30    Apr 201512 comments

Names: What’s in the middle?

Middle names. Some people have them; others don’t. The three-name structure we use today (given, middle and last name) began in the Middle Ages when Europeans wanted to give a child a saint’s name and a traditional family name, but middle name use goes back even further.

In ancient Rome, it was an honor given to important people to have multiple names. Later - in the 1700s - aristocrats began to give their children long names to indicate his or her place in society. For example, Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge. Continue reading "Names: What’s in the middle?" »

25    Apr 20151 comment

ANZAC Day: 100 Years

ANZAC Day is one of Australia and New Zealand’s most important commemorative occasions marking the anniversary of the first major military action fought by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), during World War 1, at Gallipoli, Turkey.

In 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers set out as part of an Allies expedition to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula and open the way to the Black Sea. Continue reading "ANZAC Day: 100 Years" »

23    Feb 20155 comments

World War II: New photos discovered

It's always exciting when we find heirlooms or photos providing more detail into the lives of our ancestors, but this can also happen to historical events.

After some 70 years, 31 rolls of film taken by an American soldier during WWII were found. Last year, the photos were developed as part of a project entitled The Rescued Film Project.

This was the first time the public had access to this incredible historical material depicting the lives of soldiers during the war, as they offer a glimpse into our ancestors' past.

Watch the video below to learn more about the project and the photos.

Have you found any previously unknown photos revealing more detail about your ancestors' lives? Let us know in the comments below.

24    Dec 20141 comment

Did You Know: 13 interesting Christmas facts

Last year, we wrote about many Christmas traditions still common today, and the history behind them.

This year, as the holidays approach, we had our researchers look into interesting Christmas facts we never knew, and we're sure you didn't, either!

(Image credit: dwellingsbydevore.com)

Check them out:

13    Dec 201422 comments

Christmas 1914: A holiday truce

This Christmas marks 100 years since the famous Christmas truce of WWI, in 1914.

During a stormy winter of fighting between the two sides, a widespread but unofficial truce emerged in the week leading up to - and on - the holiday. German and British soldiers began to exchange seasonal greetings and to sing songs between their trenches. There were even occasions where soldiers walked over to opposing sides to talk to their counterparts and exchange gifts.

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the soldiers put aside their differences for a few hours. Many of them - from both sides - ventured into "no man's land," where they met and exchanged food and souvenirs, and sang carols together.

German and British soldiers meeting in no man's land, December 26, 1914

It is said that at the first light of dawn on Christmas Day, some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines calling out "Merry Christmas." The Allied soldiers were wary at first, thinking it might be a trick, but when they saw the Germans approach them unarmed, they climbed out of their trenches as well, and shook hands with the enemy. Continue reading "Christmas 1914: A holiday truce" »

16    Nov 20143 comments

Thanksgiving Traditions: Old and new

Thanksgiving is almost here and it’s time for family, food and football!

For decades, Americans have been celebrating Thanksgiving with its fun traditions, from watching the Macy’s Day Parade to eating turkey.

Here are some of our favorite traditions and the stories behind them: Continue reading "Thanksgiving Traditions: Old and new" »

11    Nov 201411 comments

Legacy of War Heroes: Honoring our ancestors

Today we remember those heroes who fought for their countries and sacrificed their lives to save many.

Whether a fighter on the battlefield, or part of the home-front movement, these heroic men and women fought to protect their families, country and friends - their memories will always remain with us.

Many of us may have a personal link to Remembrance Day, or Veterans Day, by honoring our own ancestors who fought and lost their lives in battle.

Last week, we asked readers to share memories of the war heroes in your family, and received many emotional stories. Let’s remember and honor some of those heroes and preserve their memories: Continue reading "Legacy of War Heroes: Honoring our ancestors" »

2    Oct 20148 comments

Surname Secrets: What’s in a name?

A surname passes through many generations connecting family members with that common surname. Many people are also named after deceased relatives to honor those who came before.

Surnames first appeared in the Middle Ages as a way to record and document people and for tax purposes. Details included given names, nicknames, parents’ names, occupation and residence. This personal information later became an important part of the history of surnames.

Women brewsters in the early 1900s in Seattle. Image credit: THE SEATTLE TIMES ARCHIVE

We recently wrote about jobs that no longer exist, and it was common for our ancestors to have surnames based on their occupation such as Cook, Carpenter or Smith. By looking at their surnames, it often leads us to learn more about our relatives’ lives. Yet there are many occupational surnames with hidden meanings. Here are a few of our favorites: Continue reading "Surname Secrets: What’s in a name?" »

29    Sep 20143 comments

A Sacrifice: The story of an Italian WWI hero

This year marks a century since the beginning of World War I. To commemorate, we share the touching story of Italian soldier Cesare Mele, from Sezze, south of Rome.

A view of ancient Sezze, in southern Italy

While the Central Powers consisted of Austria-Hungary and Germany, Italy decided to remain neutral in 1914, and eventually joined the Allies (France, UK and Russia) in May 1915. Once they entered the conflict, 650,000 Italian soldiers died, 947,000 were wounded, and 600,000 disappeared or were captured as prisoners of war.

MyHeritage user Lucia Fusco shared the story of Cesare Mele, her courageous great-uncle , who, through his self-sacrifice, was able to save his own family. Continue reading "A Sacrifice: The story of an Italian WWI hero" »

27    Sep 20143 comments

Accidental Discoveries: Penicillin, corn flakes and more!

This September marks 86 years since scientist Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928.

Unlike many inventions that come about from years of research and hard work, penicillin was an unexpected discovery. When Fleming, a professor of bacteriology, returned home from his two-week vacation, he began sorting through his petri dishes. He noticed mold had formed on his staphylococcus samples. This mold was actually a strain of Penicillium notatum which inhibited bacterial growth. The modern era of medicine hasn't been the same since.

Over the course of history, Fleming's discovery wasn't the only "accidental" invention.  Albert Einstein said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” You'll never know when an error may turn into a life-saving treatment or a Nobel Prize-winning invention.

Here are examples of other "accidental" discoveries: Continue reading "Accidental Discoveries: Penicillin, corn flakes and more!" »

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