19 May 2020

Who Is This Man Who Isn't My Uncle?

Sometimes a rabbit hole is well worth the tumble.

I let a mistake guide my research this past Sunday. I must have been enjoying myself because I managed to forget it was my wedding anniversary. Again.

Here's what happened. I was randomly choosing people in my family tree and checking if they had good source citations. I want to bring all my source citations up to my new standards. I was working on my 2nd great uncle, Giuseppantonio Iamarino, who has a bunch of U.S. documents.

Then I noticed an error. He had arrived in America in 1903 and I had his 1920 census. But I'd also attached an immigration record from 1920—a few months after the census. That couldn't be him, could it?

I checked the facts on the ship manifest. The name and age were a match, and it mentioned his wife Libera back in his hometown. Aside from the date, the only fact that didn't fit my uncle was his destination: Girard, Ohio. My 2nd great uncle never left New York City.

If the document facts don't fit your person, what do you do?
If the document facts don't fit your person, what do you do?

Who was the Giuseppantonio Iamarino on this ship manifest? Was it a coincidence that Girard, Ohio, is where my great grandfather lived? And where my father was born?

I turned to my collection vital records from Colle Sannita, Italy. I needed to find a Giuseppantonio Iamarino, born around 1876, who married a woman named Libera. There was only one good candidate, and he was not in my family tree.

Giuseppe Antonio Iamarino, born on 10 Jan 1876, was the son of Salvatore Iamarino and Costanza Nigro. Giuseppe's father was 30 years old at the time, so I jumped to the 1846 birth records.

I found Salvatore Iamarino's birth record. When I saw the names of his parents, I found they were already in my tree. His father, Giovannantonio Iamarino, is my 2nd cousin 5 times removed.

Anyone with that name definitely gets a spot in my family tree.
Anyone with that name definitely gets a spot in my family tree.

The man from the wrongly attached 1920 ship manifest was my 4th cousin 3 times removed. The ship manifest says Giuseppantonio was going to Girard, Ohio, to join his cousin with the last name Piccirillo. I eventually found out Piccirillo is the last name of Giuseppantonio's mother-in-law.

What else could I find? Which other documents and names could I add to firm up this branch of my family tree? Giuseppantonio's 1876 birth record had 2 big clues for me:
  • He married Liberantonia Nigro (the Libera from the ship manifest) on 12 Oct 1899 in Colle Sannita.
  • He married Maria Teresa Mutino on 8 August 1935 in Colle Sannita.
I'm very familiar with my Italian document collections. I knew that the 1899 marriage record would not be available. But, since Liberantonio died between 1920 and 1935, I could find her death record. It would tell me her age and her parents' names. Then I could find her birth record and her parents' marriage record.

I could find the 1935 marriage record for Giuseppantonio and Maria Teresa Mutino. That would tell me her parents' names so I could climb her family tree.

And then there were Giuseppantonio's parents, Salvatore and Concetta Nigro. Their marriage would not be in the document collection. But I found Concetta's 1937 death record. That gave me her age and parents' names. I discovered her full name was Maria Concetta Pasqualina Nigro. Her parents weren't in my tree yet, but her grandparents were.

I kept going. I searched for records for Concetta's grandparents, and I started seeing familiar names. Something strange was happening. Concetta (Salvatore Iamarino's wife) and Liberantonia (Giuseppantonio Iamarino's wife) were 1st cousins. Their fathers were brothers.

But wait. There's more! The father of these 2 brothers was Giuseppantonio Nigro. When his 1st wife died, he married Margherita Callara. They were in-laws. Giuseppantonio's daughter-in-law's mother was Margherita. And Margherita's son-in-law's father was Giuseppantonio.

This family tree branch just turned into a pretzel!

Just when I thought I'd make a terrible mistake, I realized what was going on in this family.
Just when I thought I'd make a terrible mistake, I realized what was going on in this family.

My little mission to find the man on a ship manifest added dozens of people to my family tree. They each opened more avenues to explore. Giuseppantonio's (from the ship manifest) 2nd wife had 2 husbands before him. Remember that this pre-1970s Italy. You remarried only after your spouse died.

She buried her 1906 husband and her 1909 husband before marrying Giuseppantonio Iamarino. She and her 2 previous husbands open up many more exploration routes. It's time to get all "Lewis and Clark" on them.

