Showing posts with label siblings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label siblings. Show all posts

Friday, October 26, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choose Your Entry Point

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

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

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

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

The family is blossoming out so quickly!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 13, 2018

How to Find the Most Important Genealogy Documents Quickly

A portion of my newly downloaded vital record collection.
A tiny portion of my newly downloaded
vital record collection.
Seems like every day I read that a new genealogy document collection is coming online. Some are available through subscription services, but plenty is out there for free.

If you stay tuned in to social media, you can learn about these new collections early. That's how I discovered a document collection I needed badly was coming online this past week.

Finally, a branch of my family tree that's been a dead end was opening up. And I was ready.

Even before the vital records from the town of Santa Paolina, Italy, were fully published, I was downloading them to my computer. I now have all the available records from 1809–1945 to comb through offline. I stored the documents in 386 folders—separating births, marriages and deaths by year. I have no idea how many thousands of documents there are.

Imagine this is you. Imagine these documents hold the missing information about your great great grandmother Colomba.

Where do you begin?

A little background:
  • Colomba's 1920 New York City death record shows her last name was Consolazio and she was born around 1845, somewhere in Italy.
  • Her son's World War II draft registration card said he was born in Tufo, Italy.
  • Last year I looked at microfilmed records from Tufo. I found two sons for Colomba plus a few Consolazio babies who were her nieces and nephews. It was their records that told me the Consolazio siblings were from the next town—Santa Paolina.
I've been waiting impatiently for the Santa Paolina documents to show up online.

Here's how I'm surgically extracting the most important records first.

Find That First Birth Record

Hoping that her death record was correct about her age, I went straight to the 1845 births. I found Colomba! Though her name is a little different and her father's name isn't what I expected, I know it's her. On her birth record is a note of her marriage to my great great grandfather, Antonio Saviano.

This is unusually lucky, but her birth record say my great great grandparents married in Santa Paolina on 1 June 1871.

This 1845 Italian birth record includes the addition of her husband and marriage date.
This 1845 Italian birth record includes the addition of her husband and marriage date.
Go After the Marriage Record

Your ancestor's marriage record can provide tons of detail, including:
  • Bride and groom's birth dates
  • Death dates of their deceased parents
  • Death dates of their deceased grandfathers if their fathers are dead (this won't be true everywhere)
  • Names and death dates of any previous spouses
Santa Paolina's marriage records are a different format than I'm used to. But they gave me important facts I'd been missing: My great great grandfather Antonio's parents' names, occupation, and town of birth. It also confirmed his year of birth.

Start Collecting the Babies

Knowing my ancestors married in June 1871, I started looking for babies beginning in 1872.

I also know from earlier research that this couple had baby boys born in the town of Tufo in 1875 and 1877. So I needed to check the birth indexes only for 1872, 1873 and 1874.

I found one baby girl, Maria Grazia, born on 26 April 1872. She and the two boys born in Tufo are my great grandmother's siblings. So I knew this little girl must have died. We simply have no Maria Grazia in the family. I was sad to find she died 4 days later.

Death record for Maria Grazia Saviano.
Maria Grazia Saviano, the first-born child of my 2nd great grandparents, died at the age of 4 days.
These were Colomba's earliest babies. The rest of her children are well known to my family. They were born in another town called Pastene. And now I know that's where their father Antonio was born!

But we can't stop there. We need to find Colomba's grandparents, and maybe her great grandparents.

Hunt for the Parents

Colomba's birth record gave me names for her parents, but not their ages. Luckily Santa Paolina had a very small population. I subtracted 25 years from Colomba's birth year, bringing me to 1820. I began checking the birth indexes for 1820, 1819, 1818. I found my 3rd great grandmother, Rubina Maria Censullo! Now I have her parents' names—my 4th great grandparents.

Keep going. 1817, 1816. There he is! My 3rd great grandfather Semblicio Fiorentino Conzolazio. Now I have his parents' names—also my 4th great grandparents.

