17 November 2017

When DNA Says You're Related, You Determine How

I've gotten Ancestry DNA tests for myself, my parents, and my husband. If you've been tested or you're thinking about it, expect to do some work.

My DNA ethnicity estimate is different than either of my parents'
The DNA match results will clearly show who is your parent, child, or close cousin. If you don't know your biological parents or close cousins, this may be big news for you.

But if your DNA matches are labelled as possible 3rd or 4th cousins, or 6th to 8th cousins, it's your job to find the relationship.

Your match may have posted their family tree. If so, you may recognize a 3rd or 4th cousin by the names in their tree.

If they haven't posted a family tree, you can write to them to ask about the relationship. Give them a link to your tree, or mention some of your surnames and places of origin.

Recently a woman contacted me, saying her mother's DNA was a match to my mother's DNA. After two messages back and forth, we realized exactly who each other was. But we'd never met. Now we have met, and we brought together our mothers for a third cousins' reunion.

My people are generally from a very concentrated area of Italy.
Yesterday another woman contacted me saying her father-in-law is a distant DNA match to my father. We traded several emails trying to figure out exactly which Iamarino ancestor the two men share.

But she and I must do the legwork to figure it out. We realized our two trees may have a mistake because of an error in an Italian vital record we've both seen. We're each trying to make the correct Pietro Iamarino fit firmly into our tree. Hopefully we'll figure out the facts and find that exact shared ancestor.

An even more exciting DNA task lies ahead of me. Gedmatch.com analyzed my DNA and told me my parents are related! Sure enough, Ancestry DNA says they are 4th to 6th cousins. That means they share a set of 3rd to 5th great grandparents.

I've made great progress on my parents' family histories, but I haven't found that link. I wasn't looking for it before! Matching up their 3rd to 5th great grandparents seems within my reach.

My parent's ancestors came from 4 neighboring towns in a province of Southern Italy. My research shows a lot of marriages connecting these towns. The idea that one of his ancestors and one of her ancestors married is not the least bit surprising.

Finding your DNA match is a pretty reliable lead, but still a lead. Don't expect the connection to be handed to you. It's up to you to follow the lead and find a new set of relatives for your family tree.

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14 November 2017

Finding New Cousins on Facebook

Have you ever heard of "trolling for cousins" or "fishing for cousins"?

You can use social media like Facebook to find distant cousins. These cousins may have the key to a family tree branch that has you stumped.

There's nothing sinister about it. It's a simple way of gaining an introduction and making a new connection.

The idea is to post a bit of family history that will interest the cousins you know. Tag those cousins in your post and ask a question.

If they don't have the answer, they may tag their cousins from the other side of their family. Engage those cousins in the conversation. Share what you know, and ask them for any details they can offer.

Example 1

Found by accident, I recognized the names!
This week I posted a photo I took of a tombstone. It contains several names I knew—the names of my distant cousins' grandmother's family. Her family is not related to me, but they came from my parents' neighborhood. My dad remembers her fondly. I'm very interested in them, so I've documented them in my family tree.

But there was one name on the tombstone I didn't know. Luckily, one of the cousins I tagged reached out to her cousin from her grandmother's family. He had lots of answers for me, and his elderly mother gave him even more information to share.

Example 2

A while ago I used Google Street View to capture an image of the house in Italy where my grandfather was born. I posted it in a Facebook group dedicated to my grandfather's hometown. My goal was to see if anyone knew who lives there now.

My grandfather's house still stands.
I mentioned my grandfather's last name of Leone. Someone responded that no one with that name lives in town anymore. I replied using the name of a Leone cousin I know, saying that he lives nearby. Then I listed out the names of his siblings. These were names he told me years ago when we first me online.

Two of the siblings I mentioned responded, saying "Here I am!" in Italian. Now I have two more connections to my grandfather's town. I'd like to try to meet them when I visit again.

