Monday, March 31, 2014

Why do I blog?

One of my New Year's resolutions for 2014 was to blog at a rate of at least one post/week. This is hard, particularly if I'm aiming for meaty, content-rich posts about my research findings. I have not, in fact, published many posts that would fit that description so far this year (the ongoing series of posts about my great-grandfathers' WWI service records being a possible exception, but those are not really the most meaty, research-y posts I've ever written). There were a few good posts about my research in the last half of 2013, when I was also aiming to keep up that posting schedule. (Examples include Finding Louisa and I think I just hit my first brick wall.)

However, in the past few months, I've also posted several of my most visited and most commented-upon posts of all time. These were a varied group, but most-visited included both Top 10 Halloween Costumes for Genealogists and Tutorial: Searching Fulton History, while most commented upon included John Joseph O'Hara's WWI Service Record and a Plea for Help and Mother Malone: Family History through Song. (That last one surprised me; I didn't expect it to strike such a chord.*)

There's not a lot of overlap there, between the posts that are about my research and the posts people most enjoy reading. The posts that attract the most readers are the most universal; they're not all about me, my ancestors, or my research. They are, at times, utterly absurd. (Top 10 Pick-up Lines for Genealogists? I did not exactly advance the scholarly conversation with that one!)

I've always conceived of blogging primarily as a way to organize and share my research, but that doesn't seem to be the type of blogging that is actually most successful with readers. When I first started looking at this pattern, I worried that I was writing more for other people than for myself. And yet, some of those more popular, less-research-based posts are the ones that I enjoy the most. Because, in fact, Top 10 Pick-up Lines for Genealogists was really fun to write!

Which means I'm left trying to figure out what exactly motivates me to write. Am I writing to improve and organize my research? Am I writing for fun? Am I writing for me? Am I writing for an audience? Am I just pointlessly rambling? I may have limited blogging time over the next couple of months, and trying to figure out what to do about it has me analyzing what I write, and what I should be writing. Do I stop updating, or do I make an effort now to schedule posts for the future? I've been aiming for the latter, but it involved producing content in a much more concentrated way than I ever have before, causing at least some of my soul-searching about what to write and why.

Why do you blog? How do you focus your content? Or do you just let the spirit move you?

*See what I did there?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Carmine "Charlie" Lanzillotto's WWI Service Record

I've recently reviewed the WWI Service Records of three of my four great-grandfathers, John Joseph O'Hara, Joseph Eugene Mulcahy, and Domenico Gatto. All three served during the war, but none of them was sent overseas. Only one of my great-grandfathers, Carmine "Charlie" Lanzillotto, actually served in Europe.

Lanzillotta, Lanzilotto, World War I
WWI Service Record of Carmine Lanzillotta, NYS Archives
He was born 16 July 1894, in what's recorded here as "Bitelo," Italy. (It was actually Bitetto, outside of Bari, in Italy). When he was inducted, he was living at 281 E. 155th St. in northern Manhattan. This was the same address where he had been living when he registered for the draft in 1917, as well as where he was living when he naturalized on 20 October 1919, which means that he came back to the same building after the war.

Carmine Lanzillotto fought in the Battle of the Argonne Forest, officially known as the Meuse-Argonne Offensive; it's both the only engagement listed here, and the only battle my grandmother had ever heard him speak of. He was inducted on 25 June 1918 and was overseas by 3 August 1918. The battle lasted from 26 September 1918 until 11 November 1918, the date of the Armistice that ended the war. Charlie, though, remained overseas until the following September, and was discharged on 6 October 1919.

I'm not sure of all of the abbreviations used in the section "Organizations served in," but "MP" shows up a lot, which accords with the image below, showing Charlie Lanzillotto in his uniform and wearing an "MP" band on his arm. 

Lanzillotta, Lanzilotto, world war I, military police
Carmine Lanzillotto

Monday, March 17, 2014

Irish Genealogical and Historical Resources

Happy St. Patrick's Day! 

In honor of the holiday, I'll be baking soda bread, eating corned beef, and reviewing some of my favorite resources for Irish genealogy!

Online Resources
-The 1901 and 1911 Irish Census
Earlier Irish Census records were almost entirely destroyed, so 1901 and 1911 are both the earliest extant censuses and the only ones that are currently available to the public. (1926 will be the next to be released.) Both the 1901 and the 1911 Census are available and searchable online at the website of the National Archives of Ireland.

