Super Sleuth

Super Sleuth
Digging Up The Past One Relative At A Time

Saturday, August 30, 2014


     If you really stop to think about it, you are related to a lot of people.  You may not think so, but it's true.  Let's crunch some numbers and you'll see what I mean.  Now, brace yourself, because it's about to get real up in here!  

1.  You have two biological parents.
2.  Your parents had two biological parents each which makes four grandparents.

(Each generation back gets doubled since it takes two people to make one baby, right?  Let's continue, shall we?)

3.  You have 8 great-grandparents.
4.  You have 16 great-great-grandparents (2x-great-grandparents).
5.  You have 32 3x-great-grandparents.
6.  You have 64 4x-great-grandparents.
7.  You have 128 5x-great-grandparents.
8.  You have 256 6x-great-grandparents.
9.  You have 512 7x-great-grandparents.
10.  You have 1,024 8x-great-grandparents.
11.  You have 2,048 9x-great-grandparents.
12.  You have 4,096 10x-great-grandparents.
13.  You have 8,192 11x-great-grandparents.
14.  You have 16,384 12x-great-grandparents.

(Are you starting to sweat yet?  Trust me, this gets pretty amazing.  Hang on...)

15.  You have 32,768 13x-great-grandparents.
16.  You have 65,536 14x-great-grandparents.
17.  You have 131,072 15x-great-grandparents.
18.  You have 262,144 16x-great-grandparents.
19.  You have 524,288 17x-great-grandparents.
20.  You have 1,048,576 18x-great-grandparents.

(I think we can stop here, but you get the general idea.  Each time you travel back a generation, you have to double the amount of people who were responsible for you being on this Earth.)

     I am not a "math-person"; never have been and never will be, but these are the kinds of figures that excite me.  Put this into perspective for just a moment.  I found a marriage record for a set of my 13x-great-grandparents.  They were married in June 1566 A.D.!  Just by doing a little bit of research, I learned that the world's population in 1500 A.D. was about 435 million!  Do you understand the significance here?  It's more than likely that you are related to just about everyone you know.  Yes, it's true...somewhere down the generational line, you probably share relatives with everyone else.  When you put it into these terms, the old adage, "What a small world!" really hits home.

     I was serious when I said that I found a marriage record from 1566 for one set of my 13x-great-grandparents.  Here is a picture of it:

Yes, looks old, doesn't it?  Well, it is old!  It is written in Latin...thank goodness for Google Translate!  Anyway, my 13x-great-grandfather's name was Mariano Blundo and my 13x-great-grandmother's name was Vicenza di Magnano.  They were married in Sortino, Siracusa, Sicilia, Italia on 19 June 1566.

     You may be asking yourself how I was able to obtain this record, or how I am even sure that these people are relatives of mine.  The explanation is simple.  Remember how I mentioned that you must start with the current generation and work your way backwards?  That is what I did.  This record was obtained using the website  I have been a subscriber to for several years now, and I love it, but as a researcher, I cannot only use one reference.  If you were asked to write a term paper in school using only one resource, you really wouldn't have different perspectives and you may be missing out on pertinent information that would enhance your final report.

     While allows you to browse through millions of records for a subscription fee, allows you the same opportunity and all you have to do is sign up with a valid email.  I have obtained a lot of valuable information using, but because also scanned Catholic Church records to their site, I was able to trace back to before the year 1866.  The Catholic Church records allow you to take a glimpse into your ancestors' Baptisms, Holy Communions, Confirmations, Marriages, and deaths.  I recommend to anyone who does not want to make a monthly commitment yet to, but I HIGHLY recommend to anyone who wants to "hunt and gather" information and keep all of their found records and documents in one place on the computer.  Both are valuable resources.   is another invaluable resource to anyone who had ancestors who were immigrants and were processed through Ellis Island.  On this site, you can locate relatives, see their placement on the ship's manifest, learn about who they traveled with, how much money they had on them, what their physical appearance was, who they were meeting in America, any relative they may have had back in the homeland, AND you can see a picture of the ship that transported them to America.

     Click on the links below to browse these excellent websites:

     Since Sunday is a day of rest, I will see you all on Monday.  Enjoy the weekend and happy hunting!

Friday, August 29, 2014


     I would like to make every Friday's blog a "mini-lesson" to assist you in comprehending the lingo of the professionals.  

     Cousins, cousins, cousins...first, second, third, once-removed...etc.  How do you know to what degree you are related to your "cousins"?  Here are some hints to help you out.  I will use my own personal information to illustrate.

1)  I have 14 first cousins on my father's side of the family.  How do I know they are my first cousins?  The reason why I know this is because we all share the same grandparents.  Therefore, if you and your cousin share the same grandparents then you are FIRST cousins.

2)  Now, we all get older, right?  Sometimes we don't want to deal with that, but it's a fact of life.  When your first cousin has a baby, what is that baby's relationship to you?  Well, I'm glad you asked.  You would be considered FIRST cousins ONCE REMOVED.  How do I know this?  I know this because the grandparents I share with my first cousin become the great-grandparents of THEIR children.  

