Showing posts with label world war ii. Show all posts
Showing posts with label world war ii. Show all posts

Friday, August 10, 2018

6 Ways to Add Another Generation to Your Family Tree

When you started building your family tree, you may have known only your 4 grandparents' names. What fun it is each time you discover a relative's parents' names. You've added another generation to your tree!

Here are 6 places to look for the names of that previous generation. Some may surprise you.

1. Census Sheets

Look closely at each member of your relative's household in each census. You may find the Head of Household's mother, father, mother-in-law, or father-in-law living with the family. The best find is the male head of household's father-in-law. Now you've got the wife's maiden name!

2. Draft Registration Cards

If your male relative was single and the right age, his draft registered card may name his father or mother as his nearest relative. In this example, Tony Jr. is not his real name—it's Anton Jr. But this card is evidence that he is, in fact, named after his father.

The draft registration card for a single man may give you his mother or father's name.
The draft registration card for a single man may give you his mother or father's name.

I'd heard stories about "Uncle Anton" from my mother-in-law. When I found this card, I realized his father's name was Anton, too.

3. Ship Manifests

If your ancestor emigrated during a particular span of years, you're lucky. Their ship manifest may include a column labelled, "The name and complete address of nearest relative or friend in country whence alien came."

Your relative may give the name of their spouse. But an unmarried traveler may name their father or mother.

Your immigrant ancestor's ship manifest can tell you their hometown - and their parent's name.
Your immigrant ancestor's ship manifest can tell you their hometown—and their parent's name.

You may not understand this scribble, but this is my grandfather Adamo naming his father Giovanni as the relative he's leaving in his town of Baselice.

4. Social Security Applications and Claims Index

A while ago I found a collection on called "U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1935-2007".

If your relative worked in the United States after the 1935 founding of the Social Security Administration, they should have Social Security records. Hopefully you're already familiar with the SSDI—the Social Security Death Index. That can give you dates and places of birth and death.

But the Applications and Claims Index can give you much more! With some luck, you can learn the decedent's father's name and their mother's maiden name.

Plus, if you're looking up a female relative by her birth date, you can learn her married name.

5. Passport Applications

If your relative was a U.S. citizen going to another country at a certain time, they needed a passport. These applications can be a treasure trove. And you even get a photo.

Here's some of what you might learn about your relative:
  • birth date and place
  • address
  • occupation
  • father's name, birth date or age, birthplace and address
  • wife's name
If the applicant is a married woman, you'll get details about her husband rather than her father.

A passport application provides lots of names, dates and places you need.
A passport application provides lots of names, dates and places you need.

This example is from a relative named Walter Smith. It provides birth dates and countries for Walter, his wife Elizabeth, and his father George. It also says when he sailed from Liverpool to the U.S., and on which ship. The next page has photos of Walter and Elizabeth.

That's some valuable info when you're researching a guy named Smith!

6. Vital Records

Of course all genealogy fans want to find their ancestor's birth, marriage and death records. Keep in mind that:
  • The parents' names on a birth record should be pretty reliable. But either parent may be using a nickname rather than their true, full name.
  • All information on a death record is obviously supplied by someone other than the person who died. What if the decedent is an 85-year-old who was born in another country? Will their child, who's supplying the information, know the correct spelling of their grandparents' names? What if they never even met those grandparents?
  • If the couple getting married is pretty young, you can have more confidence in how they list their parents' names. (The "nickname" rule still applies.) But if the couple is older—2 widows getting remarried—the information is more likely to have an error.
  • If your couple got married in the same little town where they were born and raised, the clerk writing the names is more likely to get them right.

The lesson to take away is this: Don't give up on that previous generation if you can't get your relative's vital records. You have 5 other types of records to find, each of which can help you fortify your family tree.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Was Your Ancestor in the Military? It May Not Matter

One of my best family history clues came from a World War II draft registration card for a 64-year-old man.

My grandmother's uncle barely made the deadline for the "old man's registration". In late April 1942, local draft boards recorded facts about men born between 28 April 1877 and 16 February 1897. The men were 45 to 64 years old. How badly did the war have to go before they called up 64-year-old men?

Born four months into the date range, my great uncle was about to turn 65 when he went to the draft board in the Bronx, New York.

His name was Semplicio Saviano, known as Sam. His World War II draft registration card tells me was was 5'6" and had an artificial left eye. My mother remembers being so afraid of him, and her mother would scold her for it. "He's my uncle. Don't be silly!" But maybe it was that fake eye that spooked her as a little girl.

Sam's registration card also tells me that he was living in my mother's building. That confirms her story of seeing him at the end of the hall, staying in a little room that wasn't much bigger than a closet. He lists his sister (my great grandmother) as the person who will always know his address. That makes sense, too, because Sam's wife had died, and my great grandparents owned my mom's building.

