Showing posts with label maiden name. Show all posts
Showing posts with label maiden name. Show all posts

Friday, April 5, 2019

4 Steps to Break Through Your Brick Wall

To paraphrase "The Matrix", only try to realize the truth. There is no wall.

Every genealogy fan has at least one brick wall that drives them crazy. And we all want to know the secret: How do I break through my brick wall?

Since everyone's brick wall is different, we've got to take a few steps before we can start to break through.

1. Define a Specific Problem

The first step in breaking through a brick wall is clearly defining one specific problem.

When I was starting to build my family tree, I got pretty far on my dad's side. But his mother's mother—Maria Rosa Caruso—quickly became my brick wall. I couldn't get anywhere on her line.

Is that when we decide something is a brick wall? When we can't move beyond this one person?

Not long ago, I couldn't even find her parents' names. Look at her branch now.
Not long ago, I couldn't even find her parents' names. Look at her branch now.
You can define the problem by stating one key fact you're missing. What is it that's holding you back?

My Brick Wall Definition: I can't find Maria Rosa Caruso on a ship manifest because I don't know her hometown in Italy.

My definition isn't "I can't fill out her branch of my family tree". It's smaller. It's the next step I need to take but can't. I need to find her coming to America, but I can't positively identify her without her hometown.

2. Build on What You Can Find

Many years ago, a cousin-in-law found me on an Italian genealogy message board. Her husband is also the great grandchild of Maria Rosa Caruso. But he had the advantage of growing up with her and the Ohio part of my family.

My new-found relatives told me the name of Maria Rosa's hometown: Pescolamazza. (See what to do when your hometown isn't on the map.)

Now I could find her on a ship manifest. And I learned that she came to America—4 months before marrying my great grandfather—to join her brother Giuseppe. So I searched for Giuseppe, too.

I began to piece together several Caruso siblings and the places where they lived. Some of the siblings' ship manifests told me their father's name. My great great grandfather was Francesco Saverio Caruso.

3. Compare Available Documents

It was Maria Rosa's brothers' documents that gave me clues to my great great grandmother's name.

One record transcribed their mother's name as Maria L. Gilardo. Another record transcribed her last name as Girandiu. My great uncle Giuseppe Caruso's death certificate Americanized his mother's name as Marie Gerard. (See This Expanded Resource Provided an Elusive Maiden Name.)

When I compared the 3 versions of the name—Gilardo, Girandiu, Gerard—I had a hunch her name was Girardi.

That felt like a victory, but I still didn't know for sure.

4. Seek Out New Documents

Then a glorious day arrived. The Italian genealogy archives website (Antenati) posted the vital records from Pescolamazza. I found my great grandmother Maria Rosa's 1880 birth record, and the surprise birth record of her twin brother.

This revelation came about 14 years after my search began.

Her birth record confirmed, finally, my great great grandmother's name: Maria Luigia Girardi. I admit, I got lucky when those Italian vital records from the town went online.

Her hometown was the one brick that brought down the wall.
Her hometown was the one brick that brought down the wall.
You can chip away at your brick wall by breaking it into smaller problems.

"I can't get beyond this one relative," you say.

What clues can you find about where they came from? Can you discover more about their relatives whose names you do know? Which documents might hold a clue? Immigration records, death records, wills, applications, pension forms?

If you can knock out enough individual bricks, your brick wall can collapse. And what a wonderful mess that will be.

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Friday, January 4, 2019

5 Ways to Find Your Female Relative's Married or Maiden Name

Are lots of distant female cousins dead ends in your family tree? Here's some help.

How great is it when an elderly relative can tell you the married names of all the women in your family tree? Or the maiden names of all the in-laws? These women are in your tree, but your research on them is stuck.

You have to be more of a detective to find out who those young ladies married. Or what their maiden name was. Here are a few tools to help you find out.

Using examples from my family tree, I'll show you how these 5 resources led me to missing married or maiden names.

1. Census Sheets

Make sure you search for every possible census form for the family you're researching. Sometimes an elderly parent will come to live with the family. If that parent is the head of household's in-law, they'll have the maiden name of the head of household's wife.

I have one family in the 1940 census that has the man's mother-in-law living with him. Because of her, I now know the wife's maiden name is Abbate. When Mrs. Abbate was younger and her husband was alive, her parents lived with them. Because of that earlier census, I found out her maiden name and married name were both Abbate. (See "3 Unique, Key Facts about Every U.S. Federal Census".)

Check the census to see if her parents are living with her.
Check the census to see if her parents are living with her.

