Wedding Wednesday – Creating Genealogy

Wikipedia defines genealogy as:
Genealogy (from Greek: γενεά, genea, “generation”; and λόγος, logos, “knowledge”) is the study of families and the tracing of their lineages and history. Genealogists use oral traditions, historical records, genetic analysis, and other records to obtain information about a family and to demonstrate kinship and pedigrees of its members. The results are often displayed in charts or written as narratives.

This summer has been been very busy for my family.  My sister and my husband’s brother and sister have all gotten married in the last 8 weeks!  We are so happy for all three of them and their new spouses.  They have chosen wonderful life partners and we know that they will be very happy.

The genealogist in me is excited too.  We have been creating genealogy this summer.  All of these weddings have created a whole new set of records to demonstrate my new extended kinship.  The genealogy geek in me has asked all of our siblings for copies of their marriage licenses to add to my collection.  I need these to correctly add a citation to their marriages in my genealogy software.  I am also going to create a document for each wedding that describes the day and all of the fun details.  This will also be added to my notes for future generations to get a glimpse at what weddings were like in the early 21st century.

Sorting Saturday – Organziation Update #1

When I started this blog back in April, it quickly became apparent that I needed to do some organizing of the research I have completed.  My old filing system was okay but it sometimes took a while to find what I was looking for.  It is just time to have a clean slate!

My plan has several avenues of attack:

  1. Reorganizing my digital files
    1. creating a new library to put all files into so they are no longer separated between documents and photos
    2. having a standard naming convention
    3. adding citations to the comments section of the properties for each file
    4. checking that the digital files are referenced in my genealogy software
  2. Adding information to my genealogy software
    1. taking all of the paperwork that is in a box and adding it with citations
    2. going through my 3 ring binders to find any information that I have missed adding to my software
  3. Scanning
    1. Everything that is added to my genealogy software needs to be scanned and added to my digital genealogy folders (with citations of course)
    2. Again, going through the 3 ring binders to identify any documents that have not been scanned and get it done

I knew that this was going to be a HUGE project.  My original goal was to have this all done by the end of the year.  HaHa!  It has been a very busy summer (a new baby and 5 weddings) so things are not as far along as I would have wanted at this point.  I have moved and added citations to almost all of my census images, most of the transcriptions, and most of the vital records that were already scanned.  This is almost 500 files!  I was even more surprised to find out that I still have just over 1000 files to move to their new homes!!  I was a bit disheartened to see that I had some research in digital files that was never added to ancestors as citations.  Glass half full – I did find them and they are now added to help paint a fuller picture of my ancestors.  I have not started any of the scanning that needs to be done.

I need to start attacking these for 15 minutes a day if it is ever going to get finished.  Not too likely to happen since we have been so busy but it is a good goal to hit at least a couple of days a week.  I am hoping to have a little more time starting in October. 

All in all, a decent start to a HUGE project.

New Documents Add to the Story of my Grandfather

I have written a couple of times about my grandfather, Celio “Jay” Capelli.  He was born Celio Ciardonei in Cossano Canavesse, Turino, Italy on December 31, 1914.  His parents were Matteo Ciardonei and Adele Siletto.

On March 22, 1920, Celio (5 years old) and his father, Matteo Ciardonei, arrived in the United States on the SS Dante Alighieri.  According to the ship’s manifest, Matteo was deported March 31st because he had been diagnosed with tuberculosis.  This information came from the passenger manifest found on almost 10 years ago.  I got a printed copy for my Grandfather for Christmas about 8 years ago.

Yesterday, with the free access to immigration records at, I found another piece to the story.  Since I do not have a digital copy of the passenger manifest, I did a search for the last name “Ciardonei.”  I was surprised to see several entries for both Celio and Matteo.  When I opened each digital image, I realized that they had been included on additional lists in the ship’s paperwork.  Specifically, the Record of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry and the Record of Detained Aliens.

The Record of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry states that 31 year old Matteo was hospitalized upon arrival and given a “tuberculosis cert” designation.  He was deported on April 12th at 1:45 pm on the SS Guiseppe Ver??an.  Celio was admitted to the U.S. on March 31st at 10:55am.

The Record of Detained Aliens lists my grandfather being held with other passengers from the Dante Alighieri.  He was fed 8 breakfasts, 7 lunches, and 8 dinners during his detainment.  He was released on March 31st.  The Disposition column for the other passengers lists the addresses of where they were going.  My grandfather’s entry is blank.  It is interesting to note that almost everyone else on the list had a Cause for Detention listed as lack of funds.  My grandfather’s Cause for Detention is “father in hosp.”

These documents made me very sad last night.  I had known that Matteo was brave and left his son with his sister-in-law when he was deported.  I had never considered what had occurred between the time Matteo and Celio arrived and when Matteo was deported.  It must have been so scary for a 5 year old to be separated from his sick father and be detained for a week.  He did not know any English at the time so communication must have been difficult.

