Showing posts with label resources. Show all posts
Showing posts with label resources. Show all posts

Friday, July 20, 2018

Use This Tool to Discover Family Tree Insights

Update: Family Tree Analyzer is now available for Mac.

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

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

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

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

Insight #1: Your Ancestors' Jobs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Insight #2: Your Progress, By the Numbers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Do-It-Yourself Genealogy Vacation, Part 2

Mapping Out Your Genealogy Vacation

My map collection for my grandfather's hometown.
My map collection for my
grandfather's hometown.
For days before my recent trip to Italy, I saved locations to my collection of places on Google Maps. Now I can access them from my iPhone, too.

I created a folder for each of my ancestral hometowns I planned to visit. I pinpointed churches, cemeteries, our hotels and a handful of addresses I'd found on my ancestors' vital records. For remote locations, I used the longitude and latitude coordinates.

I planned to locate homes where my grandfathers and great grandparents were born or died. In case I didn't have Wi-Fi (I didn't) and was afraid of blowing through my data (I was), I also had a printout of a map.

On the map are addresses and facts with arrows pointing to the locations. I used one map to ask some locals where a particular street was. They were so kind, one man began asking anyone nearby if they remembered a family named Iammucci. We all had a laugh when they learned my great grandmother died in 1929. Of course they didn't remember her name!

The other map helped me walk around another town and find the places (mostly rubble) where members of my father's family were born.

How Our Rural Ancestors Gave Birth

Some of the facts I'd learned from my ancestors' Italian birth records confused me. Why was my grandfather born at one address in town, and his sister born at another address in town, when his real house was not in the town? They knocked down his house, damaged by an earthquake, in 1964 or so. It stood on the land where some of my cousins live today, well outside of town.

My cousin Maria explained it to me. Back in the day, my Iamarino family owned a little house in town—not much more than one room. They lived out in the countryside, but when my great grandmother was about to give birth, she'd go to the house in town.

It took a mule and a cart to get to town, and town is where the midwife (levatrice) lived. So, to be near the midwife, my great grandmother would have waited at the house in town until she was ready to give birth.

That explains a lot. That's how my countryside-living relatives could bring the newborn baby to the mayor's office without killing the baby!

Walking where my ancestors were born and died.
Walking where my ancestors were born and died.
I will no longer add the address of a baby's birth as the residence of the parents in my family tree. It may very well not be their residence.

When I visited my dad's first cousins on May 13, they pulled out a plot plan—the type you might see for new construction here in America. It showed the locations of many houses that are no longer standing. They surrounded the house where we were gathered.

My great grandparents raised their four children in one house. Straight across the street was the home of my great grandmother Libera's sister. It was also the home of my great grandfather Francesco's brother. You see, Libera's sister had married Francesco's brother.

This cluster of houses was a contrada—a group of homes, often rural, given a nickname instead of a modern-day street address. I had thought a contrada was named for a particular family, but in my family's case, it was simply a nickname.

Please keep this story in mind if your family documents show addresses that don't seem to make sense.


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Friday, April 20, 2018

Create a Digital Map of Your Family History

I've been in love with the aerial view in Google Maps for years. I've created different collections of map pins, like all known addresses for my grandfather. Everywhere I visited during my 2015 trip to France and Italy. The dozen or so places I've lived.

Now I'm creating an itinerary map for my next visit to my ancestors' hometowns in Italy. And I'll have it with me on my iPhone.

Create Your Portable Family History Map

First, you need a free Google account. Sign into that account and go to www.google.com/maps on your computer. You can look up virtually any address, town or place of business in the world and click to stick a pin in it.
Save any location to your personal map list
Click any spot or place-name to save it.

I have a reservation at Hotel Antiche Terme in the city of Benevento. I found it on the map and clicked it. (Apparently it has two names, which may be good to know when I get there.) Then I can click SAVE to keep this location.

Choose what you want to do with this place.
Choose what you want to do with this place.
Now I have a few options. I can simply make the location a favorite, put a flag or a star on it, or save it to a list. I've created a different list for each of my ancestral hometowns.

Here's my list so far for Benevento. It includes my cousin Vincenzo's wonderful pizzeria where I met him in 2005. It includes the State Archives of Benevento—the absolute godsend that has given me all the records from all my towns. I plan to go there to find my grandfather's military records. And it includes the hotel where I'll be staying.

In my ancestors' towns I've saved the locations of the cemeteries, the piazzas, the churches, and the homes of the cousins I'll visit. I'm going to buy an international plan for my iPhone while I'm in Italy (not expensive at all). With that plan, I'll be able to open the Google Maps app on my phone and access my saved locations.

