14 August 2020

Get into a Groove to Fortify Your Family Tree

We each have the ability to be thorough, organized genealogists. But we don't always have the time.

I'm going to show you my multi-step process (accent on the multi). I follow this routine for each document image I add to my family tree.

First, let me explain what prompted me to write about how I get my genealogy groove on.

I found 4 notes in my genealogy task list that I wrote a long time ago. These notes list details about birth records I need to add to my family tree. The notes include the person's name, birth date and place, and the URL of the document image.

When I compared the notes to my tree, I realized I had added the facts to each person, but not the birth record images. I must have been in a hurry that day.

Now that I'm looking at those notes again, it's time to complete each task and delete those notes from my task list. Here's what I need to do for each one (deep breath):

  1. Go to the birth record stored on my computer. I have tons of Italian vital records downloaded from the Antenati website. I file them in nesting folders by province, town, and year/type of record.

    When you add to your task list, be specific so you can complete the task.
    When you add to your task list, be specific so you can complete the task.
  2. Crop the image and boost its contrast in Photoshop if needed. Export the cropped image to my "working" folder. This makes my in-progress images easy to find.

  3. Edit the properties of the image file to include a title and comments. The title might be "1835 birth record for [Full Name]". The comments might be: "From the Benevento State Archives: [full URL of original image]". These facts stay with the image and get pulled into my family tree program.

    Adding information to the image itself helps in your tree and when you share the file.
    Adding information to the image itself helps in your tree and when you share the file.
  4. Attach the image to the right person in Family Tree Maker and make it their profile image. (I don't have photos of my ancestors beyond most of my great grandparents.)

  5. Edit its properties to include the date on the document. Note: I don't put the date in the file's properties because it doesn't carry over into my software.

    Not only do the image's facts get pulled into your tree, you can use them to create a source citation.
    Not only do the image's facts get pulled into your tree, you can use them to create a source citation.
  6. Select a document category. (I save birth, marriage, and death records as "Vital Records".) This may be a Family Tree Maker thing only.

  7. Add each fact provided by the document to the person. That may include their full name, birth date, baptism date, place of birth, etc.

  8. Add a source citation to each of these facts. The URL I attached to the image is critical to the source citation.

  9. Add mention of this document to my Document tracker. I add a line to my spreadsheet for this person, if they aren't already in there. If I have an 1835 birth record image, I'll add this to the Birth column: "1835 (cert.)". The "(cert.)" tells me I have an image of the certificate. It isn't a fact pulled from somewhere else. It's the actual birth certificate.

  10. Move the image from my "working" folder to my "certificates" folder. It sits there until I do my weekly computer backup. After the Sunday morning backup, I move it to the right sub-folder of "certificates". I have so many certificates that I break them up into alphabetical groups.

OK, now I see why I didn't have time to do this when I found the records.

Despite all the steps, I'm happy to do each one. I know that when I'm done, I'm completely done, with no loose ends dangling. It's all a matter of getting into a groove, making each step a part of your routine, and enjoying the results.

Pressed for time? You can either:

  • Leave yourself a detailed note in your task list, or
  • Get that document as far as your "working" folder (step 2 or 3) and come back to it later.

Think of yourself as a genealogy manufacturing production line. You are cranking out a piece of perfection.

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11 August 2020

Keep Track of Your Genealogy Theories and Tasks

I like to work from text-file task lists. I started doing this in my corporate job so I can easily re-prioritize my to-do list. If a task has a deadline, its line begins with the due date: AUG 11, AUG 25, etc. I keep those items in order so I never miss the deadlines.

This blog is about using business sensibilities and efficiencies in your genealogy research. So it makes perfect sense to use the task list idea in your family tree work.

There's no need for special software, although many of you may use Evernote or OneNote. You only need a text editor, like Notepad on a Windows computer or TextEdit on a Mac. I use Notepad++ because I can have a bunch of files open at once and include some HTML code when I need to.

Use your task list to keep track of:

  • Where you left off with a search for an ancestor.
  • Your theory about a particular ancestor and where you might find them.
  • A problem you're trying to solve, like an unreadable last name or conflicting birth dates.
  • Your progress on any of your annual genealogy goals.
  • Links to online pages that may be helpful to you, and a note about why.
  • Reference books you want to find or buy.

For each line item, it may help you to type last names in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. Once you have several entries, you can organize them by type, or by branch of your family tree.

Keep a running, constantly updated list of what you're working on in your genealogy research.
Keep a running, constantly updated list of what you're working on in your genealogy research.