The only glimmer of hope that I see in these documents is that my grandfather was detained for only 8 days (as indicated by the number of meals).  His ship arrived 10 days prior to his release leaving us with a 2 day difference.  I am hoping that he got to spend the time with his father in the hospital during those 2 days.  It would have been the last times they would see each other.  Matteo died in his hometown in Italy just under a year later on Mar 14, 1921.

I will end on a positive note.  I also found a Lucia Siletto Brunero on a passenger manifest in 1938 last night.  She listed that she would be visiting her son, Salvatore Siletto.  I have previously documented that “Sal” is my grandfather’s uncle.  So it seems that my grandfather got to visit with his grandmother when she came to visit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  It would have been the first time he saw his grandmother in at least 18 years.

Troops Photograph Every Arlington Grave

There was an article in Time on Friday regarding Arlington Cemetery.  It describes the huge effort by the Army to photograph every marker in Arlington Cemetery.  By huge, it took 60 soldiers every night for three months to accomplish the task of photographing more than 219,000 graves and 43,000 sets of remain in the columbarium.

The Army will be using the photos to create a digital map of the cemetery.  This project is part of the records cleanup mandated by Congress.  It was acknowledged last year that there was mismanagement of records including mismarked and unmarked graves at the cemetery.  It is possible that the photos taken this summer will eventually be included in an online database for the public.

Here is the link to the article: Troops Photograph Every Arlington Grave

Finding All 16 Great Great Grandparents

I have been researching my family history since 1998.  That year was my third year of college and I picked up my new hobby out of curiosity.  My parents helped me get started in my climb up the family tree.  My Dad had in his desk a set of stapled sheets that outlined some of his family.  The typed family history had been put together by my grandmother with birth and death dates she knew.  My Mom helped with as many names as she could and also sent me in the direction of her cousin.  My Mom’s cousin was wonderful and sent back a long letter that detailed many generations and included family stories from the Mitchell branch. 

I did not have any research goals when I started filling my tree with names and dates.  I just went where the information sent me and kept trying to identify new families and their stories.  My time spent researching has been fairly limited lately with the addition of our second child in the middle of May.  Writing this blog has been so helpful in many ways including but not limited to trying to scan more information, a new digital organization of my files, actually keeping a to-do list, being a part of the genealogy community, and deciding what goals I have for my family history.  One of the top goals on my list is to find the names and information about my 16 great great grandparents.

I already know the names of 13 of the 16.  My Mother’s side of the tree is completely filled in with birth dates and death dates for each g-g-grandparent.  My Father’s side is a bit trickier since my grandfather (Celio Capelli) came to the United States from Italy when he was 5.  I know his father’s name (Matteo Ciardonei) and approximate birth date.  I also know his mother’s name (Adele Siletto).  My grandfather was raised by his Aunt (Mary Siletto) and Uncle (Alfredo Capelli) in Pittsburgh.  On Mary’s death certificate, I found that Mary and Adele’s father was named Joseph Siletto.

Recently, I ordered a copy of my grandfather’s Naturalization paper work from NARA.  One of the big finds in the paperwork is that a woman named Anne Siletto was one of the witnesses listed in the Petition for Naturalization.  Seeing a familiar name gave me the excited rush that I was onto something.  After asking my family about Anne, I found out that she was married to Salvatore (Sal) Siletto.  Sal was the younger brother of Mary and Adele.

I have since found a possible match for Sal in the Ellis Island records and ordered his Naturalization paperwork.  The copies I received confirmed the ship and date of arrival I had found in the Ellis Island records.  I have gone back and transcribed what I could decipher in the ship’s manifest.  The manifest states that Sal was going to his final destination “Pittsburgh, Pa” to join his “sister Maria Siletto.”  The first page of the manifest states that his nearest relative is “mother Domenica Brunaro” in Cossano.  Yeah!! I have possibly found the name of one of my missing g-g-grandparents.  Now I just need to prove it.

I already know that my grandfather came from a very small town named Cossano Canavese just outside of Torino.  I had the chance to drive through the town on a trip to Italy about 5 years ago.  Unfortunately there was no time to research and it was a Sunday so everything was closed anyways.  I did find a memorial in town that listed three Ciardonei’s.  The plaque appears to be a list of soldiers who died in WWI.  I also took pictures of what I could see inside of the locked gates of the cemetery.  In reviewing those photos, I have just noticed that one of the only family crypts I can see has the name “Brunero Maglione” across the top.  I think that I am definitely on the right track!

