24    Nov 20154 comments

The Woman Who Made Thanksgiving Happen

Year after year, Americans gather around the table on the fourth Thursday of November to celebrate Thanksgiving. Many recognize its origins as connected to the 1621 Pilgrim feast and thanksgiving prompted by a good harvest, but few know the woman responsible for making the celebration official. Sarah Josepha Hale, author and poet, fought to institutionalize Thanksgiving. Through her efforts, it was declared a national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln.

1863 letter from Hale to Lincoln discussing Thanksgiving. (Credit: Library of Congress)

This Thanksgiving is 152 years since the proclamation by President Lincoln, making it a national holiday. MyHeritage decided to locate the descendants of Sarah Hale and to look deeper into the legacy passed down through the generations of her family.

Sarah Josepha Buell was born October 24, 1788 in Newport, New Hampshire. She married lawyer David Hale in 1813, and the couple had five children. A writer and influential editor, she wrote letters to politicians for 27 years advocating for Thanksgiving to become an official holiday. Until then, Thanksgiving was celebrated mainly in New England, and on different dates in each state.

Hale wrote letters to five different US presidents: Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan and Abraham Lincoln. Although her initial letters failed to yield results, her letter to Lincoln convinced him to support 1863 legislation to establish the national holiday of Thanksgiving. Continue reading "The Woman Who Made Thanksgiving Happen" »

18    Nov 20150 comments

Lost Letters: A rare glimpse into the past

What if you could travel back to a specific time and place and get a real look at what life was like then? For 17th-century Europe, thousands of pieces of correspondence are now being unveiled, making time travel seem possible!

The trunk in which the letters were kept (Image credit: Hague Museum for Communication)

A recent article in The Guardian reports that a treasure trove of unopened letters from the 17th-century are now being studied after having been hidden away for many centuries in the Netherlands. Continue reading "Lost Letters: A rare glimpse into the past" »

11    Nov 20152 comments

War Heroes: Remembering your family’s heroes

Today we commemorate the brave men and women in your families who fought for their countries. Earlier this week, we asked you to send in stories and photographs of your family's war heroes. By paying tribute to them and to their sacrifices, we hope to remember them and to preserve their legacies. Lest we forget.

Here are some of the stories and photographs shared with us: Continue reading "War Heroes: Remembering your family’s heroes" »

8    Nov 20150 comments

Remembrance Day: Your family’s heroes

Across generations and around the world, families have been affected by war. Relatives have had to put aside family life in service of their country, and some even made the ultimate sacrifice.

For many, the act of remembering the fallen heroes of past wars is not just of national significance; it's also familial and personal. We pay our respects to the brave men and women who fought for their countries, and who are also remembered by the relatives who lost them. Continue reading "Remembrance Day: Your family’s heroes" »

30    Sep 20151 comment

Life on Mars: Thoughts from 100 years ago

The news has been abuzz recently about newfound evidence of water on Mars, leading some people to believe that there may indeed be life on our neighboring planet. Although we may have new cause for believing in the possibility of life on Mars, it is definitely not a new idea. In fact, life on Mars has been the topic of speculation for many curious explorers for over a century.

In an article from the Burlington Hawk Eye Newspaper, published in Burlington, Iowa - Aug 5 1894, a wacky professor made some interesting claims about Earth's inhabitants and their alleged Martian heritage:

(Credit: SuperSearch www.myheritage.com/research).

Professor Ezekiel Wiggins said "The Martians regard us as their lost brethren and have been searching for us for thousands of years. They have been especially hopeful since they saw the electric lights in our cities."

Continue reading "Life on Mars: Thoughts from 100 years ago" »

29    Sep 201555 comments

Extinct Crafts: Shoemaking

People used to keep a pair of shoes for a lifetime. They were a cherished and expensive possession. People would bring them to shoemakers in the hope that they could restore their shine and luster and bring them back to life.

Today, although traditional shoemakers still exist and we are able to visit their shops, they are fewer and more difficult to find. Like many artisans, many are closing their doors. Shoes have been mass-produced for many years and are easily replaceable at low cost.

The smell of real leather and quality craftsmanship evoke memories and take us back to a different time. A time where attention to detail, uniqueness, and quality were tantamount. It is possible that real shoemakers will soon be extinct!

(Image credit: Soletopia.com)

Thousands of years ago, man first tied animal skin around his feet to protect them, and the concept of footwear materialized. Not only would shoes protect people from rugged terrain and long journeys, they would help them deal with extreme temperatures of heat or cold, and allow them to move freely. Continue reading "Extinct Crafts: Shoemaking" »

20    Sep 20159 comments

Old Photos: Why our ancestors didn’t smile

We remember our ancestors by their photos, which provide small glimpses into their world, and bring them to life once again. If preserved properly, photos offer lasting impressions for future generations.

When looking at old photos of our ancestors, it's easy to wonder what they were thinking at that moment. Their ambiguous expressions leave us questioning. Were they happy? Were they sad?

It's extremely rare to find 19th-century photos where people are smiling or showing any emotion. What's the story behind their stony and serious stares? Continue reading "Old Photos: Why our ancestors didn’t smile" »

17    Sep 20150 comments

Fashion Styles: 100 years in two minutes

Everything changes over time, including relationships, memories and, of course, fashion. Clothing trends constantly evolve. Sometimes it's difficult for us to realize just how much styles have changed over the years, and over our own lifetimes.

In the past, we've written about photographing styles and fashion of times gone by.

Website Mode.com has taken a long hard look in the mirror and presented fashion styles for women over the past century  in a two-minute video! It is fascinating, and can be watched over and over.

The video has over 6 million views, so take a look!

Which decade over the past century has had the most interesting styles?

29    Aug 20150 comments

Then and Now: Seven ways summer vacation has changed

During summer vacations, many parents scramble to find fun and enjoyable things for their children to do and keep them occupied. For many children, the beginning of September means the sad end to their summers.

While it's still summer, we wanted to travel back in time tand take a look at some summer activities, then and now. Continue reading "Then and Now: Seven ways summer vacation has changed" »

4    Aug 20153 comments

Remembering Louis Armstrong

(Image credit: Wikipedia)

This month marks the birthday of musical icon Louis Armstrong, known by his nicknames Satchmo or Pops. As an American jazz trumpeter and singer, he was one of the most influential jazz musicians in history.

Renowned for his stage presence and throaty voice as much as for his trumpet-playing, Armstrong's influence extended well beyond jazz music, and his charismatic and heartfelt performances.

"He left an undying testimony to the human condition in the America of his time" - Wynton Marsalis

Armstrong was born August 4, 1901, in  New Orleans, Louisiana, to Mary Albert Armstrong (1886–1942) and William Armstrong (1881–1922). He was the grandson of slaves raised on plantations. They spoke English rather than French and, like most slaves, had little idea of their origins. Louis himself grew up in a poverty-stricken rough neighborhood in New Orleans, known as “Back of Town.” When he was only a baby, his father left the family. From then until he was 5, he and his sister Beatrice were taken care of by their grandmother, Josephine Armstrong. At 5, he moved back to live with his mother, and only very rarely saw his father. Continue reading "Remembering Louis Armstrong" »

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