example, my maiden name barely exists in my grandfather's hometown anymore. But people in the town recognized it and responded to me warmly.

It's some of my closest last names that enable me to assume someone is my relative. If their name is Pozzuto, for example, and their ancestors came from the town of Colle Sannita, we've got to be cousins. It's an exciting challenge to try to find that exact relationship.

Some purists may look down on me as nothing more than a "name collector". But I love collecting those names. I've learned a little bit about life in my ancestral hometowns in centuries past. I can't expect to find much more.

Here are two specific things I learned about my ancestors' lives in Italy:
My grandfather's one-page military record told me volumes.
My grandfather's one-page
military record told me volumes.
  1. My grandfather told us he was a prisoner of war with the Italian Army during World War I. He had to eat rats to survive. Last month I photographed his military record at the archives in his home province.

    Now I know:
    • when he was captured
    • the name of the battle
    • where he was imprisoned
    • how long he was imprisoned.
    That's a lot of detail in a few lines on a page.
  2. My great grandfather was rumored to be an Episcopal minister. An usual thing in a Roman Catholic country. It was only by visiting my cousins in Italy (his granddaughters) that I learned the story.

    This is not written anywhere. And even my cousins have never seen a photograph of their grandparents.

    My great grandfather Francesco and his brother-in-law were living and working in the Bronx, New York. It was one of Francesco's many trips to America to earn money. One day he passed by a church in the Bronx. He heard singing and loud voices, and he felt drawn to go inside.

    This was the type of church where people are so overwhelmed, so deeply moved by the presence of God, they begin speaking in tongues.

    Francesco brought his new faith back home to Colle Sannita and started his own church. His great grandchildren hold prayer services and follow Francesco's teachings to this day.
Those two stories won't get me on TV, but they're all I have so far.

Meanwhile, I'm more than happy to indulge my love of Italian names. I collect the siblings of my ancestors and their spouses and children. I love seeing the names get passed down. My 4th great grandfather was Francesco Iamarino. My great grandfather was Francesco Iamarino. My father is Frank Iamarino.

So call me a name collector. I am a name collector. These names "are" my ancestral hometowns, and I love them dearly.


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

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Lessons Learned from My 3 Trips to the Old Country

Each time I visit my ancestors' hometowns in Italy, I get a bit more adventurous.

Trip #1

Trip #1 to Grandpa's hometown.
Trip #1 to Grandpa's hometown.
In 2003 my husband and I went on our honeymoon. We planned a trip to quite a few of the most famous sites in Italy, from north (Lake Como) to south (Sorrento). I'd only just begun digging into my family history.

While staying at a cliffside hotel in Sorrento, home of limoncello, we took a day trip to the city of Benevento. Benevento is the province where every one of my ancestors (save one) came from.

We arrived in Benevento without a real plan. But we found out we could take a bus to my grandfather's hometown of Colle Sannita. So we hopped on.

During the ride, we learned the last bus back to the Benevento train station was leaving 45 minutes after our arrival. The bus was filled with college students who were all trying to be helpful. Some suggested we stay in the beautiful hotel in Colle Sannita called Ca' del Ré.

But all our stuff was in the hotel in Sorrento. So we resigned ourselves to a quick walk through town, and we headed back to the bus. We missed that bus because we got trapped in a bank that was in the midst of a power outage. I've written that improbable tale elsewhere.

The bottom line is, I got only a taste of my roots.

Trip #2

Two years later we planned a second trip to Italy. I'd made contact with a cousin in New York whose sisters still lived in Grandpa's hometown of Colle Sannita. We worked out the details so they were expecting my arrival.

Trip #2 to where Grandpa actually lived.
Trip #2 to where Grandpa actually lived.
My beautiful cousins made me feel like royalty. One cousin brought me from house to house, meeting dozens of cousins along the way. She translated for me when I couldn't understand or find the words. I kept hearing her say "due anni fa", meaning "two years ago". She told everyone how I'd tried to visit the town two years ago, but didn't know where my cousins lived.