I believe I can take nearly anyone from these old vital records and find them a place in my family tree. I want to keep exploring these new avenues. Which personal milestone or national holiday will I forget this time?

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15 May 2020

Step-by-Step Source Citations for Your Family Tree

Any genealogy task is less daunting when you break down the steps.

You know more about genealogy research now than when you started. If you were finding your first census records today, you'd handle them better than you did way back when.

Why not double back and improve your early source citations? If that seems overwhelming, break it into logical chunks. Divide up the work by:
  • Document type. Handle all your census records a year at a time. Or your ship manifests, a decade at a time.
  • Family group. Who is your first-born immigrant ancestor? Work your way down their direct-line descendants.
  • Direct lineage. Forget all the cousins for the moment. Climb your tree one direct ancestor at a time, improving their source citations as you go.
I used to recommend a very simple source citation method. But when my Family Tree Maker file got corrupted, it was an opportunity to do a much better job with my sources. I learned about a feature I hadn't understood before, and I wanted to use it.

My favorite source citations to do are for my thousands of Italian vital records. It's an easy process, and I can complete a lot of them in one sitting.

Develop and stick to a thorough routine when you add a new document image to your family tree.
Develop and stick to a thorough routine when you add a new document image to your family tree.

Document-Handling Process

To make citing your source easier, stick to a multi-step process each time you find a new document. Here's my process:
  1. Download the document to your computer and name it according to your style. My style is LastnameFirstnameTypeYear.jpg. My great grandfather's birth record is IamarinoFrancescoBirth1878.jpg. For a marriage record, I include both names: IamarinoFrancescoPillaLiberaMarriage1901.jpg.
  2. Crop and enhance the image. If there is more than one document in the image, crop out the ones that aren't your family member. And I'll bet the document could use more contrast. I leave census sheets and ship manifests as is. But I enhanced and crop every vital record.
  3. Add a title and comments to the image's file properties. This step is the key to making your source citations easy to create. If the title begins with a year, all document images appear in chronological order in your tree. "1878 birth record for Francesco Iamarino." The comments field includes the source of the image and its URL. My format is "From the [Italian Province] State Archives: [URL]."
  4. Place the processed document image in your family tree, attached to the person(s) in the document.
  5. File the image in the proper folder. I file documents by their type. Some of you may file by family name.
  6. Make note of the image in a document tracker. This gives you a quick view of what you have and what you need for any given person.
When it comes to U.S. census sheets or ship manifests, I add quite a bit more to the image file's comments field. Most of my U.S. records come from Ancestry.com. I click the title of the document in the search results so I can copy the source citation and details from that page. Then I continue to the image for more details to record.

The source citation details you need are available when you find that document online.
The source citation details you need are available when you find that document online.

Here's the comments field from my grandfather's 1920 ship manifest:

line 10; New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957; Roll - T715, 1897-1957 - 2001-3000 - Roll 2883; S.S. Lapland; image 308 of 627

https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7488/NYT715_2883-0308?pid=4016695711

Source Citation:
Year: 1920; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 2883; Line: 10; Page Number: 161

Source Information:
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

And here's Grandpa's 1930 census:

lines 88-90; 1930 United States Federal Census; Ohio - Trumbull - Girard - District 0045; supervisor's district 8, enumeration district 78-45, ward of city 3, sheet 16B; image 32 of 36

https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/6224/4661200_00206?pid=68966506

Source Citation:
Year: 1930; Census Place: Girard, Trumbull, Ohio; Page: 16B; Enumeration District: 0045; FHL microfilm: 2341618

Source Information:
Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2002.

Source Citation Creation

Since my images have all this wonderful info attached to them, it's easy to build the source citation. Let's take Grandpa's 1920 ship manifest as an example. I'm using Family Tree Maker as my software.
  1. Copy the document image's entire comments field to a temporary text file.
  2. Click to add a new source citation for the immigration fact.
  3. Select the document collection title from your list of existing sources. This one is "New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957." (If it isn't in your list, you'll need to create it now.)
  4. Remember that temporary text file you created? Paste the Source Citation and Source Information text into the appropriate fields in the source template. Paste the URL in the Web address field.
  5. Before saving your citation, you can add the document image to the citation itself. This was the feature I learned only recently that I like so much. Click the Media tab in the source template. Link to the document image you've already placed in your family tree.
  6. Save and close your source template.
Did you record more than one fact from the same document? I have the date Grandpa's ship left Naples and the date it arrived in New York City as 2 facts. You can copy the source citation you created and paste it as a source for all the related facts.