3)  So, when are you considered SECOND cousins?  Second cousins occur when you and someone else share the same GREAT-GRANDPARENTS.  You will probably start noticing a pattern here.  Watch this...

4)  When your second cousin has a baby, that baby becomes your SECOND cousin ONCE REMOVED.  Do you see what is happening here?  Every time a new generation comes to life, it alters your relationship with them.

5)  Here is a little quiz to see if you were paying attention.  We already know that if you and someone else share the same grandparents, then you are considered FIRST COUSINS.  We also know that if you and someone else share the same great-grandparents, then you are considered SECOND COUSINS.  What are you considered then if you and someone else share the same great-great-grandparents?  That's right!  You would be considered THIRD COUSINS!

     We will dig a little deeper into the Relationship Chart so you will understand what the terms TWICE removed, THREE TIMES REMOVED, and so forth, mean.  In the interim, here is a cheat sheet to help you identify the relationship correlations.  The link to this chart is found below.


     How many "greats" are too many "greats" to place in front of the word, "grandparent"?  Another fantastic question!  Here is a quick-reference guide for you:

Etc., etc., etc...


     Facebook has become one of my favorite websites, not because of the addicting games or the stimulating conversation.  Facebook has shortened the miles-gap between myself and my extended family.  It is a comfort to know that we are all still in touch though the Internet.  It truly is an asset when used properly.
     About three years ago, I noticed that my "first cousin once removed" was friends with some people on Facebook who shared the same last name as my paternal grandmother's maiden name.  These "friends" of my first cousin once removed lived in a small town in Italy.  The name of the town was familiar to me because, in my research, I discovered that my paternal grandmother's father (my great-grandfather) came from the same town.  After some investigative work and through the assistance of Google Translate, I discovered that theses "friends" in Italy were actually my THIRD COUSINS.  How did I know this for sure?  The young lady I was corresponding with on the Internet had a grandfather who was still living and was able to piece together some of the loose ends.  When all was said and done, this young lady and I not only shared the same 2x-Great-Grandparents, but her great-grandfather and my great-grandfather were brothers.
     In 2013, she came to America on her honeymoon and was invited to my house to meet the American family.  This past July, my husband and I went to Italy to meet the rest of her family--mia famiglia!  We are separated by the Atlantic Ocean, but, thanks to technology, we were reconnected.  My great-grandfather was the only one of his six brothers and sisters to immigrate to America.  He came in 1914.  The siblings and parents he left behind in Caserta lost touch with him over the years and they had no idea of the amount of relatives they had in America.

This is a photograph of my THIRD COUSIN and me taken in Caserta, Italy in July 2014.  Her great-grandfather and my great-grandfather were brothers!

Thursday, August 28, 2014


     You wrote down all of your vital stats and now you can begin plotting on your pedigree chart.  Thanks to the current interest in family history, you can purchase pedigree charts and ancestry-based paper in craft stores all over the United States.  There are also several websites that offer free, printable pedigree charts, just like the fan chart that I provided for you yesterday.  
     When you create your pedigree chart, it is VITAL that you remember to be respectful of others' privacy regarding their identities.  Even if a person is deceased, you want to take special care in how you utilize their personal information.  If the pedigree chart is for your own personal and family use, then you don't have to be so rigid regarding privacy.  However, if you plan to share your information on the Internet or some other public space, then you may want to blur out certain identifying characteristics and get the consent from living relatives before proceeding.  Below is an example of how to begin your pedigree chart.  For privacy, I have blurred out some personal information.

     Notice that if you are creating the pedigree chart for yourself, then YOUR name must be on the first line.  Your spouse's information would be written under your name if you have a spouse.  If you don't have a spouse, leave it blank.  There are sections for your father, mother, your paternal side (father's side), and your maternal side (mother's side).

1.  At this point, the pedigree chart should become your working copy.  You can print out several copies if you like for scrap and jot down hints that you find along the way.  Remember to keep all of your loose papers in a folder, box, or file cabinet so that they are easily accessible.

2.  Enter as much information about your parents, your paternal grandparents, maternal grandparents, and so on, as you can.

3.  Now is a good time to interview your living ancestors.  If you are fortunate to still have your parents and grandparents with you, then you need to grill and drill them for any information they can remember.  Once they pass on, some of your questions will not be answered and that will make your detective work a little harder.

4.  Write your information in pencil if you are uncertain of name spellings, dates, and locations.  Only move to permanent ink when you are SURE that the information is correct.  

5.  Last names should be CAPITALIZED throughout the tree.

6.  Do not forget to record ALL of the women in your family with their MAIDEN names.  Trust me, this is important.


     Check out this list of possible places where you can figure out family information!

A)  family Bibles
B)  the backs of old photographs
C)  interviewing living ancestors, cousins, etc
D)  graveyards (I know, it sounds creepy, but you would be amazed at what you can find regarding dates and who your ancestors are buried with or near.)
E)  yearbooks
F)  old newspapers (Newspapers are good resources to find out about engagements, weddings, and obituaries.)
G)  prayer cards you receive at wakes and funerals (Again, a little morbid, but the information is priceless.)

