The first-ever World Festival showcasing diverse Jewish communities around the world and their unique traditions took place in the Mediterranean seaside resort city of Netanya – often called the Israeli Riviera.
Thousands of families flocked to the three-day festival from Sunday-Tuesday, 16-18 October. The timing was significant as it took place during Sukkot – the Feast of Booths – and a holiday of festivals took place throughout the country.
The festival especially attracted young families looking for a free, fun outing during the national holiday. More than 20 countries - including Canada, Ethiopia, Slovakia, Peru, Ukraine, South Africa, France, United States, Bulgaria, Argentina and Finland, among others - hosted traditional booths and displayed a hands-on approach to their individual ways of celebrating .The holiday features the common tradition of living in temporary structures during the week-long harvest holiday.
MyHeritage is all about reuniting families, so we were delighted to participate in the recent meeting of Ronald van der Voort (51) and his half-sister Anneliese (known as Anna) (70).
Ronald’s father - Cornelius Franziscus Staps – was born in Mönchengladbach, Germany, although his paternal ancestors were from the Netherlands. Cornelius’ marriage to a German woman, Anna Baum, produced a daughter, Anneliese.
After the marriage dissolved, he returned to the Netherlands and left his daughter with his former wife. He hoped that Anna would visit him, although that was wishful thinking – he never saw her again. In fact, he went to Germany several times in attempts to find her, but those efforts were in vain.
Cornelius’ son Ronald, born in the Netherlands, grew up longing for his sister. Following the death of his father, Ronald began searching again. He looked for years with no success; his sister had seemingly disappeared.
Even popular TV shows couldn’t help him. The only lead during this entire time was a small piece of paper given to Ronald by a sympathetic town hall employee. The paper bore only the name of Anna’s step-father. Although searches for that name were attempted, nothing was found.
Anna grew up with her mother after her parents’ marriage ended. All she knew was her father’s name and that he was German. She lived in her hometown until her teens.
During her teens, Anna decided to study in the UK as part of a school program. When she applied for her passport, an official told her that she could not obtain a German passport because her father was, in fact, Dutch. That was quite a surprise!
In England, Anna found her true love. They married and moved to New Zealand where – nearly 50 years later – they still live. Unknown to her, Ronald lived 11,000 miles away in the Netherlands and was trying to find his sister.
When our MyHeritage team attended the recent Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) conference in Springfield, Illinois, we met Meredith Sellers of Champaign, Illinois.
Meredith is married, in her 20s and is a genealogy and Family History Center consultant. She had a nice chat with our Chief Genealogist Daniel Horowitz about her personal research success story and the family reunion she organized. Here is her story:
Meredith's experience with MyHeritage and charts
Meredith had read about MyHeritage on various genealogy blogs long before her family reunion, and while she had quickly and easily uploaded a GEDCOM file of her family tree, she had not explored the printing functionality at MyHeritage.
"As I brainstormed the best way to display over 300 family members in an easily understandable graphic format, I discovered MyHeritage's descendant fan chart," says Meredith.
She discovered that the chart-making interface synched directly with her existing GEDCOM data which allowed her to directly import names and dates. She was also able to change various aspects, such as background color, graphics and ornamental frame.
I became a member of MyHeritage.com in 2009 when I was undertaking my own family history research. I looked at the site after reading an article and uploaded my family tree to see what would happen. Within a short time, an e-mail arrived advising me of possible “Smart Matches” in my tree. I was able to confirm them, and from then on, I was hooked.
Through the site, I have made contact with several living relatives across the UK and we have been able to share stories and photographs of our ancestors. Imagine finding a whole new set of relatives you knew nothing about!
In addition, I am a self-employed professional genealogist and have found MyHeritage.com a huge help as I can import my clients’ trees (GEDCOM), work on them and then invite the client as a member so they can view information I have located for them. Similarly, I have also been invited by clients’ to join their trees as members. This has allowed me to export trees to my own family history program on my laptop. In turn, this allows me to access the electronic tree in my software program and update it when I visit various archives without wireless internet access. I can then export it to MyHeritage.com again so that that there is always an up-to-date tree online.