Here's an example. I found an unusual 1809 death record for my 5th great grandfather, Vincenzo Liguori. I found it in the 1840 marriage documents of his grandson, my 3rd great grandfather. The problem is:

  • The document doesn't actually say he died in their hometown of Circello
  • It doesn't mention his parents or wife…only his son, my 4th great grandfather
  • It isn't included in the 1809 death records.

I need to find another version of the document in another set of marriage records. I'm missing the names of Vincenzo's grandchildren born before 1809. (Civil record keeping began in 1809 in my part of Southern Italy.) I need to search marriage records for anyone with the name Liguori.

I added this line to my task list:

  • Did Gregorio LIGUORI [Vincenzo's son] & Apollonia Grazia Caruso have a child before 1809? Search Circello marriages starting in 1825 for other Liguori children. (I'm up to 1841.)

The end of that line item tells me where I left off. That's critical to your task list.

Here's another example. My 5th great grandmother Francesca d'Andrea is a dead end. I don't know when she died or who her parents were. I think she came from Pesco Sannita because I see the name d'Andrea on lots of documents from that town. I started looking for people who might be her siblings.

I added this line to my task list:

  • Francesca d'ANDREA's parents may be Giuseppe and Rosa Salamone or Antonio and Vincenza Orlando. That's based on other d'Andrea death records. Search for supporting marriage documents. (Not started.)

Finally, I've been working on a branch of my family tree with the last name Consolazio from Santa Paolina. My closest Consolazio relative is my 2nd great grandmother. I've been renaming the town's vital records files to include the names on the documents. Then I'm trying to fit all the people named Consolazio into my family tree.

I added this to the task list:

  • I'm up to 1828 births reviewing CONSOLAZIO records.

Keep your task list open each time you sit down to work on your family tree. Consult it often. When you finish a task, add a note to the right person in your family tree, explaining how you learned this fact.

The notes in your task list are great reminders of what you've already done to solve a problem. Re-reading these notes may trigger that "aha!" moment and help you finally solve that puzzle.

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07 August 2020

Solving 2 Problems to Find My 6th Great Grandparents

Don't stop your research too soon if the documents aren't crystal clear.

My last article convinced me to make a pair of 5th great grandparents my #1 genealogy priority. I needed to find their Italian death records so I could learn the names of 4 more of my 6th great grandparents.

As I began my search, I realized I had already located what might be both their death records in 1816.

The problem was, neither death certificate mentions the deceased's spouse. I needed to prove I had the right death records. He, 80-year-old Saverio Zullo, had a very common last name in their little town. She, 63-year-old Angela Montenigro, had a very uncommon last name. The town's vital records show there may have been only one Montenigro family in town when she was born. (Their age difference may mean Saverio had kids with his 1st wife.)

Before I set out to prove these were the right documents, I had another problem. The clerk in town at the time had awful handwriting. I cannot read the last names of my newfound 6th great grandmothers!

I kept track of my steps as I solved these 2 problems.

It isn't time to rejoice yet. These documents aren't definitively my 5th great grandparents.
It isn't time to rejoice yet. These documents aren't definitively my 5th great grandparents.

Problem #1: Prove the 1816 Death Records Are for My Ancestors

Here is everything I did to determine if I had the right death records:

I searched the town's marriage records before and after 1816, looking for my 5th great grandparents' children.

  • In 1814, their son Saverio married, and his parents were still alive.
  • In 1815, their daughter Berardina married, and her parents were still alive.
  • In 1817, their son Carlo married, and his parents were dead!

Hurray! Only a genealogist is this happy to see that someone's parents have died.

The marriage records suggest Saverio and Angela died between 1815 and 1817. That supports the two 1816 death records as belonging to my 5th great grandparents.

There may be more proof, though. I searched more marriage records, hoping for a rewritten version of their death records. So far, I've gotten up to 1835 in this search. The supporting marriage documents for these years are mostly missing. But eventually I should find more complete marriage records for their grandchildren. Those records may include a rewritten version of Saverio Zullo's death record.

In the meantime, I was anxious about the other problem with the 1816 death records. What did those documents say?

I used several methods to figure out the bad handwriting in my 5th great grandparents' death records.
I used several methods to figure out the bad handwriting in my 5th great grandparents' death records.