Your family tree software does all it can to simplify the creation of source citations.
Your family tree software does all it can to simplify the creation of source citations.

It's a big job, I know. A really big job. But here's how I see it. I do some genealogy work every single day. Sometimes I'm not in the mood for that whole process of finding and processing a document. That's when I'll choose an easier task. Like renaming the files in my huge collection of Italian vital records. Or improving some sub-set of source citations. I like having tasks to choose from that need different levels of effort.

Choose how you'd like to divide and conquer this big task: by family group, by document type, by direct lineage. Then do it, because the benefits are worth it. Your well-sourced family tree is far more reliable than an unsourced tree. People "borrowing" relatives from other trees will choose your sourced facts every time. DNA matches who view your tree will see that your family tree is correct, and has the receipts to prove it.

I'll bet your well-crafted source citations will inspire you to push on and get the job done.

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11 May 2020

This Genealogy Research Log Boosts Your Efficiency

Keep track of potential finds as-you-go with this free research log.

Back in the olden days (before 2017), the vital records from my grandfather's hometown were not online. I had to spend long hours in my nearest Family History Center to view the documents on microfilm.

At first I was entering likely relatives right into Family Tree Maker on the laptop I brought with me. That took way too much time. I needed to capture as many vital records as possible or else I'd be visiting that darkened room forever!

I switched to a super-efficient method instead. I entered a shorthand version of the information in every vital record into a text file on my computer. Then I could figure out where everyone belonged when I got home. (My "shorthand" was a format like this for birth records: "Maria Bianco b 12 Jan 1810 to Francesco di Giovanni and Angela Leone bap next.")

The sight of this notebook full of genealogy notes makes my hand cramp.
The sight of this notebook full of genealogy notes makes my hand cramp.

Now I need a new system for logging the research I do online. Most of the time I'm doing very focused research. "Find this person's birth record. Find his parents' marriage and their birth records." When concentrating on one person, I can collect the documents one at a time and add them to Family Tree Maker. I prefer to do it that way and complete my whole process in one sitting:
  • Save, crop, and rename the image file
  • Add a title and description to the image file's properties
  • Add the image file and all its facts to the person in Family Tree Maker
  • Create the source citation and apply it to all the facts derived from that image file
  • Make note of the document in my Document Tracker spreadsheet
  • File away the image file
But if I'm researching for a client, or going off on a tangent on behalf of a cousin, I need a better way to track my findings.

This month I was researching a family from Perugia, Italy. The Family Search website has a limited range of records available for the town. I committed to combing through them all to figure out who belonged to this particular family.

I was searching for a short list of last names. I copied and pasted names, dates, and URLs for every record I found into a text file. I had problems with this method, like overlooking family members in the long list. I could imagine a lot of benefits I wanted to add to this research process.

I turned to an Excel spreadsheet for the solution. How did I not think of this from the start? I practically live in a spreadsheet. Well, spreadsheets and text-file lists.

I converted all my findings to a spreadsheet, using a careful cut and paste process. I discovered 2 relatives I'd overlooked before. A spreadsheet is infinitely better than a text file. And light-years better than handwritten notes. I can sort the information by any column and click the links I saved to go straight to the vital record online.

With a research log like this, you'll never have to worry about retracing your steps.
With a research log like this, you'll never have to worry about retracing your steps.

I decided to turn this test case into a research log template. From now on, when I'm researching someone else's family, I'll enter everything I find into a copy of this spreadsheet.

I can capture the important information quickly, and figure out who belongs in the family tree later.

Of course I'm going to share this research log template with you. Download your copy from my Dropbox folder. Remember that you can make any changes you may need. You can add or edit columns…whatever makes sense to you. Never lose track of your past discoveries again. Note: Need this in Google Sheets? Here's your link.


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08 May 2020

Finding Relatives Who Sailed to South America

There are online tools to help you identify family members who went to Argentina and Brazil. Recently we looked at Brazilian documents with photos of my Italian townspeople. Today we'll look at another resource to find family members who went to Argentina.