The last person we visited that night was my grandfather's first cousin Libera. She wanted me to visit her daughter and two grandchildren the next day. Each one owned a restaurant in the city of Benevento. We met them and spent another entire day being treated with love and generosity.

That's the dream, right? To go to your ancestor's hometown, meet all the relatives, share stories and feel like you belong to the family. It was heaven.

Trip #3

Trip #3, soaking in Grandpa's hometown
Trip #3, soaking in Grandpa's hometown
Earlier this month my husband and I took another Italian vacation. This one centered on my ancestors' hometowns in the Benevento province. We spent three nights in the very same Ca' del Ré (House of the King) hotel the students on the bus recommended in 2003. I'd learned on trip #2 that the owner is the relative of my cousin's husband. Small world. Or perhaps small town.

We visited my cousins with the restaurants again and had a lovely time. We visited my cousin's home and talked about their grandparents—my great grandparents. We walked through the heart of town. The very same streets I'd looked at on Google Street View time and time again came to life beneath my feet.

Now, on the third try, I've seen it. I've gotten a glimpse of my life if my grandfathers and half of my great grandparents hadn't come to America.

You know what? I liked what I saw.

I wouldn't have the same career, maintaining corporate websites from home with my high-speed internet connection. But I would be there among ancient Roman relics, homes that dated back hundreds of years, and a breathtaking countryside.

If you can make the journey to any of your ancestors' hometowns in the "old country", be sure to slow down. Walk through the center of town and observe the people. Say hello to them. You may find they're more friendly and courteous to strangers than you're used to at home.

I'm already thinking about what trip #4 might be like. My goal? To stay longer. To live there for two or three months at a time. To become a familiar face in the piazza. To honor my ancestors.


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Friday, May 4, 2018

Walking in Your Ancestors' Footsteps

Fifteen years ago my husband and I went on a dream-come-true honeymoon. There was only one place in the world I wanted to go. Italy.

Sforza Castle in Milano
Sforza Castle in Milano, 2015. We'd been here before, but there was more to see.
He wanted to go, too. So with help from Rick Steves' travel book, we planned a jam-packed site seeing tour. It flowed from Lake Como up north to Sorrento down south.

With the cliffside Hotel Minerva in Sorrento as our base for a few days, we took a day-trip to Pompeii. Did you know you can use Google Street View to "walk" through Pompeii now?

The next day we took a train to the city of Benevento. From there we would figure out how to get to the rural town of Colle Sannita. This was going to be my first time setting foot in the town where my grandfather was born.

I later documented our misadventure getting stranded in a Colle Sannita bank during a power failure.

Two years later we tried it again. We planned out a second tour of Italy that included Milano and the Tuscan town of Cortona. That was the setting of "Under the Tuscan Sun".

But this time I'd made contact with my dad's first cousins in Colle Sannita. My cousin Maria took me from house to house to meet cousins galore. It was everything I'd hoped for!

Pizzeria Romana in Benevento, Italy
Best pizza ever. By my cousins.
Our last stop of the night was the home of Libera, my grandfather's first cousin. He left for America the year she was born. But she, and everyone I met, knew who my grandfather and my American-born father were.

The next day we visited Libera's daughter and two grandchildren. Each owns a restaurant in Benevento. Her grandson and I had a long conversation about our shared ancestors, the Pilla family.

I can't imagine a more enjoyable, welcoming group of relatives—many of whom had no idea their American cousin was coming to visit that day.

My husband and I took trip in 2015 that included some time in northern Italy: Cinque Terre and Milano. After an unforgettable week in France, we experienced one of Italy's infamous train strikes. We left France and were stuck on an Italian train platform with tourists from around the world.

It was another adventure. Some extra time and extra money, but hey. We experienced an Italian train strike.

So here we are in 2018. Planning our fourth trip to my beloved ancestral Italy. This visit will begin and end in Rome, and include a second stay in one of our favorite places—Siena.

