23 January 2018

How to Handle Foreign Words in Your Family Tree

My great great grandfather was a domenstico, or servant.
I record occupations in my ancestor's language.
Years ago I dove headfirst into transcribing Italian vital records for my family tree. I visited a Family History Center, viewed the microfilm, and typed into my laptop. I memorized the Italian words for numbers, months and family members.

When a document included a person's occupation, I typed the Italian word and kept going. I didn't translate the words on the spot, but later I created a file of Italian occupations and their English definitions.

It's so helpful to make a translation list for yourself.
My Italian occupations cheat-sheet.
The translation file helped me memorize many words, but I entered only the Italian occupation in my family tree. I felt it made sense for my ancestors who never left Italy.

But now I'm thinking more about my family tree as a legacy. If someone else continues my work, these Italian words may not be understood.

Wouldn't it be better to include the Italian word and its English translation? Uh oh. How can I make this sweeping change to my tree of more than 19,000 people?

Find and Replace is in the FTM Edit menu.
Hiding in plain sight.
I decided to try the Find and Replace feature in Family Tree Maker. It's in the Edit menu.

You can use find and replace to makes lots of improvements and corrections. But be careful. Think hard about unintended changes that might happen. For example, if you wanted to replace "Smith" because you found out your ancestors were actually named Smythe, what would happen to your cousin who was born in Smithtown, Long Island?

I did a test changing "calzolaio" to "calzolaio (shoemaker)". I checked the boxes to find whole words only and look only in facts and notes. Then I clicked Replace All.

It was a success.

My Find and Replace changed 180 entries.
Click once, fix 180 entries. Not bad!
Now I can work through the most common Italian occupations in my family tree. Then I'll look at some other facts I wish I'd recorded differently. For example, long ago I recorded every immigration fact the same way, beginning with the words, "Arrived aboard the..." followed by the ship name. Later I changed where I put the ship name. Maybe I can use find and replace to bring more uniformity to my facts.

The finished product: My ancestor's job in Italian and English.
It's more useful with the English translation.
The lion's share of the people in my family tree were born and died in Italy. I believe in preserving some of their facts in Italian. Aside from occupations, I record the Italian names of the churches where they married. Chiesa di San Leonardo Abate and Chiesa di San Giorgio Martire.

Think about two things:
  • Which original-language facts do you want to preserve?
  • How can you prevent that foreign-language information from losing its meaning?
Does your family tree software have a find and replace feature?


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19 January 2018

How to Keep Track of All Your Surnames

I'm in the midst of a huge genealogy project. I'm trying to find the common ancestors my parents share.

Yup. DNA analysis shows that my parents are not-so-distant cousins. By adding more and more great grandparents to my ancestor chart, I should find the couple that connects my parents.

If you've had a DNA test, you should be able to download your raw DNA file. Then you can create a free account at GEDmatch.com and upload your raw DNA file there for analysis. One of their tests is called "Are you parents related?" See Free DNA Analysis Finds Kissing Cousins.

I've also had my parents' DNA tested, and Ancestry DNA estimates they are third to fifth cousins. That's why I'm scouring my downloaded Italian vital records for that one magic couple.

As I explained last time, I'm trying to be efficient with those Italian records. I'm entering the basic facts into a spreadsheet, and focusing on the names that matter most to me. See Genealogy: Where Endless Searching is Part of the Fun.

Last night I found the last name d'Emilia in some early 1800s marriage records. My fifth great grandfather was Ferdinando d'Emilia and his father was Giuseppe d'Emilia.

Filter your family tree index by ancestors-only.

So I grabbed all the details from these marriage records and compared them to my Family Tree Maker file. I had a hit! Annamaria, Francesco Saverio and Costantino d'Emilia were the siblings of Ferdinando and the children of Giuseppe d'Emilia.

But what if I'd forgotten that I had d'Emilia in my tree? My family tree has more than 19,000 people. That's a crazy amount of last names.

How can I keep them all top-of-mind while I'm searching through these Italian documents?

Color-coding lets you limit who you display.

Today I found a feature in my family tree software that I've never used before. It's a filter you can add to the name index. This allowed me to show the names of only my direct ancestors. That's the list of names I want to remember as I'm sifting through my collection of vital records.

I can also restrict the index by using Family Tree Maker's new color-coding feature. I gave my ancestors a green color. If I click on green, only my ancestors appear in the index.

Then I realized I could customize a report to show:
  • only my ancestors
  • only last names
  • no other facts
This leaves me with a list of my last names.