Getting close to the earliest records, I searched for Semblicio's parents' marriage. He was born in 1816, so I looked at 1815, 1814. Oh my gosh, I found it! His parents, Gaetano and another Colomba, were married on 29 December 1814.

The paragraph at the bottom includes the names of 4 of my 5th great grandparents.
The paragraph at the bottom includes the names of 4 of my 5th great grandparents.
Now I have each of their parents' names. That's 2 sets of my 5th great grandparents. I can't find Rubina Maria's parents' marriage because they were quite a bit older. I'd need church records to find them.

With one document collection, boom! 4th and 5th great grandparents.
With one document collection, boom! 3rd, 4th and 5th great grandparents.
That's a Great Start

Using targeted searches, I got the juiciest information out of this record collection in no time. But there's a ton more to find. I want to find the births of Colomba's siblings, their marriages and their babies. I need death records for the 3rd, 4th and 5th great grandparents.

I hope you'll try this methodical approach. First looking for very specific records, then expanding to the related records. Be logical and you'll go far. You can do this!

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

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Using First Names as Evidence of Family Relationships

If you don't have at least 10 people in your family tree with the exact same name, you may be new to genealogy.

Many cultures follow specific baby-naming conventions—but not always. For example:
  • name your first-born son after his paternal grandfather
  • name your first-born daughter after her paternal grandmother
  • name your second-born son after his maternal grandfather
  • name your second-born daughter after her maternal grandmother
My paternal grandparents followed this convention. They named my father and his sister after their paternal grandparents. My mother's family did not follow the rules. If they had, my grandmother and I would both be named Mary Louise.

For help with your ancestors' child-naming customs, follow these links:
If I've left out your ethnicity, try a Google search including the ethnicity and "naming customs" or "naming conventions".

Here's an example of an Italian couple who followed the rules, but put a slight twist on them.

Giorgio and Maria followed the naming rules closely, but not perfectly.
Giorgio and Maria followed the naming rules closely, but not perfectly.
Giorgio and Maria named their first son and daughter after Giorgio's parents, Onofrio and Lucia. They named their second daughter after Maria's mother, Concetta.

But their 2nd through 5th sons were not named after Maria's father, Francescantonio. Instead, 3 of those sons had the Antonio part of Francescantonio in their name:
  • Giovannantonio
  • Giuseppantonio
  • Antonio
You can use your ethnicity's naming customs to help you place a person in a particular family.

Let's say you have a man named Pietro Iamarino. (I have 11 of them in my family tree.) You don't have his birth or death record yet, so you can't confirm his parents' names. But 1 or 2 of his children's birth records call him Pietro, son of Giuseppe.

Now you know he belongs to a father named Giuseppe. But I have 10 Giuseppe Iamarino's in my family tree! Of course I need a Giuseppe who's about the right age to be Pietro's father, but what if I have a few of those? (I do.)

When I examined the facts about my right-aged Giuseppe Iamarinos, one man stood out.

This family makes sense, but I had to track down birth records to prove it.
This family makes sense, but I had to track down birth records to prove it.
Giuseppantonio Iamarino was born in 1819 and married in 1840. That fit with Pietro who was born around 1848. Plus, Pietro named his first son Giuseppantonio—not Giuseppe.

But that is not proof. It's an educated guess at this point. So I attached Pietro to Giuseppantonio, but I added a bookmark and a note to Pietro to remind myself that I needed to prove this relationship. The proof came later when I found Pietro's 1848 birth record.

Use caution when you're piecing together ancestors' families from hundreds of years ago. Naming conventions can offer strong clues—clues that lead to a theory. But the names themselves are not the proof you need.

Use these naming customs to form your theory. Then prove it.

Keep searching for that proof and avoid making a mess of same-named, misplaced people in your family tree.

