27    Feb 20133 comments

New section: Surname of the week

MyHeritage welcomes you to a new weekly blog post, "Surname of the week." We'll discuss the origin, history and other information of one surname in each post.

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.

English surnames, as we know them today, began in England as early as the 11th century. However, it was not until the late-17th-century that many families adopted permanent surnames.

Generally speaking, family names fall into the following categories with some examples given:

  • Occupation: Smith, Taylor or Miller
  • Personal characteristics: Young, Black or White
  • Geographic or locations: Hamilton, Bush, Hill,  Windsor or Murray
  • Patronymics, Matronymics or Ancestral:  Stephenson, Richardson or Harris

In honor of American-British Actress Elizabeth Taylor's birthday, we look at TAYLOR this week:

Continue reading "New section: Surname of the week" »

18    Feb 20130 comments

Happy Presidents’ Day!

Washington's Birthday Image credit: Wikipedia

Washington's Birthday. Image credit: Wikipedia

Today is, in the United States, “President's Day.” Did you know that this was originally celebrated as “Washington’s Birthday"?

Established in 1885 as a Federal holiday, it was first celebrated on February 22, Washington’s real birthday. It was also the first Federal holiday honoring an American citizen.

In 1971, the date changed to the third Monday in February, after the creation of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.

The Act also combined Washington’s Birthday with Abraham Lincoln’s, which fell on February 12. Lincoln’s Birthday had long been a state holiday in some states. The combining of these two days gave equal recognition to two of America's most famous men.

Since then the day has become known as President's Day and also honors other presidents born during February, including Ronald Reagan and William Henry Harrison. It is popularly seen as a day to recognize the lives and achievements of all US Presidents.

Continue reading "Happy Presidents’ Day!" »

15    Feb 20130 comments

Valentine’s Day: 1 billion cards

A card by Esther Rowland Courtesy Mount Holyoke College

How many valentines did you receive this year? How many did you send?

Some 190 million valentines are sent each year, according to the US Greeting Card Association. If you count the cards made by schoolchildren, it goes up to 1 billion. And, in 2010, some 15 million e-valentines were sent!

The American tradition of sending valentines was the idea of Esther Rowland (1828-1904), a young graduate of Mount Holyoke College (Massachusetts).

Holyoke's archives and special collections has an impressive collection of historic valentines, many created by Esther. She is credited with having established the commercial valentine industry in the US.

The school’s original name was the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, and Esther graduated in 1847. She was inspired by an ornate English valentine - sent by a family friend – to create her elaborate versions of the greeting card.

Continue reading "Valentine’s Day: 1 billion cards" »

13    Feb 201310 comments

MyHeritage adds millions of historical records

We've recently added millions of new records to MyHeritage's data collections.

The international collections include headstones, military records, yearbooks and even wanted posters and mugshots!

The records are searchable on MyHeritage's SuperSearch engine and are integrated with MyHeritage's Record Matching technology. This means that MyHeritage users will automatically receive notifications about records from these collections that match individuals in their family trees.

Here's some more information and links to the main collections we've added:

Continue reading "MyHeritage adds millions of historical records" »

5    Feb 20132 comments

Black History Month: Resource roundup

Henry Louis "Hank" Aaron, Major League Baseball Star, image credit: biography.com

Henry Louis "Hank" Aaron, Major League Baseball Star. Image credit: biography.com

In honor of Black History Month, established in 1926 and celebrated in February, here’s a roundup of resources – websites, blogs, repositories and more – to help you learn more about your family. Each resource listed offers more links to additional information.

Today is also the birthday of African American baseball superstar Henry Louis "Hank" Aaron, born in 1934.  A major league baseball icon, Aaron is best known for breaking Babe Ruth's home run record. Read more on Aaron.

For many black families with roots in the Southern US states, research can be frustrating. Although African American genealogy research can get back to the 1880s and much earlier, it is difficult for most researchers. Researching their family trees has been almost impossible, as their ancestors' original names were literally erased. Slaves' African given names were replaced by English names and their surnames were those of their owners.