But the main focus of this trip is my cousins and all four of my ancestral hometowns. I want to visit all the cemeteries again. I want to go into the churches where priests baptized and married my ancestors. I want to walk past their former homes and spend time in the piazzas.

If my grandfathers and my grandmothers' parents hadn't emigrated to America, I would be an Italian.

On this trip, I want to get a taste of what the Italian version of me might have been like. I'll let you know what I find out.


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

Friday, February 16, 2018

Taking Refuge in Your Family History Research

There it is. My happy place.
Genealogy: My escape to a better place and time.

I started this blog to go to my happy place. Genealogy gives me endless satisfaction and an escape from everything bad.

It's hard to concentrate today, though. There's too much bad news and sadness to ignore.

So let's think about why we love genealogy.

It's a neverending puzzle where every piece has meaning to us

Each of us has a ton of ancestors:
  • 4 grandparents
  • 8 great grandparents
  • 16 2nd great grandparents
  • 32 3rd great grandparents
  • 64 4th great grandparents
  • and let's jump up to 4,096 10th great grandparents
That's a lot of puzzle pieces to find! Keep in mind your numbers may vary a little if any cousins married. For example, my paternal grandparents were 3rd cousins, so they share a branch of the family tree.

It helps us imagine our ancestors' lives

I learned some concrete facts about my ancestors' lives by examining thousands of vital records from their towns:
  • the average age at which they married.
  • how many babies they had.
  • how quickly they remarried when their spouse died.
  • the kinds of work they did.
  • how many babies were born out of wedlock.
It helps us understand how we came to be

When you fill in your grandparent chart with generations of your ancestors' names, one thing becomes clear. Thousands of people had to marry one specific person and have one specific child for you to be born!

It's fun to solve those mysteries

Mystery 1: My family always wondered why my father's parents had the same last name. We knew it wasn't a common name. But they never told anyone the reason why.

Genealogy research led me to Francesco Iamarino born in 1784 in Italy. He was the 2nd great grandfather to both my grandmother and my grandfather.

Mystery 2: At my mother's birth, the doctor asked my grandfather, "What are you naming this baby?" He answered "Mariangela"—his mother's name.

The problem is, I found my great grandmother's 1856 birth record, and she was named Marianna. She had an older sister Mariangela who died as a little girl, but she was Marianna. Why didn't my grandfather say "Marianna"?

Some more genealogy research led me to that answer, too. My great grandmother had five children. On some of their birth records she is Marianna and on others she is Mariangela.

Mariangela may have been her preferred name. My grandfather may never have known his mother's name was actually Marianna. So he proudly named my mother for her: Mariangela.

My Happy Place

If I could spend all my time doing genealogy, I would. We all deserve happiness. May your family history research bring you as much joy as mine brings me.


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

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Why Genealogists Treasure Each Family Member

I know exactly when it happened. When I became that person who cries over a sappy TV commercial. Who can't hold back her own tears when someone else is crying. It was when I lost a close family member to a tragic accident when she was a toddler.

This little boy's spirit is imprinted on his siblings, my cousins.
I've added thousands of ancestors to my family tree by documenting every family in my ancestors' small Italian hometowns. That means I've entered death records for lots and lots of babies. Each one breaks my heart!

This doesn't describe every genealogist. But I suspect you feel an emotional connection to the relatives in your family tree.

Think about your favorite genealogy TV shows. Doesn't each one showcase a heart-wrenching connection to previously unknown ancestors?

Isn't that genuine emotional connection a part of the human condition? And isn't it the reason we do our family research?

I went to a funeral yesterday, and his death was a tragic loss for everyone gathered there. I want to focus on all that went into creating the man I knew. His ancestors, their emigration from Italy, their struggles to raise their families and carry on.

We are, as genealogists, paying tribute to the lives of each one of our ancestors. We're enriching our own spirits as well as those of our cousins.

You're discovering all the ancestors who made you exactly the person you are today. You're paying tribute to the people who touch your heart each time you see their names.

And if you think that's a waste of time, you don't know what family is.


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