Tags: ancestors, Carnival of Genealogy, contingency plan, earthquake, family, family history, Family History Center, family research, Fragile Family Friday, genealogy, immigration, love of family, organizing
Today I have decided to add another category to my Carnival of Genealogy blogging: Fragile Family Friday. There are times we realize more than others how tenuous and fragile the threads of family are that bind us together. So I am instituting this new category to highlight those moments. I won’t promise this will be an every week occurrence but rather I intend to save it for those unusual times that deserve to be remembered. So today’s post is a bit unusual for my normal posts but one I think we should take to heart. Family ties can be fragile for a whole variety of reasons. Sometimes, the connection isn’t a clear one but family always referred to a person as a member of the family. Or perhaps it was a step parent or child accepted without question. Or as in this instance perhaps it deals with the concept of we are all one family ultimately. We as genealogists (even we amateurs) often say we are amazed and saddened we didn’t pay closer attention to stories we heard concerning family when we were children. We usually have lists of questions we would ask if possible now of our ancestors if ever given a chance anew.
This week as my sister and I worked on a memorial tribute to our aunt, we poured over old photographs. We chattered away with all the expected questions: “Where was this taken?” “Who is that?” “What’s his first name?” “Whatever happened to them?” Aside from the typical scenario, all of us are in the midst of another tragedy. This past week Haiti was decimated by an earthquake. As with most natural disasters such as a library roof cave in last year in Germany or the earthquake in Abruzzi, Italy, we can only imagine the terrible loss of vital records. Haiti is such an economically poor nation and many of its people do not have a solid education. She has already often suffered with massive hurricane damage so it is not to be expected that reclaiming lost vital records will be a priority for them. The thousands of orphans will have a potential to be adopted but certainly will not have the option of tracing family through unsealed court records given most are now lost forever.
Most genealogists applaud the tremendous efforts of the LDS to microfilm and preserve records from around the world. This time we will most certainly not be able to rely on stored records. So for this Fragile Family Friday I want to propose a suggestion to all of us. Right now there are many organizations collecting funds and that should take priority for now. But we genealogists should consider another donation – that of our time and knowledge. We can help future Haitians who would want to trace their family trees. As with the slavery generations of the US, many times we will stumble across snippets of information in other unrelated records. Keep a separate folder or computer file for these tidbits. Remember to note the sources too. Someday we can all submit these to recreate many of those lost records. It will be a case of indirect information but for someone hoping to find any trace, it will be meaningful. Another way to help is to volunteer your time. Many of us live near immigrant communities. Many of us work with Haitian immigrants. Maybe a group can form to make a short trip together to one of the communities a bit further away. All of us have plenty of knowledge of how to fill our pedigree or family charts. This is the time to gather as much verbal information from elderly members as possible. Maybe they can recant the names of a family who lived near them. Perhaps dates will be sketchy or unknown but names or partial names remembered along with the town. Bit by bit we can help these wonderful people reclaim a proud heritage. We can do this now before a generation is lost forever. This is something we can do at little expense financially but it will produce an invaluable gift to future generations. Family is fragile – we can teach how to protect it in a very special way.
Tags: Campodimele, famiglia, family, family history, Family History Center, farmer, gardener, genealogy, internet connections, Itri, legacy, love of family, photographs, relaxing, stress, tourist
The trip is wonderful – perfect t! Only a couple minor problems that will not ruin our time here – a car that will not allow me to charge cell phones or laptop, and a frustrating lack of an Internet café handy in Itri! Seems the ones we knew about are gone — and any others are well hidden because no one seems to know about them if they exist! Internet connections here are slow slow dial ups so I am not going to worry about it! This may end up not being a bad thing as it means I will spend time relaxing instead of writing blogs daily and being tied to a schedule. It means I can relax with no obligations to the world back home for now – something I have needed. I am enjoying being free avoiding the usual exhausting tourist routines and just taking whatever comes as it comes.
It is drizzling but our plan is to drive to Latina to visit another sister today and her family. Again I get to be lazy in the backseat and doze! I am so enjoying this!
Lunch is again a complete family affair and sisters share more recipes for me for the cookbook! Soon cooking and recipes leads to more family stories and we are all laughing and crying as stories are shared. All too soon it is time to return to Itri – we have an evening appointment with the priest at Chiesa del Annunziata to try to find Valentino’s grandfather (whom he was named for).
Next morning: We met with Father Giorgi last evening and he was more than happy to help us with our quest. To see old church registers with hundreds of years of history of all the important life events of the town’s residents was awe-inspiring. We have narrowed down the birth and death dates now due to the sisters all sharing bits and pieces of information. He died as a result of an auto accident – a speeding car (a wealthy individual from Rome) hit him as this vital 85 year old walked home from the farm. It was a very traumatic accident in the area for everyone, not just family. We hoped therefore that information might appear. We also suspect he was one of five or six brothers or siblings so we want to track as much as possible. There are a few points everyone did agree on – he was a very strict parent/grandparent. He would warn the little ones to not trample new seedlings – they were his work! He was renowned for his skills as farmer/gardener. And he absolutely loved and adored his tiny wife Cristina. In our one photograph, he towers over this tiny little woman and holds her hand protectively. They tell the stories of how he treated her like a little china doll. This was quite a remarkable fact given that most men of that era treated their wives as property and mere slaves, not friends and lovers. This man made no attempt to hide his feelings for her – what a legacy to leave his heirs! In the photo he wears a black arm band as a symbol of mourning for a son who died in another tragic accident at work in a sand quarry. One strange fact – he normally wore Roman style sandals and this was the first time in a long time he wore shoes – and the photo was taken only fifteen days before his death! At eighty-five he still walked several kilometers each day back and forth to work his farm. Hardy stock like most of the folks of Campodimele.
