Showing posts with label media files. Show all posts
Showing posts with label media files. Show all posts

27 December 2019

7 Steps to Perfect Family Tree Document Placement

Do it right the first time and you'll never need to come back and fix it!


Today let's break down my entire process for putting a document image into my family tree. I like to do it so thoroughly that everything is as perfect as I could ever want it to be.

It comes down to 7 steps. That sounds like a lot, but once you're used to it, it all feels like one step. Here we go:

Step 1: Save a copy of the document image to the proper folder on my computer

Within a Family Tree folder on my computer, I have a folder for each main genealogy document type. My "certificates" folder is enormous because it has all my vital records. I have access to more than a century of vital records from my ancestral Italian hometowns, so they add up fast.

Step 2: Rename the file appropriately

My format is LastnameFirstnameYear or LastnameFirstnameEventYear, depending on the event. If it's a marriage record, I include both groom and bride. If it's a census record, I use the head of household's name. I don't include the year in the file name of a World War I or II draft registration card. We know when the wars happened.

Having a system keeps all your genealogy documents easily accessible.
Having a system keeps all your genealogy documents easily accessible.

Step 3: Crop and enhance the image

I always crop my Italian vital records. Often there are 2 pages in the image and a big black border. If the image is too light or dark, I adjust the contrast to make it easier to read. I don't crop census images and ship manifests because they seem to wind up a larger file size than the original.

Step 4: Add metadata to the image file

I've always added details to an image within Family Tree Maker. Then I realized I can add those details to the image file itself. That way the source information always stays with the image. And it gets pulled into Family Tree Maker.

Plus, I can give the image a title, and it becomes the image's caption in Family Tree Maker. I always begin the title with the year. Then all the images for any one person display chronologically.

Meta data carries into Family Tree Maker, and stays with the image forever.
Meta data carries into Family Tree Maker, and stays with the image forever.

Step 5: Drag the image into Family Tree Maker

After I drag an image into Family Tree Maker, I double-click it. I enter the date that's on the document and choose the image category. (If you add a date in the metadata, it doesn't carry over into Family Tree Maker.)

I don't have photos of my ancestors who never left Italy. So I choose the earliest document I have for them and make it their profile picture.

Step 6: Enter individual facts in Family Tree Maker

Once you add a census image to your family tree software, for example, check it for facts. You might have:
  • street address
  • occupation
  • number of years married
  • place of birth
  • immigration year
  • citizenship information and more
Enter all the facts into your software for each person named on the document. And don't forget to give each fact a source.

Step 7: Add an entry in my document tracker

Once I finish everything in Family Tree Maker, I turn to my document tracker spreadsheet.

For a ship manifest, I enter the year and (doc.)—for document—in the immigration column for each person in the image. The (doc.) tells me I have the image. A year with no (doc.) means I found a mention of an immigration year (on a census sheet usually), but not the document. In that case, I'll add "immigration" to the Need to find column for this person.

For a marriage record, I enter the year and (cert.)—for certificate—in the marriage column for both bride and groom. The (cert.) tells me I have the image. A year with no (cert.) means I found a mention of a marriage year, but not the certificate. In that case, I'll add "marriage" to the Need to find column for both bride and groom.

You may think 7 steps is outrageous or too tedious. But I find it's well worth the effort. I'll never need to double back and fix any images. Or add missing information. And I'll always have a quick reference showing me what I've found and what's missing.

Making these 7 steps a habit means I'll never have to turn any of them into a big cleanup job.

Won't you join me and be a neat-freak, obsessive-compulsive genealogist, too? Imagine how great it would be if everyone with an online tree took this much care with their work!

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Let Me Demolish Your Italian Brick Wall

If you like the idea of discovering all your Italian ancestors but haven't got the time, let me do it. Read more at Italian Ancestry Services.

01 October 2019

Look Over Here! How to Focus for Better Genealogy Results

The genealogy journey is fun. Being efficient makes it productive AND fun.

We all multi-task. Sometimes it's the only way to do the many things we need to do. But when it comes to genealogy, you'll gather more facts and documents if you focus.

Focus on the task at hand. Don't get distracted by what you see along the way. You can make a quick note to come back for that other shiny object later. But for now, do what you're there to do.

Here are 3 examples of how and why you need to keep your focus.

