Thursday, December 11, 2014

Clean It Up

Family Search Family Tree that is….

As I have said in a previous post, I have been spending more time cleaning up my tree rather than adding to it.[1]  It is amazing that during the cleaning process, you see things you missed the first time; so in essence, I continue to add to it.

One of the ways I have been doing some cleaning is with

I guess I have a soft spot in my heart when it comes to It was because of their site I became hooked on my own ancestry a few years ago.[2] It was via a few clicks and I traveled hundreds of years into the past and learned names, that were instrumental in my being here today, I had never heard before.

It was because of the family trees that were upload on their site I was able to do this easily.  But even on that first night on line, I could tell the tree I looked at was wrought with errors. Duplicate names, skipped generations....

They now have a new product call Family Tree.  It is wide open for anyone to use.  Even though it is supposed to be a one-world tree, their records needed a lot of attention. I started adding my deceased relatives to their community tree. I only had to go back to my grandparent’s generation before I starting finding record of my ancestors already in the tree. 
Family Tree assigns everyone a unique alphanumeric number.  I have found though, as records are added, duplicates are a problem. This is where we come in.  I started slowly (slowly being the key word) adding and merging members of my direct tree.  Merging is a complex process, something I am still getting the hang of, but it is becoming easier. Family Search has many video tutorials on how to use their product.[3]  They are helpful to watch. 

To make the process easier, I put my tree on up on one screen, and Family Search Family Tree up on the other; I have been going person by person down my direct line.  Again, this has given me the chance to clean up my tree as I go along. This time I am not in a race to see how quickly I can go back in time.


Family Tree allows anyone to add or make edits to profiles already in the tree.   This of course can become annoying with anyone insisting on family lore as a fact without backing it up with evidence.  I will put all records I add or edit on my "watch" list. That way, I will be alerted when someone makes a change to their record.  If you are going to get on the Family Search bandwagon, only do so if you are willing to do the extra work and add your sources and reasoning. 

It is time consuming yet rewarding. Facing the fact that there are probably records of your ancestors already on there, you might as well have a hand in sharing what you have learned and making that public tree right.

Besides, one late night, you may help a cousin you are yet to meet, get hooked on genealogy.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Doniciana and Doniciano-The Disappearing Twins

On 21 August 1881, Salome (Gonzalez) Gonzalez my 2nd great grandmother gave birth to her 9th and 10th children.  It is amazing the size of families our ancestors created, but to imagine having natural twins that far down the birth order in 1881 is incredible.  Luckily, in a time of high mother and infant mortality, she survived that birth and lived to be at least 83 years old.

When their father Nestor went to record the births in the Civil Register of Births for Santander Jimenez, Tamaulipas, they are named Doniciana and Doniciano. [1]

I had been combing the birth records of this town building this family tree.  Every time I added an addition name, I would then search for other marriage and death records trying to build out their lives. 

But the twins disappeared.  It was difficult enough to come up with either a Doniciana or Doniciano Gonzalez in records, let alone, finding good candidates based on birth year.  Sadly I assumed they had died young, so I combed the death records for the date directly following their births.  Nothing!  I was relieved but frustrated.  I moved on. 

Months later, I realized I had missed a whole set of baptism records.  Not that I was looking for one person in particular for I would spend hours in front of the computer reading records, page by page.   One night, while reviewing these missed records, I came across another set of twins for Salome and her husband Nestor.  They were named Maximiana and Maximiano.  How cute; but another set of twins for this poor woman!!

As I went about recording their baptisms, I was struck by the year.  The baptism record indicated the birthdate of the twins; it was the same birthdate as Doniciana and Doniciano.[2]

No wonder I could not find anything else out about them. Had they change their names or did the person recording their births get it wrong?  

Not that I am absolutely sure I found them in adulthood.  But that is another story.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Clementina Cross d. 1874 b. 1875 - How does that work?

From time to time I come across family records that can be confusing.   My great grandmother Clementina Maud (Cross) Page was born in Walberswick, Suffolk, England on 16 Dec 1875.  She was the daughter of Benjamin Cross and Rachel (Howard) Cross.

When I first started researching this line, I had plenty of records to indicate my g-grandmothers birth year. Imagine my surprise when she started showing up in the 1861 and 1871 England census. [1]

Or was it really her?

I assumed that there was in fact another Clementina Cross.  An obviously older sister.  I assumed that she had died at a young age, but had been unable to find a record to prove that point.

Tonight, I finally came up with a reference to her death.  In the England & Wales BMD death index, her death was recorded the 3rd quarter of 1874.[2]  I will now have to order that death certificate and see if it better explains her fate.

My g-grandmother was born year and a half later.[3]

Wouldn't it be strange to be named after a dead sibling?  Living in a household called by the same name as a sister that had been around for 15 years previous to you.

Interestingly, I believe I have found evidence of this practice on my Mexican side as well.

While I am sure that this was done to honor the dead, it's an interesting tradition that seems to have fallen away in our current culture.