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

Friday, June 15, 2018

Genealogy is the Joy of Names

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Climbing Up, Down and Across Your Family Tree

Following a Hunch

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

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

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

Finding More Clues

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

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

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

More mind-bending revelations.

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

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

Adding More Facts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

Friday, September 15, 2017

How to Create Your Ancestral Hometown Database

I've seen many family tree researchers get ecstatic when they discover their ancestor's hometown records are online.

For me, this moment came when I learned about the Italian website, Antenati. It has birth, marriage and death records for my four ancestral towns in Italy. Other genealogists are finding their ancestor's records on

That's a lot of records!
How do you know what's in them?
A free computer program makes it easy to download these digitized records from both and the Antenati site. It's written in Portuguese, but don't let that worry you. I've written several times about using these records and the program. See:
If you've downloaded documents from your ancestral hometown, you may have hundreds or thousands of images on your computer.

Now what?

If you're looking only at each year's index and finding what you know you need, you're missing the boat. And that boat is overloaded with your ancestors!

My recommendation: Make a spreadsheet database of every important fact in each document.

My database-in-progress for several towns' birth, marriage and death records.
What's the point? With a spreadsheet of facts, you can sort an entire town's birth records by last name. If you sort by last name and father's name, you will see all the children born to your ancestor.

There will no doubt be ancestors in your spreadsheet that you never knew existed.

Here are 5 steps to creating your ancestral hometown database from your downloaded files:
  1. Examine the records for the fields you want to capture. For example, birth records may contain the baby's name and birth date; father's name, age and occupation; mother's name and age; their address; and the baby's baptism date. Death records will contain different facts, and so will marriage records.
  2. Create columns in your spreadsheet to hold all the facts. I keep birth, death and marriage records on different sheets in my Excel file so they can have different column headings.

    TIP: The best way to be able to sort your records by date is to keep the year, month and day in separate columns.
  3. Enter information from the documents into your spreadsheet. This takes time, but I found shortcuts as I did this last night.
    • I went through one year's birth records, entering only the baby's name into the spreadsheet. I put the baby's last name in one column and first name in another. (I record parents' names as last-name-first to help with sorting.)
    • On my second pass through the records, I entered the birth and baptism dates.
    • On my third pass, I entered the mother and father's information.
    Why is this better? I was always looking in one specific spot on the page for the information I wanted. It felt faster than going one document at a time, picking out facts from all over the page.
  4. Sort the data by any column to uncover hidden facts. You may find an unknown sibling. You may find that a man had several wives over the years. You may find that a family moved from one part of town to another.

    See Dr. Daniel Soper's YouTube channel for tips on using Excel. Many tips will apply to other spreadsheet software.
  5. Share your database! Years ago I documented the facts from the vital records for my grandfather's hometown. I gathered these facts while sitting at a microfilm viewer in a Family History Center, so I used a simple text file. You can't sort a text file, but at least you can search it. I shared this file, as well as a GEDCOM for the whole town, with other descendants of that town.

    Your spreadsheet can be a valuable resource to other family tree researchers. Once you're done, I encourage you to share it everywhere you can think of.
I completed two years of records while watching the Yankees slaughter the Orioles last night. I expect to get much further tonight because of the shortcuts I found.

When you have your database, find an appropriate Facebook group or the like, and put the data out there. Genealogy is a collaborative sport!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Finding the Siblings Your Ancestor Never Mentioned

Noé and Adamo Leone in Italy
My grandfather Adamo Leone (right)
and his younger brother Noé.
When I started my family tree research, I knew nothing about my maternal grandfather's ancestry.


In conversations with my mother and aunt, I learned that my grandfather had a brother Noah (Noé in Italian) and a sister Eve (Eva in Italian). That was good for a chuckle because my grandfather was Adam (Adamo in Italian).

Adam and Eve and Noah? Come on!

This lack of detail made me want to research Adamo's hometown of Basélice in Benevento, Italy, more than anyplace else. (See "Why I Recorded More Than 30,000 Documents".)