One Name Only

Last weekend I wanted to make progress on one of my 2019 genealogy goals. On my computer I have tons of vital records from my ancestral Italian hometowns.

My 2019 goal is to add every "Pozzuto" baby from one town to my family tree. Why Pozzuto? Because that last name has DNA matches to both my mom and my dad.

The birth records stretch from 1809–1915, and I was up to 1841.

Recently I've been renaming these thousands of files to include the name of the person(s) in the record. For example, I renamed the file

101577322_00004.jpg to
101577322_00004 Teofilo Mascia di Antonio and Salvatore Celestino Pugliese.jpg

With renamed files, I can use Windows File Manager to search for any name. This is fantastic when I need to find out who or when someone married. (Note: I keep the number in the file name so I can easily find the link to the original image online.)

Then I thought, instead of renaming files and moving on, why not ID the Pozzuto babies as I rename the files? So that's what I did. As I rename a file and find a Pozzuto baby, I add them to my tree. In practically no time I renamed every birth record from 1841–1847, stopping for each Pozzuto baby.

I added 36 more Pozzuto babies to my family tree! For now, I ignored every file with my maiden name or my direct ancestors' names. They will be there when I need them. Focus is what's getting this goal done.

Leave that other information alone for now. Focus on your current goal for better results.
Leave that other information alone for now. Focus on your current goal for better results.

Follow That Family

Earlier this year I finished another of my 2019 genealogy goals. I keep a spreadsheet of each document I add to my family tree. (I call it my document tracker.) The last column has a list of what I'm missing for a particular person. It lists the census years I need, their immigration record, marriage date, death, etc.

My goal was to search for each missing census listed as "need to find" on my document tracker.

I accomplished this goal by staying focused. I went through my document tracker's alphabetical list of people. I searched for, and usually found, the missing census forms. I noted them on the spreadsheet, and moved on to the next family.

Even though I still can't find some census sheets, I found most of them. And my goal was carefully worded for success. "Search for all missing census forms in Document tracker." That focus kept me on-task and got the job done.

Clean This One Spot

There are so many cleanup tasks you can do to your family tree. It's only natural that you'd develop a style after spending some time doing this crazy hobby. Then you want to go back and make your earlier work match your style.

I came up with a style of adding very detailed notes to the document images in my tree. If it's a census sheet, I start with:
  • the line numbers to look at
  • the proper title of the document
  • a bunch of facts, including:
    • supervisor's district number
    • enumeration district number
    • sheet number, etc.
  • the image number, like "image 16 of 947"
  • the URL
  • the source citation (copied from the online collection where I found it)
By focusing on census sheets only, I was able to add all these facts to every census image in my tree. I gather every bit of that information each time I save a new image. But the cleanup task was for older documents I saved before I got so careful.

One of my 2020 genealogy goals will be to beef up and standardize the notes on every ship manifest image in my tree. I'm good at adding all the facts now, but I wasn't so good in the beginning. If I focus on only that task, I'll get it done faster.

Keep the focus on one task to improve your consistency and efficiency.
Keep the focus on one task to improve your consistency and efficiency.

Each time I sit down to work on my family tree, I choose a task. I might pick an item from my annual genealogy goals list. I might click away at a cleanup task. Or I might pick someone at random and search for their missing documents.

No matter which family tree task you choose to work on today, focus on that task! Ignore the other interesting things that pop up. (Or make a quick note and move on.) Stay focused, and at the end of the day you'll find you've gotten a lot further than you expected.

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Let Me Demolish Your Italian Brick Wall

If you like the idea of discovering all your Italian ancestors but haven't got the time, let me do it. Read more at Italian Ancestry Services.

19 October 2018

3 Ways to Find Your Ancestors in a Huge Pile of Documents

You've downloaded thousands of vital records from your ancestor's birthplace. How do you find your people in all those files?

My genealogy research changed dramatically in 2017. I decided to put my U.S.-based research on hold. Why? Because a new door opened wide. Now I have access to my ancestors' birth, marriage and death records in the old country.

Finally! I'm able to take my great grandparents back many, many generations. So far, I've discovered the names of:
  • 4 of my 8th great grandparents
  • 7 of my 7th great grandparents
  • 34 of my 6th great grandparents
  • about half of my 128 5th great grandparents
And I will discover many more.