A filtered index and a filtered report give you only the names of your direct ancestors.

It's a long way to go, I realize. But if I can commit those names to memory, or glance at the list, it will help me find that missing link for my parents.

The lesson: Break out of your comfort zone. Explore everything your genealogy software or genealogy website can do for you.

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16 January 2018

Genealogy: Where Endless Searching is Part of the Fun

All last week I was looking forward to my three-day weekend. I would have so much fun with non-stop genealogy!

Chasing genealogy facts is this much fun.
©The Simpsons
Saturday was great. I identified more than 200 people in my family tree who were not connected to me. These are families I think belong to me, but I haven't yet found the connection. And I also found 11 people to delete from my tree.

I attached one image to each of these people so I could find them again anytime. (See How to Handle the Unrelated People in Your Family Tree, and be sure to read my comments at the end.)

Sunday was full of distractions. Once things settled down, I got productive. I documented in a spreadsheet every 1810 marriage from my Grandpa Iamarino's hometown.

I'm documenting births, marriages and deaths to meet two of my genealogy goals for 2018 (see What Are Your Genealogy Goals for 2018?):
  • Log my downloaded documents from the Antenati website into a spreadsheet.
  • Find my parents' connection (our DNA says they're distant cousins).

I hope these early Italian vital records contain the ancestors my mom and dad have in common.

Yesterday I had a wonderfully productive day documenting these towns. I'm using a time-saving, productivity-boosting technique that you can use, too.

I record the basics from each document. When I find someone I need, I fill in
all the facts and put them straight into my family tree.
A Tip for Large-Scale Research Projects

I have thousands of vital record images from my ancestral Italian hometowns on my computer (and backed up in two places). Now I have to harvest them for family tree information.

Slogging through one year of marriage records for one town, as I did on Saturday, is very slow and tedious. If I weren't obsessed, I'd have given up.

Then I realized I can find the juiciest documents faster by using this method:
  • Open up your family tree software.
  • Go through an image collection, such as one year's marriages, one at a time. Enter the most basic information for each document into your data spreadsheet. This could be nothing more than the document number and the names and ages of the bride and groom.
  • When you see a last name of interest, check your family tree. Are the bride or groom in your tree already? How about their parents?
  • When you find a match, even if it's a distant match, examine that document. Enter all its facts into your spreadsheet.
  • If this document belongs in your family tree, put the facts and image into your tree now.

I followed this method yesterday with Photoshop open, too, so I could crop the images before putting them into my tree.

Thanks to this more efficient method, I completed the 1811 and 1812 marriages. All the basic information from these hundreds of documents is in my spreadsheet. Plus, the 10 or so marriages including my maiden name of Iamarino are now in my family tree.

Oh, and I had one more document open. That was my document tracker where I keep my up-to-date inventory of every document image I've placed in my family tree. (See Track Your Genealogy Finds and Your Searches.)

I can see it now. I can see how I'm going to spend nearly every waking moment when I hit retirement age. This passion for genealogy gives us all a reason to live to at least 100. We'll never be finished with our genealogy research. But the search is very much part of the fun.

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12 January 2018

How to Handle the Unrelated People in Your Family Tree

Update: Family Tree Analyzer is now available for Mac.

They probably belong in your family tree, right? Those families with your name, from your town. You have every reason to believe they're related to you.

But you haven't found that connecting ancestor yet.

You've got these disconnected families floating in your family tree file. They sit there, waiting for you to find the connection.

How easily can you find those families you added long ago, so you can work on finding out more about them?

Here's a solution I hope you'll try.

A graphic like this helps you find disconnected people in your family tree.
Use an image to identify unattached
people in your family tree at a glance.
I've written three times in the past about a software program called Family Tree Analyzer. I was astonished when I discovered this free program. It does exactly what I'd been struggling to write a program to do. But it does it better than I could ever have done. And it does much more than my program ever would have done.

Get the latest version of the program at http://ftanalyzer.com (for Windows only at this time). You may need to uninstall the previous version before you can install this one.

Here's the feature I want you to look at. First, export a current GEDCOM file from your family tree software. Then launch Family Tree Analyzer and use it to open the GEDCOM.

Click the second tab, labelled Individuals, to see a line for every person in your tree. Go all the way over to the Relation column and click it to sort your people by their relation to you.

You'll see:
  • Blood relations
  • Relations by marriage
  • Direct ancestors
  • People married to your direct blood relations
  • The root person (presumably you), and finally,
  • Unknown
Unknown: these are the people in your tree who are not attached to you—whether by accident or on purpose.

