Showing posts with label surnames. Show all posts
Showing posts with label surnames. Show all posts

Friday, December 28, 2018

It's Time to Make Your Family Tree Clear and Consistent

How can you find and fix genealogy inconsistencies? And which style should you choose? Read on.

Have you always recorded facts in your family tree in the same way? Or did you do it one way when you first started, and figure out a better way later?

Being consistent is important to the long-term future of your precious genealogy research. If you leave behind an inconsistent family tree, your work will cause more questions than answers.

It can be hard to stick to a format when you can't work on your tree that often. Make some style decisions now, and you can continue creating your lasting legacy.

Three Examples of Choosing Consistency

1. Fact Types

Recording a deceased relative's Social Security Number can be helpful. Say you find a document for a person with the same name, but a different SSN. That number can prove a document does or doesn't belong to your relative.

I wasn't consistent when I started this hobby. Sometimes I used the SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER fact in Family Tree Maker, and sometimes I used the SSN ISSUED fact. But the SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER fact makes more sense. You can record the number as well as the date and place where it was issued.

Yesterday I:
  • located each SSN ISSUED fact in my tree
  • added the date and place to the SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER fact
  • deleted the SSN ISSUED fact.
2. Immigration Details

The first records I collected for my family tree were ship manifests. Nearly every one of my ancestors passed through Ellis Island. Recording all these immigration facts is very important to my family history.

At first I used only the IMMIGRATION fact type, recording the date and place of arrival with a note about the ship name. Then I realized I could record the date they left Italy, too. That's written on the manifest.

But I had to make another choice. I can choose ARRIVAL, DEPARTURE, EMIGRATION and IMMIGRATION as fact types. Which should I use? A more experienced friend suggested I use EMIGRATION and IMMIGRATION for a person's first trip to their new country. I'd save DEPARTURE and ARRIVAL for:
  • Pleasure trips, like a honeymoon or vacation, or
  • Return trips, like visiting the old country to see your parents or bring back the rest of your family.
I made my choice and updated my fact types. I added in the missing emigrations or departures, too.

3. Names, Dates and Places

If you're using a decent family tree program, you can select how you want to display these types of facts.

Your family tree software should give you the option to choose how to present your data.
Your family tree software should give you the option to choose how to present your data.
People's Names

Some genealogists choose to display everyone's last name in all capital letters. I don't want to do that because I have many names that begin with a small letter, like deBellis. I don't want to lose sight of that.

Some people choose to display a woman's married name rather than her maiden name. I don't want to do that because:
  • my female Italian ancestors kept their maiden name for life, and
  • which name do you use for a woman who married more than once? The last name that relates to you, or the final husband's name, even if he's nothing to you?
Dates

Working for an international company made me aware of writing simply and clearly. Avoid local phrases and use international dates. In the United States we're used to the Month/Day/Year format (12/28/2018). But some countries use the Day/Month/Year format (28/12/2018). Others prefer Year/Month/Day (2018/12/28).

Think of how many dates can be misunderstood by someone in another country. Is 5/4/2019 May 4th or April 5th? It depends on where you live.

To avoid confusion in my family tree, I use DD Mon YYYY, as in 28 Dec 2018. Any English-language speaker will understand this, and many Romance-language speakers will understand it, too. Their month names aren't so different from ours.

Places

For a long time I wouldn't let Family Tree Maker "resolve" addresses or place names for me. For one thing, I thought it was silly to put "USA" at the end of a New York City address. Where else do you think New York City is?

As time went by and my tree's international members outnumbered the Americans, I decided adding "USA" wasn't a bad idea.

But one difference I've stuck to is county names. Leaving out the word "County" can lead to confusion. What if you have only the name of the county someone lived in, and not the town? Will that be clear? So rather than Beaver, Pennsylvania, USA, I'll enter Beaver County, Pennsylvania, USA.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure it's easy for anyone to understand, and stay consistent.