Problem #2: Figure Out My 6th Great Grandmothers' Last Names

Figuring out the last names of Saverio and Angela's mothers took a lot more work. Here's what I did:

  • I took my best guess on each letter in the last names. I compared the writing to the other words in the document, and in other documents written by the same clerk. It was clear that neither name had any ascending letters (b, d, f, t, etc.) or descending letters (also f, g, p, etc.). That helped me rule out many possible names.
  • I wrote down the possible letter combinations. I'm familiar with the common last names in this town from having examined so many vital records. These were not common names from the town.
  • I checked a few resources for the name variations I'd written down.
    • For Italian descendants, the Cognomix website shows where to find a last name in Italy today.
    • You can also search for a name on the Italian White Pages website.
    • I checked my digital copy of a book exploring the origins and variations of Italian last names. (Search online for name origins in your ancestral country.)
    • You can search for a last name on FamilySearch.org or Ancestry.com to see where people with that name come from.
  • I searched the town's records again for more documents with the 2 mysterious last names. I compared these to my original document. The clerks wrote the names a bit differently each time.
  • I searched for, and found, a sibling for my 5th great grandmother Angela Montenigro. This document gives me another look at my 6th great grandmother Berardina's last name.
  • The 1816 death records are missing an index. But the index for the year Angela's sister died gives me another look at Berardina's last name.

I took all these steps before making a decision. The evidence shows Saverio Zullo's mother, my 6th great grandmother, was Livia Carosa.

Angela Montenigro's mother, my other 6th great grandmother, was Berardina (sometimes Berarda):

  • Lavorana,
  • Laverono, or
  • Lavorino

It's still not clear which version is correct. But I did narrow it down. I'll continue to search for every Montenigro in town, and anyone with a last name that looks like Lavorana, Laverono, or Lavorino. For now, I'll choose which variation to use and add my 4 new 6th great grandparents to my family tree.

Soon I'll move on to my #2 genealogy priority. That is to find my 8 missing 6th great grandparents from the town of Circello, Italy. I'm so thankful for the Italian Antenati website and all the vital records!

Don't give up when a sloppy, indefinite document is all you have. There are so many tools you can use.

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04 August 2020

How to Decide Where to Put Your Research Effort

With so many juicy genealogy leads, what should be my priority? If I never had to work, or cook or clean or eat or sleep, I wouldn't need to make this decision.

A few distant relatives have been writing to me from different branches of my family tree. When that happens, I shift gears and work on their branch until I come to a conclusion.

Because of these shiny genealogy objects, I've been bouncing around from:
  • Most of Dad's side, working my way through an amazing reference book about their hometown.
  • My paternal grandmother's maternal side, connecting myself to a cousin in Western Australia.
  • My maternal grandmother's maternal grandmother's side (that's my 2nd great grandmother), collaborating with a distant cousin from that town.
All this bouncing around made me wonder—am I putting my effort in the right places? I've done an enormous amount of work on some of my 7 ancestral hometowns. Should I be working on different towns?

Let's turn this into a game of percentages and let the numbers point us in the right direction.

My family origins are pretty homogeneous. My 8 great grandparents came from 4 neighboring towns in Italy. Once you get to my 3rd great grandparents, a few more towns enter the mix.

Let your ancestors help you set your genealogy research priorities.
Let your ancestors help you set your genealogy research priorities.

We each have 32 3rd great grandparents. Looking only at them in my family tree, I can see how many of the 32 came from each of my 7 ancestral hometowns. I can divide that number by 32 for a percentage of my genetic makeup. Here are my 7 towns, ranked by percentage of my 3rd great grandparents:
  • 11 come from Colle Sannita: 34.34%
  • 8 come from Baselice: 25%
  • 6 come from Sant'Angelo a Cupolo: 18.75%
  • 4 come from Pesco Sannita: 12.5%
  • 1 comes from Apice: 3.125%
  • 1 comes from Circello: 3.125%
  • 1 comes from Santa Paolina: 3.125%
The bottom 3 towns are a small percentage of my origin, but they could be easy to tackle.

In Apice, for example, I've identified half of my 8 6th great grandparents. All were born in the early 1700s. I may find their death records included in their descendants' marriage records. Those documents should tell me their parents' names.

You may still need to build your tree wide to find those missing ancestors.
You may still need to build your tree wide to find those missing ancestors.

Completing Apice wouldn't yield a big percentage of my ancestry. But it should be a reasonably quick task. The same is true for Santa Paolina and Circello. There are lots of vital records available for these 3 towns.

At the other end of the spectrum is Colle Sannita, which makes up more than a third of my family tree. More than a third of me! Next comes beautiful Baselice, which is a quarter of me. And I happen to look just like my great grandmother from Baselice.

The percentages justify the insane amount of time I spend on my Colle Sannita ancestors. It's not only the birthplace of my maiden name; it's very much in my bones.

Then again, when faced with a large task, I always chip off the easy parts first. It's my mental trick to keep me going. When I'm shoveling snow in our driveway, I never commit to doing the whole job in one session. I bargain with myself. I say, "I'll just make a path for one car." And when that's done, and I'm still feeling fine, I say, "I'll just widen that path and clean up the edges."