CEMLA is the Centro de Estudios Migratorios Latinoamericanos (Center for Latin American Migratory Studies). Their website offers a simple search form where you can enter:
  • Apellido (last name)
  • Nombre (first name)
  • A date range, Desde (from) and Hasta (until)
Type in the jumble of letters and numbers you see and click Buscar (search). (Tip: You may only have to enter the jumbled code the first time.)

The database:
  • covers more than 75 years of immigration
  • has more than 4.4 million names
  • includes more than 200 countries.
But their website does not have the ship manifest images for us to see. That's disappointing, yes. But let's see what we can do with the information they do provide.

This simple search form can turn up a list of possible relatives for you.
This simple search form can turn up a list of possible relatives for you.

I searched for immigrants with my maiden name, Iamarino, and got 19 results. All 19 Iamarinos arrived in Argentina between 1896 and 1954.

You can open Google Translator in another browser tab to translate the immigrants' professions. I used it to make sure "desconocido" in the Place of Birth column means unknown. And I found that C or S in the "Estado Civil" column means Married (Casado) or Single (Soltero).

Let's see what we can do with this table of search results.

Click on any column in the search results to sort by that value. I clicked the "Fecha de Arribo" (Arrival Date) column. You can also type a value in the "Filtrar resultados" box to filter your results. I can type the town name of Colle Sannita in the box to filter by my ancestral hometown.

That leaves me with 7 people who came from Grandpa Iamarino's hometown. The first one, Carmine Iamarino, was 29 years old in 1924. I can search for him in the towns' 1895 birth records. These are available on the Antenati website, and I've downloaded them to my computer.

There is a Carmine Iamarino born in 1895 to Pasquale Iamarino and Orsola Marino. Is he in my family tree? I searched my tree for him, and he isn't there. Yet. His parents are in my tree, and his father Pasquale is my 2nd cousin 4 times removed.

That means Carmine, whom I've just learned sailed to Argentina in 1924, is my 3rd cousin 3 times removed. Now I can enter Carmine into my family tree with his 1895 birth record and his 1924 immigration facts. I'll use the CEMLA website as my source and add all the facts I see:
  • Carmine was a married man in 1924
  • He was a laborer
  • He arrived in Argentina on 31 December 1924
  • He sailed out of Naples on the ship Belvedere
Let's try another one. Innocenzo Iamarino arrived in Argentina in 1935 at the age of 31. I searched my vital records for Innocenzo Iamarino born in 1904 and found him. He isn't in my family tree yet, either. But his parents are. And he's a closer relative than my first search.

Innocenzo's father, Giuseppantonio Iamarino, is my 2nd great uncle. He's the brother of my great grandfather Francesco. Innocenzo, who I'll be putting into my tree immediately, is my 1st cousin twice removed. (He's Grandpa's 1st cousin.)

Innocenzo's birth record tells me he married Rosa Paolucci in 1925. I searched the CEMLA site to see if she followed her husband to Argentina. It looks like she did not, so Innocenzo probably earned money in South America and returned to his wife in Italy. (Tip: There is no button to start a new search, so refresh the page in your web browser.)

Did Innocenzo sail to Argentina more than once? I removed the Colle Sannita filter from my search. There is another result for an Innocenzo born in 1904. He arrived in Argentina in 1926, married, listing his hometown as Benevento. Benevento is both a city and the name of the province to which Colle Sannita belongs. I'm fairly confident that this is my same 1st cousin twice removed.

The search screen offers many controls to help you find your relatives.
The search screen offers many controls to help you find your relatives.

I'm eager to work through every Iamarino in this list. You can't use an asterisk or question mark in your search, but I know the usual misspellings of my maiden name. I search for Jamarino and found 10 more results, one of which lists Colle Sannita as their place of birth.

It's great to have this bit of information to add to the stories of my relatives. If you have family members who traveled to and from another country to work, try the CEMLA website. You, too, may find relatives who sailed to Argentina to support their families.

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05 May 2020

Attracting a New DNA Match

I received an Ancestry email for my dad's DNA test account. It says he has a new 2nd cousin once removed that he can find using ThruLines™. Dad's 2nd cousin once removed would be my 3rd cousin, so I took a look.

This new DNA match is the granddaughter of a cousin I identified some years ago. You see, when my paternal grandfather came to America in 1920, he went to join his uncle Antonio Pilla. Grandpa worked for a baker in Newton, a suburb of Boston. But he didn't stay long.

