06 June 2017

Free Resource Provides Graphic Genealogy Research Basics

I'm happy to pay for my ancestry.com subscription. I have full access for less than a dollar a day.

But many genealogy fans prefer to go the all-for-free route.

Well, there's a newcomer to the genealogy resource field. MooseRoots is a completely free site that can help you find birth, death and marriage dates and places, and a lot more. (See also What To Do When You Have No Birth or Death Record.)

Results of a search for Grandma's birth record.
Results of a search for Grandma's birth record.
From their Genealogy Collections page, choose from a long list of categories, including:

  • U.S. Census records
  • State birth records
  • State death records
  • State marriage and divorce records (Australian records, too)
  • Casualties from several wars

I began testing the site by looking for my grandmother's New York City birth record from 1899. I already have a copy of her birth record from the New York City Municipal Archives. The main fact I learned from her birth record was that her middle name was Carmina—and that's not what she told us it was.

The MooseRoots result was disappointing because it didn't include her parents' names. But it did include the certificate number. That would be enough for me to find the original on microfilm at the archives.

Next I searched the same collection for anyone with her last name to see if I would find her siblings. I found her two brothers, but the transcriptions of their first names were ridiculous. I found two misspelled Alfredos, and I wouldn't know which one was my great uncle if I hadn't already known his birthday.

But the lack of parents' names is based on the record collection, so I don't blame MooseRoots. I checked California birth records because I know they include the mother's maiden name. And those maiden names appeared in the results. But the California birth records did not include a certificate number.
Easily share various parts of the results page.
Easily share various parts of the results page.

I was very impressed by MooseRoots' collection of Japanese-American Internment Camp records. Unfortunately, you can't search for a specific name or sort the results, so I didn't see the two last names of my in-laws. (See also Can Genealogy Research Be Painful?.)

I chose a random person named Tanaka (another family name in my husband's tree), and I was impressed with the results.

The website generates a narrative including lots of facts about Takanosu Tanaka: his year and place of birth, that he was widowed, the name of the "camp" where he was detained (Tule Lake), and much more.

As I scrolled down the page I found visualizations of Takanosu's facts. And this is the thing that makes MooseRoots unique: visualizations.

A company called Graphiq powers the site. Graphiq compiles facts into colorful graphs to make them easier to understand.

I believe MooseRoots has plans to become a much richer genealogy resource. When you click a person's name in your results list, you have the opportunity to add their photo once you create a free account. I hit a snag when I tried to register with my Facebook account. Instead, I chose the Google+ login option. That worked, but then the "Add or Edit Photos" button didn't do anything. So, they've got some kinks to iron out.

This video includes facts unique to your ancestor.
This video includes facts
unique to your ancestor.
Search results pages give you one-click access to an Ancestry search and a MyHeritage search if you're a subscriber. You can click a button to share any individual piece of the results.

The 1940 Census results included a nice surprise: a customized video that includes the census facts for the person you chose. There's also a scrollable list of other people on the same census sheet, with clickable names. (See also How To Squeeze Everything Out of the Census.)

When you're visiting the site, be sure to click the More menu at the top of the page to get an idea of which collections may be the most helpful to you.

Happy [moose] hunting.

04 June 2017

The Italian Genealogy Goldmine: "Wedding Packets"

I've shown you how to dissect Italian birth records, Italian death records (twice, in fact), and Italian marriage records before.

But I promised to explain the treasure trove I call Italian "wedding packets". (Maybe these exist for other countries, too!)

If you're researching your Italian ancestors, and you're lucky enough to find your ancestral hometown's records in the Italian genealogy archives (Antenati), then you have access to the wedding packets.

On the Antenati site, you'll find different kinds of "matrimoni" documents for each year.