The Specifics of Your Ancestral Hometown

As I began to document the vital records from Basélice for the years 1809 through 1860, I spotted some patterns:
  • Most couples married at an average age of 25 years.
  • Most couples had their first child within one year of marriage.
  • Most couples continued to have children every two or three years until the woman was roughly 45 years old.
  • The average number of children per couple was six to eight.
  • If a man was widowed, he was likely to marry a much younger woman, and father another six to eight children.
Something's Not Logical

Recently I was able to access and download Basélice vital records for years beyond 1860. When I located my grandfather's 1891 birth record and his parents' 1881 marriage record, something didn't add up.

How could his parents, Giovanni Leone and Marianna Iammucci, have been married for 10 years without having a child? Adamo, Noé and Eva were born in 1891, 1895 and 1898, respectively. Their mother Marianna was 42 in 1898.

It seems fine that she had her last child a little while before her childbearing years ended. But the 1881 to 1891 childless gap made no sense based on my knowledge of their hometown.

So I began searching. The other night I found them!

My surprise great uncle Giuseppe Leone's 1883 birth record. See his marriage annotation in the right column.
My grandfather never mentioned them. But now I know he had an older brother Giuseppe (born in January 1883) and an older sister Maria Grazia (born in July 1889).

My mother can't believe it! She said he never spoke about his life in Italy, and he only mentioned his siblings Eva and Noé.

In the column of Giuseppe's birth record a note says he married Maria Castaldi in August 1914. I have no further details, but I do know Giuseppe did not die in World War I. (Here is a website where you can search for Italian casualties of WWI.)

My surprise great aunt Maria Grazia Leone's 1889 birth record.
Maria Grazia may have married, or she may have died in her youth. The vital records are not available online for me to find out her fate.

I'll never know why my grandfather didn't mention these siblings. Maybe Maria Grazia died when my grandfather was a little boy or before he was born. But what about big brother Giuseppe? I do hope I'll find out what became of him.

Many times in this blog I've encouraged you to gather every document you can from your ancestral hometowns. (See the links at the bottom of this article.) You could be related by blood or marriage to most of the town.

Use This To Your Advantage

The Giuseppe and Maria Grazia Leone story is another reason to look closely at every genealogy record from your ancestor's hometown.
  • Find out at what age couples married and had children.
  • See if your ancestral family has a big gap in years between children's births.
  • Look in the town's birth and death records for babies who were stillborn or died as infants.
Maybe you'll find a shocking, previously unknown great uncle or aunt for your family tree, too!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

What If Your Ancestor Isn't Where You Expected at All?

They're not there!

The family I thought was from one town was really from the next town
Are you my hometown, Santa Paolina?
I thought it was all coming together. I thought I'd have some answers about my great great grandparents, Antonio Saviano and Colomba Consolazio. But sometimes your ancestors are not where you absolutely expected to find them.

Follow me for a moment on this genealogical path.

Recently I charted out exactly which of my direct-line ancestors I've identified. I color-coded them to show the direct ancestors of each of my four grandparents.

My progress was incredibly satisfying, but it held a startling truth. The branch whose descendants I grew up with—my maternal grandmother's branch—is the one where I've made the least progress.

I know my great grandparents, Giovanni and Maria Rosa, and each of their parents' names. But I'm troubled by the lack of progress with Maria Rosa's parents, Antonio and Colomba.

They each died in New York City. I've seen their death certificates at the New York City Municipal Archives. Their parents' names were hard to read, and the source of the names was someone who never met these people.

From my earliest days in this genealogy hobby I had conflicting information about where Antonio and Colomba came from. My 96-year-old great aunt (their granddaughter) was still as sharp as a tack when she told me they were from Avellino. It was a simple fact she'd heard from her mother Maria Rosa time and time again.

OK, but Avellino is a city and a province. So where were they from?

