09 July 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 ancestry.com, each collection has its details listed below the search area. On familysearch.org, 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.

07 July 2017

Take a Genealogy Vacation This Summer

I take the most exhausting vacations known to mankind. There's no sitting by the pool. There's no lying on the beach.

There's tons of sightseeing and a painful amount of walking. But I love it that way.

My major vacation for 2017 ended on Monday. Now I want to map out some shorter-distance, shorter-length genealogy vacations for this summer. And you should, too.

Last summer my husband and I planned a trip to the Finger Lakes of New York, knowing that my grandmother was born in Hornellsville, 45 minutes west of Cornell. So we booked a hotel in Cornell and made our sightseeing, winery-touring plans.

On the way west, we drove past Cornell and went straight to the house where my grandmother lived as a little girl. It's most likely where she and her brother were born. We visited the local library searching for evidence of my great grandfather. And we walked along the railroad tracks by the station where he worked.

Here's what I learned from that side-trip: Plan better!

Using my family tree software, I can find nearby places I should visit.
Using my family tree software, I can find nearby places I should visit.

We discovered that my great grandfather's railroad station is now a museum, but it wasn't open that day. We drove past the church where one of my great grandmother Caruso's brothers got married, but I didn't think to go in. My great grandparents were probably married there, too. I later discovered on FindAGrave.com that many of my Caruso relatives are buried in that churchyard.

Oh, the horror! I have to go back and spend a couple of days there sometime.

My grandmother's house was almost a five-hour drive away. What can I do that's much closer—that I may be able to do in one long day or short weekend?

Think about your family tree. Which of your ancestors lived or spent any time in a place that's not too far from where you are now?

Is there a graveyard you should visit? Does an ancestor's place of business still exist? Are any of your ancestors' homes still standing? (To find out, see "How to Visit Your Ancestral Hometown at Your Desk".)

If you use family tree software that can plot your ancestors on a map, you've got the basis for planning your genealogy vacation. (See "Mapping Your Ancestors Can Answer Questions".)

In Family Tree Maker, I can drill down from the USA to New York state, to nearby counties. I see lots of houses and cemeteries I want to visit.

02 July 2017

Does Independence Day Make You Think of Your Ancestors?

My uncle, John Robert Leone
I never met my Uncle Johnny—my mother's brother. He was a Staff Sergeant, a tail gunner, shot down in battle during World War II.

Growing up we heard nothing more than that Uncle Johnny's plane crashed into a mountain, maybe in Yugoslavia.

Then a few years ago my first cousin found an astonishing video on You Tube. The son of one of my Uncle Johnny's crew mates went to the town of Hum, Croatia. There he interviewed an old man named Nikola Tomic who witnessed my uncle's crash in 1944. Nikola was a boy on July 7, 1944.

Nikola describes what he saw at the site of the crash of the B-17G Bomber shot down by Nazis. The bomber crashed about 1 kilometer from his farm near the border of Hungary and what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Knowing this date of July 7, 1944, it didn't take long to realize Uncle Johnny's mission—flying out of the same Italian airbase used by the legendary Tuskegee Airmen—was part of that summer's Battle of Normandy. The battle famously began with D-Day on June 6.

Johnny's plane was headed north to their bombing site in Austria when they were hit. My mother, a young girl at the time, remembers being told that five men parachuted out and five went down with the plane. She said none of them were ever found.

So on this Independence Day I'd like to honor 10 men who fought for our freedoms—my Uncle Johnny and his crew:
Uncle Johnny remembered on a plaque in his church.
  • 2nd Lt. Carl C. Sorensen, pilot, Wabasha, Minnesota
  • 2nd Lt. Kingsley B. Enoch, co-pilot, Springfield, Massachusetts
  • 2nd Lt. Albert L. Berrie, navigator, Belmont, Massachusetts
  • 1st Lt. Thomas V. Platten, bombardier, Modesto, California
  • T/Sgt. Kenneth E. Sharp, engineer/top turret gunner, Campti, Louisiana
  • S/Sgt. Danny Delio, right waist gunner, Mishawaka, Indiana
  • S/Sgt. Harold R. Kennelley, radio operator, Spring Mills, Pennsylvania
  • S/Sgt. Ernest R. Rossi, left waist gunner, Oakland, California
  • S/Sgt. Donald L. Nye, ball turret gunner, Tiffin, Ohio
  • S/Sgt. John R. Leone, tail gunner, Bronx, New York