2. U.S. Social Security Indexes

Catherine Theresa Leone, born in 1917, was my mother's 2nd cousin. I found her in the U.S. and New York State Censuses for 1920, 1925, 1930, and 1940. She was only 23 in 1940, so it isn't surprising that she was still living with her parents.

Dead end, right? No! A simple search brought up her record in the U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index. I know it's my Catherine Theresa Leone because the index lists both her parents' names. They match what I already knew.

It turns out Catherine Theresa died at age 76 and did not go by another other name. She never married. I found another record to support these facts. The U.S. Social Security Death Index has the exact same birth and death date for her. (See "This Expanded Resource Provided an Elusive Maiden Name".)

3. Marriage Indexes

I never knew my Aunt Sophie's maiden name. Without her maiden name, I can't find her parents or siblings.

Fortunately, almost all my recent ancestors married in New York City. I can use the Italian Genealogical Group's online database to search for my uncle's marriage to Aunt Sophie. I entered his name into the Groom's Index and found him. The listing gives me the marriage date and certificate number in Manhattan.

When I click the Bride Lookup link, there's Aunt Sophie's real name: Serafina Eufemio. With that name, I was able to find Aunt Sophie earlier in her life, living with her parents and siblings.

Search marriage indexes to find out who she married...or who he married.
Search marriage indexes to find out who she married...or who he married.

4. Family Obituaries

My aunt's sister-in-law died in 2004. I knew only a little about my uncle's family. I knew his sister's first name, that she was born in Italy, and the name of one of her sons. Her obituary, as short as it was, told me several facts about her. I learned:
  • She moved from New York to Florida in 1974, but she died in New York.
  • She married twice, and had converted to Judaism for her 2nd husband.
  • Her 2 sons' names, and their different last names.
  • The married name of her 2nd husband's daughter.
  • Her sister's married name. (That's my uncle's other sister, so this tells me the maiden names of her 2 daughters.)
  • Her 2nd husband died before her.
A more detailed obituary can tell you the names of siblings and their spouses, children and their spouses, and grandchildren, too.

Even if the woman you're researching is still alive somewhere, you might find an obituary for one of her parents or siblings.

5. DNA Matches and their Trees

Emma Leone, born in 1906, was also my mom's 2nd cousin. She was living with her parents on census forms through 1930. It was a DNA match—Emma's son—who told me who and when Emma married. With her married name, I was able to find her Social Security death records. These contained her birth date, which matches the 1906 birth index listing for Emma Leone.

Because my DNA match (my 3rd cousin) told me her married name, I found her and my new cousin in the 1940 census, too. (See "Bringing in Your Genealogy Harvest".)

One big caveat to finding facts in another person's tree: That's not proof. You must find documents to support the details you find in anyone else's tree.

An obituary tends to be more reliable, but may contain errors. My own first cousins didn't know our grandmother's maiden name. They had it wrong in their mother's obituary. When my sister-in-law wrote her father's obituary, she knew no one's names but her aunt and grandparents.

Whatever evidence you do find, take it as a clue, but don't take it for granted. All the clues I've mentioned in this article were details I was able to support with other evidence.

Don't give up on the ladies. They're the reason we're all here.

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Friday, August 31, 2018

How to Make the Most of an Intriguing Genealogy Lead

How I turned a random lead into a documented relative.

I'm lucky to have such an uncommon maiden name. Nearly everyone named Iamarino can trace their roots back to the same small town in Italy.

Recently, an Iamarino from Brazil went to visit our Italian ancestral hometown. She visited 3 months after I did. I saw her photos on Facebook and recognized all the places I'd seen on my trip.

I've known about this particular Brazilian Italian cousin for 10 years. A mutual friend told me about her ancestry. Seeing her photos reminded me how much I want to learn about the Iamarinos who left Italy for Brazil.

That's why I'm diving into some Brazilian records on FamilySearch.org. I've chosen a database called "Brazil, São Paulo Immigration Cards, 1902–1980". I've entered only the last name Iamarino in the search area.

Document 1: Immigration Card

There's only 1 result, but it's intriguing to me. The photo of this 80-year-old widowed man, whose mother was named Iamarino, is calling to me.

A search for my maiden name brought up this man. What more can I learn about him?
A search for my maiden name brought up this man. What more can I learn about him?
I don't read Portuguese, but some things are clear. Miguel Basiloni is an illiterate farmer who was born in Colle Sannita (misspelled on the card) on 2 July 1895. His parents were Antonio Basiloni and Maria Iamarino.

My experience with Colle Sannita records tells me "Miguel's" real last name is Basilone, ending in an e. And I'm sure his given name is Michele, the Italian version of Miguel.

So I'm going to search my collection of Colle Sannita vital records and my family tree. Let's see what I can learn about this man.