One of my personal lists.
One of my personal lists of places to go.
In my paternal grandfather's hometown of Colle Sannita, I need to see the church of St. George the Martyr (la Chiesa di San Giorgio Martire). So that's on my map. A couple of streets away are two addresses where my ancestors lived (I suspect one is a pile of rubble now). I plan to use the app to guide me as I walk from the church to these locations. I can snap photos of these places and upload them to my personalized map later.

My personal collections of map pins will be accessible to me wherever I go.

Add Places to Your GPS

My husband bought a map of Italy for our GPS device because we'll be renting a car for a few days. He asked me to mark some of my destinations in the GPS as favorites. "Put your cousin Maria's house in there," he said. "She's so far in the middle of nowhere, I don't have a real address for her," I replied.
Pinpointing a hard-to-find location.
Pinpointing a hard-to-find location.

But you can add a precise location to your GPS using longitude and latitude coordinates, so that's what I did. Here's how.

I've studied the aerial and street view of my grandfather's town so many times I can find my cousin Maria's house by sight. I visited her there 13 years ago, and I still remember her describing her horrible garage as a landmark. Yes, the house is far from town, but I found it. If I click to put a pin in it, Google Maps gives me some information about that location.

The information says the name of the town, shows a little image, and includes the GPS coordinates. If I click those numbers, I can:
  • add a label to this place
  • save it in my list of places
  • see those coordinates nice and big so I can punch them into my GPS.
Now I can easily find two of my cousins' homes and not worry about getting lost where there are barely any road markers.
Longitude and latitude coordinates tell your GPS exactly where to go.
Longitude and latitude coordinates tell your GPS exactly where to go.

Whether you're planning a real trip, want to share your collections with your family, or want to "walk" your ancestors' streets in Google Street View, these map collections are a must-have for any genealogist.


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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Build Your Own Genealogy Research Library

You can have your own genealogy research library
I've been building my fortified family tree for 15 years. I started by writing down facts in a black and white composition notebook. I graduated to Family Tree Maker software so I could see the bigger picture. I developed a meticulous digital filing system.

After all these years, you know what I discovered? I have my own genealogy research library!

And you can, too.

What's In My Library

If you've been enjoying this genealogy hobby for any length of time, I'll bet you've gotten better at it. You've learned. You've figured out how to do things. You've gathered a lot of facts and materials.

My largest, most valuable collection of genealogy data contains Italian birth, marriage and death records from my ancestral hometowns. I have about 40 gigabytes of these vital records on my computer. They're there for me anytime I want to trace a family back to Italy. (See Collect the Whole Set!)

I think I found this woman in my research library
I realized I have a genealogy research library while looking at a family photo from the summer of 1930. After 10 years, I still didn't know the exact identity of a woman in the photo and her relationship to me.

Here's what I did know. The woman, who was several years older than my grandmother (also in the photo), was named Pastore and was somehow related to my Sarracino family. That's my grandmother's maiden name.

Then it hit me. I have all those vital records from the Italian hometown of my Sarracino ancestors. Why don't I look through them for anyone named Pastore and see what I can find?

Putting My Library to Use

My collection for their town (Sant'Angelo a Cupolo) begins in 1861. My grandmother was born in 1899. Based on how she looks compared to Grandma, the Pastore woman in the photograph was born in the 1880s.

I'm transcribing facts from thousands of Italian vital records into a massive spreadsheet...in my spare time. That will make searches much easier. It's going to take a lot of time, but what an amazing resource it will be!

That project is far from finished. So I looked through the Sant'Angelo a Cupolo birth indexes, and I found a Pastore. Not the woman in the photograph, but a boy named Nicolantonio Pastore with a mother named…can you guess?…Maria Giuseppa Sarracino.

Aha! A Pastore-Sarracino connection. "Let's keep searching," I thought. I found six Pastore babies born to Carmine Pastore and Maria Giuseppa Sarracino between 1877 and 1889.

The last one I found is the prize. The moment I saw her 1889 birth record, Maria Carmela Pastore became my number one prospect to grow up to be the woman in the photo.

I needed more information, so I turned to another wing of my genealogy research library.

In my "shoebox" on Ancestry.com, I'd saved a ship manifest. It was a 1902 passage from Naples to New York of a mother and daughter. The mother was Maria Giuseppa Sarracino, and her daughter was 12-year-old Maria Carmela Pastore. They were going to join Carmine Pastore in the Bronx—in my family's neighborhood. All the ages and names matched.