Finding and Fixing Your Inconsistencies

What brought this to my attention was a free program I've written about several times: Family Tree Analyzer. (Now available for Mac users.) When I ran the program and opened my family tree's GEDCOM file, I saw a few things on the main screen that I didn't like:
  • Found 14 facts of unknown fact type SSN ISSUED
  • Found 13 facts of unknown fact type OTHER
  • Found 1 facts of unknown fact type RELEASED
This free program will uncover inconsistencies in your family tree.
This free program will uncover inconsistencies in your family tree.
I wanted to find these facts and change them. I discovered an option in Family Tree Maker to Manage Facts from the Edit menu. I chose a fact type, clicked Data Options and saw a list of every person using that fact type. I visited each of these people in my tree and made adjustments.

The fact type OTHER turned out to be something I did because I didn't know how to characterize these facts. Each person using OTHER had been in the Japanese-American prison camps of World War II. These particular facts were the dates they were incarcerated and released. I changed each of these entries to use my custom fact type, Internment.

One man named Luigi was using the RELEASED fact type. This was the date they released him from quarantine on Ellis Island. Because it was a medical quarantine, I switched to the MEDICAL CONDITION fact type.

For other types of changes, you may be able to use Find and Replace within your family tree software. Be careful. Before you click OK to make a global change, think about what else might change.

If you're changing a county name, is there a person with that name? Will their name change from John Sullivan to John Sullivan County?

Running Family Tree Analyzer showed me a Find and Replace blunder I'd made. I messed up some Italian last names that are the same as Italian occupations. Everyone named Canonico became "canonico (member of the clergy)". Oh boy. I fixed this with some careful one-at-a-time finding and replacing.

Even if you're not thinking of your genealogy hobby as your legacy, think about your own sanity. If you don't work on your tree for a while, how many of these inconsistencies will make you say, "What was I thinking?"


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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

How to Spot and Fix a Big Mistake in Your Family Tree

The further back you go in your family history, the more branches you have to explore. And if you have a lot of branches, you probably have a bunch that need more research work.

At some point, your research may toss some new facts at you that make you realize the sad truth. You've got a big old mistake in your family tree.

What will you do when that happens?

How a Mistake Can Pop Up

I realized I'd swapped Rubina for Rufina when I found her married to the wrong man.
I realized I'd swapped Rubina for
Rufina when I found her married
to the wrong man.
Let me give you a concrete example using one of my 16 third great grandmothers. (We're all entitled to 16 third great grandmothers and 16 third great grandfathers.)

One year ago I discovered that my 2nd great grandmother was born in the little town of Santa Paolina, Italy. I learned this important piece of information when I found the marriage records of 2 of her brothers.

Those records (from a neighboring town) said my 3rd great grandparents lived in Santa Paolina.

So I ordered a few films for Santa Paolina. This was days before the end of the FamilySearch microfilm program. Everything was going online. But at the time, the vital records for Santa Paolina's province were not online. And I didn't want to wait.

I spent a few hours going through the dark and fuzzy document images and found some pay dirt. I found my 2nd great grandparents' Santa Paolina marriage record. That led to my 2nd great grandmother's birth record and that of their first baby.

I found that my 3rd great grandfather's name was different on each document. He was:
  • First name: Semblicio or Simblicio
  • Middle name: Fiorintino or Fiorentino or Fiorinto or Florindo
  • Last name: Consolazio
The first name makes sense because of my 2nd great uncle (his grandson) Semplicio. But I made a note that this man sometimes goes by a variation of Fiorintino.

There was more confusion with my 3rd great grandmother's name. It was Rufina Zullo, but I didn't see anyone else named Zullo in Santa Paolina. I saw Zuzolo and Cenzullo. When I found a Rubina Cenzullo, I started to think this was a spelling variation of Rufina Zullo. Eventually I convinced myself Cenzullo = Zullo.

Now the Santa Paolina and Tufo documents are available online. I downloaded all the Santa Paolina records to my computer, and a few select years of Tufo records. (See "How to Use the Online Italian Genealogy Archives".) This past weekend I was going through the downloaded vital records for more facts and people.