Document 2: His Birth Record

The 1895 birth record of the man in the photo.
The 1895 birth record of the man in the photo.
Michele Basilone was actually born on 1 July 1895 in Colle Sannita. His father Antonio was a 26-year-old farmer. His mother was Marianna (not Maria) Iamarino. Let's go find his parents' births, shall we?

I'll search the birth indexes for Antonio Basilone and Marianna Iamarino in and around 1869.

Document 3: His Father's Birth Record

There is no Antonio Basilone in the 1869 index, but there's a Libero Antonio Pasquale Basilone. I've got to take a look at him.

Michele's father's birth record includes his marriage to Michele's mother.
Michele's father's birth record includes his marriage to Michele's mother.
There's the proof I need in the column of his birth record. Libero Antonio Pasquale Basilone married Marianna Iamarino on 28 August 1890. Now I have his:
  • Birth date: 15 May 1869
  • Father's name: Michele, the son of the late Pietrangelo
  • Mother's name: Andreana Paolucci, daughter of Giovanni
Document 4: His Mother's Birth Record

I didn't have to go far to find Marianna Iamarino's birth record in 1870. Finally I have a connection! Marianna's parents are already in my family tree. She is my 3rd cousin 3 times removed.

That makes Michele, the somber old man in the photo, my 4th cousin twice removed.

Michele's mother's side of the family was already in my family tree.
Michele's mother's side of the family was already in my family tree.
I'm a little worried because Marianna's birth record doesn't mention her marriage. So I'll keep checking the surrounding years. It's possible that the Marianna born in 1870 died, and another was born and married Libero Antonio.

My cousin who went to Brazil.
My cousin who went to Brazil.
OK, there are no more Mariannas, so I believe I've got my gal. Marianna was not a common name in this town. Ironically, it was my great grandmother's name, but she's from a neighboring town.

More Documents

I'm sure I can find Michele's siblings by searching the birth records starting in 1891.

I may be able to find Michele's marriage record, but only if he married after 1930. There are marriage records available from 1931–1942.

Every evening, with the Yankees playing on the TV, I sit here at my computer. I pick a genealogy project for the evening. Michele was an unexpected project that I'm feeling really good about.

Michele Basilone looks very sturdy and solid for 80 years old. I'm happy to see his face and know that my first search in the Brazilian genealogy records gave me my 4th cousin twice removed. Olá, Miguel.


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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

How One Man's In-Laws Led to My Own Birth

It began with a 1900 ship manifest showing my relative, Giuseppe Caruso, on line one. I found this record very early in my family history research.

This ship manifest has a lot more to offer than my great uncle.
My second great uncle and another man had the same brother-in-law. Hmmm.
Giuseppe was my great grandmother's brother. I was looking for evidence that would lead to her ship manifest. This was a solid lead. It confirmed two facts: Giuseppe came from the town of Pescolamazza, Italy, and he was going to Elmira, New York. Those facts we enough to make me feel I had the right Giuseppe Caruso.

Before I filed the document away, I noticed the passenger on line two. Nicola Capozza was also from Pescolamazza. He was also going to Elmira, New York. But here's the curious part. Both Giuseppe and Nicola said they were joining their brother-in-law Michele Castelluzzo.

That's intriguing. I didn't know who Nicola Capozza was, but he and my great grandmother's brother shared a brother-in-law.

Skip ahead several years. I ordered the marriage certificate for my great grandparents from the state of Ohio. At that point I didn't know the maiden name of Maria Rosa's mother. This marriage certificate could be just what I needed!

My great grandparents' marriage certificate has a big clue for me.
What could I learn from the witnesses to my great grandparents' marriage?
If you've been dabbling in genealogy a while, you know how often the clue you need the most is the one that's missing. That's the case with this marriage certificate.

My great grandfather's parents' names are there. But I knew their names already. For the parents of the bride, it says "Francesco de Benevento" for her father. Well, her name is Caruso, and they were from the province of Benevento, so someone mistakenly wrote "Francesco from Benevento". No harm done. It's her mother's name that's the problem. All it says is Maria Luigia. No last name!

Still fuming, I turned my attention to the back of the marriage certificate. The witnesses to my great grandparents' wedding were Nicola Cappocci and Nicoletta Cappocci. I figured they were a married couple who knew my family. I wanted to know more about them.

There was a chance Cappocci was a misspelling since these were not signatures. Several wild-card searches later, I determined Nicola Cappocci was Nicola Capozza who shared a brother-in-law with my second great uncle, Giuseppe Caruso.