A brief explanation: FamilySearch.org ended their microfilm program. They used to send rolls of microfilm to your local Family History Center. You could visit these rolls during your center's limited hours and view them on antiquated machines.

But in 2017 they began digitizing everything.

Earlier, I spent 5 years viewing microfilmed vital records from my grandfather's hometown. I typed all the important facts into a laptop. Suddenly those thousands of records are available as high-resolution images online. Free! And so are records from the towns of all my ancestors. You can find them on FamilySearch and on an Italian website called Antenati (ancestors).

I started viewing images from my grandfather Iamarino's town and downloading them. One by one. It was going to take forever!

Then I learned about a simple program called GetLinks. This program runs on any type of computer. It's compatible with FamilySearch and Antenati. For a full explanation and a link to the program, see How to Use the Online Italian Genealogy Archives.

Now I have well-organized image files from all my ancestors' hometowns. They range in time from 1809 to as late as 1942. But they include rewritten documents of births and deaths from the 1700s. That's how I've found such early ancestors.

Simplify your search by organizing your downloads.
Simplify your search by organizing your downloads.

I'm limited to documents written as early as 1809 only because it's Italy. If your ancestors are from other countries, you may find much older records on FamilySearch.org.

So let's say you've downloaded thousands of images containing oh-so-many of your ancestors.
  • How do you find your people?
  • How can you efficiently pull out the people and facts you need? 
  • What's the best way to find your needles in those haystacks?
I'm approaching my 8 haystacks (individual Italian towns) in 3 different ways. You might choose one or two, or want to do them all.

1. Most time-consuming; best long-range pay-off

I'm typing the facts from each document into a spreadsheet. In the end, I'll have an easily searchable file. Want to locate every child born to a particular couple? No problem. Want to find out when a particular 4th great grandparent died? No problem.

But it is slow-going. I've completed about 6 years' worth of birth, marriage and death records for one town. I return to this project when I'm feeling burned out on a particular ancestor search and want a more robotic task to do.

There is another benefit to this method. Spending this much time with the documents has made me very familiar with the names in my ancestors' towns. I can recognize names despite the awful handwriting. And when a name is completely unfamiliar, I often discover that the person came from another town.

A well-organized spreadsheet is best for making records searchable.
A well-organized spreadsheet is best for making records searchable.

2. Takes a few extra seconds; pays you back again and again

Whenever I find a particular record, I like to edit the name of the image file to include the name on the document. If it's an image of a single birth record, I add the baby's name to the end of the file name. If the name is common, I also add the baby's father's name. (I use the Italian word "di" as a shorthand for "son of" or "daughter of".) If it's an image of 2 birth records or a marriage record, I'll add both names to the file name.

The benefit of renaming the files comes later. When you're making another search in the future, the renamed file can save you time. You can either spot the name you're looking for, or use the search box in that file folder. You can even use the search box at a higher folder level.

Imagine you're looking for my grandfather's name, Pietro Iamarino. You can search his entire town at once and let your computer find every file you've renamed to include "Pietro Iamarino".

When I began downloading the files, I renamed each file containing anyone named Iamarino. Now I can always find the Iamarino I want. Quickly.

Adding people's names to the file names makes the collection searchable.
Adding people's names to the file names makes the collection searchable.

3. Efficient, fast and fruitful; makes you want to come back

To my mind, this is the most important lesson. You'll be more efficient at finding what you need in this massive amount of files if you put blinders on.

Search with a tight focus. Ignore the people in the index with your last name. You'll get back to them. But at this moment, when you're searching for someone in particular, don't look at anyone else. Zero in on that one name and complete your search.

Use this focused approach and find your ancestors faster. The moment you find them, rename the file and get that person into your tree.

My many folders of vital records hold countless discoveries for me. But I've found that choosing one family unit and searching only for them is highly effective. Here's an example.

I've found the birth record of a particular 2nd great grandparent. I know their parents' names (my 3rd great grandparents), but I don't know when they married or their exact ages. I'll search the surrounding years for more babies born to this couple. Now I'm putting together their family. I'm also trying to identify which is the eldest child. Now I can search a year before the eldest child's birth for the couples' marriage. There I can find their ages, and possibly see a rewritten copy of their birth records.