My 3rd great grandparents' marriage record was missing. I began searching every logical year for it. When I didn't find it, I thought, "What if they married after their first child was born?"

That's when I found something that made me gasp. In 1844, after the first baby was born, I found a marriage record for Rubina Cenzullo…and another man! What? But she kept having babies with Simblicio Consolazio!

At that moment I realized she wasn't my 3rd great grandmother. I returned to my 2nd great grandmother's birth record and that of her sister Catarina. Both documents said their mother was Rufina Zullo. I'd gone off in the wrong direction!

Working to Fix the Error

How would I find the right woman? I searched every logical year of birth records and found no one in town named Zullo. So I had to find her death record.

I know she had a baby in 1856, so I started there. I search the death indexes of each year looking for Rufina Zullo or Simblicio Consolazio. I found Simblicio's death record in 1891. Rufina was still alive, so I kept searching.

I found her death record in 1898, and with it, the answer to the mystery. Rufina Zullo was born in another town called Apice—a new ancestral hometown for me!

Luckily, the Apice vital records are online. I found the real Rufina's 1816 birth record, so now I had my real 4th great grandparents' names. Then I found Rufina's 1843 marriage to my 3rd great grandfather, named as Fiorintino.

Since they married in Apice, there should be marriage banns recorded in his hometown of Santa Paolina, too. And there are! I'd overlooked them because I'd checked only the index for 1843. They didn't marry there, so they aren't in the index.

Learning from Mistakes

Here are the specific lessons I learned:
  1. Don't make assumptions without a lot of evidence to support them. Some document convinced me her last name was Cenzullo. But there was so much evidence saying it was Zullo. I don't know what I was thinking.
    Detaching a person from the wrong family in Family Tree Maker.
    Detaching a person from the wrong
    family in Family Tree Maker.
  2. Search for all the major documents for your person and their immediate family. Notice when the facts on some documents contradict the facts on others. Then search for what's missing. Finding Simblicio's death record confirmed Rufina's name. Finding Rufina's death record confirmed why she was the only Zullo in town.
  3. Look beyond the indexes. They are a tremendous help, but there are times when you won't find the document you want in the index—especially when it comes to marriages.
Now I had to fix this problem in my family tree. I had Rubina Cenzullo as the wife of Semblicio and the mother of his 8 children. I also had her parents, 2 grandparents and 2 siblings. In Family Tree Maker I selected Rubina. In the Person menu, I choose Attach/Detach Person and Detach Selected Person. I clicked the checkbox for Semblicio and the 8 kids and clicked OK.

Next I attached my No Relationship Established image to Rubina and her people. I'm hold onto them for now because Santa Paolina is so very small. There may be a relationship to her.

Finally, I added my Rufina as the wife of Simblicio and mother of his kids. I attached her parents to her.

At last! My great great grandmother's family is complete.

My Consolazio family, complete with the right mamma.
My Consolazio family, complete with the right mamma.


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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

How to Connect the Dots to Your Possible Relatives

You've got your DNA matches. You've got people who share a bunch of your last names. You've probably ID'd a lot of possible relatives.

How will you find your connection to them? How will you connect those dots and figure out if and how you're related?

I've got a handful of these challenges on my plate right now.

broaden your genealogy search
Your roots probably spill over to the next town. Don't overlook them!
All my ancestors came from a small area in Italy, not much bigger than my home county here in New York. So when someone has a family tree filled with last names I know well, we're probably distant cousins.

Discovering that one marriage from long ago that connects you to your leads will be tough. It'll take a lot of time. You'll need to examine a ton of documents.

That's why you must follow the first rule: Enjoy the search! If you're not pursuing this mystery because it gives you pleasure, you may as well skip it.

To work with my possible relatives, I ask for details at their grandparent and great grandparent level. What names and dates do they have?

Last year I downloaded every available vital record from my ancestors' four Italian towns. Now I'm branching out. I'm downloading a neighboring town and looking at still another.

With these document collections on my computer, I can try to find birth and marriage records for the names I know. Then I can look for their siblings' births.

