Showing posts with label visualization. Show all posts
Showing posts with label visualization. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

My Genealogy Jigsaw Puzzle: DNA Matches and Vital Records

Like any big puzzle, it helps to start with the edges and find pieces that fit one another.

Last time, I told you about a DNA color-clustering method. It shows you visually how you're connected to your DNA matches. This method, and the online tree of a crucial DNA match, showed me where I need to focus. Right down to a specific last name.

You see, my parents share DNA. This was a surprise to them, and I'm eager to be able to show them exactly which set of ancestors they share.

I'm focusing on the last name Pozzuto in the town of Colle Sannita, Italy. There were a lot of people in town with that name. And they must have been distinct families, because a high number of men married women with the same name.

I began by looking at the parents of one key DNA match, both named Pozzuto. The tree is not well sourced, and much of the information comes from my 97-year-old DNA match herself.

I have 77 people in my tree with this last name, but that's not enough pieces for this puzzle.
I have 77 people in my tree with this last name, but that's not enough pieces for this puzzle.
I turned to the massive collection of Italian vital records that I have on my computer. When you've got all your ancestral town's documents on a local drive, research is fast and easy. (Find out how you can download a collection like mine.)

I've been trying to confirm the names and birth dates of the people on both sides of the Pozzuto-Pozzuto tree. I find a person's birth record, then try to find their father's birth record and their grandfather's birth record. The goal is to identify someone who is already in my tree with a blood relationship.

After adding several people to my tree this way, I realized something. I have a cousin in Italy who's about my age and is named Pozzuto. His mother's side of the family is related to my father's side of my family. So his being a Pozzuto is a coincidence.

But…I've always thought he looks like my cousin on my mother's side of my family. What if this cousin, related to my dad but with a resemblance to my mom, is the key?

I started digging into the little bit of information he'd given me about his father. I quickly found his father's parents' 1932 marriage documents. I learned my cousin's grandparents' names and kept going until I had some of his great grandparents' names.

But I couldn't tie this Pozzuto family to that of my DNA match. Time for a new strategy.

Last summer I read about a genealogist's massive effort to build out family trees for everyone in his DNA match list. I think the Pozzuto family is my key. Why not put together every Pozzuto family sitting in my collection of vital records?

That's how I built a tree of 15,000 people from my maternal grandfather's hometown. I took the information from each vital record and entered people into a Family Tree Maker file. I placed babies with their parents. I found the parents' marriage records and gave them their parents. After a while, all the families fit together.

These are some of the files I've identified with this name so far. Lots more work to do!
These are some of the files I've identified with this name so far. Lots more work to do!
I'm going to pick a year, like 1860, and find each Pozzuto baby born in the town. I'll put them in my tree and give them my "no relationship established" marker (find out why that's important). As I go from year to year, I'll find babies that are siblings to the babies I found earlier. I'll build each family.

This will take lots of hours, but I'll wind up grouping together Pozzuto families. Some of them will be people I have in my tree already. Eventually I will find a direct line to my DNA match.

Still, that's not the goal. I need to find someone in that gene pool who married someone with a last name from my mother's side of the family.

All my ancestors came from neighboring towns. The prospect of marrying someone from the next town is very real. I've seen it. I'm eager to find a girl from Colle Sannita who married a guy from either Baselice or Pastene (most likely).

It's exciting to have all those documents waiting for me to read them. The answers are there! I simply need to dig and dig until I find them.

Can you do this with your ancestors' towns and your DNA matches?


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Friday, March 9, 2018

4 Ways to Make Big Genealogy Progress When You Have Little Time

You've seen the memes. Genealogists would rather spend every moment working on their family trees than, say, eating, sleeping or dealing with people.

Got a little time? You can make real genealogy progress.
It doesn't take a ton of time to
make real genealogy progress.
Do you have the luxury of 100% free time? I don't either!

Don't worry. You can still make significant progress on your family research in short bursts of time.

Have about an hour after the dinner table is cleared? That'll do. Have some free time in the late afternoon before the family gets home? That's great! Are you an early riser? It's genealogy time!

Arm yourself with a list of tasks and a progress chart, and a small window of time can yield big genealogy progress. Here are some examples.

1. Choose a Specific Ancestor from your Grandparent Chart

Last night I was too exhausted to spend much time on genealogy. So I chose a specific ancestor from my "grandparent chart".

The chart shows me exactly which direct-line ancestors I've identified, and which ones I haven't. (See "How to Visualize Your Ancestor-Finding Progress".)

I chose one ancestor from the chart whose parents were missing. I found him in my tree to see what I knew about him. Then I examined his children's marriage records to see if they contained the names of their grandparents.

In the short amount of time I had (before I fell asleep at the keyboard), I added a few marriage document images to my tree. I can pick up where I left off when I have another chunk of time.

2. Improve as Many Source Citations as You Can

I have a few items on my Task List in Family Tree Maker that involve making my tree better. One task is to replace some of my weaker sources with strong ones.

For example, I received some relatives' information from a distant cousin. That's not very scientific. I'm happy to have the information, but I need to verify it with proof. (See "Trade Up to Better Family History Sources".)