I found Nicola and his wife Nicoletta in the 1905 New York census. They were living with Giuseppe Caruso and his family. Then I found a 1909 ship manifest with Nicola coming to Susquehanna, Pennsylvania. Giuseppe Caruso lived there at the time. But Nicola's wife Nicoletta was back in Pescolamazza.

Next I found Pescolamazza birth records for Nicola Capozza and Nicoletta Martino on the Antenati website. But I hadn't tied Nicola and Giuseppe to that shared that brother-in-law.

The connection—not surprisingly—came from all the intermarrying of families in small Italian towns in the those times.

Capozza was the key.

The Capozza family was the key to a puzzle.
That the Capozza siblings' mother was also a Caruso is making my head spin.
Nicola Capozza's sister Marianna married my Giuseppe Caruso. So Nicola and Giuseppe, travelling together in 1900, were brothers-in-law. There were eight Capozza siblings. One of the girls, Caterina Capozza, married—wait for it—Michele Castelluzzo.

Michele came to America around 1891 and lived in Elmira, New York. There was plenty of railroad work, so Michele sent for his brothers-in-law. His wife's brother Nicola came to work. His wife's sister Marianna's husband Giuseppe Caruso came to work.

Giuseppe Caruso brought over most of his siblings. It's a safe bet that Giuseppe met my great grandfather, Pasquale Iamarino, working there in the Elmira railyard. He liked Pasquale enough to suggest that he marry Maria Rosa Caruso, who was still in Italy.

In July 1906 Maria Rosa came to join her brother in Elmira. Four months later, she married Pasquale Iamarino.

Every piece of evidence adds to the rich tapestry of our ancestors' lives. When I first saw that name of the shared brother-in-law, I didn't know he was significant. But if Michele Castelluzzo hadn't gone to work for the railroad in Elmira, New York, my great grandparents would never have married.

In fact, if Giuseppe Caruso hadn't married a Capozza, the Caruso family and the Iamarino family may never have met.

You have to marvel at how much luck and happenstance it take for you to be born.


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Friday, September 29, 2017

6 Places to Find Your Ancestor's Maiden Name

Maria Rosa Caruso and family
Without her mother's maiden name,
I couldn't build my great grandmother's family tree.
What was your biggest disappointment when you began your family tree research?

The 1890 U.S. Census went up in flames.

Yeah, that's a tough one. What else?

Tracing female ancestors is so hard without a maiden name.

For sure. But unlike the 1890 census, you can find maiden names.

Here are some of the genealogy resources that can provide your ancestor's maiden name. You may not be able to get your hands on some of these. Others may not exist for your ancestor.

Any one of these resources may hold the key to unlocking another generation in your family tree.
  1. Birth, Marriage, Death Certificates—These documents should contain your ancestor's maiden name. If you can't find them, branch out. Her maiden name may be on her children's birth, marriage, and death records. If you find different versions of her maiden name, weigh your evidence. Is the oldest-recorded document the most accurate? Do you trust the spelling you've found in 3 places more than the unique spellings?
  2. Ship Manifest—In some cultures a woman keeps her maiden name for life. If you can find your ancestor's immigration record, you may find her maiden name. If she is not from such a culture, did she emigrate before marrying? To locate her without knowing her maiden name, search with the information you have:
    • her first name and age
    • her hometown
    • her year of immigration
  3. Census Forms—Decades ago, multiple generations lived in one household. If you can find your ancestor with her husband and children, see who else is living with or near them. If there is a mother-in-law or brother-in-law in the home, you may have found your ancestor's maiden name. If there is a family next door whose first names match the known siblings of your ancestor, they may be her family.
  4. Passport Application—Your male ancestor's passport application can tell you a lot about his wife and children. This is especially true if the family was travelling together. You might discover each person's full name, date and place of birth, and the wife's maiden name. Plus, their family photo is priceless! To learn more about this resource, please see Your Family Tree Needs Your Ancestor's Passport Application.
  5. Naturalization Papers—Many of our ancestors who came to America had no intention of ever leaving. They officially declared their intention to become a citizen. They filed a petition for naturalization. If all went well, they became U.S. citizens. Each step of the naturalization process generated paperwork. If you find that paperwork, you can learn dates and places of birth, the applicant's father's name, and a woman's maiden name.
  6. U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index—Several months ago I wrote about discovering my great great grandmother's maiden name with this database. She didn't have a Social Security Number. It was her son's record that gave me the clue I needed. To learn exactly how I did it, please see This Expanded Resource Provided an Elusive Maiden Name. Now I've been able to get her birth record and more.
    Finally! Her maiden name was Girardi.
Genealogy is a treasure hunt. The more clues you can find for your ancestor, the stronger your family tree will be.

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