I researched Uncle Antonio's wife and kids in Newton found a living daughter. I wrote to her, but I didn't hear back. Unfortunately, she died in 2014. This new DNA match is her granddaughter.

Ancestry's ThruLines™ takes the guesswork out of your DNA match's identity.
Ancestry's ThruLines™ takes the guesswork out of your DNA match's identity.

Pay It Forward

I've got a ton of Uncle Antonio's ancestors in my family tree, but not for his wife Angelina Iarossi.

I thought it'd be good to build Angelina's branch as much as I can, and then reach out to my newfound 3rd cousin. What if she has photos of Uncle Antonio? If I offer her a ton of info on her grandmother's parents, she may be more likely to share photos.

To keep my enormous family tree from getting out of control, I made a policy a while ago. When it comes to in-laws, I'll record their facts and the names of their parents. That's it. I don't care about their siblings or their grandparents.

I made this decision after a few people contacted me, wondering why their grandfather was in my tree. I didn't have a great answer, and I didn't plan to investigate them any further. So out they went.

I will make an exception to the rule if a relative asks me to do the work. Two weekends ago I added an in-law's siblings and ancestors because my cousin asked me to.

Now I'm concentrating on my DNA 3rd cousin's great grandmother, Angelina Iarossi. She came to America at the age of 2 with her mother. The ship manifest says they came from Castelvetere in Val Fortore, Italy. That's a bit north of the 2 towns where my grandfathers were born.

I'm eager to climb Angelina Iarossi's tree and see what I can find. I know her last name exists in my maternal grandfather's hometown of Baselice. Is there any chance Angelina had roots there and a blood connection to me?

Researching their Family as an Incentive

My first choice for Italian genealogy research is the Antenati website. This government-run site offers free access to countless birth, marriage, and death records. Luckily, they have records for the town of Castelvetere in Val Fortore.

Her naturalization papers say Angelina was born on 6 February 1901. So I went straight to her birth record. It confirms that her parents were Pietro Iarossi and Maria Iarossi. They had the same last name.

A few quick document searches helped me climb my great uncle's wife's family tree.
A few quick document searches helped me climb my great uncle's wife's family tree.

I love it when a birth record includes one of the parent's father's name. Angelina's 1901 birth record told me that:
  • Her paternal grandfather was Antonio Iarossi
  • Her maternal grandfather was Costanzo Iarossi
I searched the indexes of several years (1872–1882) for the birth records of Pietro and Maria Iarossi. I found Maria Iarossi's 1879 birth record. It confirms her father's name of Costanzo, and adds her mother's name. She was Angela Maria Lupo, the daughter of Nicolangelo Lupo.

Could I climb another generation? I found an 1847 birth record for Costanzo Iarossi. I checked several surrounding years to make sure I didn't have the wrong Costanzo. His parents were Giovanni Iarossi and Catarine Forte.

I got that far while drinking my morning coffee. I'd like to get 3 or 4 solid generations of Angelina's ancestors. Then I'll contact my 3rd cousin DNA match. Her family tree on Ancestry is very small, so these findings may totally blow her away.

We all complain about DNA matches not answering us. But are we doing our best to attract them? You've got to put out the bait to score the information you want.

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Let Me Demolish Your Italian Brick Wall

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01 May 2020

5+ Ways to Share Your Tree with Family

I know this much is true: I'll keep adding people and documents to my family tree for the rest of my productive life.

My tree grows each week. I keep my up-to-date family tree on Ancestry.com so distant cousins and DNA matches can keep on tapping into my work.

Ask yourself this: "How many people connected to my tree have any idea what I'm doing?" I know I haven't made many efforts to draw relatives in. I tend to share with those who ask questions.

When a relative wants to see what you've learned, how do you show them? Here are 5 ways you can share your family tree research with your family.

1. Grant them access to your online tree

Seeing the family tree laid out makes more sense than a list of who had which children. The visual format works much better for me. It's immediately clear.

If you can put your family tree on a site like Ancestry.com, you can invite your family to see it. They don't need a subscription to see your tree. I like having the Ancestry app on my phone, too, so I can show it to a cousin when we're together.

2. Print large documents at home

This is a project I began a long time ago. I had an accordion folder that expands and has a slot for each letter of the alphabet. I wanted to fill it with folded-up ship manifests, census sheets, and vital records.

