Journals and diaries are excellent resources for family history research.
Don't you wish your ancestors had recorded their daily lives and thoughts in a format that has come down to you as a treasured keepsake through the centuries?
I know someone whose ancestor left a journal written several hundred years ago. The writer describes the family's everyday life in difficult new surroundings, how they celebrated holidays, the writer's wishes for her descendants far in the future and much more. It is as if the writer knew it would be treasured and passed down through the generations, as it has been. It is a priceless heirloom.
Put yourself in the shoes of a great-grandchild who finds your journal. What do you think will interest him or her? What is happening in your life now that you want future generations to know about? Do you want to include advice for future generations?
As a New Year begins, offering us a chance to jump start our research using every available resource, we are reminded that family history researchers need skills, according to MyHeritage's US genealogy advisor Schelly Talalay Dardashti. We may already have those skills but - more likely - we learn on the job!
Genealogists are strange creatures.
We live for the dead or the missing. We practically vacation in cemeteries - if we can discover where relatives are buried. We hope for the once-in-a-lifetime thrill of visiting “old country" ancestral towns and villages, wherever they might be.
We revel in bettering our investigative skills, similar to those used by detectives, lawyers or police, while piecing together the most complicated of puzzles, analyzing and dissecting clues, theories, stories.
Listening to family stories as a child sparked Leigh Toselli’s interest, but - for her - it’s all about photographs and their stories.
A South African fashion, beauty and decor stylist, Leigh, 52, lives in Johannesburg with her French photographer husband Patrick and three sons (Devin, 25; Rowan, 23; and Kieran, 20).
Her biography reads like an A-Z of fashion, and she’s worked on every facet of image in the industry. She authored a series of books on beauty and image, and was also co-presenter of the South African version of the BBC show, What Not to Wear.
A few years ago, Leigh was trying to find a way of restoring, filing and sharing old family photographs.
Old photographs that gather dust seem so sad; all too often these are neglected and the names and faces forgotten. So I started asking the older generations to put names and anecdotes to the photos.
Family trees didn't really interest me, as they were simply a list of dates and names. That is, until I realized I could put faces to the names! Suddenly, my family’s history became a fascination - seeing family resemblances and spotting faces in old albums became a bit of an obsession.
Genealogy research defines taking the road to discovery. There are traffic lights, stop signs, many turnings, and cars stuck in traffic. In the country, narrow lanes are fringed with trees, obscuring views of towns, few cars and dead ends. Highways have slippery curves, rest stops and fast-moving vehicles, while exits lead to other byways or tollbooths! Sometimes we may have a map, while at other times, we are in uncharted territory.
MyHeritage's US genealogy advisor Schelly Talalay Dardashti wrote this piece back in 2003 for a newspaper column. It has been adapted from the original version, but the journey remains the same in 2012 and beyond.
Read about Howard who found a long-lost cousin living in his own hometown!
We also helped to reunite half-siblings Ronald and Anneliese.
We publish these stories because we think they're a great way to inspire all of us in our family history research. Who knows what story we'll uncover with the next relative we add to our family tree.
If you're interested in sharing your inspiring story or breakthrough, and having it published in this blog, send it to email@example.com.
The MyHeritage team
Whether you'll be visiting close relatives or meeting with distant cousins, family get-togethers are the perfect way to find out more about your family history.
Want to add more information to your family tree or inspire the younger generations to get involved? Here are three simple tips to turn your next family gathering into a genealogy opportunity!
1. Ask relatives to bring an old family object
Documenting the story of a family treasure can be an great tool to increase understanding about your family history. Whether a letter, card, ornament, jewelry or recipe, encourage relatives to bring something to show everyone. These items can bring interesting stories to life and provide new family information.
I recently found an old family photo of one of my ancestors and noticed a striking similarity with a living relative.
When looking at old ancestral photos, I've always had a sense of familiarity. I notice a certain family resemblance to living relatives, such as their physical features or just their facial expressions.
Photographer Ulric Collette's "genetic portraits" takes this concept to a new level. Ulric merges photos of relatives and shows how alike some family members look.
MyHeritage's look-alike meter helps people answer that age-old question as to whether they look more like their mother or father.
Have you found an old family photo and noticed a resemblance between those in the photo and your living relatives?
Let us know in the comments below.
As a journalist, I know that using more than one device is a good idea. There’s no telling when one will not cooperate. I prefer to use a digital sound recorder with an external microphone, and a video camera (with sound) as well. I also take notes and work from a list of questions.
Make sure you have a digital camera to take shots of documents or old photos; bring a small tripod one along (best: those with legs that can be twisted into any angle or used against your arm or shoulder to stabilize the camera). Not expensive, they take up very little room.
A portable scanner – getting smaller and less expensive every year – is another good idea to copy unframed photos and documents; always check the backs of photos and documents for notes, inscriptions, dates, etc. Use your digital camera to shoot framed photos hanging on the wall.
Practice using your equipment ahead of time – so you won’t waste time or annoy the person with technical glitches. Remember to take the lens cap off the video camera! If using battery-operated devices, bring along spares (or chargers). The Boy Scouts have it right: “Be Prepared.”
At this time last year, a Canadian couple celebrated the birth of their 100th grandchild.
Grandparents Viktor and Aneta Urich have so many grandchildren that they find it difficult to remember all their names. Half of them have Canadian names, half have Russian names.
The couple has 16 children. The 100th grandchild was born to their eldest son Heinrich and his wife, Tatjana. Heinrich and Tatjana have nine children, the eldest is 12.
Is there someone in your family tree with a large number of grandchildren? What's the largest number of grandchildren you've found in your family history research?
Let us know in the poll below.
“I can actually recall the moment when I became interested in my family history,” writes MyHeritage member Heather Alexander in Massachusetts.
My sister was helping my then-young niece with a school project. Our entire family was on vacation in historic Newport, Rhode Island, when she was going over all sorts of records in a binder she had for my niece to go through to figure out how to do her assignment.
I recall thinking "What is all this? I know I'm Irish and English on our mother's side, Lithuanian and Polish on our father's side but I've never actually seen the evidence. I've never heard names. I only know that's what I was told...Irish/English Lithuanian/Polish.
Heather, 37, was born in and lives in Massachusetts. Married with a daughter, 9, she was educated in public and private schools in Massachusetts and New Hampshire and is a former credit analyst.
Heather put off her questions for a while, but became curious to find out about those few stories she had heard as a child but didn’t pay much attention to. Her sister, the eldest child, is highly intelligent and would explain things in such complex terms that only another person with an advanced degree in history could understand.
I didn't have that. I would question her a lot, but I grew frustrated with not understanding her answers to my questions and the same held true for our middle sister when she would ask - she got confused.