One bit at a time, I trick myself into doing the whole job. But I never made a commitment. So this bargaining side of me wants to pick off the bottom 3 towns in my list first. I need to find:
  • 4 6th great grandparents from Apice.
  • 8 6th great grandparents from Circello.
  • No 6th great grandparents from Santa Paolina, but 10 missing 7th great grandparents.
I need to tackle those. Looking at my 12.5% town of Pesco Sannita, I need 12 of my 16 6th great grandparents. I haven't spent a lot of time on this town. I'll bet those names are waiting for me.

My next highest town (Sant'Angelo a Cupolo) doesn't have records available before 1861. I don't expect to go back any farther than I have. As for Baselice, that was my "gateway" genealogy town. I spent 5 years viewing the 1809–1860 vital records on microfilm and piecing together families. While there are ton more recent vital records available to me now, I don't think I can go any higher in my family tree; just wider.

There. I've found my priorities, in this order:
  1. Find the 4 missing 6th great grandparents from Apice.
  2. Find the 8 missing 6th great grandparents from Circello.
  3. Search my Santa Paolina records to complete that set of 7th great grandparents. (I've been renaming my collection of vital records to include the name of the person in the document. Game-changer!)
  4. Find the 12 missing 6th great grandparents from Pesco Sannita.
  5. Return to my Colle Sannita book that details the 560 families living there in 1742.
You may set your priorities in a different way. I'll bet you thought I'd go for the highest percentage town first. You didn't know how much I love doing the easy stuff first.

I feel great about this plan. Instead of trying to split my time among the towns, I have specific goals.

You may have hometowns that are almost impossible to research. That will influence your plans. Those towns may call out to you most strongly, but don't let them stop the rest of your progress. So…what are your percentages?


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Let Me Demolish Your Italian Brick Wall

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31 July 2020

Did Your Ancestors Have Arranged Marriages?

There was a time when arranged marriages were expected and accepted.

It makes me chuckle when I see matching spouse names on 1800s vital records. "This baby is born to Tommaso and Tommasina." "He was the son of the late Giovanni and Giovanna." What a cute coincidence.


But, was it a coincidence? Or did two families who were planning to join their families decide to pair up the kids with similar names?

Why am I thinking about arranged marriages, you ask? I have an awesome book that documents my ancestral hometown in 1742. Like a modern-day census, it lists the names and ages of everyone in each household. It also lists the head of household's:
  • land, and its use
  • animals
  • tax rate, and
  • how many virgins he has
Yup. It lists the family's names as:
  • husband
  • wife
  • sons in descending age order
  • virgin daughters in descending age order
This made it clear to me that having a marriageable daughter was an asset. He may even have been taxed on his daughters.

A proper match was often the decision of the father of the bride.
A proper match was often the decision of the father of the bride.

I've always known that my maternal grandparents had an arranged marriage in New York City in 1922. Grandma Mary liked a young man with red hair, but my great grandfather made the choice for her. He chose my grandfather Adamo for his eldest daughter.

After researching my great grandparents, it's clear they had an arranged marriage, too. Great grandpa Pasquale Iamarino came to America in 1902. By 1905 he was in upstate New York working for the Erie Railroad. There he met the Caruso brothers. They came to America from a town very close to Pasquale's hometown in Italy.

When the only girl in the Caruso family came to America in 1906, she married Pasquale 4 months later. Her brothers surely made the match.

It's clear the Caruso brothers chose Pasquale for their only sister.
It's clear the Caruso brothers chose Pasquale for their only sister.

Then there's Pasquale's daughter Lucy—my paternal grandmother. As a kid, I thought it was a coincidence that my grandparents, Lucy and Pietro, had the same last name of Iamarino. But no. Our last name is rare, and my grandparents were 3rd cousins.

When my grandfather, Pietro Iamarino, came to America, he bounced around a bit. He went up to Boston where his mother's brother lived. Then he went to western Pennsylvania, where many of his townsmen worked. His next stop was Ohio, where he lived in the house of his father's 2nd cousin…Pasquale Iamarino. Within months, he married his 3rd cousin and housemate, Lucy.

For most of us, the idea of marrying a person your family chooses for you is hard to imagine. It's something we know from movies and from other cultures. But it has nothing to do with us.

Yet, I have to go back only to my grandparents to find arranged marriages in my family.

In my rural Italian hometowns, I often see marriages between neighboring families. A family with one tract of land might marry their daughter to the son of a family with the neighboring tract of land. In this way, the 2 families increase their relative wealth and prosperity.

I've heard my grandmother's youngest sister Aida adored her husband Arturo. Did my great grandfather give in to true love between Grandma's 1922 marriage and Aunt Aida's 1936 marriage? In 1928, the middle sister, Stella Sarracino, married Attilio Sarracino. Same last name, with roots in the same tiny Italian town. Maybe it was pure luck that Aida was head-over-heels in love with her husband Arturo.