Yesterday I added all these Pastore names, dates and documents to my Family Tree Maker file. At this moment, they are not connected to me in any way. But they will be; I have faith.

Here's my working theory. Maria Giuseppa Sarracino's father was Antonio. He may be my 3rd great grandfather, also named Antonio Sarracino.

I'll keep consulting my library and doing online searches to try to find the exact connection. I hope to prove or disprove my working theory.

What's In Your Library?

What about you? If you have Italian heritage, you absolutely must see if your ancestral hometown's documents are online. (See How to Use the Online Italian Genealogy Archives.)

If your roots are anywhere else, sign up for a free account with FamilySearch.org. See if they offer any collections from the towns that matter to you. Browse them online, or download a collection of images to your computer with a program called GetLinks. (For complete instructions, see the link above and scroll to the bottom of the article. The software is in Portuguese, so the instructions are important.)

As part of my 2018 to-do list (see What Are Your Genealogy Goals for 2018?), I wanted to create a thorough backup plan for my genealogy files. I've made my plan. I backed up my massive Italian vital record collection in two places (besides my hard drive): an external drive and Microsoft's OneDrive. Each of these offers me one terabyte of storage. The external drive cost $75 and the OneDrive space comes with my Office 365 subscription.

Try using bookmarks or the "shoebox" (if you use Ancestry.com) to hold onto items you think will help you later. It thrilled me to find the Sarracino-Pastore immigration record and a Pastore census form in my shoebox. Now they're in my Family Tree Maker file.

Every document or collection you can download or stick a pin in online, and every paper document you've gathered are the contents of your genealogy research library. Don't overlook the possibility that the answers you need are already in your hands.


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Sunday, August 27, 2017

Are You Overlooking Your Family Tree Discoveries?

What if the you from several years ago could talk genealogy with the you of today? Do you think the two of you could help each other out?

You're probably thinking that you've got so much more experience in family history now. You could teach so much to the past you. You could set her on the right course. You could tell her everywhere she's making genealogical mistakes.

But guess what? Past you has a lot to offer today's you, too. Past you holds some keys to your family tree that today's you has completely forgotten.

Today, past me and present me had a surprising collaboration. Here's what happened.

it's important to digitize your notes as well as your family tree documents
Digitizing death and marriage records is one thing. But notes are just as important.
When I went to Italy in 2005, I brought a notebook. It contained useful Italian phrases and facts I'd gathered about my closest ancestors.

My family tree was very small at that time, and I didn't have many documented facts. My plan was to use the few facts I had to explain who I was to the cousins I was about to meet.

In the same notebook, I jotted down details from three cemeteries I visited in my ancestral hometowns. My husband took photos of graves, and I wrote the facts in my notebook. When I was able to visit with cousins, I wrote down a few details they were able to share.

How I wish I'd taken better notes! But I was afraid of looking rude by paying more attention to my notebook than to my cousins.

Take Time to Collaborate With Yourself

This morning I read that old travel notebook and compared it to my family tree and the cemetery photos.

Past me, who'd scribbled all those notes, wound up providing present me with clues I didn't know I had! For example, my cousin Gennaro said his sister Maria had moved to New York City with her husband and four sons. I'd written down phone numbers for two of the sons, but I never called them.

Using the names of Maria and her sons, I found documentation for them on Ancestry.com. Maria and at least two of her sons became U.S. citizens. I knew I had the right people because they all had the same address between 1967 and 1971.

I learned that Maria and two of her sons died not long ago. And I had never contacted them because past me forgot to tell present me that their phone numbers were in that notebook. I missed my chance.

your scribbled notes should be typed and stored on your computer so you can use them in your genealogy research
My Italian cheatsheet alongside cemetery notes.
This is a strong argument for digitizing everything you gather in your family tree research. Scan your official documents. Enter their facts into your family tree.

This is true for notebooks, loose notes, and recorded conversations, too. Preserve the information and make it searchable by typing it into your word processing software.

I don't want to throw out my 2005 travel notebook, even though my dog chewed it as a puppy. But it would be a terrible mistake to leave it in paper form only.

What Should You Re-read Today?

Next, past me is going to share old immigration notes with present me. When I took those notes, I didn't know if the people were related to me or not. I only knew that they had the right last names, so I wrote their facts down in a notebook.

We'll see if present me can make a breakthrough with that old, forgotten information.

To paraphase a TV ad campaign, "What's in your closet"?