So, when I have some time, I can go to these people in my tree and do the legwork. I can replace the "a cousin told me" source citation with more concrete facts and documents. That's a great use of time.

3. Enhance Your Tree's Document Images with Facts and URLs

Ever since I discovered this trick, it's been a must-do task for me. Before I attach a downloaded document image (vital record, census sheet, ship manifest, etc.) to my family tree, I add facts to the image itself.

You can add a descriptive title and comments to an image's properties. Many or all the facts will be pulled into your family tree file. (See "How to Increase the Value of Your Family Tree Images".)

Each time I have a new document to add to my tree, I edit its properties. I include a descriptive title, the name of its source and the URL it came from. Once I add it to my family tree, all I need to edit there is the date field and the category.

4. Create or Update Your List of All Gathered Documents

I'm a strong believer in keeping a spreadsheet inventory of my found documents. My document tracker contains more than 1,500 names of people in my tree, and each document I've found for them. (See "Track Your Genealogy Finds and Your Searches"

When I have some time, I can choose someone in my tree, like my grandfather. I can see exactly which documents I have for him, and which are missing. In his case, I have his:
  • 1902 birth certificate
  • 1920 ship manifest
  • 1927 naturalization papers
  • 1930 and 1940 census
  • 1992 death certificate
There are only three important documents I would like to find for him:
  • His 1928 marriage to my grandmother
  • His 1959 marriage to my step-grandmother (I do have a record of their marriage license)
  • His 1958-or-so trip back to Italy—his one and only trip home since arriving in New York in 1920.
My document tracker makes it very easy to see what I can search for when I have some time.

Don't worry about not having countless hours to spend working on your family tree.

By spending a little time on your family tree more frequently, you will see true progress. You'll feel a sense of accomplishment. And you'll know your family tree—your legacy—is better and stronger than it was yesterday.


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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, December 22, 2017

What Are Your Genealogy Goals for 2018?

Is your family tree research more productive when you focus on one person? Or do you happily follow leads and create new branches all the time?

You can fortify your family tree by filling in the blanks for your closest relatives. Then you can move on to those tempting new branches.

If you have a few moments to yourself this holiday season, think about your specific genealogy research goals for the new year. Working your way down your list of specific goals will make your tree stronger, faster.

Here are some suggestions for creating your genealogy goals for 2018.

My grandparent chart shows me exactly who's missing.
My grandparent chart shows me exactly who's missing.
Find Specific Ancestors

Create a chart or spreadsheet of your direct-line ancestors to see which sets of great grandparents are missing. See How to Visualize Your Ancestor-Finding Progress for a spreadsheet you can use.

My grandparent chart showed me that I needed the most work on my mother's mother's family. When I saw how much further I'd gotten with every other branch of my tree, I decided to focus on Grandma's line. I made great strides! See Today I Demolished My Family Tree's Only Brick Wall.

Your chart can show you where your tree needs the most work. Your goal might be "Find my 4th great grandparents in my paternal grandfather's line."

My document tracker shows me which documents I have and don't have.
My document tracker shows me which documents I have and don't have.
Fill in What's Missing

A few years into my genealogy research, I had a big collection of downloaded documents: census forms, ship manifests, draft registrations cards, and more. My filing system is very logical, so I can find what I need in a heartbeat.

But with such a big collection, it was hard to know if I was busy searching for something I had already. See Haven't I Seen You Before?

My document tracker spreadsheet gives me a quick way to see what I have for a person and what I'm missing.

Another of your goals for 2018 could be to "Find every missing 1940 census for the people in my tree."

Request Official Documents

I wish every document I needed for my family tree were online. But sometimes you've got to request a marriage certificate from the state, or buy a copy of a death certificate from the Department of Health.

If some of your ancestors died not so long ago, it's unlikely you'll find their death records online. You've got to find out how to order a copy from the state where your ancestor died.

I wanted a copy of my grandfather's 1992 death certificate to learn his exact cause of death. My brother, my cousins, and I knew it was two types of cancer, but we weren't sure which types. As his direct descendants, we thought we should know.

Since my grandfather died in New York City, I had to request a copy in a certain way. If he'd died somewhere else in New York state, or in another state, I would have had to follow a different procedure.

P.S. They did not send me his full death certificate, so I still don't know his official cause of death.

Your goal for 2018 might be "Get copies of birth, marriage and death records for my grandparents and great grandparents."

Confirm or Debunk Family Lore

I have two pieces of family lore that are so vague, I may never be able to confirm or debunk them.

One story says that my great grandfather's brother, Agostino, left the Bronx and moved to Chicago because he was involved in a fight that left a man dead.

I can try to pinpoint when he left the Bronx, and then search newspapers for a story about a man dying in a big brawl.

Another story says that my great grandfather Pasquale left New York and moved to Ohio because of an injury. He and his brothers-in-law worked for the railroad. One of the men let his son into a restricted area. The boy did something stupid and lost a few toes in an accident. To avoid getting fired, they packed up and moved.