By the time my parents were growing up, arranged marriages were no longer common. Did my grandmothers long to see their children marry for love? On her deathbed, Grandma Lucy urged my father to marry his childhood sweetheart back home. And so he did.

Throughout history, families made arranged marriages to:
  • Keep bloodlines pure
  • Join assets, wealth, and power
  • Forge strategic alliances
My godmother/cousin once told me that our family "married within their tribe." That's part of the reason why all my roots lie in a very condensed area of Southern Italy. Even in America, they were more likely to marry someone who spoke the same dialect of Italian. That made a good match.

Take another look at your married ancestors. Can you find any likely arranged couples?


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Let Me Demolish Your Italian Brick Wall

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28 July 2020

Can Your Genealogy Work Survive Without You?

Act now to preserve your genealogy treasures and leave instructions.

It happened again. While seeking a source for facts in my family tree, I learned a distant cousin had died. This man jump-started my research into our shared Caruso branch.

More than 10 years ago, he mailed me a book about our shared ancestral hometown. He also sent postcards and a brochure from a lodging he recommended when I visit. The book includes a few handwritten notes about our common ancestors.

I said I'd read the book as fast as possible and mail it back to him. He said, "No, you keep it. My children aren't interested in our heritage at all." That made me so sad.

Today my husband pointed to a new pile of letters and keepsakes my mom mailed to me. He said, "So if you die first, do I throw them out?"

I can hear you all shouting No! But do you have a plan in place? What will happen to your countless hours of research when you're gone?

Think through what you have. Decide on—and document—your succession plan today.

Original Documents

I'm not a big paper person. I have a very small collection of official birth, baptism, marriage, and death records. But you may have stacks of them.

Consider storing them in archival-quality boxes. And keep the boxes in a safe place. I inherited a large metal storage cabinet with drawers, a combination safe, and a door. I've moved all the family photos, baby books, and yearbooks into this cabinet.

It'll be a good place to store my recently acquired letter from my Uncle Johnny. He wrote home to tell my grandparents he was promoted to Staff Sergeant and would be able to send home more money. He dated the letter July 1, 1944. He died when his plane was shot down on a bombing run 6 days later.

Be sure to add sheets of paper that explain what everything is.

Document your family heirlooms as you preserve them for the future.
Document your family heirlooms as you preserve them for the future.
Keepsakes

These can come in all shapes and sizes, and their meaning can fade over time. My mom sent me her Washington Irving High School beret, which I recognized from old photos. She graduated in 1949!

My sons won't know what it is, but it conjures up a memory for me. Decades ago, I was in the summer home of my ex-in-laws, retrieving something from the attic. I spotted something intriguing. It was a black bowler hat, perched atop a styrofoam head. Pinned to the hat was a handwritten note that said, simply: "Uncle Anton's hat."

I didn't know who Uncle Anton was at the time, but I never forgot that hat. When I did some research into the family, I found Anton as a young man in Wisconsin. That old keepsake brought Anton's paperwork to life for me.

You need to pass on the story of each keepsake. You can do it verbally, write it down, or both.

Photographs

I paid a professional photographer for help with my grandparents' 1922 wedding portrait. He photographed it, digitally retouched the damaged areas, and put the new print in my old frame. The original photo is safely wrapped and stored away.

You can correct creases, tears, and color loss by scanning your family photos. Think about different platforms for sharing these treasures with your relatives. I used an invitation-only Pinterest board.

Find a safe place to store the originals, and keep backups of the digital files, too.

Digital Files

I have tons of digital historical files in my family tree collection. But it's the vital records that are most precious. Future researchers can find the census files online, the same as I did.

But my set of Italian vital records from a handful of my ancestral hometowns is unique. My copies of the documents are searchable by name. That's because I've been renaming each file to include the name of the person in the document.

This is something I want to share with other descendants of the towns. I don't own the files, but I own the work I've done.

I have all the files on my computer and synchronized on OneDrive. Once a week, I make an off-computer backup of each digital file I've added to my family tree.

I have a specialized database that will appeal to a particular audience.
I have a specialized database that will appeal to a particular audience.

Your Family Tree

I synchronize my Family Tree Maker file with Ancestry.com after each session of work. To me, this is the best way to make my work available to anyone who might care.

I make backups once or twice during a long day of research. I copy the backups to an external drive each Sunday. They sit on OneDrive, too.

Even if you're already preserving your family tree work, there's one important step we all need to take. Type up a document that explains all you've done. Tell your unnamed successor where to find all the bits and pieces you've stored. Make sure the most important people in your life know what you've done and where to find it.