But the fantastic clue needed so badly was his place of birth. All I'd ever heard for so many years was that my great grandmother's family was from Avellino, Italy. The problem is Avellino is both a city and a province. So where did they come from?

Although riddled with errors, this draft registration card holds a vital key to my family history.
The answer, though completely misspelled, is printed neatly on the card. It says "Tofo - Province Avilino". I had no doubt that "Avilino" was meant to say "Avellino". So I checked an online map of Avellino for a town with a name anything like Tofo.

Aha! Finally, I had hard evidence pointing to the town of Tufo, Avellino.

Shortly after this discovery, I was visiting the Family History Center in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. It was my first time at a Center, so I was just checking it out. One of the volunteers suggested I look at which films were sitting in their "Italy drawer". Would you believe I found a reel of film from Tufo?

I made a big discovery thanks to that film. Sam was born there, and so was an older brother that no one in my family knew about.

If you're searching for someone in the World War II draft registration cards, keep those birth dates (28 April 1877 and 16 February 1897) in mind. I'd been searching for my paternal grandfather's card for a long time before I realized he was too young. He was born in 1902—probably too old to serve, but too young for this registration.

World War I draft registration cards are important to gather, too. It's another moment in time to see where your relative lived and worked. These cards were filled out on three separate dates, each with its own birth date ranges:
  • On 5 June 1917 they registered men born between 6 June 1886 and 5 June 1896.
  • On 5 June 1918 they registered men born between 6 June 1896 and 5 June 1897.
  • On 12 Sept 1918 they registered men born between 11 Sept 1872 and 12 Sept 1900.
My paternal grandfather fell through the cracks again! He was too young to serve or be registered.

Draft registration card images are available on and If your ancestor didn't serve, you may have overlooked this important family history resource. Which of your male ancestors should be in these record collections?

If this all seems a bit familiar, I did write about draft registration cards 9 months ago. Finding Sam's place of birth was such an important breakthrough for me, I want to encourage you to find your ancestors' cards, too.

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Sunday, October 22, 2017

Putting Yourself in Your Ancestor's Shoes...Historically

Have you had the pleasure of visiting the country your ancestors came from? Those of us who have gone to the old country felt moved, enchanted, and somehow at home.

We found ourselves thinking, "How could they have left this beautiful place?"

But, as Michael Corleone said to his mother in "The Godfather Part II", tempi cambi. Times are changing. The quaint town you visited in recent times may be very different than it was when your ancestor lived there.

your ancestors emigrated from a place that may seem like paradise to you today
It may look like a slice of heaven to you, but your ancestor's hometown gave them reason to emigrate.

Recently I did some research to figure out where one ancestral branch came from. No one living knew if the family was German or Polish. After a bit of historical research, I can now place the family in today's Poland before they left for America. (See Finding Ancestral Homelands That Are No Longer There.)

My direct ancestors all came from Italy, but Italy was not united as a kingdom until 1861. My great great grandmother Marianna Iammucci was born in 1854. That means she wasn't born in the Italy we know today. She was born in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

Marianna's son Adamo Leone fought for Italy in World War I. He came to America and returned to fight for his young country. As a result of that war, Italy became bigger, adding territories in the northeast.

After Italy's unification, there were big differences between northern and southern Italy. My grandfathers and great grandfathers faced poverty and a lack of opportunity. Each of them came to America to find work.

One of my great grandfathers, Francesco Iamarino, came to America at least four times. He stayed and worked for a while. Then he returned home to his wife and children.

His only son, my grandfather Pietro Iamarino, came to America at age 18. Pietro didn't visit his hometown until the 1950s when he was a widow in his fifties. He would have missed his father, who'd passed away by that time. But I can't begin to imagine how happy his mother must have been to see him one more time.

When you're researching your ancestors who left home to find a better life, pay attention to history. What was going on in their hometown when they chose to leave?

Here are two resources published by EmperorTigerstar that show how national borders and ruling powers changed during World War I and World War II. (See EmperorTigerstar's YouTube channel for tons of history.) They're a good illustration of how time changes everything.

World War I: Every Day

World War II in Europe: Every Day

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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!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

How to Avoid Searching for Non-Existent Genealogy Records

Don't waste time searching for an ancestor in a document collection that will not contain their name.

Genealogy is a thriving industry overflowing with documents and databases. If you subscribe to any ancestry sites, you've got a never-ending supply of databases to browse.

But don't waste time. Learn exactly what a document collection holds before you start your search.
These men in my tree had military records for me to find. But not my grandfather.
These men in my tree had military records for me to find. But not my paternal grandfather.

Here's a prime example of how I've been wasting time hunting for a document that can't even exist.

My maternal grandfather, Adamo Leone, fought in World War I. He was in the Italian army and became a prisoner of war. Obviously I'm not going to find a United States World War I draft registration card for him.