If you can print to a file, go ahead and print this relation-sorted view. You can refer to it again and again, taking advantage of the search function of the digital file you created. Don't print to paper! It's going to be a lot of pages. Mine is 1,358 pages.

Click back to the first tab in Family Tree Analyzer for a second—the one labelled Gedcom Stats. Beneath the "Loading file" messages you'll see how many of each type of relationship you have. My file says:

Direct Ancestors : 189
Blood Relations : 1456
Married to Blood or Direct Relation : 543
Related by Marriage : 12480
Unknown relation : 4959

That last number, 4,959 unknown relations, comes as a big shock to me. That's a lot! How many families have I collected on speculation? Further inspection shows me that very distant, convoluted relations are labelled Unknown. That includes the father-in-law of a cousin of my sister-in-law.

Now you've got the list of unrelated people. This next tip came from someone else, but I can't remember who. I wrote it in a notebook which makes me think I saw it on a YouTube genealogy video. And I subscribe only to Ancestry.com's Crista Cowan, so this tip may belong to her.

Here it is: Create a graphic image (or borrow mine from this article) that says something like "No Relation". Attach this image to each person on your list of unknown relations who is truly unconnected to you. Make it their profile picture.

Now the unrelated people will be easy to spot. Better yet, in Family Tree Maker I can select that image from my tree's media collection and see a list of who it is attached to.

The goal now is to focus on these unrelated families. Do the legwork. Find out all you can about them, keeping an eye open for that missing link to you.

After some research, you may decide to remove some unrelated people from your family tree. Or they may become relatives.

And one day, you may find that your "No Relation" people, are no more!


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09 January 2018

Build Your Own Genealogy Research Library

You can have your own genealogy research library
I've been building my fortified family tree for 15 years. I started by writing down facts in a black and white composition notebook. I graduated to Family Tree Maker software so I could see the bigger picture. I developed a meticulous digital filing system.

After all these years, you know what I discovered? I have my own genealogy research library!

And you can, too.

What's In My Library

If you've been enjoying this genealogy hobby for any length of time, I'll bet you've gotten better at it. You've learned. You've figured out how to do things. You've gathered a lot of facts and materials.

My largest, most valuable collection of genealogy data contains Italian birth, marriage and death records from my ancestral hometowns. I have about 40 gigabytes of these vital records on my computer. They're there for me anytime I want to trace a family back to Italy. (See Collect the Whole Set!)

I think I found this woman in my research library
I realized I have a genealogy research library while looking at a family photo from the summer of 1930. After 10 years, I still didn't know the exact identity of a woman in the photo and her relationship to me.

Here's what I did know. The woman, who was several years older than my grandmother (also in the photo), was named Pastore and was somehow related to my Sarracino family. That's my grandmother's maiden name.

Then it hit me. I have all those vital records from the Italian hometown of my Sarracino ancestors. Why don't I look through them for anyone named Pastore and see what I can find?

Putting My Library to Use

My collection for their town (Sant'Angelo a Cupolo) begins in 1861. My grandmother was born in 1899. Based on how she looks compared to Grandma, the Pastore woman in the photograph was born in the 1880s.

I'm transcribing facts from thousands of Italian vital records into a massive spreadsheet...in my spare time. That will make searches much easier. It's going to take a lot of time, but what an amazing resource it will be!

That project is far from finished. So I looked through the Sant'Angelo a Cupolo birth indexes, and I found a Pastore. Not the woman in the photograph, but a boy named Nicolantonio Pastore with a mother named…can you guess?…Maria Giuseppa Sarracino.

Aha! A Pastore-Sarracino connection. "Let's keep searching," I thought. I found six Pastore babies born to Carmine Pastore and Maria Giuseppa Sarracino between 1877 and 1889.

The last one I found is the prize. The moment I saw her 1889 birth record, Maria Carmela Pastore became my number one prospect to grow up to be the woman in the photo.

I needed more information, so I turned to another wing of my genealogy research library.

In my "shoebox" on Ancestry.com, I'd saved a ship manifest. It was a 1902 passage from Naples to New York of a mother and daughter. The mother was Maria Giuseppa Sarracino, and her daughter was 12-year-old Maria Carmela Pastore. They were going to join Carmine Pastore in the Bronx—in my family's neighborhood. All the ages and names matched.

Yesterday I added all these Pastore names, dates and documents to my Family Tree Maker file. At this moment, they are not connected to me in any way. But they will be; I have faith.

