Showing posts with label tangents. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tangents. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Use Cousin Baiting to Expand Your Family Tree

A new cousin took the bait and contacted me with details about his branch.

Filling out the branches of your family tree will help attract more cousins.
Filling out the branches of your family tree
will help attract more cousins.
You know those long ancestral scrolls you see on the ancestry TV shows we all love? The straight-up family trees that always end with the king of England? That may look great on a wall. But you'll never connect to your DNA matches if you don't look beyond your direct-line ancestors.

What can you do to help unknown cousins find you?

Add Their Branches

"Cousin baiting" is a term used by genealogy bloggers. It's a way to attract distant relatives to yourself. When bloggers write about their ancestors, they drop plenty of names, dates, and places. They're putting out bait to attract new cousins. New cousins may have old photos, a family bible, or papers a genealogy fan would treasure.

But cousin baiting isn't only for bloggers. You can attract DNA matches and other cousins by filling your family tree with bait. Go way out onto the branches of your tree. Add as many facts as you can find. Your 3rd great grandparents' 4th child may be exactly the right person to attract an important cousin to you.

Recently I chose 3 of my DNA matches to work on. I used a bit of the information from their family trees, but not much. They each had very few facts to offer.

With your own research library, you can choose almost anyone and fit them into your tree.
With your own research library, you can choose almost anyone and fit them into your tree.
I, on the other hand, have an insane amount of data to work with. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know I've put together an enormous genealogy research library on my computer.

I know which Italian towns my ancestors lived in as far back as the late 1600s. (Knowing the exact town is critical!) I've downloaded and organized all the vital records currently available from those towns.

With my collection of documents, and my knowledge of the last names found in each of my towns, I can quickly find the facts my DNA match doesn't know.

Make the Connection Clear

I'm baiting my DNA matches by offering them:
  • exact birth, marriage and death dates for their ancestors
  • images of their ancestors' documents with a link to the original file online
  • details of their ancestors' siblings, other marriages, and other children.
I'm building out my tree one DNA match at a time. And while I'm doing that, I'm no doubt adding bait for my other DNA matches to find.

How are you handling your DNA matches?
  • Are you waiting for them to contact you?
  • Are you looking only at the closest relatives?
  • Are you giving up on a match with a small family tree?
Make your family tree thicker and richer by adding more and more relatives. While you're working on one DNA match, several others may see the connection and contact you.

I photographed this man's grave many years ago, not yet knowing who he was.
I photographed this man's grave many years ago, not yet knowing who he was.
Reap the Benefits

Each new cousin I figure out adds a couple of dozen people to my tree. Each time I do this, I make more connections. For instance, the Teresa Ciotti belonging to one DNA match turned out to be the Maria Teresa Concetta Ciotti already in my tree. I added 4 more generations to that DNA match instantly.

Because of my very bushy family tree, I heard from the great great great grandson of my great great grandfather in Italy. He gave me lots of details about his branch of the family. I never knew they had lived in America.

I hope this inspires you to creep further out onto the limbs of your family tree. The answers you need may be in the hands of a cousin you've never met. Lay the bait and help them find you.

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Friday, September 7, 2018

How to Decide Who to Cut from Your Family Tree

It's Time to Give a Whole New Meaning to 'Trimming the Tree'

In my newbie genealogy days it was a ton of fun to find people in the census. I'd trace a family through the years. I'd add names and facts and build out the family with glee.

Before long, I had 8 generations of my great uncle's wife's family. I don't know my great uncle's wife. I never met my great uncle! I had no plans to do any research for this family. And I had borrowed a lot of the people from other trees.

Why keep these hastily recorded people in my tree? I want my tree to be more professional than that.

I've written here before about lopping 600 or so people from my tree. Their only connection to me was my brother's wife. So I carefully separated them all out into their own tree for my sister-in-law.

Now it's time to prune more people who don't belong. This will improve the value of my family tree.

I deleted my great uncle's wife's ancestors one at a time. I checked first to see if they had a document image attached to them. If so, I detached the image, deleted it from Family Tree Maker's media collection and from my folders. Then I deleted the person, their spouse and children.

I did this carefully so I wouldn't leave any detached people floating in my family tree file.

That was a good family to delete. They had little or no documentation. I didn't know anything about them. They were not my people.

Here are some ways to decide who to cut from your family tree.

Where Did These People Come From?