My next step is going to be to order the microfilms containing the church records from Cossano Canavese at my local Family History Center.  Luckily, this is also the site of my local genealogy society.  The Family Search index shows that the records contain baptisms from 1858-1899, marriages from 1651-1899, and deaths from 1669-1899.  Hopefully this gives me more information.  I would love to find the birth date of Matteo Ciardonei and the names of his parents.  It will be interesting to see if the names on the memorial in Cossano Canavese are brothers (Part of me hopes this is not true.  It would be horrible to lose 3 children!). 

I do not know if Mary and Adele Siletto were born in the same town as Matteo.  Sal’s Naturalization paperwork says that he was born in Cossano Canavese in 1900.  It would be pretty cool if Mary and Adele are also listed in the baptism records along with their parents names.

I will keep you posted as my climb up the tree continues.

Matrilenial Monday – 5 Living Generations Twice in Her Life

This article ran in my local paper yesterday.  The genealogy bug in me was fascinated by the story.  If you get a change to visit the paper’s website, there are photos of both sets of 5 generations.
Marin Independent Journal
San Rafael, California
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Page A1, column 2
Also available at with photos

Terra Linda matriarch has five living generations in her family — again

Loretta Castillo still has the photograph that ran in Ohio’s Toledo Blade newspaper 71 years ago, showing her at age 19 with her infant daughter and her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.
Nearly three years ago, Castillo’s great-granddaughter, Melissa McSweeney, gave birth to a baby girl — giving the 90-year-old Terra Linda resident the opportunity to boast for a second time that she’s part of a family with five living generations of women. The case is so rare that one geneticist estimated there may be at most two or three other examples in the United States.
“At first you don’t think anything about it,” said Darlene Belluomini, the daughter who appeared with Castillo in the Toledo photograph in 1940. “It’s kind of crazy.”
Now 71, Belluomini lives with her husband in Novato and has hung a placard outside her home with the slogan, “Family is Everything.”
She talks to Castillo on the phone every night and takes care of her 2-year-old great-granddaughter, Abby McSweeney, on Fridays while the toddler’s mother works. Several times a week, Belluomini’s 50-year-old daughter, Susan Belluomini — who lives in Petaluma with her 25-year-old daughter, Melissa, and granddaughter Abby — has lunch at her mom’s house while on break from her preschool job in Novato.
Castillo moved to California from Ohio in 1948 with her two children after a divorce; she had married at age 18. She went on to marry Fred Castillo, who has been her husband for 62 years, and have two more children.
Her daughter, Darlene, married young too, at age 19, and gave birth to Susan 10 months later, making Castillo a grandmother at 39. At the time, Castillo had a 1-year-old daughter and would take care of both children together.
Susan married at 20, and at age 25 gave birth to Melissa, who at age 23 gave birth to Abby.
“I have 12 grandchildren, nine great- and one great-great,” said Castillo, who worked as a waitress at the House of Prime Rib in San Francisco for 35 years. “In my family room, I got pictures galore. I can’t even use the fireplace.”
On Mother’s Day, about 30 family members will gather to visit and eat together at Susan’s house in Petaluma. The family is close and always gets together for holidays, Castillo said.
There is roughly a 1 in 10,000 probability of a family having five living generations in the United States, with most likely about a couple hundred examples nationwide, said Shripad Tuljapurkar, a Stanford University professor of population studies and biology.
But the probability that the phenomenon would occur twice in the same family is extraordinarily low, approximately 1 in 100 million, Tuljapurkar guessed, noting that he’s never heard of another such case.
“That’s really striking,” Tuljapurkar said. “I would be astounded to find even one (case) with this happening twice. This deserves to be known by more demographers.”
Kenneth Wachter, a professor of demographics and statistics at the University of California at Berkeley, also called the case “rare and extraordinary.”
“Back in that generation, people dying at 70 was relatively common,” Wachter said. “To get five generations back then (in 1940) seems very rare. … That’s strong enough to suggest that there could be favorable alleles of genes in that family.”
While many mothers give birth to their first child at roughly the same age as their mothers, a large number of women also rebel and take the opposite route, Wachter said.
“There’s a general tendency for these things, by which I mean early initiation of childbearing … to run in families, but it’s not as strong as you might think because of the rebels,” Wachter said. “To have that general tendency (for early childbearing) expressed so clearly in one family is rare.”
In the United States, the average age of first birth is about 25 for women, said Stewart Tolnay, a sociology professor at the University of Washington’s Seattle campus. To have even one instance of five living generations in a family, four generations of women needed to be fertile, have children young and survive to child-bearing age — and in the great- and great-great-grandmothers’ cases, live to advanced ages, he said. “Lots of stars need to line up for this to happen.”
The Castillo-Belluomini-McSweeney women agree that they’re fortunate.
“We’re lucky,” Melissa McSweeney said. “Most of my friends don’t even have their grandparents.”
“When I tell people I have grandparents still at my age, they’re in awe,” Susan Belluomini added. “We’re very lucky to have each other. … Life is tough. We’ve all had our little stepping stones. We always know that through the good times and all the bad, we’re all going to be there for each other.”
Castillo said she still remembers the day she posed for the newspaper photograph with her relatives in 1940. Her great-grandmother, a “full-blooded French” woman, was 88 that day and lived to be 92.
“I remember the words she said to me after we took the picture — she said, ‘Good luck with your bebe,” Castillo recalled, adding that’s she’s happy a picture of the new five generations will appear in the newspaper.
“I know my mother in heaven is going to be very pleased,” she said.