Here's my working theory. Maria Giuseppa Sarracino's father was Antonio. He may be my 3rd great grandfather, also named Antonio Sarracino.

I'll keep consulting my library and doing online searches to try to find the exact connection. I hope to prove or disprove my working theory.

What's In Your Library?

What about you? If you have Italian heritage, you absolutely must see if your ancestral hometown's documents are online. (See How to Use the Online Italian Genealogy Archives.)

If your roots are anywhere else, sign up for a free account with FamilySearch.org. See if they offer any collections from the towns that matter to you. Browse them online, or download a collection of images to your computer with a program called GetLinks. (For complete instructions, see the link above and scroll to the bottom of the article. The software is in Portuguese, so the instructions are important.)

As part of my 2018 to-do list (see What Are Your Genealogy Goals for 2018?), I wanted to create a thorough backup plan for my genealogy files. I've made my plan. I backed up my massive Italian vital record collection in two places (besides my hard drive): an external drive and Microsoft's OneDrive. Each of these offers me one terabyte of storage. The external drive cost $75 and the OneDrive space comes with my Office 365 subscription.

Try using bookmarks or the "shoebox" (if you use Ancestry.com) to hold onto items you think will help you later. It thrilled me to find the Sarracino-Pastore immigration record and a Pastore census form in my shoebox. Now they're in my Family Tree Maker file.

Every document or collection you can download or stick a pin in online, and every paper document you've gathered are the contents of your genealogy research library. Don't overlook the possibility that the answers you need are already in your hands.


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05 January 2018

Start Your Rainy-Day Genealogy List

All genealogists have their top goals in mind. Trace their ancestors to the old country. Discover their great grandmother's maiden name. That's a given.

And I hope you've created your list of genealogy goals for the new year.

But now's a good time to create a rainy-day genealogy list. That's your list of leads you need to follow up on. It's those unexplored family relations you want to better understand. It's the mysteries you'd love to solve.

First, choose an obvious place to keep your list—a place where you won't overlook it, and you'll definitely see it a lot. How about the task list of your genealogy software? A notebook where you jot down facts as you find them? Or a text file on your computer desktop?

Next, look for breadcrumbs you've left for yourself in the past. For instance, ancestry.com has a shoebox feature. When I'm searching for an ancestor and see a document for someone interesting, I can put it in the shoebox for later.

Today I'm looking at a ship manifest in my shoebox for a woman named Giuseppa Sarracino who's married to Carmine Pastore. I have reason to believe she is the woman in a family photo given to me by my aunt. I've already found six babies born in Italy to a couple with the very same names.

Did I discover the woman on the right on a ship manifest?
This Pastore-Sarracino family is going on my rainy-day genealogy list right now.

Your list will help keep you from forgetting these interesting tidbits. When the day comes that you're frustrated with the genealogy goal you're working on, your rainy-day list could be the fun distraction you need!

Where will you start looking for your forgotten genealogy leads? Besides my ancestry.com shoebox, I have handwritten notes in different notebooks. When I go through those notebooks, I'm sure I'll find other leads that need my attention.

When I first started researching my family history, all I had was the Ellis Island website. I began filling a notebook with every immigrant who had a last name I knew or came from an Italian town I knew. Some of them made it into my family tree, but others are waiting impatiently in that notebook.

What if some of them are my overlooked blood relatives?

It's a brutal January in New York state this year, and tons of other places. You're bound to have a snow day or two. Wouldn't you like to use a snow day to explore something on your rainy-day genealogy list?


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Let Me Demolish Your Italian Brick Wall

If you like the idea of discovering all your Italian ancestors but haven't got the time, let me do it. Read more at Italian Ancestry Services.

02 January 2018

Who's Borrowing Your Family Tree?

Each time I log into ancestry.com, I see a short list called "Recent Member Connect Activity". It shows me when someone has saved one of my images to their own tree.

Most of the images in my family tree are census forms, ship manifests and vital records. I downloaded most of them from Ancestry and attached them to my tree.

I don't mind if someone grabs those images for their own use. But I do like to see if I agree with them.

One woman borrowed my grandfather's immigration record and turned him into her uncle. He was not her uncle. That careless theft of my grandfather is the motivation for my blog. I want us to be more careful, methodical and scientific in our genealogy research.

One of today's "Recent Member Connect Activity" notifications is a possible missing link for me.

If this person has done his research well, we are third cousins once removed.
You see, my AncestryDNA match list includes a man called Lou. The same Lou borrowed some of my images. Maybe he had extra time during the holidays to work on his tree. Ancestry.com analyzed our trees and determined we are third cousins once removed.