With that set of marriage records and my 3rd great grandparents' birth records, I've now discovered the names of 2 sets of my 4th great grandparents. And if they weren't born too early, I may be able to find their birth records, too!

Having built out one family unit as far as I can, I'm even more eager to pick a new family to investigate. Sometimes I'll choose a family with a dead end, and work to find that missing piece of the puzzle.

Which method will work best for you? Or will you combine all 3 as I'm doing?


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16 October 2018

6 Easy Steps to Valuable Source Citations

NOTE: There is a way to make your sources indisputable. Please see "Taming a Tangle of Source Citations."

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

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

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

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

1. Find the Document or Fact Again

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

2. Copy the Exact Name of the Collection

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

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

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

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

4. Copy the Recommended Citation Detail and Text

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

5. Copy the URL of the Collection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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09 October 2018

3 Housekeeping Tasks for a Professional-Quality Family Tree

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

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

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

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

1. Add breadcrumbs and links to your documents

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

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

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

2. Upgrade your sources

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

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

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

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

3. Standardize your place names

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

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

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

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

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


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31 July 2018

How Are Your 2018 Genealogy Goals Coming Along?

It's nearly August already! How are you doing with your 2018 genealogy goals?

Last December I encouraged you to set some genealogy goals. The point was to help push yourself to work on or finish important genealogy tasks.

So how are you progressing? It isn't too late to hack away at those goals.

Here's my own list of 2018 goals. Let's look at how I'm doing and see if that can inspire you.

1. Create a Weekly Backup Plan

Genealogy email folders are part of my backup plan.
Genealogy
email
folders
Done! But it is ongoing. Each Sunday I consult my list of file types to back up. I've only missed a couple of weeks, but at this very moment, my files are 100% backed up.

My list contains some non-genealogy files:
  • My Microsoft Outlook email file (which has tons of genealogy information)
  • My bank and credit card statements and QuickBooks files
  • My 3 latest Family Tree Maker complete backup files
  • All the genealogy document images I've collected since my last backup
I back up my files to a neat little external, 1 terabyte Seagate drive and to OneDrive by Microsoft. I get a free terabyte of space there because I subscribe to Microsoft Office Online.

2. Find My Parents' Connection

When I uploaded my raw DNA to GEDmatch.com, I discovered that my parents are 4th or 5th cousins. Boy, did that leave them with their mouths hanging open.

My goal is to find their connection. Somewhere there is a pair of 5th or 6th great grandparents that they share. I haven't found the connection yet, but I am actively working on it.

I'm going through the vital records from their ancestors' neighboring hometowns and building out their families. I'll find that connection eventually. I just hope I'll find it while they're still alive to laugh about it.

3. Log the Antenati Documents Into a Master Spreadsheet

I feel like I talk about this every day. If you don't know or you have no Italian ancestors, Antenati is a website with TONS of Italian vital records. The word antenati means ancestors.

Using a free software program called GetLinks by Carlos Leite, I've downloaded to my computer every available vital record from each of my Italian ancestors' hometowns:
  • Baselice, Circello, Colle Sannita, Pastene, Pescolamazza, and Sant'Angelo a Cupolo in the province of Benevento
  • Santa Paolina in the province of Avellino
I have—easily—several hundred relatives in those records. Sometimes I search the documents for someone in particular. Sometimes I go year by year searching for every baby born to a particular couple.

But I really want to record the facts from all the records in a spreadsheet. I've completed several years' worth of records. It makes searching for someone so much easier.

A sliver of my ambitious master file of tons of vital records.
A sliver of my ambitious master file of tons of vital records.

Someday, when it's all done, I can share the results and benefit everyone else who's a descendant of these towns.

So, I'm actively working on it, but I can't finish it in 2018.

4. Fill in the "Need to Find" Column on My Document Tracker

A near-disaster with my "document tracker" spreadsheet has forced me to make a ton of progress on this goal.

Last week I wrote about a screw-up in my master spreadsheet where I keep track of every document image or date I gather for someone in my tree. I took full advantage of a glitch in the file to make progress with my 4th genealogy goal.

Line-by-line, I'm examining my document tracker. I'm comparing each person's line in the spreadsheet to their documents and facts in Family Tree Maker. I'm filling in all the columns, and determining what's missing.