Facebook is still a place for those dog and baby photos, and that's great! At no other time in history has it been this easy to reconnect with old friends and find unknown relatives.

Remember: Treat any genealogy facts you learn on Facebook, or from someone's own mouth as leads. It's up to you to find the documents that prove the names and dates you may learn from a cousin's cousin.

What documents or photos do you have that someone else can help you better understand?

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10 November 2017

Appreciate the Veterans in Your Family Tree

My dad was a USAF jet pilot who did not see combat.
My dad wanted to fight, but missed the war.
"But for him, I wouldn't be here."

That's what producer and writer Tonya Lewis-Lee said after learning about one of her ancestors on PBS's "Finding Your Roots".

It's a heavy concept. Think about all the direct-line ancestors you've added to your family tree. If you've traced your family back several generations, you should have the names of lots of individual people who led directly to you.

Have you ever thought about the many ways things might have gone differently? And how many of your ancestors could easily have taken a slightly different path?

It's like the "butterfly effect"—the idea that some small change in the past could cause a big change in today's world.

If just one pair of your direct-line ancestors hadn't had children, you would not exist!

My mother's brother Johnny died in an airplane crash in World War II. His tragic death left no one to carry on the family name of Leone. If Johnny had come home from the war, he probably would have had a wife and children—children who would be my first cousins.

My grandfather was a soldier in the Italian army in World War I.
My grandfather, standing,
before he was captured.
His father, my grandfather Adamo, was an Italian prisoner of war in World War I. He faced brutal conditions in captivity. Many men imprisoned with him died of starvation and disease. He sometimes ate rats to stay alive. If he had died, I wouldn't be here.

My great grandparents, Giovanni and Maria Rosa, stayed in Italy when the rest of Maria Rosa's family came to settle in America. Fifteen months later, after the death of their first-born child, my great grandparents followed the family to America.

What if their son hadn't died? Would they have stayed in Italy? If they had stayed, their daughter Mary would never have married my grandfather Adamo. My mother wouldn't be here. I wouldn't be here.

This Veterans Day, I encourage you to think of your ancestors who served their country in the military. You should be proud and thankful for their service, of course. But you should also be very grateful that they lived to carry on the line that led to you.

In a college film class years ago I saw the 1974 Vietnam War documentary, "Heart and Minds". The film brought me to tears when I realized my father, a United States Air Force jet pilot, could have been dropping napalm on villages if he'd been in that war.

He wasn't in that war, and the Korean War ended immediately after he graduated flight school. But maybe, in that moment, I saw how fragile our lives are. If my dad had gone to war, he could have died.

And I wouldn't be here to trace his ancestors back to the late 1600s. "But for him, I wouldn't be here."

Here are some FamilySearch.org links that may help you find out more about your military ancestors.

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07 November 2017

Trade Up to Better Family History Sources

Check your list of sources. Which ones aren't certified reliable?
Reliable sources make a reliable family tree.
No offense to my third cousin once removed, but I can do better. If my family tree has facts whose only source is my cousin, that's not good enough.

Hearsay—even if it's someone's first-hand knowledge—is not a reliable, reproducible source for your family research.

That's why I'm on a mission to verify every fact in my tree that has a person or someone's online tree as my source. They're good leads, and I appreciate them tremendously. But without evidence, they are only leads. I need to find proof.

Clean-Up Makes Your Family Tree More Reliable

I've been scrubbing my family tree in a bunch of ways lately.
  • For every census form in my tree, I added complete details and a link to where to find it online. (Ship manifests are next!)
  • I cleaned up every address in my family tree to have a consistent format and take advantage of Family Tree Maker's address verification.
  • I attached every census form or ship manifest in my tree to each person named in the document.
  • I beefed up my source citations with more information and weeded out duplicates.
Now I'm going after imperfect sources. I started by picking two sources that are far from bulletproof. I'm not happy at all with one large branch from Virginia that relies on (a) someone else's tree and (b) "One World Tree" as its sources.