Start by scanning your tree for a name you don't recognize. Can you find their connection to you? If the relationship is absurdly distant, maybe you should cut their branch.

Take a look at your source information for them. Did you find these facts yourself, or did they come from someone else's tree? Do you have good sources? No sources?

If the sourcing is unreliable or non-existent, maybe you should cut their branch . Give it some thought before cutting. Do you think you might ever be sorry about your decision?

The way I see it, if the names didn't have good documentation, they weren't worth much to my family tree anyway. If I did want to build out that branch, I'd rather start from scratch and do it based on evidence.

What Can These People Offer My Family Tree?

The sources in my family tree start out very simple and straightforward.
There are some very unofficial 
sources hiding in my tree.
With more than 19,000 people, my tree has tons of ridiculously distant relatives. Picking a person at random, I find she's the mother-in-law of the wife of the father-in-law of the husband of the sister-in-law of my 2nd great grandfather. In short, she's related to me through the 1st wife of my 2nd great grandfather.

She's not my relative, but I'm keeping her. I've met a few people online who are related to my great grandfathers 1st wife. Plus, my ancestors in their little Italian towns were basically all related by blood or marriage. That's kinda my thing. That's what my tree is all about: finding all the ties that bind these towns together.

Because that's my thing, I'm not deleting any of my 18th- and 19th-century Italians.

Look for Strange Sources

Looking at my long list of sources in my family tree software, I see a few unofficial sources. They're named for the family tree I looked at when adding people to my tree.

These days I avoid looking at other people's trees, but I used to follow leads.

One of these family tree sources is attached to 22 facts. This might be a branch I should cut.

I'll choose someone from the list of 22 facts and use Family Tree Maker's Relationship Tool to see their relationship to me. Of course. They're related to my 2nd great grandfather's 1st wife again! A couple of generations of the family are in my ancestral hometown, and then they came to New York state.

Family Tree Maker shows me every facts associated with a particular source.
Family Tree Maker shows me every fact
associated with a particular source.
Instead of deleting this branch, I'm going to flag the descendant who was born in America. I want to replace as many "Somebody's Family Tree" sources as possible with official sources.

Round Up the Out-Laws

Have you put together a branch for your cousin's husband, only to have your cousin divorce her husband? Do you care about keeping that branch?

My new policy is to keep only the parents of in-laws. I have exceptions, of course. I've had fun building out my 1st cousin's wife's tree. (I'm a sucker for Italian ancestors!)

Here's what I'd suggest to you. Give some thought to what you want from your family tree. If you're doing this just for the fun of it, then set your own rules and have a blast!

If you're more like me, and you've found a true passion in your tree, focus on that. Are you working toward applying to the Sons or Daughters of the America Revolution? Are you trying to map out our ancestors' migration paths so you can follow in their footsteps? Are you trying to fill your living room wall with a cool display of your immediate ancestors?

Whatever you hope to achieve…
  • cutting the fat
  • improving the sources and
  • deciding where to focus
will make your family tree stronger.


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Sunday, April 23, 2017

How to Avoid Going Down the Wrong Path

It's a good thing the Family Tree Maker®/Ancestry.com® TreeSync® feature isn't working right now because that saved me from committing a genealogical sin.

I nearly posted bad information about someone. Publicly.

This wake-up call reminds me that it is so easy to be led astray when researching a family you know nothing about. It all started when a woman contacted me on ancestry.com about her great grandfather Rudolph, who is in my tree.

He is in my tree with very few facts because he was the father of a woman who married a cousin of mine. Since the cousin himself is so distant to me, I did not go into great detail about his wife's ancestors—just the names of her parents.

But after hearing from Rudolph's descendant and collaborating with her to find his marriage record, I spent a little time searching for more facts about him.

Many cultures embrace the practice of naming children after their grandparents, which is a potential pitfall for genealogists. I fell right into that trap yesterday, following the wrong Rudolph, son of the wrong August.

I found what seemed like Rudolph's family, but missing Rudolph, only to be told that while the husband and wife's names matched, the birthplace, immigration year, and occupation did not match what his descendant knew to be true and had thoroughly documented.
Multiple, agreeing sources let you know you've got things right.
There's a reason why everyone tells you start your family tree with yourself and work your way up. Once you get beyond the relatives you knew personally—such as your grandparents and their siblings—nothing is certain until you have an abundance of corroborating facts.