Then I found the family's 1898 ship manifest when they sailed from Naples to New York, and it said something else. It said they were from Sant'Angelo a Cupolo. That's in the Benevento province, bordering Avellino.

Now what?

Their New York City marriage records say that Antonio and Colomba's daughters were born in Sant'Angelo a Cupolo. That places the family in Benevento, not Avellino.

Then I found a World War II draft registration card for Antonio and Colomba's eldest son, Semplicio. He was born in Tufo.

Woo hoo! Tufo is in Avellino!

I ordered microfilm of Tufo birth, marriage and death records from and found Semplicio's 1877 birth record. Surprisingly, I also found an 1875 birth record for another son named Raffaele. There was a younger Raffaele, so this son must have died as a child. I don't think my great aunt knew about him.

Antonio was already 33 when the first Raffaele was born. Based on my extensive research of this area at the time, I believe there must have been previous children. But the Tufo records had nothing else.

No other children of Antonio and Colomba were born in Tufo, and they were not married in Tufo.

Again, now what?

Luckily, Colomba has an uncommon maiden name of Consolazio. I scoured the Tufo records and found two men, Gaetano Consolazio and Sabato Consolazio, whose children were born in Tufo around the same time as my Raffaele and Semplicio.

this marriage document for a sibling told me the truth about my great great grandmother
My great great grandmother's brother provided the missing link.
Gaetano Consolazio's marriage document seems to hold the key to unlock this entire family's background. He was married in Tufo, but he was born in Santa Paolina—only three miles from Tufo! His marriage record also confirms his and Colomba's parents' names, which were absolutely wrong on her 1920 death record.

In 1877, the document says, 60-year-old Fiorinto Consolazio and his wife Rufina Zullo were living in Santa Paolina, Avellino.

Where does that leave us?

Colomba's brother Gaetano was born in Santa Paolina. Their parents lived in Santa Paolina. That gives me a strong reason to believe Colomba was born there. She probably married Antonio there. She may have had an earlier child there. Antonio and his siblings may have been born there, too.

I've ordered the Santa Paolina microfilm. This was my last chance to order film as the Family History Center microfilm program ends on August 31, 2017. And there's no guarantee these records will ever be digitized and put online.

So now I wait. Fingers crossed, I may soon be adding several more ancestors to my chart and datapoints to my family tree.

Oh boy, I hope they're there!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Finding a Genealogy Victory in Defeat

You may have heard that come September 1, 2017, you can no longer order microfilmed records from I didn't think I'd need microfilm anymore since records are being digitized.

But I have one small town in Italy that needs my attention now. So I ordered the microfilm and went to view it at my nearest Family History Center today.

I was focusing on my great grandmother's parents, Antonio Saviano and Colomba Consolazio. I'd hoped to find their births, their marriage, and their parents' names. I had their parents' names only from their own death records. That's not very reliable.

I was disappointed.

This film does contain birth records for two of my great grandmother's brothers. But it does not have her parents' births or marriage.

Grasping for something of value, I scoured each year's index for Saviano or Consolazio. I found two men who may be the brothers of my Colomba Consolazio. I found them on their children's birth records.

Then I got lucky. One of these potential brothers was Gaetano Consolazio. I found his marriage record and learned his parents' names. And this proved to me that he was my great great uncle.

this document is not for my ancestor, but it contains my ancestors' names
A reliable source for my third great grandparents' names.
When my great great grandparents died, their eldest son, Semplicio Saviano, provided the information. He had never met his grandparents. Maybe he didn't know their exact names.

The names I had from Colomba's death record were Semplicio Consolazio and Rafina Zinzaro. The name Semplicio seemed legit because her eldest son was Semplicio. Except I knew she had a baby before him named Raffaele!

Rafina Zinzaro bothered me because Rafina is not a name I've seen before.

The far more reliable source is Gaetano Consolazio's marriage record. His parents, my third great grandparents, were Fiorinto Consolazio and Rufina Zullo who lived in neighboring Santa Paolina.