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Dealing With Human Error on Genealogical Documents

An interesting point came up in a Facebook genealogy group yesterday. The clerk who hand-wrote your ancestor's birth, marriage or death record may not have been that skilled.
  • He may have misspelled a word—leaving you to try to translate a word that isn't a word.
  • He may have made an accidental substitution—adding the wrong sibling's birth record to a set of marriage documents.
  • He may have recorded the midwife's last name as the baby's last name.
What do you do with this messed up documentation?

In an earlier article about disagreeing documentation, I spelled out my two cardinal rules:
  1. The earliest recorded document is probably correct.
  2. Some documents are more official than others.
Sometimes you need to:
Then see if logic tells you what the truth must be.

Here's an example. Consider these data points:
  • Michele Petruccelli was born in Baselice, Italy on March 8, 1800 to Costanzo Petruccelli and Brigida Ciusolo.
  • Michele Petruccelli was born in Baselice, Italy on September 11, 1802 to the same parents.
  • Two babies born to the same parents, with the same name. Logic tells us the first Michele must have died before the second Michele was born.
  • No death records are available for 1800–1802, so we cannot verify the first baby's death.
  • In 1828 Michele (born in 1802) married Mariarosa Mattia. She died in 1828.
  • In 1830 Michele (born in 1800) married Veneranda Pozella.
The marriage records overlook the fact that Michele is a widower.
If logic says there were not two sons growing up in the same family with the same first name, then both the 1828 marriage and the 1830 marriage must belong to the younger Michele Petruccelli—the survivor who was born in 1802. This hypothesis works because the two marriages do not overlap.

This means there was a clerical error. In 1830 when widowed Michele Petruccelli married for the second time, a clerk accidentally used the birth record of the deceased Michele Petruccelli.

For further proof, I took another look at the 1829/1830 marriage records. It says that Michele was 23 when he received permission to marry. That fits 1802 Michele better than 1800 Michele.

Of course it's still wrong. He was 27!

The document does not say that Michele is a widower, but it does say his bride is a widow. In the full set of marriage documents for Michele and Veneranda, there is no mention of Michele's first wife Mariarosa Mattia.

This is also a mistake. It's really quite an oversight!

Mariarosa Mattia's death record clearly states she was the wife of Michele Petruccelli, son of Costanzo.

The death record for Michele's first wife leaves no doubt who her husband is.
So what would you do? Michele and Mariarosa were married only eight months when she died, so they had no children. Michele and Veneranda also had no children though they both lived past the year 1860. There is no more evidence.

I'm convinced the clerk made mistakes in 1829/1830. The Michele born in 1800 died before 1802. The younger Michele grew up and married twice.

So, having exhausted all resources and finding that logic is on my side, I'm going to update my family tree.

I'm going to say that the first Michele Petruccelli died before the second was born on September 11, 1802. And I'm going to give the bride, Veneranda Pozella, to the second Michele Petruccelli.

By the way, Michele Petruccelli is the brother-in-law of the sister-in-law of my fourth great uncle whose name is also Petruccelli. It's a small town.


Friday, August 11, 2017

How to Use the Free Online Irish Census

Americans are—in this order—German, Black, Irish, Mexican, English, Italian, Polish, French…. The list goes on and on.

The 1901 and 1911 Ireland census is searchable for free online.

In 2013 many articles were written about facts learned from the 2010 United States Census. Britain's The Daily Mail states that people of Irish descent are about 12% of the population in the USA. They number more than 35 million and are the third largest ethnic group in the country.

Simple search form
I can't seem to find any in my family tree! But recently I was doing some research for a close friend of full Irish descent. I found a very helpful website from the National Archives of Ireland.

Before I explain everything they make available, let's look at how to search the 1901 and 1911 Irish census.

In the short search form, choose either the 1901 or 1911 census and enter what you know. Last name, first name, county, age and sex. Then click the search button.

On the results page, check the box that says "Show all information". This will give you lots of details about each result and help you find the best choices. In this example, I can rule out the two Patrick Cunninghams who are single because I know my Patrick was married.

Show all information to help you find the right family.
For each of the married Patricks, I can click their name to see a list of every member of the household. From this screen I can tell I'm looking at the right family. My friend had told me Patrick's wife's name and a few of their children's names.

Now that I'm confident this is the right family, I can click any of the links below the words "View census images". What I want the most is Household Return (Form A) and the Additional Pages.