This story was written by MyHeritage user, Scott Phillips, founder of the Onward To Our Past genealogy blog and Facebook page. Here he shares with us the Cornish family history of his beloved paternal grandfather, 'Gramps' Phillips.
As is so often the case in families, I had a favorite relative. While I had wonderful folks, great sisters, cool cousins, and a bunch of fun aunts and uncles, my ‘Gramps’ Phillips holds a very special place in my heart and in my life.
I was blessed that my granddad had two things going for him. One, he loved to tell a good story; and two, he loved his town, Cornwall, located in the United Kingdom.
How I loved to hear stories of his hometown of Wadebride, of his aunts who lived in Sladesbridge, and of how he spent his days as a youth, which always sounded like a slice of heaven to me.
His stories were always funny, poignant, and incredibly vivid – and full of the love he had for Cornwall. Many times he would include even the smallest details of where he was raised, down to the color of the house and its shutters! At the time I was hearing these stories, I certainly did not realize they would be the defining moment in the development of my love of genealogy.
Whilst researching his family history, MyHeritage.com user John P (Jack) Poynter, uncovered some astonishing facts about his family’s military past. The military seems to be a recurring theme for Jack and his family. His American mother and English father fell in love whilst his father was training for the RAF in Jacksonville, Florida, during World War II.
His mother later joined the Royal Women's Auxiliary Ambulance Corps and Jack himself became a data processor in the Corps in 1966. But the military gene went much further back. By researching his great-great-grandfather’s service in the Georgia Infantry ‘Twiggs Country Guards’ in the mid-1800s, Jack had set the wheels in motion for researching a whopping 525 family histories of other servicemen.
Read on to find out, in Jack’s own words, how he discovered he’s related to more than a quarter of the American Civil War servicemen in Twiggs County, Georgia.
This week we have a story from Julian Hall, whose family history research led to him finding some extremely interesting characters in his family tree.
Some facts remain unknown, but since embarking on his family history journey Julian has made some amazing discoveries, such as:
• Finding his ancestor was the Court Photographer to the British Royals, who also became the most prolific war photographer of World War I and was awarded an OBE
• Discovering the tale of a relative who was a policeman, and who died in mysterious circumstances while on the job in London in 1908
• Tracing a great-uncle who served in World War II, who the family stories suggested died at Arnhem, but whose records indicated something else
Here Julian tells some of his stories – as well as how he originally got into family history – in his own words.
This short story comes from a UK-based MyHeritage User, Suzanne Jenkins. Although Suzanne hasn’t had an easy job tracing her husband’s ancestors (he has very common surnames in the tree!), she has found some interesting background about her family. Here she shares a short story about her ancestors' lives in the East End of London, during the Victorian era. It gives a brief glimpse into how life must have been back then.
Scott has been with MyHeritage.com now for quite a few years. In researching his family history, he has come across a number of amazing stories. His genealogy blog "Onward to Our Past" is focused on Bohemia, the Czech community of Cleveland, Cornwall in the UK, Italy and Italian immigration. He shares a few of his stories with us here.
I am Scott Phillips, an avid genealogist and family historian. I have always been interested in my family roots and ties since childhood. I have wonderful memories of gathering with my extended family and trying to understand the differences between my Cornish-rooted family and my Bohemian family members. Always wondered why I love eating pasty and Knedliky so much! Of course, living with my grandmother who often spoke Czech helped a lot to instill in me a wonder for where we all came from.
About two years ago my son came to my wife and me and informed us that we were going to be grandparents again. The icing on this cake was that if it was a boy, he and his wife had decided to name him William after my father. Since my father had passed away the year before, I decided to ‘just write a couple paragraphs’ about my new grandson’s namesake for him. Little did I know how badly the genealogy bug would grab a hold of me! As I have seen written and is certainly true of me: “I used to have a life, then I discovered genealogy”.