Two collections on Ancestry.com have a lot to offer this branch. I found Virginia marriage listings and death certificates for several people. I added the two Virginia source citations to the facts and removed the sources I don't find as valuable.

Now It's Your Turn to Trade Up

Some sources carry much more weight than others.
My reliable sources.
You, too, can fortify your family tree by using the most reliable sources. First, see if your family tree software can show you a list of all the sources you've created or attached to people in your tree.

Family Tree Maker lets me view my sources in a few ways, including by repository. The repository tells others where you found this fact.

I added the Repository (ancestry.com, familysearch.org, etc.) to each source citation that's from a website. I added the New York City Municipal Archives as a repository, too. That's where I went to see lots of birth, death, and marriage records for myself.

I can also view the complete alphabetical list of source titles in use in my family tree. That list shows me which sources I want to replace with something better. When I select a questionable source, like One World Tree, I can see exactly which facts are using it as their source.

If you have FTM, or your family tree software acts in a similar way, look for sources that come from another person's tree or a name. (When the source is a cousin, I name it to make that clear, e.g., "Joseph Collins, my cousin".) While you may believe your cousin, other genealogists have no reason to!

Start working through those facts. Search for a recognized, reliable source to back up your cousin's information. You can keep your cousin's name there if you want to, or put their name in your notes.

An online tree is not a good source. It's just a lead for you to investigate.
Zero in on sources that don't carry much weight and trade up to better ones.
The goal is to make every fact in your family tree provable.

Trade up to more reliable sources and you will fortify your family tree.

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03 November 2017

Using All Your Tools to Build a Better Family Tree

If you've been enjoying this genealogy hobby for a while, you may have more tools, skills, and knowledge at your fingertips than you realize.

The other day my cousin asked me to track down his grandfather's uncle Pietro who died in World War I.

Suddenly I realized how many online resources I have. I went straight to an Italian website that lists fallen World War I soldiers.
An Italian website lists the fallen soldiers of World War I. This one happens to be an American soldier born in Italy.
Was this the fallen soldier I was looking for?

My cousin's grandfather confirmed that the record I found was the right soldier. Now I had the all-important name of his hometown in Italy (Riace) and Pietro's father's first name (Cosimo).

Until now, I knew this family's province, but not their town of origin.
Finding out your ancestor's hometown
is critical.
I jumped over to the Antenati website of vital records from Italian towns. Hurray! The town of Riace is there.

I felt as if my years of research, my knowledge of Italian, and my long list of genealogy website bookmarks had a greater purpose now. They had the power to help others.

It can be tough to research a family when you don't have first-hand knowledge of them. I'd tried before to build this family's tree, but I'd made a mistake and hit a dead-end. I needed my cousin's grandfather to tell me, "yes, that is my uncle".

What do professional genealogists do? How do they go on if they don't have a relative available to confirm important facts?

Here's what I could have done, and what you can do, too.

Work With What You Have

I could have started with that brief record of the fallen soldier. At first, I assumed he was not our man because I thought Pietro's father's name was Ilario, not Cosimo. But it's a good idea to work with the record you have. See if you can prove or disprove any of it.

Based on that record, I could have looked in the archives of the town of Riace for his birth. Ironically, the fallen-soldier record shows the wrong birthdate for him. But he is in the 1891 index of births. He was born on 9 January 1891.

Compare Your Findings to What You Do Know

Using his birth record, I could have looked for evidence that lined up with what I knew about this family. And his birth record does have what I needed.

Pietro's mother's maiden name was Niceforo. That's a fact I had all along. It was part of the scanty information I'd been told before. If Pietro's birth record showed a mother with any other last name, I would have no confidence that he was the right man.

But there she was. Anna Maria Niceforo was this soldier's mother. With both parents' names confirmed, I could search for all of their babies and see if they had any of the names I knew. And they did!