My next step is to see for myself that his mother really is part of my Leone family. I'll do this by taking the basic information from his public tree and tracking down the proof on my own.

For example, I'll search for documents showing her parents' or siblings' names. If I find that proof, then I will agree with Lou.

At that point, I will contact him so we can work together. If he's correct, he will provide me with a new branch. I've documented my Leone family back about eight generations. So if this works out, Lou has a shipload of ancestors to import from my family tree.

People who don't want to pay for genealogy subscriptions seem to dislike Ancestry.com. But their constant advertising has exploded the number of people enjoying genealogy.

The more people there are working on their tree, the more people we have to share our finds with, and to gain from.

Whichever service you use, be sure to reach out to others and learn from each other.


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29 December 2017

First-Year Genealogy Highlights

I can recommend this approach for your genealogy hobby:

Treat it like a business.

My approach to genealogy has taken me very far.
That does not mean you'll stop enjoying it. And you won't find it becoming a burden. Treating your family tree research like a business means you'll reach new heights. You'll make big discoveries faster than ever before.

One year ago I started this blog with a single thought. "If genealogists were more businesslike, there'd be more high-quality family trees out there."

I started publishing Fortify Your Family Tree to promote best practices. My goal was to help fellow genealogists improve their family trees.

The bonus for me is that I am spending much more time on my own family tree so I have topics to write about.

As a first-year recap, here are the articles at the core of my "treat it like a business" philosophy. Plus, here's a list of my most popular articles.

The Fortify Your Family Tree Philosophy
  1. Know exactly where your people came from
  2. Document your research thoroughly
  3. Examine every available document
  4. Step back and judge your work objectively
Most Popular Articles
  1. Free Resource Lets You Plot Family Tree Locations
  2. How to Create Your Ancestral Hometown Database
  3. Work in Batches to Strengthen Your Family Tree
  4. How to Use the Online Italian Genealogy Archives
  5. How to Share Your Family Tree Research with Relatives

I've had big breakthroughs this year. I look forward to another year of working on my tree and writing to inspire your research. Thank you for reading!

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26 December 2017

A Resolution You'll Want to Keep

On Christmas evening I followed my own advice. I created a list of 7 genealogy goals for 2018. (See What Are Your Genealogy Goals for 2018?.)

They're a little rough and fuzzy to start. But my plan is to fine-tune and prioritize them before January 1st.
Make 2018 the year your family tree blossoms.
Make 2018 the year your family tree blossoms.
  1. Create a weekly backup plan for my computer
  2. Find my parents' common ancestors
  3. Log my downloaded Antenati documents into spreadsheet
  4. Fill out the "Still to find" column on my document tracker
  5. Verify the upstate New York railyard story and the Agostino fight stories
  6. Find out my great grandfather's position in his local Italian-American society
  7. Figure out the Muollo family's connection to my Sarracino family
If you haven't yet created your 2018 list of genealogy goals, let me explain my thought process for my list. Reading this should help you find your most important goals.

Backup Plan

I transitioned to a new computer this month, so having a perfect backup plan is top-of-mind. (see Prepare Your Family Tree for Your Computer's Demise.) I'm thinking about writing a little Java program to identify which files are new as of a particular date. Then I can copy only those files. If I can write a handy program, I'll be happy to share it with you.

Connect My Parents

I've gotten DNA tests for myself and my parents. One test tells me my parents are distant cousins! (See Free DNA Analysis Finds Kissing Cousins.) AncestryDNA backs this up because mom and dad are in each other's match list. I need to find the set of great grandparents that connects them.

Log Italian Vital Records

Everyone researching Italian ancestors needs to know about the Antenati website. (See Collect the Whole Set!) I've downloaded all available documents from my four ancestral hometowns. If I log the critical facts from each vital record, I can piece together extended families.

Document Tracker

Sometimes I'll use my document tracker to complete the set of documents for a family. For instance, my spreadsheet shows me at a glance which documents I've found for each person. If it's obvious that I'm missing a couple of census years, I can focus on finding them. It will help my research if I fill in my "Still to find" column. If I do that, I can spend a day finding every missing 1940 census for my tree.

Family Lore

I have a couple of unproven family stories that will take a lot of research to prove or disprove. I have so little to go on. Maybe you have some family legends you can research in 2018. They may involve newspaper research or some other research that you can't do from home.