I can piece together that family while checking familiar names against my own family tree. If I'm very lucky, I may find a set of marriage documents that includes death records.

In Italy in the 1800s, if a couple married and any of their four parents were dead, that death certificate was included in the marriage records. If either of their fathers was dead and their grandfathers were also dead, the documents include the grandfathers' death certificates. You know what's on their grandfathers' death certificates? Their grandfathers' parents names.

Think about that for a second. A couple's marriage records can give you the names of their great grandparents!

The wider you expand the family of your possible relative, the more likely you are to find a connection. There's a good chance you'll provide them with names and documents they don't have.

Right now I'm searching the documents from that neighboring town because:
  • A contact with my great grandmother's last name has roots there.
  • My first cousin, whose DNA matches him to BOTH of my parents, has roots there.
  • A contact with my first cousin's last name (and ancestors with my maiden name) has roots there and in my grandfather's town.
  • One branch of my father's tree has roots there.
There's a good chance I have some relationship to a big chunk of that neighboring town.

And the search does make me happy. I'm connecting myself to thousands of people across the world.

If you enjoy this hobby, cast a wide net. The genealogy community is a friendly, sharing, welcoming network of people. In the end, we've got more in common than meets the eye.


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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capozza was the key.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

How I'm Methodically Finding My Missing Ancestors

I spent this past weekend hunting. For people. For a few of my missing fifth great grandparents.

And I found them!

Because I write this blog twice a week, I've gotten very focused on how I do things. I'm filling in my Grandparent Chart ancestor by ancestor by following my own advice.

Let me show you how I'm methodically adding the names of missing ancestors to my family tree.

Step One: Have Resources Ready to View

I've downloaded a massive number of vital records, waiting for me to review.
My collection of documents.
Your resources might be online genealogy sites or microfilm at a library.

If your ancestors were Italian, their town's vital records might be on the Antenati website. If so, I hope you've used the GetLinks program to download all the records to your computer. (See Collect the Whole Set!)

I have vital records from my Italian ancestral hometowns on my desktop. I'm processing these thousands of images in a couple of ways:
  • One-by-one I'm typing their facts into a spreadsheet database.
  • I'm choosing someone from my family tree to pursue—going after their birth, marriage and death records.
It's important to have my family tree software open as I go through the images. I can check out any familiar name to see if they're a relative.

Step Two: Crop and Add Facts to Images
add facts directly to images, and they'll be pulled into your family tree software
Annotating images.
When I find a document for someone who belongs in my family tree:
  • I rename the image file so it's easy to find again.
  • I drag the image into Photoshop to crop it and save it with its final name in my folder of vital records.
  • I right-click the image and choose Properties, and then the Details tab. Here I can annotate the images and enter the title as I want it to appear in my family tree. For example, "1811 birth record for Maria Vincenza Liguori". In the Comments section, I enter the URL where the image exists online.

Step Three: Add Images and Facts to Tree

always add all the details you can to an image in your family tree
Adding more details to images.
I drag the annotated image into my family tree software. I edit its properties there, adding the date of the event. I add the facts to the person in my tree, too. In some cases, the document has other names—parents and spouses—that I can add to my tree.

I like to set the most important image I have for a person as their profile picture. This is helpful when I'm looking at the family view. I can see at a glance that I've already found someone's birth record, for example.

Step Four: Update Index of Images

keeping an inventory of what you've found can save you lots of time
Adding newly found documents to my Document Tracker spreadsheet.
I make a quick update to my Document Tracker. This is the spreadsheet that acts as my inventory of documents I've added to my family tree.

Step Five: Add New Ancestor Names to Grandparent Chart

this ancestor chart (you can download a blank version) shows exactly who you have and who you're missing
My Grandparent Chart keeps track of my ancestor-finding progress.
If a document gives me the name of a direct-line ancestor I was missing, I add them to my Grandparent Chart.

Step Six: Add New Last Names to My Surname Chart

Can you keep all your ancestors' last names in your hear? No? Try building this list.
My surname list.
I found five new names this weekend of my 5th great grandparents. But only one had a brand new last name for my family tree. So I added d'Andrea to my list of 70 direct-line last names.