Build on Your Newly Found Facts

My new list of sibling names helped me find the ship manifest for my cousin's grandfather's mother, Teresa. I learned she'd been held in detention, kept briefly in the hospital because of "tremor of hands". She'd left behind her father Cosimo in Riace, and was to be released to her brother Domenico in Brooklyn.

That's the proof I needed. I had the birth record for her brother Domenico. Later I found Pietro's military record card on Ancestry.com. It said that Domenico in Brooklyn was the person informed of the soldier Pietro's death on 5 October 1918.

Don't Rule Out Less-than-Perfect Search Results

This brief military record holds a clue to this soldier's final battle.
His date of death also tells us which battle he died in.
You might overlook a search result because it isn't a perfect match to your family member. I was ready to toss aside that soldier's record because I didn't recognize his town name or his father's name. But he was the right man.

And Teresa's ship manifest was a bear to find. Ancestry's search only brought me to the page listing detainees. That didn't tell me her age, hometown, or her father's name. I had to comb through the 901-image collection to find the rest of her information.

I had to have her main ship manifest entry to know that I had the right person. And it was worth the trouble.

Now go out there and use your family research super powers for good!

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29 October 2017

What To Do When You Can't Solve the Mystery

Mixed in with my relatives in the 1930 census I have a mystery family. I've been gathering evidence, but I still don't know who they are.

This 1930 census shows the Ferro family living with my Saviano family. Who are they?
How is Patsy Ferro my great uncle's nephew?
The more pieces I find, the closer I get to solving this mystery. That's why I created a timeline of found facts.

You can use this process to help solve your own family tree mysteries.

It all began with an extra family in the 1930 census. Living with my grandmother's uncle Semplicio Saviano and his children were:
  • Patsy (a nickname for Pasquale) Ferro, age 29, married for 10 years, born in Italy, a building contractor. He is listed as Semplicio's nephew.
  • Josephine Ferro, age 26, born in Italy. She is listed as Semplicio's niece.
  • Antonette Ferro, age 6, born in Italy. She is listed as Semplicio's grand-niece.
If Patsy was really Semplicio's nephew, then either his sister or his wife's sister should have married a man named Ferro. But they didn't.

I found five more documents for the Ferro family.

1923 Ship Manifest

On 12 November 1923, Pasquale Ferro arrived in Boston. He was from Baselice, Italy, which happens to be the hometown of my grandfather, Adamo Leone. Since my grandmother was Semplicio's niece, is Adamo Leone the relative of Pasquale Ferro?

Pasquale states that he is joining his cousin Leonardo Canonico at 260 East 151st Street in the Bronx. Well, now. Isn't that a coincidence? That is where my newlywed grandparents lived. The building had only three or four apartments, and all but one belonged to my closest relatives.

I recognize the name Canonico as a common name from Baselice, Italy, too.

The ship manifest originally stated that Pasquale Ferro was leaving "nobody" behind in Italy. That was crossed out and "wife Gusolo" was typed in. I'll come back to that name in a moment.

1925 New York State Census

On 1 June 1925 there is a Pasquale Ferro, carpenter, boarding with a family named Ria at 310 East 153rd Street in the Bronx. This is only a couple of blocks away from his 1923 location. It says Pasquale has been in the U.S. for two years.

I'm not entirely sure this is the Pasquale Ferro I'm looking for.

1930 Ship Manifest

Pasquale Ferro went back to Italy to retrieve his wife and daughter.
Pasquale Ferro returns to the USA with his family.
On 10 January 1930, Pasquale Ferro arrives in New York City with his wife and daughter. He is a U.S. citizen with a passport issued on 12 July 1929. He lives in my grandparents' building at 260 East 151st Street in the Bronx.

His wife's name is Giuseppina (Josephine, in English) Chiusato. I've done extensive documentation of birth, marriage and death records from the town of Baselice, Italy. Chiusato is not a name I've seen in the town. But Chiusolo is a common name there. "Chiusato" was typewritten on the ship manifest.