Ready to download the census! You can see the census sheet at the top of this page.
These links download a PDF file containing an image of the census. Now I can see for myself every recorded detail. These facts helped me go back and find the same family in the 1901 census.

The National Archives of Ireland website also includes fragments for these census years:
  • 1821
  • 1831
  • 1841
  • 1851
You can click to drill down by county, parish, townlands/streets, and then see a list of households to view. See the website's description of what is in these collections.

The Early 20th century Ireland page provides interesting glimpses into life at the time. It includes a wonderful collection of photos you'll want to see.

For more help with your Irish ancestors, see the Archives' list of genealogy websites available.


Friday, August 4, 2017

Here's Why Genealogists Love Immigrants

ID photo from a Petition for Naturalization
Last year my cousins' father passed away and I found his obituary. The man we called Doc is someone I've known since I was a little girl. But I didn't know anything about his family.

Genealogists know how to pull tons of facts from a well-written obituary. I documented Doc's family names and relationships in my family tree software.

Using these new pieces of information, I searched for his father Mario's arrival in the United States from Italy.

Mario's naturalization documents are among the richest I've found. Let's go through them to see how much you can learn about an immigrant ancestor through their naturalization papers.

Certificate of Arrival

When an immigrant wanted to become a citizen in the early 1900s, they provided information about their arrival into the U.S.:
Certificate of Arrival
  • date of arrival
  • port of entry
  • name of ship

That's a boon to your family tree research right there. In Mario's case, the documents include a Certificate of Arrival that verifies these facts.

This certificate gives you, the family tree researcher, exactly the information you need to find Mario's ship manifest. There you can gather information that may include his father or mother's name and his town of origin.

Declaration of Intention

This form has so many vital facts packed into a small area. In Mario's case, we learn his:
  • address
  • occupation and age
  • physical description
  • town of birth
  • birth date
  • wife's name and date and place of birth
  • wedding date
  • children's names and birth dates

Mario's arrival information, confirmed on the Certificate of Arrival, is repeated here. Plus we see his signature and photograph.

Petition for Naturalization

Enough data to make a genealogist weep.
After filing a Declaration of Intention and going through the process, the immigrant completes another form. Mario's Petition for Naturalization repeats and supports the facts on his Declaration of Intention.

So if you are able to find one, but not both of these detailed forms for your ancestor, you've still found a genealogical treasure.

If your ancestor had a spouse and children at the time of their declaration and petition, you now have an official source of their vital information.

Mario's paperwork provided me with Doc's real name and birth date, as well as those of his brothers, whom I didn't know. With these facts I can fan out my search for census forms, Social Security Death Indexes, and other records of this family.

Perhaps most excitingly, I can search for documents from Mario's hometown in Italy and try to extend his family history there.

Naturalization records are available through the U.S. Naturalization and Records Administration (searchable online), Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org.

The sheer density of critical vital information makes genealogists absolutely adore our immigrant ancestors.


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Picturing America Through Your Ancestors Eyes

When I think of my first ancestor coming from a small rural town in Italy to the metropolis of New York City in 1890, I picture him being overwhelmed by the congestion and fast pace.

But maybe it wasn't that hectic. New York City was dramatically different 127 years ago.

Look at Grand Central Terminal in the 1890s and today. The chaos of yellow taxis and delivery trucks was merely a cable car and some horse-drawn wagons. (And it looked nothing like today's building!)


Take a tour through the online photo collection of the Library of Congress for more images. You can narrow your search by choosing a time period and a location.

The library's collection of historic American buildings can give you a glimpse of the landmarks your ancestors saw in their day.

If your ancestors were here for generations before mine, you might like the Library of Congress' various map collections. Drill down through the Cities and Towns collection, then narrow the results by date and location.

It may be difficult to imagine any U.S. city being underdeveloped. These digital collections can help you get in touch with the United States of your ancestors.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Where to Find Free Historical City Directories and Newspapers

Have you ever subscribed to an online newspaper archive website? I've tried them twice, but I never found anything about my relatives.

Those sites may be worth the subscription fee if your ancestors were important businessmen or socialites. Or if they were involved in a crime or a train wreck. But I never found my folks.

This directory shows me when Antonio's
son James starting working.
I've had better luck with a free newspaper website (see Fulton History below). There I found some real estate transactions by my great grandfather and his brother-in-law. The information was sparse, but it helped me piece together some of his business dealings.

City directories, on the other hand, have been a great help in locating an ancestor in between census years. (See How To Squeeze Everything Out of the Census.) This can help you when you discover your ancestor is not living at the same address in 1930 as he was in 1920. The city directories between 1920 and 1930 can show you where he moved.

