12    Feb 20123 comments

Whitney Houston: An inherited gift

Yesterday, the world was shocked by the sad news that Whitney Houston - with her amazing, touching voice - had died.

She was one of my favorite singers.

As a tribute, I wanted to explore her family history. It was exciting to learn that she had inherited a family gift in her voice. Her ancestry included African, Dutch and Native American roots.

Houston's mother was Grammy Award–winning American soul and gospel singer Cissy Houston. Her successful career included backup for Elvis Presley, Mahalia Jackson, Wishbone Ash and Aretha Franklin - she is now a solo artist. One of Cissy's great-great-grandfathers was Dutch.

Cissy's father Nitcholas Drinkard was born to Susan Bell Drinkard (maiden name Fuller; born 1876), who was part Dutch and part African-American. Nitcholas's father was Native American John Drinkard, Jr. (b. 1870).His ancestors included a family of African-American landowners in Blakely, Georgia, where three of Cissy's siblings were born.

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11    Feb 20121 comment

WDYTYA: Marisa Tomei’s odyssey

Following the large audience for the third-season premiere of the US-version of Who Do You Think You Are? - starring Martin Sheen - the second episode focused on Marisa Tomei.

Tomei's story concerned her murdered great-grandfather, and the false belief held by her family about the event's circumstances.

Her odyssey takes her from Brooklyn to Tuscany, Elba, Castiglioncello and Lucca to find the truth about the event, and her mother's BIANCHI and CANOVARO families. Her father, Gary, had already done extensive research on the TOMEI family tree.

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8    Feb 20120 comments

Lord of the Rings: A family tree

Image Source: http://free-extras.com/

Traditionally, most people research their own family, or one that that they have some connection to - but college student Emil Johansson is different.

Johansson has chosen a more peculiar family tree. He recently received international attention when he published his gigantic tree focusing on most of the characters in “Lord of the Rings”.

In his own words, Johansson is “overly enthusiastic about Tolkien's Lord of the Rings,” leading him to create a project where he has attempted to collect all Middle Earth’s characters and creatures in one giant family tree.

Emil's "Lord of the Rings" Family Tree

Eighteen months ago, he began studying chemical engineering at Chalmers University of Technology, but it wasn’t an easy choice:

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17    Jan 20124 comments

‘The Greatest’ – Muhammad Ali’s family history

Muhammad Ali

Today, the world celebrates the 70th birthday of the first and only three-time consecutive World Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.).

In celebration of Muhammad Ali's extraordinary journey, MyHeritage decided to build his family tree and share his family and personal history.

Muhammad is a descendant of pre-Civil War era American slaves in the American South, and is predominantly of African-American descent, with some Irish and English ancestry.

His Irish ancestry was uncovered through research revealing his descent from a man who lived in the town of Ennis, in County Clare, Ireland.

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9    Jan 20123 comments

Tracing Kate Middleton’s family tree

In case you didn't know, today is the 30th birthday of Kate Middleton and we couldn't think of a better way to honor the occasion than by sharing her fascinating family history and tree.

Kate's family history - contrary to her now relatively opulent lifestyle - is one that many of us can attest to in our family trees.

Kate's family are from the North of England and - up to the last few generations - her ancestors were mostly working-class. According to the New England Historic Genealogical Society her ancestors include merchants, messengers, solicitors, cabinet makers, butchers, bakers, a laundress, and coalminers.

The Society also revealed in November 2010 that Kate Middleton (along with the Queen Mother and Princess Diana) is a cousin of America's first president, George Washington.

Click here to see Kate Middleton's MyHeritage family tree (screenshot below).

Click the image to see the family tree.

6    Jan 20123 comments

Steven Tyler: A fascinating family tree past and present

On January 2, Steven Tyler - legendary front man of rock-and-roll band Aerosmith - announced his engagement to girlfriend, Erin Brady.

Tyler’s professional success is known to many. Aerosmith has sold more than 150 million records worldwide, while American Idol, on which he is a judge, is the top-rated American television show.

Not as well known are the details of his amazingly diverse heritage, the rich history of musicians among his ancestors or the complex structure of his current family including his partners (ex and current) and his children.

To kick things off, we’ve pulled together Tyler’s family tree.

Click on the image below (or HERE) to be taken to the actual family tree on MyHeritage.

Click to see the tree

As part of our research on Tyler’s family, we found some other fascinating information.

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15    Nov 20113 comments

Royalty: HRH Prince Charles at 63

A young Prince Charles at Balmoral Castle

His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales was born in Buckingham Palace 63 years ago yesterday. Around the Commonwealth and beyond, the world sent its best wishes.

The current heir to the throne, HRH Prince Charles has often been subject to the prying eyes of the media amid controversy.

He remains a stalwart symbol of the British Monarchy- an institution that thrives today - despite aggressive modern attitudes.

Messages from around the world flooded in on the British Monarchy’s social networking platforms (yes, you heard me) while HRH Prince Charles enjoyed a Military salute by Scottish soldiers at Edinburgh Castle.

Take a look at the comprehensive British Royal Family Tree below on MyHeritage.com. Click Here to view.

A portion of the British Royal Family's tree on MyHeritage.com

18    Sep 20111 comment

MyHeritage: In the land of Lincoln

While MyHeritage.com was at the recent Federation of Genealogical Societies conference in Springfield, Illinois, chief genealogist Daniel Horowitz had an opportunity to visit the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum.

Daniel Horowitz with the Lincoln Family

Daniel Horowitz with the Lincoln Family

I was part of a detailed tour of the facility with Gwen Podeschi, history reference librarian.

Opened in October 2004, the library is maintained via state funds. Its main goal is to collect and preserve family and personal (non-official) correspondence and material of Abraham Lincoln and other Illinois state personalities. It holds more than 12 million historical items including 1,100 oral histories, 2 million manuscripts and 3,000 old and contemporary maps.

Collections also include early Mormon history, anti-slavery, coal miners’ accidents, train accidents and the 1893 World Colombian Exposition.

The library is home to the largest Lincoln documents database and such items as the documents of trials in which Lincoln was involved.  The legal collection is fascinating as it also preserves the lists of juries in every case tried. If your relatives lived in Springfield, this can be a good resource as they may have served on one of those juries.

The law practice collection is not open to the public, but librarians are more than happy to help visitors find the information they seek.  Appointments are suggested, and the collection is searchable via the Internet.

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2    Aug 20113 comments

Amy Winehouse’s Family Tree: a Humble Heritage

Two weeks ago the world was moved by the tragic death of Amy Winehouse, one of the best English singing talents ever. Many fans paid their respects, including singer George Michael who deemed her "the most soulful vocalist England has ever seen."

Amy Winehouse's family tree

Click on the image to see the tree

Many cried at what was clearly an early departure for such a young artist and the mourning, for many, still continues. At MyHeritage we have decided to pay tribute to Amy by doing what we do best and present her family history for posterity…

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25    Jan 20112 comments

Finding Long-Lost Relatives: The Story of Oprah Winfrey’s Half-Sister

Many people stumble across family secrets in their lives, but this week we’ve seen revelations from someone far more public than most. Oprah Winfrey, appearing on her television show on Monday, revealed that she has a long-lost half-sister. You can see a little of this encounter below:


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