My educated guess is that "Chiusato" and the "Gusolo" typewritten on Pasquale's 1923 ship manifest were both meant to be Chiusolo. This is a tidbit I would have overlooked if I hadn't gathered these documents together.

Also on the ship in 1930 is Pasquale and Giuseppina's daughter Antonetta. She is six years old, just as she was on the 1930 census where I found her the first time.

1930 Census

This is the same document I discussed in the beginning of this article. Two facts to add are:
  • Patsy was naturalized in 1923. But since he arrived in the U.S. in November 1923, this seems like a mistake.
  • The family was living at 1010 Van Nest Avenue in the Bronx.
1940 Census

Now Pasquale and his family are living with several of Semplicio Saviano's grown children at 1010 Van Nest Avenue in the Bronx. Pasquale is 40 years old and not working. He is listed as the cousin of Anthony Saviano, who is the head of household. Pasquale and his daughter Antonette are naturalized, but his wife is still an alien.

1950 Ship Manifest

Pasquale Ferro traveled alone to Italy in 1950 and planned to stay for three months. The manifest states that his passport was issued on 28 June 1929. This is not an exact match of the date on his 1930 ship manifest, but I know this is the same man.

His home address is 980 Van Nest Avenue in the Bronx. At the time of her 1947 death, Semplicio Saviano's daughter Columba lived at this same address.

Taken altogether, these six documents tell me a lot about Pasquale Ferro.

But they don't tell me how he's related to me.

I found two Social Security records for Pasquale's wife, Josephine. These records provide her birth date in Baselice. But I've downloaded the 1904 Baselice birth records to my computer, and she is not there. I have her parents' names, too, so I will work with those and see where it gets me.

The trail goes completely cold on the young girl, Antonette Ferro.

There is one more document that I viewed on my iPad the other day, but can't seem to find again. It was a New York City deed or mortgage that included Pasquale Ferro. I don't remember what other name was on this document, or who I was searching for at the time. I viewed every page in my browser history without finding it.

That one missing document may be a big piece of this puzzle. Or it may be a different Pasquale Ferro.

One thing is certain: You've got to take notes on your searches. The very next thing you find may be the answer to your mystery. But you'll need those notes so you can be sure.

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27 October 2017

1925 Death Photo Holds a Clue to My Ancestor's Life

Last time, I wrote about the long and winding journey of my great great grandfather, Antonio Saviano. Since then, I've been trying to find out something more about his life in the Bronx, New York. He lived there with this family from 1898 until his death in 1925.

1912 New York City newspaper clipping
My great grandfather Giovanni Sarracino did
business with 2 Bronx breweries.
I found some newspaper clippings from 1912, 1913, and 1922, but they were not about Antonio. They were about my great grandfather, Giovanni Sarracino. Giovanni was the son-in-law of Antonio.

Giovanni's news clippings were about real estate transactions. They each involved the building he owned at the corner of Morris Avenue and East 151st Street in the Bronx. I knew that building. My mom was born there, and it was her parents' home until the 1970s.

In these real estate transactions, Giovanni seems to be selling the building, or part of it, to the Westchester County Brewing Company of Pelham, NY. But then he's selling it again as the "agent" of the Ebling Brewery.

a ribbon from an Italian mutual-aid society
My great great grandfather Antonio
Saviano wore this ribbon in his coffin.
I'm confused. I'm going to have to locate details about those business dealings in some city archive.

I was hoping to find that Antonio Saviano was somehow involved in these sales, but I have no proof of that.

So, once again, I'm fixated on the ribbon pinned to his suit as he lay in this coffin in 1925. This is the only photograph I have of Antonio.

Today I rescanned that 1925 photo at 1200dpi—the highest resolution my scanner can do.

I think it's clear enough to read his ribbon now. I used Google to fine-tune what I thought I saw, and find something that matches.

Here's what I found: Societá Fratellanza Contursana Di Maria S.S. Delle Grazie.