I want you to enjoy the process of doing genealogy research. But I also want you to work on your family tree as if you'll be gone tomorrow. Your family tree is your legacy. Make sure your work outlives you.

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Let Me Demolish Your Italian Brick Wall

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24 July 2020

Catch and Fix Your Missing Source Citations

Wouldn't it be great to have a safety net to catch all your forgotten source citations?

At times we all overlook adding sources to the family tree. When we start out, we don't know any better. Other times we forget or can't be bothered. These unsourced facts add up. And they make our online trees look less reliable.

There are a few reasons why facts in my family tree are missing a source citation:
  1. I never add a source for a person's sex. It seems unnecessary.
  2. I never add a source for an estimated birth year. If it's an estimate, there is no source. It's either 25 years before the birth of their eldest child or 25 years after the birth of their younger parent.
  3. Something happens to distract me in that moment.
  4. I experienced the fact (such as attending a wedding or funeral) but have no documentation.
  5. I'm in an excited rush because I just found all this great information, and I can hardly believe my luck!
Most of the time it's #5.

So, how do we find these unsourced facts before things get even more out of control? In a word: software.

It's easy to create an Undocumented Facts report in Family Tree Maker. Go to Publish / Source Reports / Undocumented Facts. I chose to share it as a CSV file. You can open a Comma-Separated Values file as a spreadsheet in a program such as Excel.

But there is a far better way to do this. This method has more steps, but it will save you so much time in the end.

Follow the steps to create a report and see where sources are missing.
Follow the steps to create a report and see where sources are missing.

I've written many times about the free Family Tree Analyzer program. (Find all articles on the Genealogy Lessons page.) There are so many incredibly useful things to do with it. Now I find it's a great way to identify all your unsourced facts.

Here's how:
  1. Open your latest GEDCOM file with Family Tree Analyzer. (You can export a GEDCOM file from your family tree software, or download it from your online tree.)
  2. Click the Facts tab and check the boxes for all relationship types.
  3. Click the button to Select all Fact Types.
  4. Click the right arrow, which will duplicate the list of fact types.
  5. In this duplicate list, check the box for any fact types you don't want to include in this report. You should exclude facts that you know don't need a source. For example:
    • Child Born. The baby gets a source for their birth date. The parent doesn't need a source for having had the kid.
    • Custom facts. I have a custom Ahnentafel Number fact that doesn't need a source. If you have custom facts, you'll find them in this list in all capital letters.
  6. Click the big button that begins with "Show only the selected Facts for Individuals…."
Your report opens in a new window. At the top of that window, choose to export this report as an Excel file (actually a CSV file). Now open the file in your spreadsheet software.

First, sort the spreadsheet by the source column and delete the many, many rows of facts that DO have a source citation.

Next, delete the unnecessary columns to make things easier to see. I deleted all but Surname, Forenames, DateofBirth, TypeOfFact, FactDate, and Location.

Choose to export your report from Family Tree Analyzer to a spreadsheet.
Choose to export your report from Family Tree Analyzer to a spreadsheet.

I'm left with an awful lot of rows of unsourced facts. But remember, I said I don't source estimated birth years. I can sort or filter the spreadsheet by the DateofBirth column and delete all the rows with "Abt" (short for About). That brings me down to a very manageable 133 rows of unsourced facts.

Finally, I'll sort the data by Surname so I can make my way through this task list. I'll delete a row once I've added the missing source citation to my family tree.

I know the complete dates from the 1800s fit into the category of "I'm in an excited rush." I have the documents to back up these dates. Now I need to go back and finish my work. I suspect some of the years (not full dates) in the 1900s will be birth years I took from a census sheet. Again, I need to finish my work.

It's nice to have this report as a safety net for days when you aren't on your best behavior. It's as if Family Tree Analyzer is your coach or teacher, reminding you to think about what you're doing. And by all means, show your work!

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21 July 2020

How to Use the Power of Shared DNA Matches

There is a way to get a good handle on those tree-less DNA matches.

I bought my DNA test from Ancestry DNA 8 years ago. Lately I've explained a handful of ways to figure out your DNA matches. You'll find them in the DNA section of my Genealogy Lessons page.

Today let's look at one of my new favorite features of Ancestry DNA: shared matches.

I've uploaded my raw DNA file to other sites, including GEDmatch, Family Tree DNA, 23 and Me, and My Heritage. But Ancestry gives me the best tools to use.

I imagine I'd get more tools from the other websites if I had a paid membership! I did pay a one-time fee to Family Tree DNA, and I see they do have a "Matches in Common With" feature. Check your testing site for something like what I describe below.

I love the Shared Matches feature on Ancestry. Keep in mind that this is extra important for those DNA matches who haven't attached a usable family tree.