Tags: ancestors, famiglia, family, family history, Family History Center, family research, filing, genealogy, organizing
This past week I told about losing track of a source document on a family member. Being rather detail oriented about my research, this was a disconcerting issue to resolve. I maintain separate databases on each family line in addition to the combination file tracing the entire family. Each database is backed up and saved to avoid losing information in case one file becomes corrupted. Everything is backed up to an external hard drive every session as well as new discs burned and saved every month. Computers are wonderful time savers when they work but horrible when they fail. A contingency plan is not something just for a business but also necessary for anyone who depends on computers for their research work. Having these safeguards in place meant my recovery was only a matter of a couple hours to find my missing work instead of redoing years of family research. I knew that a recent upgrade in software was partially to blame for the missing documentation. Somewhere along the way I lost the physical piece of paper also. Fortunately I was able to narrow my searching to a specific microfilm to go back to in order to again print out documentation.
I keep Pedigree sheets on each family member. Although these are easily printed out from most software programs, I enjoy filling my out by hand. Information included puts as much information as known on each member. Most important is that each is color coded. My basic research started with my husband’s grandfather. As the tree then branched, grandpa’s maternal and paternal lines are both color coded. The male line is blue and the maternal line is yellow. All subsequent Pedigree sheets are printed on color paper to match those codes. This makes it so easy to know where each goes. I keep notebook binders with the Pedigree sheets to take along when I am working on research. Grandpa’s wife and the in-laws are color coded in different colors to track their family lines. By the time these lines go back a few generations, we begin to deal with 16 surnames to follow. Not being able to differentiate would become overwhelming! If preferred these lines can again be branched off into separate files that are assigned their own color codes to follow. As I file each sheet in the notebook, I use index tabs to notate the family surnames. It is easy at a glance to then find appropriate surname as I work on a line.
In addition to the notebook system I also make a manila file folder for each surname. The main surnames are color coded to match the notebook information. The surnames and sources are written on the front of each folder. All scraps of paper whenever I write notes are slid into the appropriate folder. That way nothing is lost until I have a chance to go back and research or document those scraps of notes. I can easily save information I might want later but not have to spend time on sorting it all immediately. This is especially true if also following collateral lines and not just the main branches. I often run across bits of information that I cannot immediately tie into family but do not want to lose track of until later. These folders each hold that information safely until I am ready. While researching online or at the FHL, if a familiar surname is run across, I simply print out the information. Internet URLs are printed on the bottom of the pages and I write in the proper information on the bottom of any certificates I print off of the FHL microfilms. These are slipped into the proper manila surname folders until I know what family they directly tie into. Then they will be rearranged into the proper permanent notebooks. Certificates are slipped into plastic sleeves to keep intact.
I won’t discuss what format to use to document your sources. There are books written on the subject and each proprietary software has templates to use. I will however warn you to document the sources. I document my sources not only on the computer but also on the Pedigree sheets and Family Groups sheets. Especially important is to document the microfilm numbers and complete dates. Even if you lose a piece of paper, those sources will allow you to replace what was lost. If done from the beginning, keeping track of the sources will be habit. It is a bit more difficult if you need to go back a year or two into research to find those sources but even that will be worth the time spent. After six years of research the paternal line along of my husband’s family is over 800 people strong – all thoroughly documented so I am not chasing someone else’s family. I should mention here that all of my in-laws are overseas. Yet all of the research to date has been done here stateside. Documenting and good organization have made this possible. Often information has been passed to me that others feel blend or merge with this family that I find does not. The first names are often repeated in a generational naming pattern and it would be horrendous to straighten out if the wrong information was merged into the files without proving who belongs to whom. By having names and dates documented, it is easier to verify if someone is a direct relative than if no sources had been kept track of.
All of this may sound time consuming and overwhelming. It is much easier to set up and not as frightening once you begin. The initial set up took only two or three hours to make the folders and notebooks with index tabs labeled with surnames. Once set up, it takes only a minute or two to add a new surname to the front of a folder or to make a new index tab for a notebook section. By having it done, my free time is not wasted looking for a surname or a piece of scrap paper. Instead even only 30 minutes of free time can be time spent researching instead of looking for notes and lost papers.
Tags: ancestors, famiglia, family history, Family History Center, family research
Maria V. is no longer missing but has been found exactly where she belongs! I had already set up my post for today when Valentino and I decided to spend our morning at the local FHL (well, not so local – it is a 25 mile drive one way). Hat tips here to our favorite volunteer John Whitney – he is a true gentleman and a delight as well as one of the most knowledgeable genealogists I have met in person or read! His guidance has taught us so much over the last few years! We brainstormed with him and decided Maria V. logically had to be connected via a marriage certificate or marriage promise because of the information I had on her. I spent the next few hours reviewing microfilms without any luck. But then with five minutes literally to closing – suddenly success was within reach!
The film I was browsing had a section of marriage banns – not something I expected on this film… and they were in the right year range! Sure enough – there it was 1835 and there was Maria V.’s son promising to marry. And there was Maria V. exactly where she belonged – proper parents, proper dates, and married to Raffaele! Even the street addresses matched!
So Maria V. has returned again to our family tree, this time with sources already documented and saved. And copies are printed out and filed in their proper place with plenty of notations on pedigree charts as well where we found her!
Welcome home – la famiglia is happy! What a perfect ending to St. Valentine’s Day !