The men continued working for the railroads. I suspect the railroad in Youngtown, Ohio, needed workers. They may have gotten an incentive to go work there.

But if the story were true, there might be some documentation of the boy with the missing toes.

Newspaper research could be what you need to confirm or debunk your family stories. Your goal might be "Find proof for my cousin's claim about our ancestor."

Aim for five or six goals that will provide the most bang for your research buck. If you achieve these goals, imagine how much family tree research you will accomplish in 2018!

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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Free DNA Analysis Finds Kissing Cousins

You can download your DNA data.
Download your DNA to use elsewhere.
When you order your DNA test, you should have the option to download your raw DNA file from the company's website.

You can submit that raw DNA file to other websites for a different analysis. For example, after attending a genealogy seminar featuring Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist, I paid a small fee to submit my raw DNA to FamilyTreeDNA.com. She suggested that if you submit your DNA to multiple sites, you're more likely to find relatives.

My FamilyTreeDNA analysis was similar to what AncestryDNA told me. The percentages were different, but it wasn't far off. I like AncestryDNA better because it pinpoints my origins as "Southern Italian" and not just "Southeast Europe".

This section says my parents are related.
This section tells me my parents are related!
I looked for more sites to analyze my DNA and found that I could create a free account on Gedmatch.com. Look for "Raw DNA file Uploads" in the "File Uploads" section of the page. Follow the steps to submit the ZIP file of your raw DNA to Gedmatch.

You'll get a "kit number" once your DNA is analyzed. Keep that number handy. Now you're ready to try out a handful of tests. Look in the "DNA raw data" column of the "Analyze Your Data" section of the main page.

Today let's focus on "Are your parents related?" Click that test name and enter your kit number. On the results page, you'll see each of your chromosomes. Color-coding shows how many segments they have in common. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for a conclusion.

My test says, "This analysis indicates that your parents are probably distantly related." Up at the top of the page, my Chromosome 2 shows my largest DNA match, measuring 7.6 Centimorgans.

I decided to run a quick test to help verify these results. I know that my father's parents were third cousins. So his raw DNA should also show that his parents were related, but my mom's DNA should not show a relationship between her parents.

Gedmatch passed my test. It did show that my dad's parents were related, but my mom's were not. My dad's DNA has two chromosomes with a significant match. The results also showed that his parents were more closely related than my parents.

My test gives me good confidence in this parent-relationship test overall.

My parents are in each other's DNA match list!
That face you make when your dad is
in your mom's DNA match list.
Once I learned my mom and dad are related, I went back to AncestryDNA to see if dad shows up in mom's DNA match list, and mom shows up in dad's.

They do!

My mom's DNA match list has my dad as her 4th cousin. More specifically, the results point to high confidence that they are 4th–6th cousins. A standard cousin chart tells me that if they're 4th–6th cousins, they share a set of 3rd–5th grandparents.

Cousin Chart, showing how two people are related.
My own ancestor chart (see How to Visualize Your Ancestor-Finding Progress) shows me how many of my parents' 3rd–5th grandparents (my 4th–6th grandparents) I've identified. So far, I have not found my parents' common ancestors.

My ancestors all came from a few neighboring towns in rural Italy. I visited those towns. My one grandfather's town is so close to my other grandfather's town that I could see one town from the other.

I think at some point, a man from one of their towns married a woman from the other.

Thanks to this free, secondary analysis of my DNA, I have a purpose. I must find out exactly how my parents are related!

What secrets are locked in your DNA?


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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Share Your Family Tree Names in a Word Cloud

So you think you know the main ancestral last names in your family tree, right?

You may be way off! There is a way you can visualize which family names are making up the majority of your family tree.

Recently I've seen a word cloud floating around that shows the most common last names in each of the regions of Italy. It's plain to see that Russo and Rossi are the most common Italian names throughout the country.

What about your family tree?

you can create a word cloud from your family tree
A word cloud shows the frequency of names in your family tree.
I created this tree-shaped word cloud using only names from my grandfather's hometown of Baselice, Italy. My Baselice Family Tree Maker file has more than 16,000 people, and this required a lot of manual editing. To save a few days, I'm showing only the last names of people whose first name begins with A. That's 3,355 people!

Ironically, the biggest names I see are not closely related to me.

You should know that because of intermarrying, I am related to roughly 13,000 of the 16,000 people in my file.

Even more surprising is that I can spot the names of in-laws, like Pallotta at the base of the tree and Borrillo at the base of the leaves.

Oh! And there's a tiny Pilla in the center. That's a name from my other grandfather's family!

To create your word cloud, you need a text file of just the last names. I exported a GEDCOM file, pasted it into a spreadsheet, and kept whittling it down with search and replace. Then go to https://www.wordclouds.com:
  • Click the "Word list" button.
  • Click the "Paste/Type text" link near the top.
  • Copy and paste your list of names and click the "Apply" button.
When your word cloud is created, use the different buttons to change the shape, colors, spacing, and font.

When you're happy with your results, click the "File" button and choose how you'd like to save your family tree word cloud. Then share yours on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #familytreenames.