Create a family-history-to-go collection of full-sized documents.
Create a family-history-to-go collection of full-sized documents.

I began with my 2 grandfathers. I printed out ship manifests and census forms. At that time, I didn't have their Italian birth records or U.S. marriage or death records. I continued on to my maternal grandmother's parents. They also sailed from Italy to America. I printed their ship manifests and census sheets.

The best part of this project is that I didn't shrink the documents to fit onto a letter-sized sheet of paper. I used my printer to spread the image across several sheets of paper. There were 4 to 6 sheets of paper for each large document.

Then I trimmed the pages, taped them together on the back side, and had nice big documents. I folded the documents down to fit into my accordion folder. Then I gathered all the documents for one person and paper clipped them together. Finally, I put the batch into the slot with the first letter of their last name.


3. Order an oversized family tree

Years ago, my cousin Theresa encouraged me to share our Sarracino family tree.

I told her that branch was far from complete, but she urged me not to wait. So I used Family Tree Maker to make a chart of the descendants of the earliest Sarracino ancestor I had found.

I saved it as a PDF file with very large dimensions. Then I brought the file to a local print shop (Staples or the UPS Store can do the job). They used a plotter to print the tree on a sheet of paper 2 feet wide by 6 feet long.

At home, I laid them on my dining room table and folded them to fit into standard manila envelopes. I had copies for the heads of 40 families. I carried many of them to a Christmas family gathering and sent the rest out by mail.

Everyone seemed amazed. They'd never seen the whole clan laid out that way.

4. Create a book of life

My "Book of Life" article from March 2019 is still drawing lots of readers each week. I wrote about a one-of-a-kind binder I made for my mom's 1st cousin on her milestone birthday.

To create the book, I printed regular page-sized family trees and documents. I split some documents onto 2 pages to make them more legible, and I put them on facing pages in the binder. I slipped each item into a plastic sleeve (I had a few of these), making the pages easy to turn.

Use common stationery items to create a Book of Life.
Use common stationery items to create a Book of Life.

I created "call-outs" by printing important facts on leftover yellow paper. I cut them down to size and placed them on top of images like ship manifests. This is helpful when a document is hard to read. You can use a call-out to make it clear who we're looking at.

The binder had an extra pocket inside its back cover. I slipped in an oversized document, folded down to fit. It also had a clear pocket on the front cover where I put a title page and photo.

5. Create a digital experience

This is one I still need to try. Picture any DVD you may own. The opening screen usually has an image from the movie and a menu of choices to select. What if the image were your ancestors and the menu had different family members to choose?

Each selection might lead to a photo of the ancestor, or their hometown, with some large text to read. That might lead to a view of their ship manifest with a photo of the ship and a closeup of their line(s) on the manifest. Next there might be a photo of their first home and a look at their family on the census. Your time and imagination are the only limits. Plus any learning curve for using various software.

You can distribute this work by CD or place it online for relatives to download. (Remember that most new computers don't have a CD drive.) Or you may want to create this just for yourself. What a great way to preserve your legacy!

Think outside the box to create something special out of your family tree.
Think outside the box to create something special out of your family tree.

There is also another way to share your work, and that's in a book you create. See "How to Share Your Family Tree Research with Relatives." Your book may be filled with small family trees, document images, stories, and life stories you write.

I'm grateful to my cousin Theresa who pushed me to print that large family tree so many years ago. Her daughter still has it and cherishes it. Another cousin (my Book of Life recipient) has hers up on a wall.

Which of these projects will you choose for sharing your family tree work with relatives? Start with the one that sounds the easiest and move up from there.

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28 April 2020

Combine DNA Tools to Calculate Unknown Relationships

The GEDmatch website has lots of intriguing tools for you to try. First you need to upload the raw DNA file you downloaded from your DNA testing site.

If your parents have the same general background, try the "Are your parents related?" link. It examines your DNA for segments you inherited from both your parents. On my chromosome 2 there's a 7.6 centiMorgan (cM) segment that seems to come from both my parents.

That's definitely my dumbed-down version of the calculation. But it says, "This analysis indicates that your parents may be distantly related."

GEDmatch showed my parents may be related. But how?
GEDmatch showed my parents may be related. But how?