Thankfully in my opinion.

[1] England 1861, Class: RG 9; Piece: 1179; Folio: 83; Page: 10; GSU roll: 542769.
{2} England & Wales, Free BMD Death Index, 1837-1915, 1874, 3rd quarter, Blything, Suffolk, 4a, 394
[3] England & Wales, Free BMD Death Index, 1837-1915, 1875, 4th quarter, Blything, Suffolk, 4a, 75

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cleaning My Tree

When I first started this project, my aunt on my mother's side, gave me a lot of her previous research. Amongst the documents were many birth and death records she had retrieved from various record offices when she visited England.

In my overzealous state to "digitize everything" I scanned them on my home scanner.  The problem is my scanner bed was too small for many of the older records.  It would cut some of the edges off. At the time this obviously didn't concern me too much.  I just loaded up in my tree.

This is the record of my great uncle Albert's death in 1937.   As you can see the right edge is cut off.

I decided that this just wasn't good.  As I have mentioned before, I have been spending more time lately cleaning up my tree rather than adding to it.  So, I went to the local office store and handed over a stack of oversized documents and had them scanned.  Here is the difference.

Much better.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Dia De Los Muertos

Day of the Dead.

Since today is the traditional day to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, I thought I would write a post about one of my new obsessions

From their website "Find a Grave's mission is to find, record and present final disposition information from around the world as a virtual cemetery experience."[1]  The good news about Findagrave is they have members that are prolific "gravers."  Gravers will go through cemeteries and record as many interments as they can find.  Therefore, you may come across the grave of a relative that is under the management of someone not related to you.

Apparently I joined Findagrave about 11 months ago.   I know this because when I sign in, it tells me how long I have been a member.  I really didn’t get into it until about 2-3 months ago.  

I started becoming more involved once I asked to transfer management of my grandmother’s Raquel Gonzalez’s memorial to my account.[2]  They do not recommend gathering your families’ memorials to your care unless you are going to remain involved and create “meaningful and accurate” memorials.  So with transfer of comes responsibility.  The general rule to ask for transfer of management is “Transfer requests should be for direct relatives within four generations. This would be your siblings, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.”[3]

I later found my grandfather, g-grandfather and aunt's graves under someone else’s management, so I asked for those transfers too.  They were all buried in a family plot together. I was on my way to being hooked.  You can link graves for spouses and parents to children.  I decided I was going to do my best to reunite as much of my family as I could. 

I have done a pretty good job of finding my great and great grand aunts and uncles.  Since you cannot link siblings directly, you really want to have parents to bring a family together.   If, after a diligent search, I cannot find someone I am looking for, I will add them myself if I know the information.   My information tends to come from death certificates, but remember they may not be accurate.

I have found is that the cemeteries in Mexico are greatly lacking in participation.  Whereas you may be able to find the cemetery’s name already in the database, there are rarely the number of graves entered as you will find in US cemeteries.  (FYI, the site has poor participation for Mexico records as well.)

I have added a couple of ancestors to cemeteries in Mexico.  I will do this only if the death record states where the body was buried.  If it doesn’t state it, I do not assume it!

I have been having a lot of fun, and have found it keeps me concentrated on more recent family rather than “seeing how far back I can go.”

Thursday, October 30, 2014

When Is A Hint Not Helpful?

I guess we do spend a lot of time chasing down rabbit holes that do not produce much.

But just once, I wish someone would message me out of the blue and give a link to a record that takes me back another generation.

I got a “Member Connect Activity” message on Ancestry one day and it was for a very peripheral person in my tree. Someone not related by blood, but as Ancestry spells it out, brother-in-law of great granduncle.

Totally random, right? 

The owner of the tree had the brother-in-law in their tree, but knew nothing of his sister Teresa. And I had Teresa’s marriage record that named not only her parents, but also her grandparents. I even provided a link.

I quickly tapped out a message on Ancestry to this person and let them know of my record.  I get a response, that basically said, “If you know more about this family, let me know, but this is pretty much where the rope ends”. 

I had to wonder, did she even read my message? She never updated her tree.  

Just once, I wish someone would send me a message like that.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

DNA Results Solve A Couple of Problems

Once I bit the genealogy bug on, it wasn’t long before I was spitting into a vial!  I just had to submit my sample to AncestryDNA[1]. 

AncestryDNA is an autosomal DNA test.  It is unlike yDNA or mtDNA.  yDNA is passed from father to son undergoing relatively little changes over hundreds of year, and mtDNA, is DNA that only a mother can pass on to all her children, but then only her daughters can pass it on relatively unchanged to all their children.

Autosomal DNA is called the “family or cousin finder” DNA as it looks at your genes across both genders and all your great grandparents over the past 200+ years. With each generation back, little snippets match, allowing for your results to predict how close someone may be related to you.  And herein lies the problem….