Personal History

They buried my great grandfather wearing a ribbon from an Italian-American society. (See 1925 Death Photo Holds a Clue to My Ancestor's Life.) I want to find out more. It seems to me he may have held an esteemed position in the society. The Bronx Historical Society has told me they can't help. I need to find more resources.

Tie Up Loose Ends

I have a family named Muollo in my family tree with no connection to me. I suspect they're related, but I have to find the proof. My great grandfather Giovanni Sarracino's mother was a Muollo. My great uncle, Giuseppe Sarracino, settled in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania, at the same time as Gennaro Muollo from his hometown. This year, I want to find the connection between Gennaro Muollo and me.

I have never made a New Year's resolution. Since childhood I'd heard that New Year's resolutions were always broken. Quickly. So I never bothered.

But a New Year's Genealogy resolution is an entirely different thing. This resolution—this genealogy goal list—will keep me focused. I expect to have a very productive year of family tree research in 2018.

How about you?

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22 December 2017

What Are Your Genealogy Goals for 2018?

Is your family tree research more productive when you focus on one person? Or do you happily follow leads and create new branches all the time?

You can fortify your family tree by filling in the blanks for your closest relatives. Then you can move on to those tempting new branches.

If you have a few moments to yourself this holiday season, think about your specific genealogy research goals for the new year. Working your way down your list of specific goals will make your tree stronger, faster.

Here are some suggestions for creating your genealogy goals for 2018.

My grandparent chart shows me exactly who's missing.
My grandparent chart shows me exactly who's missing.
Find Specific Ancestors

Create a chart or spreadsheet of your direct-line ancestors to see which sets of great grandparents are missing. See How to Visualize Your Ancestor-Finding Progress for a spreadsheet you can use.

My grandparent chart showed me that I needed the most work on my mother's mother's family. When I saw how much further I'd gotten with every other branch of my tree, I decided to focus on Grandma's line. I made great strides! See Today I Demolished My Family Tree's Only Brick Wall.

Your chart can show you where your tree needs the most work. Your goal might be "Find my 4th great grandparents in my paternal grandfather's line."

My document tracker shows me which documents I have and don't have.
My document tracker shows me which documents I have and don't have.
Fill in What's Missing

A few years into my genealogy research, I had a big collection of downloaded documents: census forms, ship manifests, draft registrations cards, and more. My filing system is very logical, so I can find what I need in a heartbeat.

But with such a big collection, it was hard to know if I was busy searching for something I had already. See Haven't I Seen You Before?

My document tracker spreadsheet gives me a quick way to see what I have for a person and what I'm missing.

Another of your goals for 2018 could be to "Find every missing 1940 census for the people in my tree."

Request Official Documents

I wish every document I needed for my family tree were online. But sometimes you've got to request a marriage certificate from the state, or buy a copy of a death certificate from the Department of Health.

If some of your ancestors died not so long ago, it's unlikely you'll find their death records online. You've got to find out how to order a copy from the state where your ancestor died.

I wanted a copy of my grandfather's 1992 death certificate to learn his exact cause of death. My brother, my cousins, and I knew it was two types of cancer, but we weren't sure which types. As his direct descendants, we thought we should know.

Since my grandfather died in New York City, I had to request a copy in a certain way. If he'd died somewhere else in New York state, or in another state, I would have had to follow a different procedure.

P.S. They did not send me his full death certificate, so I still don't know his official cause of death.

Your goal for 2018 might be "Get copies of birth, marriage and death records for my grandparents and great grandparents."

Confirm or Debunk Family Lore

I have two pieces of family lore that are so vague, I may never be able to confirm or debunk them.

One story says that my great grandfather's brother, Agostino, left the Bronx and moved to Chicago because he was involved in a fight that left a man dead.

I can try to pinpoint when he left the Bronx, and then search newspapers for a story about a man dying in a big brawl.

Another story says that my great grandfather Pasquale left New York and moved to Ohio because of an injury. He and his brothers-in-law worked for the railroad. One of the men let his son into a restricted area. The boy did something stupid and lost a few toes in an accident. To avoid getting fired, they packed up and moved.

The men continued working for the railroads. I suspect the railroad in Youngtown, Ohio, needed workers. They may have gotten an incentive to go work there.

But if the story were true, there might be some documentation of the boy with the missing toes.

Newspaper research could be what you need to confirm or debunk your family stories. Your goal might be "Find proof for my cousin's claim about our ancestor."

Aim for five or six goals that will provide the most bang for your research buck. If you achieve these goals, imagine how much family tree research you will accomplish in 2018!

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