I discovered this quite a while ago, and I've since had both my parents submit a DNA test. Here and there I've been seeing DNA matches that they share. The most shocking one is my 1st cousin. He's my mother's sister's son, yet he's a DNA match to my dad!

Because of all this, I've been hoping to find an actual connection between my parents. Either a shared ancestor or an intermingled bloodline. Both their families came from a small area in Italy. All their ancestral towns neighbored one another. It's possible their entire relationship may be nothing but endogamy. That's what you get when a small population keeps intermarrying for hundreds of years.

But I keep searching for the answer.

There's another GEDmatch tool called the "One-to-one Autosomal DNA Comparison." I ran it to compare each of my parents' DNA kits to one another. The result was a table showing the 4 chromosomes where they shared 7 or more cMs.

The table doesn't make it terribly clear how many cMs my parents share, but there's a 2nd tool that's more helpful. I launched the DNA Painter website and logged in to my account. In the Tools menu I chose the Individual Match Filter at the bottom. Here you can paste in that results chart from GEDmatch to see the number of cMs these 2 people share.

The result was a very fast and clear 42 shared cMs. I can take that number and consult a consanguinity chart. That's a chart that tells you possible relationships based on the number of shared cMs.

After GEDmatch, you can use DNA Painter and a consanguinity chart for more analysis.
After GEDmatch, you can use DNA Painter and a consanguinity chart for more analysis.

You may not find the exact number of cMs you're looking for on the chart. The closest numbers I see to 42 are 26.56 and 53.13. My target of 42 is a bit closer to the higher number. So I'll focus on 53.13 in the chart.

Here's what I see as possible relationships with 53.13 shared cMs.

Option 1: 1st cousins 4 times removed

My parents are the same generation and the same age. So it seems unlikely that they could have more than 1 or 2 "removals" in their relationship. Their parents and grandparents were all about the same age. I'm going to rule out the 1st cousins 4 times removed option.

Option 2: 2nd cousins 2 times removed

For this to be true, their shared ancestors would be 1st great grandparents of one and 3rd great grandparents of the other. This 2-generation span might work if you had very young parents in one branch and very old parents in another.

For instance, my grandfather was 20 years older than his sister. So his sister's children are around my age even though they're my dad's 1st cousins. But spanning 2 generations while being the same age also feels like too much of a stretch. Not impossible, but pretty unlikely.

Option 3: 3rd cousins

If my parents were 3rd cousins, they'd share a pair of 2nd great grandparents. I know that isn't true because I've identified all their 2nd great grandparents. But remember, they share a bit less than 53.13 cMs, so they may have something less than a 3rd cousin relationship. What if there's a marriage between a pair of their 2nd great grandparents' siblings?

That sounds like a good option. It's something that is possible since their hometowns were close to one another. And it isn't something I've been able to rule out.

Now I need a research plan.
  • I can continue harvesting facts from my downloaded collection of Italian vital records.
  • I can focus on finding the marriages of as many of those siblings as possible. This generation was born and married before the Italian government began keeping records. But if I can find their death records, I'll know who they married.
  • I can start by finding dead ends on my family tree. For example, one set of mom's 2nd great grandparents is Antonio Bozza and Angela Cece. I know Angela's ancestors, but I found only 1 of her siblings. And all I know about Antonio is his father's name. If I work to identify more of their family members, maybe I'll find someone who's spouse is from one of dad's towns.
  • My grandparent chart lists all their 2nd great grandparents (my 3rd great grandparents). I'll review these 16 couples to see which of their families need more sibling research.
  • I'll continue investigating the couples, ruling out some, and narrowing down the list.
I'll use my grandparent chart and narrow down my search among their 2nd great grandparents' siblings.
I'll use my grandparent chart and narrow down my search among their 2nd great grandparents' siblings.

I've been jumping around in my research a lot lately. It's all been fun. I spent Saturday adding 3 generations to my 2nd cousin once removed's tree at his request.

But I would like to exhaust all possibilities on my parents' DNA relationship.

Even if your parents aren't related, be sure to explore the tools on GEDmatch—and take advantage of DNA Painter—to see what else you can learn about your ancestry.

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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.

23 April 2020

What Does Your Brick Wall Look Like?

Everyone who dabbles in family tree building has hit one or more brick walls.

After thinking about my own dead ends, I realized brick walls fall into a few main categories. I've named 4 of them below. Each type has several potential brick wall-busting documents. Have you found them all?

