10 December 2019

4 Tips for Finding a Missing Census Record

These 4 tips will come in handy when you can't find that census.

Once in a while—but very rarely—I look at someone else's family tree research. My policy is to ignore hints and not look at other trees. Here's a situation where I will break my policy.

Today I wanted to write about 3 tips for finding a missing census for someone in your family tree. I had a case recently that seemed like a great example to share.

I was researching a family with a head of household named Costanzo delGrosso. I found him and his family living in Galeton, Pennsylvania, in 1930. His name was mistakenly written as Costanza DelGross, but it was him. Costanzo lived at 86 Germania Street. I noticed his neighbors' last names were Sollo, Greco, and Esgro.

Three families lived next to mine in 1930 and 1940. Finding them in 1920 led to my family.
Three families lived next to mine in 1930 and 1940. Finding them in 1920 led to my family.

Then I found Costanzo and his family in 1940. He still lived at 86 Germania Street. His neighbors were still named Sollo, Greco, and Esgro.

But I could not find Costanzo and family in the 1920 census. I had immigration records showing his family was in the U.S. since 1913.

Where were they hiding in the 1920 census?

Here are the tips I used to find that missing census.

Tip #1. Search for their address in the missing year.

The delGrosso family was at 86 Germania Street in 1930 and 1940. It's logical to search for them at the same address in 1920. But they weren't there. When this happens, be sure to check houses and streets that are close to the address you want.

Tip #2. Search for their neighbors in the missing year.

Costanzo's neighbors were the same in 1930 and 1940. Why not search for them in 1920 and look at the households nearby?

The right hint can set you in the right direction and open up the floodgates.
The right hint can set you in the right direction and open up the floodgates.

These tips led me to Costanzo and his family. They were a census sheet away from their future neighbors, and a block away from their future address. The problem was, Costanzo delGrosso's name in the 1920 census is written (and indexed) as Grosso Delroso. Grosso Delroso!

Most of his family's names are also recorded a bit differently in 1920 than they are in later years:
  • Lucy becomes Lucia in 1930 and Lucie in 1940
  • Libera becomes Labra in 1930 and Lea in 1940
  • Mauro becomes Morris in 1930
  • Deny becomes Daniel in 1930 and 1940
So keep your eyes and your mind open to different spellings.

While I found the missing census by searching for a neighbor, this brings me to another search tip.

Tip #3. Search for family members by their first names only.

How someone recorded Costanzo delGrosso as Grosso Delroso is beyond me. But did you know you can leave out the last name from a search and use first names to find the family?

Now I had 3 tips to share with you for finding a missing census. So I set out to apply these tips to Victor Abbate whose 1940 census is missing. And that led to…

Tip #4. Consult another family tree for leads.

As I said at the top, I usually ignore anyone else's family tree research. But today I got lucky.

I was trying to find Victor after he'd married and moved out of his father's home in Brooklyn, New York.

A family tree search result caught my eye. The owner of the tree knew Victor's exact birth date. All I knew was 1900. She had his parents' names as Frank and Mary. I had Francesco and Mary, so that's a match. And she had his proper name as William Vito Abbate. Did she see his birth certificate? I showed you how the delGrosso family's names changed from census to census. Is that how William Vito became Victor?

Besides the 1920 census, this family tree led me to the missing 1925 New York State census where "Victor" is "William". It led me to their 1915 New York State census where he's called "Willie"! And it led me to their 1905 New York State census where he's listed as "Victo". All the other facts fit. There's no doubt this is the right family.

I'm not taking any fact or document directly from this family tree. Instead, the tree pointed me to all the original documents I was missing. Now I know who "Victor" he married, who his children were, when he died, and where he's buried.

Will every hint from a family tree be this useful? No. But I want you to be open to using other trees as leads. Not as fact, but as leads for your research.

In 2018 I had a genealogy research goal of finding every missing census I'd listed in my document tracker. There were some I couldn't find—like Victor Abbate in 1940. With these 4 tips, I'm ready to take another look for them.

Which of your families have missing census sheets?

06 December 2019

Let a DNA Match Guide Your Research for a While

Don't let family tree research plans overshadow a new DNA opportunity.

I recently heard from a DNA match I hadn't looked into before. And it's no wonder I hadn't gotten to her yet. We share only 10 centiMorgans. That makes us mostly likely 4th cousins once removed. (See "3 Steps to Identifying Certain DNA Matches".)

But she wrote to me and said we have a particular last name in common: Capozza. That's a great way to reach out to a DNA match. Tell them which name to focus on.

Luckily, that name rang a bell for me. I've researched that name because a man named Nicola Capozza was the witness to my great grandparents' marriage in upstate New York in 1906.

With a bit of digging, I found that my great grandmother's brother, Giuseppe Caruso, married Marianna Capozza. Her brother was Nicola Capozza, the witness to the marriage marriage. And the Capozza siblings' mother was a Caruso. So there's definitely a couple of tie-ins between the Capozza family and me. I even wrote about my tangled connection to this family.

I also knew immediately that this last name comes from my great grandmother's Italian hometown of Pescolamazza. Luckily, I have quite a decent collection of the town's vital records on my computer. The information is sitting there waiting for me to investigate.

I know these people will eventually have a connection to me.
I know these people will eventually have a connection to me.
In the past I spent 5 years visiting a Family History Center to view the vital records from my maternal grandfather's Italian hometown of Baselice. I documented absolutely everything. (Those records and more are now on my computer.)