On the ribbon, you can see Societá at the top. Then there are some initials, then Maria S.S., and finally Delle Grazie, Bronx, NY.

In 1931, after Antonio died, Societa Fratellanza Contursana Di Maria S. S. Delle Grazie, Inc. filed as a domestic not-for-profit corporation. They could have been in existence long before they incorporated in 1931.

I learned today that Italians who came to America in the late 1800s and early 1900s formed local mutual-aid societies. These societies helped new immigrants adjust.

When I was a little girl, I remember the old Italian men sitting on the sidewalk in the Bronx, playing cards around a folding table. My mom said they belonged to a men's club. Now I feel pretty sure their men's club may have been the mutual-aid society.

Antonio's 1925 trail is kinda cold. But I'm hopeful there may be a crack in this case soon!

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24 October 2017

Answers Lead to More Questions About My First Immigrant Ancestor

Growing up, the family members I knew and saw on holidays were almost entirely the descendants of one man: Antonio Luigi Saviano.

Most of us didn't know his name. He was the father of our grandparent or great grandparent.

But four years ago my mother pulled out a photo of Antonio lying in his coffin. He died in the Bronx, New York, several years before she was born.
Was my first immigrant ancestor a shrewd businessman?

I'd been researching my family tree for about 10 years at that point. The branch of the family where I'd made the least progress was Antonio's branch—the very branch I'd known my whole life.

This year I went on a quest to find out where Antonio and his wife Colomba Consolazio came from. Here's what I knew already:
  • According to his World War II draft registration card, their son Semplicio was born in Tufo, Avellino, Italy.
  • I had looked at microfilm of vital records from Tufo. I found Semplicio's birth and the earlier birth of a son—Raffaele Vitantonio Saviano. I knew this baby did not survive because it was a younger Raffaele who came to America in later years.
  • Antonio and Colomba moved less than 10 miles from Tufo, Avellino, to Pastene. Pastene is a small section of Sant'Angelo a Cupolo in the neighboring province of Benevento. They had 3 children there: my great grandmother Maria Rosa, Raffaele, and Filomena.
  • It was in Pastene that Maria Rosa met and married my great grandfather, Giovanni Sarracino. They had their first child there, but he did not survive.
  • Antonio began travelling to America in 1890, three years after the birth of his youngest child. He was my first ancestor in any branch to do so.
  • He was 47 years old at the time. That's a bit on the old side for the first of his three cross-Atlantic trips.
  • He brought his son Semplicio to America and left him there. Then in May of 1898, Antonio returned to the Bronx with his wife and his children Raffaele and Filomena.
  • The family left for America one month after the marriage of my great grandparents. That means my great grandmother did not have her family there to support her when she gave birth to her son Carmine in December 1898. And she didn't have their support when Carmine died a short time after.
Let's stop there for a moment. Something strikes me about my great grandparents and their ill-fated baby boy, Carmine.

Maybe my great grandparents never planned to come to America. Baby Carmine was born just shy of eight months after their wedding. There was nothing stopping them from coming to America with the rest of the family.

Maybe it was only the shock of Carmine's death, and his possibly premature birth, that drove the couple to leave their home.

Maybe if Carmine had lived, I would be an Italian national.

That aside, let's look at what I learned about my great grandparents Antonio Saviano and Colomba Consolazio this year.

Working backwards from the Tufo births of their children Semplicio and the first Raffaele, I discovered that Colomba had two brothers living near her in Tufo. I found the marriage record for one brother.

His place of birth, and the town where his parents still lived, was not Tufo. It was the neighboring town of Santa Paolina.

My next step was to view microfilm of the vital records from Santa Paolina. Sure enough, I discovered that Antonio and Colomba were married there. They had a baby girl before Raffaele and Semplicio named Maria Grazia. She died after four days.

Colomba was born in Santa Paolina, but her real name was Vittoria Colomba. I learned her parents' names and her grandparents' names.