Ancestry lets you add each DNA match to groups you create. Once you do, that match gets one or more colorful dots attached to their listing. I use a green got to signify that I've figured this person out. So I'll scroll down to find a DNA match without a green dot. I want to focus on my mother's side of the family. My father's side has a gazillion matches, all coming from one ancestral town! My mother's side has far less matches.

When your DNA match offers little or no clues, don't forget to look at your shared matches.
When your DNA match offers little or no clues, don't forget to look at your shared matches.

My 1st match on my mother's side without a green dot has a last name I know. It starts with a V. This name is from a town tied to my maternal grandmother's family. It's called Pastene, and it's very small.

His tree is as useless as it gets. It has 1 private person. Him! When I click Shared Matches on Ancestry, I see that besides my mother, we share only 4 DNA matches. I recognize 2 of our shared matches as being descendants of that same last name. I know this because I've corresponded with them and explored one of their trees.

Another shared match has my grandmother's maiden name, so I know his roots are also in Pastene. I'll add a note to this match's profile that says he's a V from Pastene.

But I can keep going. I clicked the match with Grandma's maiden name. He also has no family tree, but I can look at his shared matches. This list includes everyone from the previous shared matches list, and several more.

I see one match who I know had a grandmother with my Grandma's maiden name. I see another match whose handle appears to be an abbreviation of that maiden name. Her shared matches support that idea.

One other match has a last name I know from a different, but connected town. You see, my 2nd great grandfather was from Pastene, but he married a girl from nearby Santa Paolina. This match has a name that's prevalent in Santa Paolina to this day.

Following this method, I can add notes to the profiles of unknown matches. The notes can include last names I know and towns. Over time, these notes will help me see how different matches may fit together.

I can continue to click interesting shared matches and view our shared matches. Here's a person with a decent tree of 243 people. On both the mother's and the father's side of this tree, I see last names from Santa Paolina. Lately I've been reviewing my downloaded vital records from Santa Paolina. I'm getting very familiar with the town's names as I change the file name of each document image. For each image, I'm adding the person named on the document and their father's first name.

I know I can find vital records for this DNA match's grandparents and generations before them. This is a match I can figure out!

Make notes and use groups to leave yourself research breadcrumbs.
Make notes and use groups to leave yourself research breadcrumbs.

When I figure them out, and work them into my family tree, I'll have strengthened my ties to our shared DNA matches. More "common names" will appear in our trees.

If your DNA website lets you add categories or notes to your matches, do it. (Do this offline in a spreadsheet, if you must.) Leave yourself these useful breadcrumbs. If you know the general branch a match should fit into, note that. If they have last names you know, notes them.

It's impossible to count our thousands upon thousands of DNA matches. But categorizing many of them, and figuring out those you can, can help you get to the result you want. And that is, fewer empty branches on your family tree.

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17 July 2020

It's Time to Review Old Genealogy Messages

I've been messaging people on Ancestry.com for many years now. My messages go back at least 3 years before I took a DNA test. Since then, my family tree has exploded with people pieced together from 1,000s of Italian documents.

This week I was paging through my old messages. Some of my answers surprised me! I found myself replying, "Sorry, I don't know that last name," or, "Those records are impossible to find." That's not true anymore.

It was as if my clone had answered these messages. The current me disagreed with the past me so many times.

I realized there are lots of hints in these old conversations. There are names and leads that can expand my family tree. They may break down some brick walls. They deserve a fresh look, don't you think?

Ancestry.com was about to push their new messaging system on me (yuck, but I'll give it time). I emptied and deleted my message folders on their website. (Folders are incompatible with their new system.) I pasted the contents of the old conversations into a Word document.

Using last names as section headings, I pasted conversations about a name into the matching section of the document. Now I can see, for example, a bunch of conversations I had with people about the last name Pilla. (That's my great grandmother's name.)

Take this conversation from 2015. A woman wrote to me about the last names Cecere, Musto, Frusciante, and Lombardo. I didn't know any of those names in 2015, but I know them all now.

She provided a long, detailed history of these names in her family tree. She said they came from Santa Paolina, Avellino, Italy. I knew in 2015 that my 2nd great grandmother was born in Santa Paolina. But not much more.

You're further along in your family tree today. It's time to revisit the hints in those old potential-cousin messages.
You're further along in your family tree today. It's time to revisit the hints in those old potential-cousin messages.

It was purely coincidental that she wrote to me. I didn't have Cecere (her mother's maiden name) in my tree, but I had Cece. There's no relationship between the names. Cece comes from another province. But because she mentioned Santa Paolina, I told her, "There may be something between us, but I can't tell what it is."