I may be methodical, but I can work on a whim, too. Sometimes I choose a year and start documenting the vital records in my spreadsheet. If that leads me to a brand new ancestor, I'm thrilled!

Other times I begin with my Grandparent Chart and choose a target. Which missing ancestor do I want to find?

That's how I found one particular set of 5th great grandparents this weekend. I'd discovered a 4th great grandmother named Apollonia Caruso.

I love that name. I can't see or hear the name Apollonia without thinking of "The Godfather, Part II."

But I didn't know her parents' names. She married before 1809—the year the Italian civil record keeping began.

I found her children's birth records, but they don't include her parents' names. So I found her son, my 3rd great grandfather Francesco Saverio Liguori's 1840 marriage records.

Apollonia had died by then. Her death record should have been included. Instead, there was a long letter explaining that she had died, but no one could remember when! The town clerk couldn't find her death record because he didn't know where to look.

I decided to do his job and find her death record.

This story deserves a separate blog post, so let's just say I found her death record, and much more! I'll tell you how I did it next time.

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Friday, October 6, 2017

When Did Your Ancestors First Use a Last Name?

Your family tree research has a long way to go if your oldest generation has last names.

William the Conqueror and his brothers.
It's the The Conqueror family!
(12th century - Lucien Musset's The Bayeux Tapestry
ISBN 9781843831631, Public Domain, Link
Mayflower descendants are thrilled to trace their genealogy back to the early 1600s or beyond. I'm thrilled to have traced my Italian peasant ancestors back to the late 1600s.

But you're in a whole 'nother class of family tree research when you've gotten back to ancestors with no last names.

Last names, or surnames, or cognomi in Italian, didn't exist several centuries ago. Most people couldn't read or write, and they didn't travel far. So formal last names weren't needed.

Chinese last names are one very big exception. Around 2852 B.C. it's believed the Chinese emperor ordered his people to adopt last names. Those last names had to come from a sacred poem of the time. This would explain why most Chinese people to this day have as few as 60 last names among them. [source: www.lifescript.com]

In the medieval days of Europe (picture "Monty Python and the Holy Grail"), last names weren't needed. Once civilizations began collecting taxes from their people, they started recording their names. They needed a way to tell people apart so they knew who to hound for those taxes.

Enter the surname.

There are four basic surname types.

1. Occupational Surnames

Some Western European cultures began using their trade as a last name (Smith, Shoemaker/Schumacher, Wright, Miller).

2. Patronymic (or Matronymic) Surnames

Some cultures used surnames based on male names (Johnson, Ericson, MacDonald) or female names. The form of a surname meaning "son of the father" takes on a different variation in different cultures:
  • Fitzgerald means son of Gerald
  • Ivanovich means son of Ivan
  • DiGiovanni means son of Giovanni
  • Stefanowicz means son of Stefan
3. Topographical Surnames

Some cultures used place names (Palermo, Napoli). Place names might also be a description of a place (Hill, Ford, Glen[n]). The last name Church is common in multiple languages (including L├ęglise, Iglesias). Place names are also why many Polish names end in -ski. Someone from Gryzbow might be named Gryzbowski.

4. Descriptive Surnames

In some cases the noble class of a society imposed an unflattering surname on someone of a lower class. As time went on, the bad meaning of the surname became accepted as a name and not an insult. Descriptive names can be friendly (Young, Good, Brown/Braun/Bruno) or based on an undesirable characteristic (Basso means short, Grosso means fat). A redhead might be called Russo or Rubino.

As early as the 11th century, people decided to pass this assumed surname to their children, making it a family name. [source: http://forebears.io/surnames]

These basic formations of names explain many of the last names in our family trees.

To learn about name variations, plus surname prefixes (Mc, Mac, Del) and suffixes (etti, ella) in various nationalities, see:

I guess the goal is to be Valerie Bertinelli and trace your tree back to William the Conqueror!


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