And on their marriage documents I learned the origin of my great great grandfather, Antonio Saviano. He was not born in Santa Paolina where he married and began his family.

He was not born in Tufo where he moved and had more children.

He was born in Pastene! The very town to which he returned, had more children, and from which he left for America.

Antonio Saviano, my first ancestor to come to America, travelled in lots of circles. He went from Pastene to Santa Paolina to Tufo to Pastene, completing a very small circle. He went to America and back to Pastene three times. Finally, he brought his family to America and settled down…age of 55!

Antonio lived to be 82 years old. He outlived his wife Colomba by five years, but he died surrounded by this four surviving chlidren.

I learned that he was:
  • a shoemaker (calzolaio) in his youth
  • a dealer or merchant (commerciante) shortly before his first documented trip to America
  • a day laborer two years after settling in America, and
  • had his "own income" by the time of the 1910 census.
Was Antonio an independent businessman? Are his accomplishments the reason his son Semplicio and my great grandfather Giovanni Sarracino became the owners of apartment buildings and agents for a local brewery?

Was Antonio a wheeler and dealer? What was the source of his "own income"? It may be nothing, but his cause of death was a toxic infection of the kidneys and the heart's inner lining. Were these infections related to the Bronx's underground beer cellars of the time, owned by the breweries with which his son and son-in-law did business?

I've often wondered if my family owned those particular apartment buildings because of their access to the beer cellars. This would make them good partners for the breweries.

The discovery of Antonio Saviano's origin and travels shed a lot of light on him. But now I find I have a ton more questions.

I think it's time for some Bronx brewery history lessons!

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22 October 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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20 October 2017

Add Proof and a Breadcrumb to Family Tree Documents

Has this ever happened to you? You're taking a look at the ship manifest you saved for your ancestor. You had a hard time finding this manifest because your ancestor's name was so badly transcribed.

Suddenly, you realize there's someone on the first line with a last name you know. You need to see who that person is travelling with.

The people you need to see are on the previous page. How can you find that page online again?
We collect so many documents. Can you return to where you found them?

A Shortcut for Difficult Searches

Here are three options:
  • Perform a search for someone else on the image you have in front of you. Choose someone whose name is written very clearly, and include the first names of the relatives travelling with them.
  • If your relatives' names are written incorrectly, search for the names exactly as they're written.
  • If the top of the ship manifest includes the ship name, the arrival date, and the port of arrival, you can search page-by-page through that particular arrival of that ship.

These tips apply to census forms, too. If you can't find the page again by searching for your relative, search for the easiest-to-read name on the page.

And you can use the information on the top of the census sheet to find the collection that will contain that page.

Search in Vain No More

I'm working on a project that will:
  • Help me instantly find online any document I've downloaded: a ship manifest, census sheet, draft registration card, etc.
  • Allow other genealogists to view my source documents in place, retrace my steps, and see for themselves if my facts can be trusted.

My Family Tree Maker file contains about 2,400 document images. That doesn't count my photographs of people or tombstones.

I'm making my way through each media item, one at a time. I'm adding every important fact and the original web address of the image to its notes.

This annotation lets me—or anyone—return to the original file easily.

I started with census forms. I try to stick to a format that includes:
  • the lines numbers on which you'll find the family from my tree
  • the town, county and state
  • the enumeration district, supervisor's district, assembly district, block number, page or sheet number
  • the number of the image in the collection, such as image 2 of 45
  • the URL of the original file so I—or other researchers—can return to it

It's an ambitious project. I completed all 623 of my census images before I realized I should include the image number and the web address. So now I'm going through them again, finding each one online to record those two facts. I'm up to 1930, so I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Next I'll annotate my 332 ship manifests. Then my 563 birth, marriage, and death records. But I have tons of downloaded Italian vital records I haven't yet added to my tree!

It takes a special kind of devotion to fortify your family tree and make it the best it can be.

But I'm trying.

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