13    Dec 20144 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!" »

1    Sep 2014288 comments

Labor Day: 10 jobs that are obsolete

Did your great-grandfather cut ice for a living? Perhaps your grandmother was a switchboard operator and connected calls from house to house?

There are so many professions that our ancestors once followed that are now extinct today.

Here are 10 examples of professions that no longer exist:

1) A scissors-grinder was a street merchant that sharpened the blades of knives and scissors. He would call out in the streets or knock at the doors to try and get business. He worked the stone grinding wheel with his foot using a treadle.

A scissors-grinder in 1909. Credit: Maryland Historical Society Library.

Continue reading "Labor Day: 10 jobs that are obsolete" »

28    Aug 20141 comment

WWI: Unknown animal heroes

When we speak of war heroes, we generally refer to the brave men and women who fought and died for their country. Yet, many animals were on the frontlines with the soldiers. These heroic animals transported equipment, sent secret notes and informed of enemy movements.

Horses carrying ammunition at the Battle of Vimy Ridge

Horses:
Horses were used for transporting food, artillery, equipment and to carry wounded soldiers. Eight million horses from all sides of the war died during WWI. Continue reading "WWI: Unknown animal heroes" »

23    Aug 20141 comment

WWI Heroes: British women of the war

While many men went out to fight, it’s important to also remember the little known heroes who fought for their countries during the war.

Many brave women - doctors, nurses and soldiers - served on the battlefront, risking their lives to save others.

In honor of the WWI centenary, we highlight just a few of those heroic women: Continue reading "WWI Heroes: British women of the war" »

10    Jul 201432 comments

Search WWI military records for free!

2014 marks a century since the outbreak of World War I. On July 28 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Empire invaded Serbia, beginning a world war that would last four years and result in millions of casualties.

Were your ancestors among the brave men who fought? How did they serve their country? Learn more about them by searching hundreds of thousands of WWI military records.

Enjoy FREE access to the following record collections from now through the end of July: Continue reading "Search WWI military records for free!" »

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