     Here is another wonderful website for printing out free ancestry forms:


     Print out a free pedigree chart and start plotting your information.  These will be collected and graded!  (Just kidding!)  Happy hunting!

My maternal grandparents, Gennaro and Giuseppa being silly on the rooftop of their Lower East Side apartment building, circa 1940s.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


     It's always smart to have a game plan when it comes to researching your past.  The trick is to start with the most recent generation and work your way backwards.  Begin with yourself!  Find a blank notebook to record your notes--teachers LOVE notebooks!  Make sure you write down everything about yourself--JUST THE FACTS!  Although it would be lovely to know that your favorite color is violet and you always enjoyed hang-gliding, right now we just need to know the facts about you.  The other stuff will come later on.  Here is a short list to help you, but feel free to add anything else you wish.

1.  Your FULL birth name.  It is imperative to write down your name exactly as it was given to you at birth.  This is a helpful hint for when and if you research ancestors in Europe!  It Italy, especially, women, even if they are married, will always be found under their maiden names.  (Helpful Hint Alert!--ladies, when creating your own family trees, write your full MAIDEN name, not your married name.)

2.  The day, month, and year of your birth.  You will notice that professionals write it this way.  So, instead of writing, for example:  January 1, 2000, you would write it as:  1 January 2000, or 1 JAN 2000.  This way, if you are researching ancestors from other countries, you will not be thrown off when you see a date written as "11/7/1850."  This does NOT mean November 7, 1850 in Europe, it actually means, 11 July 1850!  Not knowing that simple trick could set you back months in your research as it did for me when I first started.

3.  If you happen to know the hospital you were born in, or the location of your birth, record that as well.  Depicting town, city, state, and country will make researching easier because it concentrates in one specific area.  There is a big difference between researching a relative in the "United States" and researching a relative in "Staten Island, New York, United States."

4.  If you are Catholic, you should record the dates of your Baptism, First Holy Communion, Confirmation, etc.  Most Catholic churches keep records of their parishioners past and present.  You can request a copy of these sacramental certificates, but you may be asked to offer a small donation.  Furthermore, you would have to request the certificate at the church in which you received the sacrament.  If you practice another form of religion, notify your place of worship to see if there are any documents you can obtain.

5.  Write the full names of your biological parents, if known, and any siblings that came from the union of your biological parents.  Record birth dates and death dates.

     You are ready to begin your pedigree chart!  I, personally, enjoy using a fan chart, but you can create any configuration you want, as long as you understand the progression of it.  Below is an example of the fan chart I made for one of my 3x-great-grandmothers.  I can trace back her family to 1566!  

     Also, check out the link below for free, printable fan charts!  Happy hunting!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

"The past is a source of knowledge, and the future is a source of hope.  Love of the past implies faith in the future."  --Stephen Ambrose, 1936-2002

     If you are a nostalgic and curious person like I am, then you've probably dabbled in genealogy.  After all, who wouldn't want to dig up all of those dirty secrets?  Who could have descended from royalty!  Nostalgic and curious people find nothing strange or abnormal about lurking through cemeteries to find the hidden headstone with the birth and death dates of relatives that would complete their pedigree charts.  They would also find looking through dresser drawers, closets, and attics exhilarating!
     Sometimes you just don't know where to begin.  If you had been exposed to family photos and stories at a young age, then you most likely have a starting off point.  Case in point--me.  I was fortunate to have all four grandparents in my life until I was twelve-years-old.  In those first twelve years of my life, I have seen photos, heard names, imagined stories in my head through my own made up pictures, and was exposed to a second language--Italian--however, they only spoke it when they didn't want me to know something.
     My maternal grandmother, Giuseppa (Josephine) 1913-2001, was the quintessential reason why I had an itch for genealogy.  When I spent summer days at her and my grandfather's house, a weekly ritual would be to take down the dusty box of old family photos and be educated on who the people were, where they came from, and what inevitably happened to them.  I was truly fascinated by the serious and stalwart expressions of my ancestors.  Why was everyone so serious?  Didn't anyone ever smile?
     Fast-forward to the current me...a 38-year-old middle school history teacher...hmmm...seems rather symbolic, don't you think?  Anyway, for the past four years, I have seriously and officially taken on the role of "family historian / sleuther".  I have researched both sides of my family and, within four years, have traced back 13 generations on my mother's side and 9 generations on my father's side.  Not too shabby for someone who is not a professional genealogist.  What do I consider myself?  I consider myself a professional researcher.  I have a desire to know more and to find out as much as I can about my past so I can improve and solidify my future.
     The purpose of this blog is not to bore you with my family tree--although that would come into play every once in a while.  The main purpose is to help others who have always wanted to uncover their family's past, but didn't quite know how to begin.  I will share my hints and tips as much as possible.  I hope I can, in some way, open the door to the past in other's lives.  Happy hunting!