I do have a copy of his World War II registration card when he was 51 years old. This is called the "Old Man's Draft" and was more a database of skills than prospective soldiers. These men were never intended to go to war.

My paternal grandfather, Pietro Iamarino, was still living in Italy between 1914 and 1918. He was only 16 when World War I ended.

But I had no World War II record for him. I spent a lot time examining images of registration cards, one by one. I figured the name "Iamarino" was misfiled, so I hoped to find it myself.

Then one day it struck me. Maybe his 1902 birth year excluded him from this set of records.

Here's what I should have researched in the first place.

Men who were drafted for World War II were age 18–35 in 1942. If they were between 35 and 45 and unmarried, they were also eligible for the draft.

Grandpa was 40 years old and married in 1942. He was beyond the cut-off for military service.

Then there was the "Old Man's Draft" where I found my other, older grandfather Adamo. This registration included men born between April 27, 1877 and February 16, 1897.

Grandpa, born in October 1902, didn't fall into this category, either. As an able-bodied 40-year-old man, Grandpa Pietro was left to continue his work and take care of the home front.

This tiny bit of research could have saved me lots of time.

So here's the moral of my story. Before you search for a particular ancestor in a document collection, stop. Find out exactly what that collection contains. Decide if your ancestor should be there or not.

On, each collection has its details listed below the search area. On, the descriptions are above the search area.

Find out what you're looking at before you spend hours looking at it.

I can put an "n/a" in the draft card field of my document tracker spreadsheet for Grandpa.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Why You Need Your Ancestor's Draft Registration Cards

As the song teaches us, war is good for "absolutely nothing". Unless you're a genealogist.

Military records are filled with data points every genealogist wants. Perhaps the easiest military records to find are draft registration cards for World War I and II.

World War I

The U.S. declared war on the German Empire on April 6, 1917, entering World War I.

In 1917 and 1918, 98% of men in the United States who were born between 1872 and 1900 had to register for the draft. Each man went to a local place to have his information and signature (or mark) collected on a registration card.

It's interesting to note that although my grandfather was the right age to fight in World War I, there is no registration card for him. That's because he went back to Italy to fight for his native country.

The exact information collected depends on the state where your ancestor lived.
This tells me where his father lives in Japan

For genealogists, the World War I registration card for your ancestor can provide:
  • full name and current address
  • age and date of birth
  • race:
    • White
    • Negro
    • Oriental
    • (American) Indian
  • citizenship status
  • place of birth
  • occupation, employer and address of employment
  • list of dependents including parent, wife, and sibling or children under 12
  • marital status
  • name and address of nearest relative (could be in another country)
  • military service
  • exemption from draft
  • your ancestor's signature
  • physical characteristics:
    • height: tall, medium or short
    • build: slender, medium or stout
    • hair and eye color
  • "Has person lost arm, leg, hand, foot, or both eyes, or is he otherwise disabled (specify)?"
  • date the information was collected
  • location of the draft board

World War II

We all know it was the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 that forced the U.S. to officially enter World War II.

A staggering 16.1 million Americans fought in World War II, so a draft became necessary. This was the Selective Service Act.

The government registered more than 10 million men from November 1940—before the U.S. entered the war—until October 1946—after the war ended.

Better safe than sorry, I guess.
Front side of a World War II draft registration card

The government took the extra measure to register older men between the ages of 45 and 64. Think about what a 64-year-old man probably looked like in 1941. Ancient, no doubt. Ten years away from reaching the limit of life expectancy!

These "old man" draft registration cards were somehow completed in one day: 27 April 1942. The men had to have a birth date between two very specific dates: 28 April 1877 and 16 February 1897.

A World War II registration card for your ancestor can provide:
  • full name and current address
  • mailing address
  • telephone number (if they had a telephone)
  • age and date of birth
  • place of birth including county (if within the U.S.) or country
  • name and address of someone (usually a relative) who will always know where to find you
  • employer's name and address
  • place of employment or business
  • your ancestor's signature
  • physical characteristics:
    • race: White, Negro, Oriental, (American) Indian, or Fillipino
    • height
    • weight
    • hair and eye color
    • type of complexion: sallow, light, ruddy, dark, freckled, light brown, dark brown, black
  • Other obvious physical characteristics that will aid in identification"
  • date the information was collected
  • location of the draft board

A World War II registration card gave me a breakthrough. My grandmother's Uncle Semplicio's card gave me his Italian home town. That told me where my great great grandparents came from.

Because of that card, I was able to find Semplicio's birth record, along with that of an unknown brother. The brother died as a child.

These draft registrations took place between census years. You may find that they provide additional addresses to help you map your ancestor.

Maybe they will provide an address that helps you find your ancestor within the previous or next census.

And maybe you'll learn about a physical disability you might otherwise have never known. For example, my grandmother's Uncle Semplicio had an artificial eye.

So that's why my mother was always afraid of him!