Gaetano even named his daughter Rufina, so I got to see that unusual name twice. And Fiorinto makes perfect sense to me. You see, I have records from another town showing the birth of my great grandmother and three of her siblings. On two of those documents it says Colomba Consolazio is the daughter of Fiorinto.

I thought those were the mistake. But the less reliable death record contains the mistakes.

So I will score today as a victory.

I'm disappointed not to have found what I wanted. But now I have reason to believe the Consolazio and/or Saviano families lived in Santa Paolina before going to Tufo. The Saviano family then moved to Pastene, where my great grandmother was born.

I have no reason to think they moved because they were given land or something. The fact that they moved twice is even more bizarre.

So I gained some solid information today, along with some leads. I have to quickly decide if I need to order microfilm for the town of Santa Paolina.

The clock is ticking!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Step-by-Step Discovery of My 5th Great Grandparents

It wasn't long ago that I discovered the maiden name of one of my great great grandmothers. (See This Expanded Resource Provided an Elusive Maiden Name.) It was a big deal when I learned her name was Maria Luigia. But it was amazing to learn her last name: Girardi.

My great great grandmother's birth record.
It was even more exciting to me as a Yankees fan! (For non-fans, the Yankees' manager was Joe Girardi for may years.)

Last night, while the Yankees were winning their game, I was at my computer. I was going through birth records from the online Italian archives. (See How to Use the Online Italian Genealogy Archives.) I was focusing on Maria Luigia Girardi's hometown of Pescolamazza—now called Pesco Sannita, Italy.

Her 1840 birth record gave me the names and ages of her parents: Gioacchino Girardi and Maria Teresa deNigris. I set Maria Teresa deNigris aside for the moment and worked to fill out this family more thoroughly.

First I looked for more siblings for Maria Luigia. I found Emidio born in 1843, Nicola Maria born in 1847, and Francesco Saverio born in 1851. Based on their parents' ages, there should be more children, both older and younger than Maria Luigia. But before finishing that search, I got excited to find her father Gioacchino's birth record.

My great great great grandfather's birth record.
There he was, my 3rd great grandfather, born in 1814. His parents, my 4th great grandparents, were Nicola Girardi and Maria Pennuccio. He was their first-born child, but I found several younger siblings by going year-by-year through the birth records for their town.

Sibling Giuseppe was born in 1815, Francesco Saverio was born in 1817, but apparently he died because another Francesco Saverio was born in 1822. Maria Rosa was born in 1825 and Pietrantonio in 1829.

Once I was confident I'd found their first-born child, I went in search of the marriage of my 4th great grandparents. The documents for marriages in 1813 in Pescolamazza are incomplete, consisting only of each couple's two declarations of their intention to marry.

Bingo! My fifth great grandparents—two sets!
But that was enough.

I found Nicola Girardi and Maria Pennuccio's declarations in February 1813. Each of these two documents contained the man and woman's parents' names.

There they were. Two sets of my 5th great grandparents from a branch I would never have discovered if I hadn't learned that previously unknown name of Girardi: Giuseppe Girardi and Serafina Orlando, and Carlo Pennuccio and Angela Verro.

During tonight's Yankees game, because I can't just sit on the couch all evening, I will search for more children born to these two couples. Their children will be my 4th great uncles and aunts. Having their names, and finding their children, will allow me to piece together a lot of the Girardi and Pennuccio documents from the town.

Finding the siblings is the only way to know how or if other people in this tiny town are related to me.

My experience in documenting the entire town of my grandfather taught me a lesson. (See Why I Recorded More Than 30,000 Documents.) If people have the same last name, and it's a very small town, and it's an era when relocating was not common, they're most probably related.

So go after those siblings. If you're searching records from the 1800s, remember that a woman might give birth nearly every year, and into her forties. While many of the children will not live to adulthood, I personally treasure each one. And I'm so thankful to find them.

Back to the search!