I'm adding the missing facts to the "Need to Find" column. Then I give the person's entire row a green background color to make it clear I've examined that person.

My spreadsheet of everything I've found, and everything I need, guides my research efficiently.
My spreadsheet of everything I've found, and everything I need, guides my research efficiently.

I'm not following alphabetical order because I'm also working on goal #5. I have completed my review of the letters A through C (that's last names) and S through Z. I've done all my Leone relatives and my Iammucci relatives. Those areas contain some of my closest relatives.

I'm making progress and absolutely will complete this in 2018.

5. Replace Family History Center Photos with Antenati Document Images

Around 2008, before the Antenati website and FamilySearch.org made the Italian vital records available online, I ordered microfilm of the vital records from my maternal grandfather's hometown.

I viewed every record from 1809 to 1860 on nasty old microfilm viewers at Family History Centers in Philadelphia and Poughkeepsie, New York.

The Philadelphia Family History Center had one computer that read microfilm. When it was available, I could grab JPEG files of the documents I wanted the most. In Poughkeepsie I had to take iPhone photos of the projected images. Those are awful. They're dark, fuzzy, and show the texture of the surface on which the image is projected.

This dramatic before-and-after comparison makes it clear why I need those high-res documents from Antenati.
This dramatic before-and-after comparison makes it clear why I need those high-res documents from Antenati.

My goal is to replace all the crummy iPhone photos with high-resolution images from the Antenati site.

I'm making headway on goals 4 and 5 at the same time by focusing on the families from the town I researched on microfilm. I can replace those bad images, fill in the blanks for those people on my document tracker, and make double the progress.

It's August-eve. We're seven twelfths of the way through 2018. That's about 58%. I believe my goals are at least 58% complete.

But I'm not taking my foot off the gas pedal. I need to keep on track and keep that finish line in sight.

Now it's your turn. And it's not too late in the year to begin! Which genealogy tasks are most important to you this year?

How are you doing?


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Let Me Demolish Your Italian Brick Wall

If you like the idea of discovering all your Italian ancestors but haven't got the time, let me do it. Read more at Italian Ancestry Services.

06 July 2018

6 Building Blocks of Genealogy Research, Part 2

On my genealogy trip to Italy.
One ecstatic genealogist at
the archives in all her ancestors'
province in Italy.
In my last article I discussed 3 of the 6 building blocks that form my genealogy philosophy. They can be the solid foundation to your strong family tree. Let's continue.

4. Keep at it Regularly

The best thing I ever did for my family tree research is start this blog. To publish twice a week, I have to be active. Researching, exploring new websites, and collaborating with others. And I do that nearly every day.

That strict schedule is resulting in tons of new discoveries. It seems like every couple of weeks I find a new set of 5th or 6th great grandparents!

Do whatever you can to keep a hand in your research each week. That continuity will help you focus and accomplish more.

5. Be as Organized as Possible

In my early days, I grabbed census documents, attached them to the head of household and moved on. After a while I had a mess on my hands! I couldn't retrace my steps to find that census sheet again. I didn't cite my source. And I still needed to add the image and the facts to everyone else in the household.

Now I've gotten into an efficient routine. I follow the same steps to make sure I record and document each image and fact thoroughly.

Adding information to an image on your computer.
Right-click and choose Properties.
Click the Details tab. Enter specifics
for your genealogy image.
For example, I'm working a lot with vital records from my Italian hometowns. When I find a birth record I need:
  • I crop and enhance it in Photoshop
  • I add a title and source citation to the image's properties before dragging it into my family tree. I have a format I follow that ends with the URL where I found the image.
  • I edit the date of the document in Family Tree Maker. I give it a category and make it the person's profile image if I don't have their photo.
  • Let's say it's a marriage document. I add the image to one spouse, then share it so it's attached to the other spouse, too.
  • I make note of the document in my Document Tracker. This spreadsheet shows me at a glance which documents I have (and don't have) for anyone in my family tree.
Because I made it a routine, I'm now frighteningly organized. No more doubling back to try to fix my messes.
Add important information to each image in your family tree file.
Add important information to each image in your family tree file. Above, the caption and description I added to the image file itself have carried over to Family Tree Maker. I simply edit the date and select the category.

6. Create an Inventory

This final building block applies to cuckoo-birds like me who've downloaded large document collections from FamilySearch or the Italian Antenati website.