-Griffith's Valuation
Griffith's Valuation, the property valuation overseen by Richard Griffith, serves as an excellent census substitute for mid-19th century Ireland. It was undertaken between 1853 and 1865, so it predates the earliest available census records, and lists the head of each household in Ireland, as well as the name of the landlord from whom the property was rented (source). Griffith's Valuation is available online from

-The Irish Family History Foundation
The Irish Family History Foundation ( offers online access to Birth/Christening, Marriage, and Death/Gravestone records through the individual county genealogy centres. Now, this is not a website without its problems. Credits are expensive, there's no subscription option, you need to pay even to view search results, and the records you're paying to view are just transcriptions; there aren't actual images available. A search can yield many results, and you then have to pay to view each of them individually, at a cost of 2.75-5.00 Euros per record, depending on whether you've purchased credits in bulk. Nonetheless, the sheer volume of records available makes this a valuable resource, and when you search intelligently, the cost can be reasonable. Using the technique outlined in this tutorial has made all the difference for me!

-Irish Church Records
While most Irish church records are most easily accessed, for a fee, through the Irish Family History Foundation, lucky researchers with ancestors from the counties of Kerry, Dublin, and Carlow, and the Diocese of Cork & Ross have a FREE option! Parish records from these areas can be accessed through the Irish governmental site (Availability varies by year and denomination; for more information, see the list of available parishes on the site.) While my ancestors don't hail from any of those areas, my husband's family was from Kerry, so I've occasionally had opportunities to use the site, and it definitely made me wish this resource were available for my areas of interest.

A New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland
This is one of the most useful, practical books for Irish research that I've come across. It has maps of each Irish county, divided into civil parishes, Catholic parishes, baronies, dioceses, and poor law unions. It's invaluable for helping figure out which jurisdictions you should be checking for records, and I definitely couldn't be as productive without it.

Brian Mitchell, Irish genealogy, maps of Ireland

Annals of the Famine in Ireland
This book, by 19th century reformer Asenath Nicholson, was assigned in an Irish history course I took in college, and I found it fascinating. It's not a book of records or a research aid, but it's a fascinating contemporary look at conditions in Ireland - particularly the west of Ireland - during the famine, valuable for anyone with famine-era Irish ancestors. Nicholson also wrote Ireland's Welcome to the Stranger before the famine struck, which is a book I haven't read yet but have on my list.

Asenath Nicholson, Irish history, Irish genealogy, Potato famine

The Course of Irish History
This is another excellent book that was assigned in one of my college Irish history courses. It consists of expert essays on various topics in Irish history, arranged chronologically. They provide brief, usually quite accessible looks at these various topics, ranging from "Prehistoric Ireland" to "Ireland, 1982-94" and all major aspects of Irish history in between. As a result the book provides an excellent overview for any researchers who need to add some historical context to the search for their Irish ancestors.

T.W. Moody, Irish history, Irish genealogy

Enjoy the day, and take the opportunity to use some of these resources to delve a little deeper into your Irish ancestry!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you choose to make a purchase from Amazon after clicking one of these links, I will receive a small portion of your purchase price as a commission - and the price you pay doesn't change! I personally make a point of starting my Amazon shopping through the affiliate links of bloggers and friends whenever possible, so that large corporations are not the only beneficiaries of my purchases, and encourage others to do the same, regardless of whether they use my affiliate links or another blogger's.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Domenico Gatto's WWI Service Records

I recently received the state-level World War I service records for each of my four great-grandfathers, including Domenico Gatto.

Domenick Gatto, World War I, NYS
NYS Service Record for Domenico Gatto, WWI

He was inducted on 30 April 1918. I have to plead ignorance again; I do not know what "inducted" means in this context. I assume that it simply refers to the date he joined the Army. At the time, he was 29 years and 2 months old, but the record doesn't give his birth date. The given age is a bit inconsistent with the Italian Civil Registration record of his birth, which is recorded as having occurred on 21 September 1891, making him about 26 1/2, instead. Domenico's home address is given as 315 Melrose St., Brooklyn, which is not an address I had previously encountered for him. His birthplace is given only as "Italy"; I know he was born in Bitetto, Bari, Puglia, Italy.

Domenico was first assigned to the "152 Dep Brig," which appears to be the 152nd Depot Brigade. According to Wikipedia, the Depot Brigades were organized to receive recruits and prepare them to fight overseas. However, from there he was assigned to Company I, 303rd Infantry, and never served overseas before his discharge on 2 Dec 1918. Of my four great-grandfathers who served in WWI, only one served overseas; Domenico was one of the three who did not.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Top Ten Genealogical Pick-Up Lines - Let's you and me get together and read Evidence Explained some time.
10. Is that a wand scanner in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

9. Let's you and me get together and read Evidence Explained some time.

8. So, will I see you at Jamboree?

7. Did it hurt when you fell out of that family tree?

6. I bet we have lots in common, including some ancestors.

5. I'd like to add you to my family tree.

4. I'd like to marry you and label all of our wedding pictures well for the benefit of future generations!

3. I see the perfect spot for me next to you on your pedigree chart.

2. Let's go get our DNA tested to make sure we're not related in a genealogically significant time frame.

1. What's a nice girl like you doing at a genealogy conference like this?

Use the comments section to add to the list!