A Tribute to Great Mothers

Happy Mother’s Day!

I want to take a moment today to recognize some wonderful mother’s in my family.  All of these women have helped shape me into the mother that I am today.  I cannot thank them enough for loving me, supporting me, and teaching me.  I love you!

My Mom 

My Maternal Grandmother

My Paternal Grandmother

My Mother-in-Law

Sorting Saturday – My Scanning Goals

I recently started this blog to share stories about my ancestors.  As I have written the first several blog posts, it has become abundantly clear that I need to take some time to scan and reorganize a bunch of my research.  I thought that I had a pretty good system set up that would make it easy to find anything I have input and sourced in my genealogy software.  I realize now that my system is not so great, especially when you want to quickly double check stories and facts when writing a blog post. 

I have decided that I need to spend at least 50% of my genealogy time devoted to achieving these new goals until the project is done. 

I have taken some time and thought about exactly what needs to be done and how I want to reorganize my data both in binders and on the computer.  Here is the goal list:

  1. In my computer, create a new library that holds genealogy files only (they will no longer be split across the documents and photos libraries).  Organize files by family name and specialty folders such as places, books, etc.
  2. When moving all files to their new ‘home’, rename any file that doesn’t match the way I have been naming files the last couple of years.  Also check each file to make sure citations and information about the image is located in the comments section of the image properties. (Yikes, that means adding source information to all of the federal census images I have saved – thank goodness they are all printed on my transcription copies.)
  3. Go through all family binders and check to see if all data (including letters, photocopies made on research trips, photos, and vital records) has been scanned to the computer.  Any information that has not been scanned will get put in a clear plastic box.
  4. Scan all of the stuff that gets put into the plastic box being sure to put the proper citations in the comments section of the image properties.
  5. Attack my stack of research data that needs to get input into my genealogy software.  Each document needs to be cited to the correct ancestor, scanned, filed to correct family folder, and printed copy filed to family binder. 
  6. When finished with this scanning project, burn a new set of backup DVD’s.  I will be backing up during the project to my Sugarsync account.

I expect this to take most of the rest of the year to complete.  I will keep you updated as to my progress every now and then.

Tech Tuesday – How Amazon’s Cloud Crash Should Change Your Backup Routine

Why Redundant Backups Are Necessary

This week Amazon experienced significant problems at their Northern Virginia data center.  The outages brought down part of Amazon’s cloud services.  Since Amazon is one of the largest providers of cloud services, this was a major event.  Many companies were unable to access their data or their websites were unavailable on Thursday and Friday. 

I joined the cloud revolution this year to back up my genealogy data.  I personally use Sugarsync’s 5 GB free account.  One of the other popular providers is Dropbox.  These services are great!  You can back up your data off site to protect against a myriad of things including hardware crashes, earthquakes, and 2 year-olds.  These cloud sites also allow you to access your data from other devices when you are not at home.  For example, you can access your files while at the library if you forgot to bring something with you.  Or the reverse, upload photos and document scans to your data backup while still at the library. 

Amazon’s problems this week should also effect the way that we (the home user, blogger, etc.) backup our data.  My suggestion is to back up your data in multiple ways.  This will ensure that if any one of the back up methods fails, you will still be able to access your data.  I personally backup my data at multiple levels. 

First, as mentioned, I have my genealogy data automatically backup to a cloud service.  This keeps my data off site (out of the house) in case of a massive natural disaster.  In California, we are always worried about earthquakes.

Second, at my house, we have an external hard drive attached to our computer.  We periodically delete all of the files off of the external hard drive and copy over all files from our computer (every couple of months).  This backup is to cover us in case the hard drive on our home computer fails.  Hardware failures are the largest cause of lost data.

Third, once a year, we copy all files to DVDs.  The DVDs are supposed to be kept in a safe spot at my in-laws house.  I have to fess up that the case holding these are in my house right now.  Note to self – drop them off as soon as possible!  Again this keeps all of our data off site in case something happens at our house.  We find this a cheaper way to back up our photos and music than subscribing to a larger cloud account.  Our backup plan is not perfect but it works for our household and is something that we can maintain.

Redundancy is the key and this was proven this week at Amazon.  Many large companies (such as Netflix) pay for upgraded Amazon services to have their data backed up to multiple data centers.  These large companies pay for redundancy.  In return they did not experience any outages since their data is backed up in multiple locations.