For example, if you're investigating a distant branch, such as the in-laws of your great great uncle, you probably won't have any first-hand knowledge of that family. To help ensure you're putting the right facts in your tree you'll need a few things:
  • Your great great uncle's marriage record can give you his wife's name (let's call her June for this example), birth year, and her parents' names.
  • Now you can look for June in census records, making sure to match the names you know and June's birth year.
  • Once you find them you can search for the same family, possibly at the same address, in different census years, making sure the facts line up. There should not be too much discrepancy among the censuses when it comes to recorded immigration years, age, place of birth, and occupation. Since you know when June was married, you would not expect to find her with her family instead of her husband after that time.
  • Before going too far with June's family, search for any military records for the man you've identified as her father. Check to see if the censuses closest to the military record match for residence, wife's name or number of children.
As I browse through my tree of 19,295 people, I can find a number of dubious facts that I know need further investigation. But you know what it's like. So many relatives, so little time.

Be careful with your genealogy facts out there.

Family Tree Maker is a registered trademark of The Software MacKiev Company. Ancestry.com and TreeSync are registered trademarks of Ancestry.com Operations, Inc.

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Saturday, April 1, 2017

Why You Should Track Down the Extra Cousin

Years ago I found the 1898 ship manifest that includes my great great grandfather Antonio Saviano bringing his family to America for the first time.

He had been here three times prior to 1898—once with his eldest son Semplicio—but now he was ready for the entire family to settle down for good in New York City.

Antonio is my first ancestor to come to America, as far as I know.

In the grand scheme of things, the fact that my earliest connection with the United States is as recent as 1890 makes me feel like a newcomer.

On this 1898 ship manifest beginning on line three you see Antonio and his wife Colomba Consolazio (thank you, Italy, for always using a woman's maiden name) with two of his children: Raffaele and Filomena.

Semplicio was living in New York awaiting the family, and his final sibling, my great grandmother Maria Rosa, arrived separately with her husband and pregnant with my grandmother.
My family and others from the same town arriving in 1898

But notice Angela Saviano on line seven. She is not Antonio's daughter, and the manifest says she is going to join her cousin Semplicio Saviano.

So Angela is a cousin I didn't know about. I decided to try to find out more about Angela, but the trail went cold very quickly.

Much later I was exchanging information with my mother's third cousin Rita who claimed to have Saviano roots.

It turns out that Angela Saviano was her grandmother, and she died shortly after coming to America.

So the mystery cousin turned out to be a key link to a cousin we could not previously place in our family tree.

But it gets even better. On that same manifest on line two is a 65-year-old woman named Caterina Ucci who is from the same town as my Saviano family: Sant'Angelo a Cupolo, listed as S. Angelo on this manifest.

While Angela was single when she left home in 1898, she did marry and have a daughter by late 1899.

And here's the fun part: Angela married the son of Caterina Ucci.

That's why I always take a look at the surrounding names on a ship manifest—especially when they're from the same town as my ancestor.

With a little more research I found out why the trail on Angela Saviano had gone cold. She died in June 1901 of a heart valve problem. I saw her death certificate at the New York City Municipal Archives.

It seems so unfair for this 19-year-old girl to have made that two-week journey across the ocean in 1898, married by early 1899, had a baby in late 1899, and died in mid-1901.

What makes me happy is that her grandchildren were always referred to as our Saviano cousins despite having never known young Angela Saviano.

Friday, January 20, 2017

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Fan Out Your Search for Better Results

There's Donata's missing brother John!
Do you trace your direct-line ancestors only? Or do you explore other branches and in-laws when working on your family tree?

I believe strongly in gathering as much information as possible and presenting a more complete timeline for each family in your tree.

Most of my ancestors simplified my genealogy research by coming to America in a relatively short time span, and living within a few city blocks of one another.

Recently I was tracing one ancestor's sister through the years in census forms. In one census I found her brother Giovanni living with her. Giovanni had been missing to me, and he wasn't showing up in a search for his name.

If I hadn't been tracking his sister, I might never have found Giovanni.

This is also a good way to find a widowed ancestor.

When following the records for one of your great aunts or great uncles, you may find your widowed great great grandmother living with them. That helps narrow down the stretch of years when your great great grandfather died.

I guess you could say I prefer my family tree wide like a maple, not tall and thin like a spruce. Spread out and see how your family tree flourishes.