I know it will take YEARS, but I'm filling several spreadsheet pages with the facts I transcribe from those thousands of Italian vital records. It seems daunting, but being able to easily search for a particular person in a span of years is awesome.

I've completely documented 6 years of birth records from my paternal grandfather's hometown and a smaller selection from the other towns. I want to own this complete collection, and I look forward to sharing it with my fellow descendants of these towns.

What if you inventoried the vital records, censuses, ship manifests and other images stored on your computer? How might that simplify your future searches?

When I started writing this blog, I began thinking of my genealogy research like a job (the best job ever!). I wanted to apply all the best practices of the genealogy industry to my research.

These 6 building blocks are making my family tree world class. How about you?

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13 February 2018

When to Cut a Branch Off Your Family Tree

Eleven years ago, my sister-in-law Mary Ann lost her dad. As she wrote his obituary, she realized she knew nothing about his family.

After asking her for some basic facts, I offered to piece together both sides of her family tree.

Mary Ann's family was a new challenge for me. Everyone related to me was born either in Italy or the United States. And none of my relatives came to the United States before 1890. So I hadn't even searched for a U.S. census record earlier than 1900 at that point.

Her large family has a long history in America. I found lots of family trees and other documentation for them. I was jealous that I'd found her 10th great grandparents for her.

I added her family members into my family tree because I saw no reason to have a separate file. But now I have a renewed interest in documenting her mom's family.

The Muse family was in Virginia as early as the 1600s. I'd like to see if the family lore about being part of the Jamestown Settlement is true.

Sometimes it's better to prune.
Mary Ann's entire branch was one that I could cut from my family tree without hurting anything. Other than keeping Mary Ann, my brother and my nephew in my tree, everyone else would work better as a separate tree.

As a separate tree, I can publish it on Ancestry.com and give her full access. She can look at her family without swimming through the 19,000 other people in my tree.

On Friday night I decided to separate out her entire 595-person family tree. I wasn't finished until Sunday morning!

I planned to document the process and tell you how easy it was. That plan changed after the first couple of frustrating hours.

I tried several different ways to export every one of Mary Ann's relatives. I kept discovering that people were missing in the new file. After three failed attempts, I worked with a copy of my tree and deleted everyone not related to her. I thought it would never end.

To export and then delete a branch from a tree in Family Tree Maker is a strange process. You choose someone from the tree and go to the reports (Publish) tab. Create a report that will include all the people you want. The Extended Family Chart seems to be the best choice.

When you're satisfied with the list of people in the chart, right-click anyone's name and choose Export > Entire Chart.

Unfortunately, I didn't quite do it that way.

Now that you have your new file, you can delete those people from the original file. Using that same Extended Family Chart, right-click anyone's name and choose Delete from File > All persons in chart. Note: If you want to keep anyone, right-click and choose to remove them from your chart first.

With this done, there's still a lot of clean-up left. On both your new family tree file and the original family tree file, you need to delete unused media files, sources, and locations.

I compacted each tree to clear out all the things I'd deleted. Then I made new backup files and synchronized both finished trees with Ancestry.com.

I don't think I have another branch that should stand alone. I have gone off on some in-law tangents, but they came from the same geographic area as my family, so I like to keep them.

I've read heated online discussions about how many trees you should maintain. Some people keep a separate family tree file for each grandparent. I really can't see the point in that. It's your tree, isn't it? Why juggle different branches of your own family tree?

In my case, my father's parents were third cousins, so their trees intertwine. And now DNA testing shows that my parents are cousins. So my entire family tree is weaving its way into a family wreath!

I'm sure I'll hesitate to ever cut a branch off my tree again. Although I sure did learn how not to do it.

You can base your decision on the audience. Mary Ann's family tree needs more work—and I created it for her. So giving her her very own tree makes the most sense.

Have you started working on an in-law's branch? Is the work big enough to deserve its own tree? If so, prune that branch before things get harder to control.


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12 January 2018

How to Handle the Unrelated People in Your Family Tree

Update: Family Tree Analyzer is now available for Mac.

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

But you haven't found that connecting ancestor yet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now the unrelated people will be easy to spot. Better yet, in Family Tree Maker I can select that image from my tree's media collection and see a list of who it is attached to.

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

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

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


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