More recently I've spent tons of time on my paternal grandfather's Italian hometown of Colle Sannita. I'm making insane progress piecing together my Colle ancestors.

But my Pescolamazza research—the birthplace of my father's mother's mother—hasn't gotten very far. That's why I decided to let this distant DNA match guide my research for a while.

Nicola Capozza, the man who witnessed my great grandparents' marriage, fits into my tree. But I have a bunch of completely disconnected people in my family tree named Capozza. At first I thought they were connected, but it was a mistake. Instead of deleting them, I gave them each a profile image that says "No Relationship Established" and hoped I'd find their connection later.

It turns out, my DNA match is closely related to my disconnected Capozza branch. There has to be a connection to me somewhere, right? And it's probably hiding on my computer in those vital records.

So I changed my research plan to work with this new DNA connection. I've added dozens of people to my family tree as a result. I added people related to me and people related to my DNA match. I filled out my family so much that 2 nights ago I discovered the names of one set of my 6th great grandparents! Hello, Girolamo and Giovanna!

Researching my DNA match's relatives led me to discover the names of my 6th great grandparents!
Researching my DNA match's relatives led me to discover the names of my 6th great grandparents!

Based on my findings so far, my connection to this DNA match may be in the Capozza family, the d'Amico family, the Martino family, or the Caruso family. They're all connected. I need to keep plucking people with these names out of the vital records and seeing where they fit.

It's a jigsaw puzzle, and I'm missing that one piece that's all blue sky. It's fun and it's expanding my family tree. And I know there will come a moment when one of the "No Relationship Established" people—and everyone attached to them—becomes my relative.

When a DNA match reaches out to you, do your homework. Even if you can't find the connection, you will be expanding your family tree and enjoying the whole process. Enjoying the research is what it's all about.

03 December 2019

Last Chance for Your 2019 Genealogy Goals

I'm not nagging, but wouldn't you like to finish another genealogy goal?

There's no guilt in missing some of your 2019 genealogy goals. But there should be joy in completing a few.

I've written about making your annual genealogy goals achievable. Don't bother with pie-in-the-sky goals like "find my connection to Julius Caesar". Make your list of goals short and highly possible.

It's time to make a dash for the 2019 genealogy goals finish line.
It's time to make a dash for the 2019 genealogy goals finish line.

Here's where my 2019 list of goals stands today, December 3, 2019:
  • DONE: Log the first five years' worth of birth records from each of my ancestral towns into spreadsheet.
  • DONE: Search for all missing census forms in my document tracker.
  • NO LUCK: Find a resource for Erie Railroad documents during the years my great grandfather worked in New York state.
  • NO LUCK: Gather every available document of my great uncle's time spent in the Bronx to figure out the year he moved to Illinois (bet. 1906-1910).
  • NO LUCK: Search 1920–1925 New York City newspapers for any mention of the mutual aid society to which Antonio Saviano belonged.
  • POSSIBLE TO FINISH: Enter every Pozzuto baby born in Colle Sannita (1809–1915) into my family tree.
  • NOT BEGUN: Enter every Muollo baby born in Sant'Angelo a Cupolo into my family tree.
As you can see, I completed 2 of my goals, and tried but had no luck with 3 more. The one goal I haven't begun can get pushed to my 2020 genealogy goals list.

It's easy to see where I should focus during this last month of the year. The second-to-last goal: entering the Pozzuto babies into my family tree.

That name features strongly in my family tree and in my DNA match list. I decided that fitting as many as possible into my tree will help me connect to more of my DNA cousins.

To make progress on the Pozzuto babies, I first completed a huge goal that isn't on the list. It was wildly ambitious. But it went so much faster than expected. I have on my computer all the vital records from my grandfather's Italian hometown from 1809–1942. There are gaps. The birth records end at 1915, and the birth and marriage records are missing between 1860 and 1931.

But I renamed every image in the collection to include the name of the subject. Now the entire collection is searchable on my computer.

What can you do to make your research more productive?
What can you do to make your research more productive?

This was such a valuable project! In fact, my priority in 2020 will be to do the same for my other ancestral Italian hometowns. I have all their available vital records, too.

Finding the Pozzuto babies is as simple as:
  • Opening the birth records folder for a particular year.
  • Searching the folder for the name Pozzuto.
  • Working my way through that short list (an average of 5 to 10 names) to see if I can fit them into my tree.
What I do is look to see if I already have their parents. If I don't, or I'm not sure they're the right people, I can search for the parents' marriage record. But those end in 1860 and don't pick up again until 1931.

If I don't have enough information to be sure who the baby's parents are, I do one of two things. I either:
  • Put the family unit in my family tree with a profile picture that says "No Relationship Established", or
  • Mark the image file with xxxxx at the beginning of the file name. That way I know that baby is not in the tree because I need more clues.
I'm up to 1877 which means I have 33 years' worth of babies to place in my tree. To finish this goal, I'll need to complete more than one year each day. I'd better shoot for 2 years per day because the holidays and other things will be nipping away at my time.

The important thing is that the end of the goal is in sight. And so is the end of the year. I want to make a run for it!

What about you? Take a careful look at your 2019 genealogy goals. If you didn't make a list, think about what you've been working on. Or come up with a way to make future project easier—like renaming your files or creating a new spreadsheet.

What's possible to attack and complete this month? Do what you can to set yourself up for greater things in 2020.