  • First comes "Matrimoni, pubblicazioni" which includes the two times a couple had to publicly post their intention to marry. The first record may not tell you anything more than the names of the groom and bride and both sets of parents.
    First notification of intention to marry.
    First notification of intention to marry.
    The second record provides ages, occupations, places of birth and/or residence. If the bride or groom is widowed, you may also get the name of the deceased spouse.
    Second notification of intention to marry.
    Second notification of intention to marry.
  • Second is "Matrimoni" which adds the date on which they were approved for marriage (think of it as a marriage license date), and the date they were married in church. Sometimes you'll also find the names of the priest and witnesses.
  • Third comes "Matrimoni, processetti"—my favorite! This wedding packet can contain many pages. It starts with a birth record for the bride and groom. If either is a widow, you get the deceased spouse's death record. Then there is a death record for any of their parents who have died. This, of course, can tell you the names of the bride or groom's grandparents. If the father of the bride or groom has died, and their grandfather is not alive to give his permission for the marriage, then you'll also see the grandfather's death record.
    Groom's first wife's death record.
    Groom's first wife's death record.
Groom's father's death record—giving me the names of my 4th great grandparents.
Groom's father's death record—giving me the names of my 4th great grandparents.

The best-case scenario is an older couple, both widowed, and both with no living parents or grandparents. I've had wedding packets provide me with one or both spouse's great grandparents' names!

We're lucky because in the old days, no one stayed single. If their spouse died, they absolutely remarried—sometimes again and again. Life was too hard not to have a partner.

02 June 2017

How to Use a Paper Trail to Recreate Your Ancestor's Life

I *might* remember a long drive from New York to Ohio to visit my great grandparents when I was 5 years old. I *might* have a single image in my mind of great grandma's kitchen. But that's it.

Before I began researching my family tree, I knew next-to-nothing about my great grandfather Pasquale Iamarino—or Patsy Marino, as he was known. He lived in Ohio and worked for the railroad. Nothing more.

Genealogists enjoy piecing together our ancestors' paper trails and mapping out their locations. If we're lucky, we can wind up with enough facts to bring our ancestors back to life in a way.

Italian church records from the 1880s told me that Patsy and my other paternal great grandfather were 2nd cousins. A ship manifest told me that Patsy came to America at age 20, heading first to his uncle in New York City.

Four years later, in 1906, he was working for the Erie Railroad in Steuben County, New York. In the rail yard he must have met the Caruso brothers who came from a neighboring town in Italy.

By late 1906 he married the only sister in the Caruso family, in Hornellsville, New York. Hornellsville was a boom town at that time, achieving city status that year, thanks to the railroad.

When my grandmother Lucy was born in 1908, Patsy and his little family lived at 95 Front Street—a short walk from the railroad station. (I paced up and down in front of that house on a visit in 2015.)

I stood beside this rail yard in Hornell, New York, in 2015, imagining my great grandfather's life.
I stood beside this rail yard in Hornell, New York, in 2015, imagining my great grandfather's life.

Between 1910 and 1914 Patsy moved to Albany and continued working as a railroad laborer.

Then, suddenly, in 1918 Patsy was in Youngstown, Ohio, and registered for the draft. Did he move to keep his job?

He was a boilermaker for the Erie Railroad, working in the railroad roundhouse, according to the 1920 and 1930 census.

City directories show him on Dearborn Street in Girard, Ohio in the early 1930s. This is the house I feel as if I remember.

By 1940, at the age of 58, Patsy retired. I'm closing in on 58 and wish I could retire! But my dad recently told me that Patsy had to retire because of lung issues. Did all those years cleaning out coal-burning engines give him something like black lung disease?

My great grandparents, before I was born.
My great grandparents, before I was born.

According to the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, "Railroad Boilermakers service and repair locomotives, and manufacture parts, including hundreds of items used every day in the railroad industry. They also perform welding on tracks and general maintenance work."

With today's worker safety rules, a boilermaker probably isn't at any risk of lung disease. But something incapacitated Patsy in his fifties. He lived to be 87 years old, enjoying free rail travel.

During his long retirement, Patsy enjoyed tending to his garden and his roses at the house on Dearborn Street. I wish I could remember him.