Ramon Longoria was my 3rd great grandfather 4x’s over.  Meaning, 4 of his children were my 2nd great grandparents.  That is quite a concentration of his genetic markers.  And that family married into the same Farias line a couple of times as well.  Both of my great grandmother’s on my father’s side were Longoria’s from the same line, so therefore cousins as well.  Rather than snippets of DNA being lost at a predictable rate, it was rather “over concentrated” to begin with.

Therefore I have a lot of matches that are not as close as they may appear; and all from the same side of my tree.

I have been waiting for a Gonzalez match; my father’s, father’s line that I know less about.  Finally, one day I received my highest match yet.  She was predicted to be a 2nd cousin, and when I checked her tree, there wasn’t a Longoria or Farias to be found!

And something did catch my eye.  I noticed her grandmother was a Gonzalez and had lived in Santa Rosa, Tx.  I was intrigued.  Her grandmother’s name was Juanita Gonzalez but Juanita's profile said she was from Mexico City, something I had some doubt about.   I felt I was on to something; mostly because Juanita was recorded as having been married to a de la Fuente. 

I then found a census record for the family.[2]  This family had a son named Manuel de la Fuente.  It had been a Manuel who had been the informant for grand aunt Martina’s death certificate.  Hmmm.

I started looking for the marriage record of Juanita and her de la Fuente husband.   I didn’t find it in Texas records, so I started looking in Matamoros. 

And I found it.  I had scoured Matamoros records before, but if you don’t have a husband’s name, you can easily miss something.  Just the husband was listed in the index.  Porfirio de la Fuente! 

Once I got into the marriage record everything started coming together.  Porfirio and Juanita were living on the same ranch as my great grandfather Ines.  Better yet, Juanita's parents and great grandparents were named indicating she is Ines' sister. [3]  I had a new member of the family.  Here is how my DNA cousin and I are related.

And thus solved the mystery of Martina.  There was no big secret (as I assumed).  She was never that “aunt from Santa Rose married to a de la Fuente”.  It was Juanita, her sister!  And it was probably Juanita’s son Manuel that informed on the death of his Aunt Martina. 

The second mystery solved was more significant for me.   And I only just saw the connection by chance last weekend.

I really, really wanted to believe I had found my great grandfather Nestor’s grave.  But it bothered me, if he was in Matamoros with his family, why had not one of them been the informant for his death.   He was not from Matamoros and probably did not know many people.

Last weekend, I was visiting my father and we were sitting together reviewing items in the tree.  I showed him Nestor’s death certificate and he checked my work on my translation.  And there we were, reading it intently together when I said out loud, “Porfirio de la Fuente”.  And then I had my Aha moment.

It was Porfirio, the son-in-law of Nestor, who reported his death.  It had been family all along.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

DNA And The Death Of Nestor

Nestor Gonzalez, my 2nd great grandfather was from Santander Jimenez, a small town south of Matamoros.  He was born somewhere around 1841.  I have yet to find any definitive record of his birth or baptism.   And believe me, I have looked!  The good news is that his parents are named on many documents; both in the birth of his children and subsequent marriages of same children.  But that is all.  There are no records of his parent’s marriage or where he may have been born, if not Santander Jimenez.   I have found no records of siblings from the same parents.   My thoughts of who may be his parents belong to another blog post some day.

Nestor and his wife, Salome, had several children.  Two of them were my great grandfather Ines, and another his sister Martina, whom I wrote about in my previous blog.

Ines, at some point in his life, moved to the Matamoros area and got married[1].  He lived on El Rancho de la Rusias where he and his wife had several children.  When I could not find record of Nestor’s death in S. Jimenez, I decided to start looking in Matamoros.  The wedding of one of Nestor’s other daughters in 1907 helped narrow the search.  He was listed as deceased in the record. 

It didn’t take long to find the name Nestor Gonzalez in the index for deaths in Matamoros’ civil registration for 1903.  As I nervously flipped though the pages, I wondered again if I had gotten lucky. 

Nestor Gonzalez passed away in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico on 21 July 1903[2].  He died of liver cancer.   The record stated that he was originally from Jimenez and that he was a laborer.   The given age was in the correct ballpark.  I even have the exact section and plot number of his grave. 

I still had questions…. Was it correct to assume this was my Nestor Gonzalez?   Why was he now in Matamoros?  Was he there because he was ill?  Was he there to be closer to his son?  Was the whole family now in Matamoros? 

I wanted to say yes to all that in my head, but I just couldn’t be certain I had the right Nestor.  The one fact that bothered me the most; who was Porfirio de la Fuente, (a name I would soon forget) and why was Porfirio the informant and not some other known member of the family?

It would be months before I figured it out.

[1] Blog post “A Family Found” 29 Sept 2014
[2] "México, Tamaulipas, Registro Civil, 1800-2002," images, FamilySearch (,203434101 : accessed 22 Oct 2014), Matamoros > Defunciones 1902-1907 > image 114 of 511; citing Archivo General del Registro Civil del Estado de Tamaulipas.