08 March 2017

Collect the Whole Set!

It's been my experience that anyone who becomes involved in genealogy becomes obsessed with genealogy. We each have our areas of focus. Some people spend years trying to go back another generation in one troublesome branch of their tree. Others concentrate on the males only, climbing the tree one generation at a time. Me? I want everything. Everything!

When I started my tree, all I knew about my mother's father's family were his siblings' names (Eve and Noah to his Adam!) and that his mother might have been named Mariangela (she wasn't). But I wanted to know more. First I wrote to the webmaster for his town's website and he was kind enough to send me my grandfather's parents' names, birth dates and marriage date, as well as the birth dates of his siblings. Then I began ordering microfilm through the Family History Center of the vital records from his hometown in Italy.

Armed with my great grandparents' names and birth dates, I was able to locate their birth records and learn their parents' names. During that search I found other names that may have been siblings to my great grandparents.

That's when I knew I had to document all the records (1809–1860) for the entire town to see exactly how they all fit together. In the end, this long process yielded about 12,000 people for my family tree.

Twelve thousand people.

Documenting the vital records available for my grandfather's town.

The whole time I worked on that project, which was about five years, all I kept thinking about was how much I wanted to do the same for my other grandfather's town—the town my maiden name comes from. But work got in the way, and I no longer had the freedom to go view microfilm at my local Family History Center during their limited hours. I kept hoping that my other grandfather's town's records would be digitized and made available on familysearch.org, but it didn't happen.

Then I discovered an Italian website that has the vital records for all of my ancestral hometowns! So now it begins again. I am meticulously downloading every single birth, marriage and death document from the town of Colle Sannita, ranging from 1809–1942 with a few gaps. That's a lot of documents.

Sooo many downloadeds Italian vital records!

As I download them, I make note of two key last names: that of my grandfather (Iamarino) and his mother (Pilla). Once I have them all I will begin:
  • transcribing the basic facts into a spreadsheet,
  • entering confirmed relatives into my Family Tree Maker file,
  • piecing together every relative in the town.
Today my tree has more than 19,000 people. (I told you I'm obsessed.) After this project, I should hit 30,000. That's a great start, don't you think?

05 March 2017

What Language Barrier?

I've spent countless hours harvesting information from old Italian vital records. It was a little intimidating at first, but once I became comfortable with the most important genealogical words—and completely memorized my numbers—I stopped seeing these documents as being written in a foreign language. To me they are fairly straightforward documents filled with valuable facts.

1804 Italian death record. No big thang.
1804 Italian death record. No big thang.

You can achieve this familiarity with foreign languages, too. You can learn the keywords you need to identify in a foreign document. And once you look at enough documents to get comfortable with the strange, archaic handwriting, you'll be fine.

Here are several free wiki entries from FamilySearch.org to help you get accustomed to genealogical words in the language of your ancestors:

Find more languages by clicking the map on this FamilySearch page: https://familysearch.org/wiki/en/Main_Page

There is much more country-specific information available in the wiki, so if you don't see the language you want above, or if you need to understand how vital records work in another part of the world, start at the world map. My list above is very European focused because I did not find language help for African, Middle Eastern or East Asian countries. But there is plenty of critical information available about how records are kept, marriage practices, and more. Take advantage of it!

02 March 2017

How to Find State-Specific Death Indexes and Records

DeathIndexes.com is a compilation of free and subscription resources for finding death records in each U.S. state. The website is owned and maintained by Joe Beine.

I didn't expect her to have an obituary.
I didn't expect her to have an obituary.
If you don't have a subscription to ancestry.com or a membership with another genealogy website, Joe Beine's lists can quickly help you discover exactly the resource you need to locate information on a particular relative. Each link tells you up front whether it takes you to a site that requires payment or provides free access.

Within the individual state pages, links are sorted for you by county. I decided to dive in and look for members of a particular family that lived in Steuben County, New York, and found a link to a website I'd never seen before. In one click, I downloaded a PDF that gave me the names, birth and death years, and cemetery name for every Caruso who died between 1912 and 2016 in that county.

Then I thought about my sister-in-law's distant relatives who lived and died in Broward County, Florida. I found another website I'd never seen before that is the searchable database of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Broward County. I'll need that when I go back to verify all the facts I have about her ancestors.

My favorite find, and I've barely scratched the surface, is a database of the local newspaper where my paternal grandmother's parents lived. A search for the last name Iamarino yielded one result: my great grandmother, Maria Rosa Caruso Iamarino. Apparently they published her obituary, which is a surprise to me. I can see the publication date, the page and column. I think I need to go to their local library to see the obituary, but I am happy to know it exists.

DeathIndexes.com also features a Genealogy Records & Resources link to several excellent resources for vital records.

If you have not yet explored this site, I highly recommend you do.