This directory tells me exactly when Antonio died!
Here are a few free websites (also see Free Genealogy Resources) where you can search for your ancestors. If you find them, you can add more data points to their timeline, giving you a more complete view of their lives.

Some of these free sites may have an unfriendly interface or have no search function. You get what you pay for.

Tip: When opening a city directory, look at the table of contents so you have a rough idea of which pages to view.

Free Newspaper Websites

  • Fulton History. What began as "Old Fulton NY Post Cards" now contains over 39,328,000 historical newspaper pages from the United States and Canada. The site includes a good search feature and highlights your search terms on the resulting pages. This is where I found my great grandfather's business transactions.
  • Internet Archive. Type newspaper in the search box, then narrow down your results in the left column. There is so much available on this website that I may devote an entire article to it soon.
  • Library of Congress: Chronicling America. This website contains digitized newspapers from 1789 through 1924 in 13 languages. That's 2,234 newspapers. The search functionality is very helpful.

Free City Directory Websites


This real estate directory tells me my great grandfather
owned one building and lived in another.
Subscribers to Ancestry.com have access to their city directories collection. I've used these to locate certain ancestors in between census years. A directory helped me figure out where my grandfather went to live and work upon entering the United States. Directories can show you when a grown son left his parents' household and moved nearby, possibly helping to estimate his marriage date.

A city directory may provide a missing piece to the puzzle for you.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Free Resource Provides Graphic Genealogy Research Basics

I'm happy to pay for my ancestry.com subscription. I have full access for less than a dollar a day.

But many genealogy fans prefer to go the all-for-free route.

Well, there's a newcomer to the genealogy resource field. MooseRoots is a completely free site that can help you find birth, death and marriage dates and places, and a lot more. (See also What To Do When You Have No Birth or Death Record.)

Results of a search for Grandma's birth record
From their Genealogy Collections page, choose from a long list of categories, including:

  • U.S. Census records
  • State birth records
  • State death records
  • State marriage and divorce records (Australian records, too)
  • Casualties from several wars

I began testing the site by looking for my grandmother's New York City birth record from 1899. I already have a copy of her birth record from the New York City Municipal Archives. The main fact I learned from her birth record was that her middle name was Carmina—and that's not what she told us it was.

The MooseRoots result was disappointing because it didn't include her parents' names. But it did include the certificate number. That would be enough for me to find the original on microfilm at the archives.

Next I searched the same collection for anyone with her last name to see if I would find her siblings. I found her two brothers, but the transcriptions of their first names were ridiculous. I found two misspelled Alfredos, and I wouldn't know which one was my great uncle if I hadn't already known his birthday.

But the lack of parents' names is based on the record collection, so I don't blame MooseRoots. I checked California birth records because I know they include the mother's maiden name. And those maiden names appeared in the results. But the California birth records did not include a certificate number.
Easily share various parts of the results page

I was very impressed by MooseRoots' collection of Japanese-American Internment Camp records. Unfortunately, you can't search for a specific name or sort the results, so I didn't see the two last names of my in-laws. (See also Can Genealogy Research Be Painful?.)

I chose a random person named Tanaka (another family name in my husband's tree), and I was impressed with the results.

The website generates a narrative including lots of facts about Takanosu Tanaka: his year and place of birth, that he was widowed, the name of the "camp" where he was detained (Tule Lake), and much more.

As I scrolled down the page I found visualizations of Takanosu's facts. And this is the thing that makes MooseRoots unique: visualizations.

A company called Graphiq powers the site. Graphiq compiles facts into colorful graphs to make them easier to understand.

I believe MooseRoots has plans to become a much richer genealogy resource. When you click a person's name in your results list, you have the opportunity to add their photo once you create a free account. I hit a snag when I tried to register with my Facebook account. Instead, I chose the Google+ login option. That worked, but then the "Add or Edit Photos" button didn't do anything. So, they've got some kinks to iron out.

This video includes facts unique to your ancestor.
Search results pages give you one-click access to an Ancestry search and a MyHeritage search if you're a subscriber. You can click a button to share any individual piece of the results.

The 1940 Census results included a nice surprise: a customized video that includes the census facts for the person you chose. There's also a scrollable list of other people on the same census sheet, with clickable names. (See also How To Squeeze Everything Out of the Census.)

When you're visiting the site, be sure to click the More menu at the top of the page to get an idea of which collections may be the most helpful to you.

Happy [moose] hunting.

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