With the advent of new databases and technological tools, research has become much easier. A growing number of individuals are preparing their family stories and discovering images of their unique history. Continue reading "Black History Month: Resource roundup" »

21    Jan 20130 comments

Holidays: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Martin Luther KingToday, the US observes Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a Federal holiday.

Dr. King was world-renowned for his work for the civil rights movement in America, leading to the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born Michael King, Jr. in 1924 in Atlanta, Georgia. His name was changed 10 years later, after his family visited Eisleben, Germany, the birthplace of Martin Luther, who founded Protestantism. His father, Michael King Sr., changed both his name and his son's name to Martin Luther in honor of him.

Continue reading "Holidays: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day" »

22    Nov 20121 comment

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is a time when many families come from near and far to celebrate together, a time for reminiscing and sharing stories.

It's also a great opportunity to make family history discoveries. Ask your relatives about their lives, and the lives of their parents. Asking about past family Thanksgiving celebrations can be an enjoyable conversation for all the family where you can learn how your ancestors celebrated and discover other unknown information.

Try and use the time when the family is all together to share with them what you've discovered about your collective family history. Who knows, perhaps you'll get a piece of information that will help you break down a brick wall in your research.

Continue reading "Happy Thanksgiving!" »

19    Nov 20126 comments

Holiday: Talking Turkey

Holidays“Gobble, gobble” to everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving!

This wonderful family holiday is celebrated by Americans around the world, no matter where they live. It's the time for families to get together and share a delicious feast. The day often includes watching football on TV and planning for “Black Friday” shopping deals!

It is a genuine family holiday and many of us have touching or hilarious stories about Thanksgivings past.

MyHeritage invites you to share your funny stories for the chance to win a one-year PremiumPlus membership. Simply comment on this post or post comments on our Facebook wall or, if you can fit it into 140 characters, tweet them @myheritage. The winning story will be announced on Friday.

Since I can’t participate in the competition as I'm part of the MyHeritage team, here’s my hilarious holiday story.

Continue reading "Holiday: Talking Turkey" »

16    Nov 20121 comment

Cousins Connect: Lithuania to the UK and US

We love bringing member success stories to our readers. They provide encouragement, offer tips, and show what can be accomplished. We especially like the stories of our younger members, which often spotlight social media.

Joe Tarsh of Manchester (UK) is only 21 and became interested in his family when he was 13.

I came to the realization that I wanted to know where I came from and a little voice at the back of my head told me that if I don’t ask now, then all the people who can answer may not be around to answer those questions much longer.

Born in London in 1991, his family moved to Hertfordshire, where he lived until 18. He then took a gap year, returned to the UK in 2010 and is now in his third year at university, studying for a degree in youth and community work.

He joined MyHeritage in March 2010 because he liked the site’s easy accessibility, found it simple to use and it had an incredible amount of data.

Continue reading "Cousins Connect: Lithuania to the UK and US" »

16    Sep 20123 comments

Family: Stepfamily Day is September 16

National Stepfamily Day is celebrated on September 16. Dedicated to the stepfamily, it is a day to honor all the "Step-Heroes" out there who choose - every day - to be parents to all the children in their lives.

The day was founded by Christy Borgeld in 1997.

Stepfamilies are all around us. One in three Americans live in a stepfamily, and more than 50% of Americans will live in a stepfamily at some point in their lives, while some 30% of children grow up in stepfamilies. Another frequently-used term is "blended" families.

According to Bray & Kelly in a 1998 study, it may take at least four years or more for a step-parent to build a relationship with a step-child.

"Parenting differences" is the top reason cited by remarried couples who divorce due to the marriage's failure. Parenting agreements are crucial for a successful stepfamily.

Are you part of a step-family, or do you have a stepfamily? Share your comments below.

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