Focus on the type of brick wall, then think of all the documents than can break it down.
Focus on the type of brick wall, then think of all the documents than can break it down.

Brick Wall #1: What Was Her Maiden Name?

Can you imagine if women all around the world kept their maiden name for life? That's what women in Italy do. But I suppose if that were the case, our brick walls would be What Was Her Married Name?

If you have a female with a missing maiden name, and you can't find her death record, do all you can to find these documents:
  • A marriage record under her married name.
  • The death record for each of her children. One or more may have her maiden name.
  • Social Security applications and pension records. I found a mangled version of my 2nd great grandmother's maiden name this way. It pointed me in the right direction.
  • Obituaries for close family members. I haven't found an obit for any of my relatives beyond my parents' generation. But you may get lucky.
Brick Wall #2: Who Were Their Parents?

Let's say you've got this relative in the 1900 U.S. Census, but you don't know who their parents were. Maybe it's a woman with no maiden name available. Or a man with such a common name, you can't be sure which man is him.

Be sure to do an exhaustive search for all these documents:
  • Their death record. Beware: the person who supplied the information on the death record may not have known the facts you want. (See 27 Key Facts to Extract From a Death Certificate.)
  • Draft registration cards or other military records. I found the World War II missing flight record for my uncle who crashed and died. It lists the name and address of the nearest relative of all 10 crew members. (See Was Your Ancestor in the Military? It May Not Matter.)
  • Every census record. Their parent may be living with them.
  • Passport applications.
  • Citizenship papers. Sometimes you'll find a lot of very specific family details on these documents.
  • Immigration records. There's definitely a sweet spot for immigration records. If they immigrated earlier than the late 1890s, you may not learn any more than which country they came from.
Brick Wall #3: Where Did They Come From?

Someone asked for my help with this type of brick wall recently. Their ancestor had a clearly made-up name and seemed to drop right out of the sky.

All we could do was search for the following types of records:
  • Their immigration record. (He came here too early for details.)
  • Citizenship papers.
  • A marriage record. This may list only the person's country of origin, but sometimes it includes the town.
  • Their death record. If you're lucky, the informant knew the deceased's parents' names.

Just like it takes many bricks to make a wall, it takes many facts and documents to tear down that wall.
Just as it takes many bricks to make a wall, it takes many facts and documents to tear down that wall.


Brick Wall #4: Where Did They Go?
This is the type of brick wall on my mind this week. Where did my grandfather's younger brother go? I have nothing but his birth record, so I started thinking about everything else I can search for:
  • His marriage record. There isn't one available from his Italian hometown, but he may have married:
    • during a year with no marriage records available
    • in another town, or
    • not at all.
  • His death record. There is no record of his death in his hometown in the years with available documents.
  • An immigration record. My great uncle's name was Noé—that's Noah in English—Leone. There isn't a single record of any kind for any variation of his name anywhere. Only his Italian birth record. That finding rules out all other main genealogy documents for this uncle.
  • Military records. I checked to see if my uncle died in Italy in World War I or World War II. He did not. There's a Benevento province website where I can look up all the Italian men with military service—which was all the men. Since Noé isn't listed there, it's very likely he died before he turned 20 years old. Unfortunately, his town's 1910–1915 death records are not available online. Someday I'll return to the Benevento Archives and search the death records in person.

Did my great uncle leave town forever? I don't know what became of him.
Did my great uncle leave town forever? I don't know what became of him.

This may not be a complete list. But seeing brick walls boiled down to their basic types should help you know what your options are. If you can't retrieve the records you need on your own, consider seeking a professional's help. I hired a pair of researchers in Italy to gather church records from my ancestors' town. I've actually been to that church, but I wasn't able to access their records on my own.

People often comment that "not all genealogy records are online." I wish they were! Even when the world wasn't screeching to a halt, I wasn't able to travel anywhere at any time. I'd like to spend a few days researching in Hornell, New York. And a few days in Girard, Ohio. And months on end in several small towns in Italy. But I don't want my family tree work to wait for future research trips.

When Italian vital records came online 3 years ago, my tree blossomed in countless directions. It's my hope that Italy will digitize their parish records in my lifetime. But if that doesn't happen, I'm satisfied that I've done all I can to break through my brick walls. For now.

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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.