Today I have tons of vital records from Santa Paolina. They weren't available in 2015, but they're on my computer now. Lately, I've been sorting through the files and getting familiar with the town's last names. Names like Cecere, Musto, Frusciante, and Lombardo.

Now, after 5 years, I can provide this contact with more facts than she knew. I can send her the birth records of her ancestors. I can work out how they fit into my family tree.

Once they're in my family tree, I'll check my contact's details about what became of these people in America. I can use Ancestry to find documents for the family in the U.S.

And I wouldn't know any of this if I didn't revisit those old messages. One down, HUNDREDS to go. I'll start with the last names that are the closest to me.

Do you have old genealogy emails and messages you filed away and forgot about? Pick a few to re-read and see if they make sense to you now. This is why we do genealogy: to find new connections to our past.

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14 July 2020

How to Use Directories to Find a Missing Census

Last week I wrote about my 2nd great uncle's daughter, Jennie. When she died in a tragic accident at the age of 27, she left behind a young son and her husband Vincent. I wanted to know more about Vincent, who came from the same Italian hometown as all my Iamarino ancestors.

I found Vincent and his son Serafino in the 1930 and 1940 censuses. They were living with Vincent's sister Concetta and her family. I had no luck finding Vincent or Concetta in the New York census in 1925.

Vincent's World War I draft registration card tells me where he lived right before he married Jennie. But I don't pick up his home address again until 1930.

How else can I find out where Vincent lived between 1918 and 1930?

This is when city directories become so valuable. Ancestry.com has directories for countless cities and organizations around the world. I went to the 1925 NYC directory and found Vincent Piteo listed with 3 of his brothers and a possible cousin.

City directories can be a great way to find your relative during those missing years.
City directories can be a great way to find your relative during those missing years.

I knew from censuses that Vincent worked as a roofer. The 1925 city directory says:
  • He worked for the Standard Roofing Company.
  • He lived at 430 East 144th Street in the Bronx.
This adds a bit more to the story of Jennie. She died in a kitchen fire in 1923. By 1930, her husband and son moved in with his sister Concetta. But in 1925, 2 years after the tragedy, Vincent lived at 430 East 144th Street. A 1924 voter registration list also shows Vincent at that address. He must have moved there right after his wife died.

Now that I have his exact street address, I should be able to find him in the 1925 census. Looking at a map, I see that 430 East 144th Street is between Willis Avenue and Brook Avenue.

You need to see the adjacent streets before taking this next step.

I went to the Steve Morse website and chose New York State Censuses. (This website has lots of powerful search tools for genealogists.) I chose East 144th Street and the cross-streets of Willis Avenue and Brook Avenue. The Morse website gave me two enumeration districts to search. I picked district 20 and found Vincent in 3 clicks!

To my surprise, Vincent is a lodger in the home of a George Smith. I know it's him because his occupation is roofer, and this is his address from the city directory. I couldn't find him in a search because:
  • They wrote his last name as Petro instead of Piteo.
  • His son Serafino is not with him. I was trying to find father and son together.
Was Serafino with his Aunt Concetta? Back in the city directory, I found Concetta's husband at 252 East 148th Street. Google Maps shows me this address is on the corner of Morris Avenue. On the Steve Morse site, I found 3 different enumeration districts for this address.

I found Concetta in the 1st of the 3 enumeration districts. No wonder she hadn't turned up in a search. They listed her as Catherine. She has 7 children in this census ranging in age from 13 to 23.

Sadly, Vincent and Jennie's son Serafino is not with his Aunt Concetta in 1925. Where is the boy?

Was he placed in an orphanage when his mother died? Was he with one of his uncles or his maternal grandfather? That would be my 2nd great uncle Giuseppantonio Iamarino. I don't have a 1925 census for any of these men.

The 1925 New York City Directory has addresses for Serafino's uncles. I used the Steve Morse website to pinpoint their addresses in the 1925 census. I found only 1 of the 3 uncles. His Uncle Michael (with his last name misspelled) had a wife and 6 children. No room for little Serafino.

Combine tools to find your relative at an address, then page through the census.
Combine tools to find your relative at an address, then page through the census.

I knew my 2nd great Uncle Giuseppantonio Iamarino's address in 1920 and 1930. But he was not there in the 1925 census. He wasn't in the 1925 city directory, either.

This was around the time Giuseppantonio's first wife died, and he seemed to disappear for a while. If his 1st wife had died recently, the census taker may have overlooked him in the 1925 census.

The New York City directory, combined with the Steve Morse website, helped fill in a lot more facts about this extended family. I didn't answer the burning question of "where was 3-year-old Serafino?" But I did find a lot more family members.

Make sure you're familiar with all the tools available to you in your family tree searches. Combining tools will always get you further.

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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.