Genealogical research today is very different from that of a few years ago.
Sites like MyHeritage enable us to communicate with more people, faster and more easily, while reaching out to others worldwide.
Tools - such as Smart Matches - help you discover new ancestors and possible relatives with similarities in their family trees and who may have a direct relationship with you.
Today we'd like to know what you discovered when researching your family heritage. Where do your ancestors come from?
When the genealogy “bug” hits us, we just can't help ourselves. We want to search deeper into our heritage.
A great way to start is with our children and grandchildren.
Children are curious about black-and-white photos, strange names, and seeing a family tree filled with images of people they may or may not know. Most importantly, they ask questions - lots of questions!
Children love listening to stories, so reading to them about the family is a great way to grab their interest and demonstrate that they are part of a grander history. Sharing family moments creates a stronger family bond, as well as a chance to share ancestral information.
Do you share family stories with your children and grandchildren? How do you pass on your unique heritage to the younger generations? Let us know in the comments below.
My colleague Javier showed me an article in the Spanish magazine Zankyou, which discusses marriage as the merging of two family trees, and therefore the perfect occasion to honor our ancestors.
The article suggests some very original ways to not only think about those relatives who have passed on, but actually incorporate genealogy in our wedding celebrations.
One way is with jewelry. Some people choose to wear a special family heirloom, like a brooch, others use their ancestors' rings as their own wedding bands.
Artist Ashley Gilreath takes it one step further. Ashley specializes in creating pieces that fuse heirlooms with their story, and like the necklace below, with genealogy.
How do our surroundings, our homes, impact our families, our thoughts, our history?
Isn't this what our pursuit of genealogy helps to reconstruct? To make sure that our family history remains alive and known and preserved?
In a poem by Leib Borisovich Talalai, a young poet whose family was from our ancestral village of Vorotinschtina, Belarus, and who was murdered in Minsk (1941), he writes about his family home in the village, "If the walls of this house could talk. ..." When I found two of his slim books of poetry at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, it was fascinating to read his words.
Now, we'd like to ask who is the oldest living relative in your tree?
Who's the oldest ancestor you've discovered? What were their longevity secrets? Let us know in the comments section below.
We recently wrote about Genea-journeys, which we described as "a journey to research your family history and discover new relatives and information about them, or it could be an actual physical trip to the places your ancestors lived."
Without the chance to personally visit my ancestors' homes, I wondered what they looked like. I wanted to get a sense of the physical surroundings in which they lived.
After reading an interesting article about how to use Google Images for family history research, I decided to take my own virtual genea-journey using Google's Street View. This tool lets you tour - virtually - almost any road in the world.
In times gone by, were families so much bigger than today?
My grandmother was one of eight and my grandfather one of seven. Many of my ancestors also came from large families. I used to wonder whether people tended to have bigger families.
According to UK statistics, the 1900 birth rate was 3.5 children per family; by the end of the century (1997), the rate fell to 1.7 children.
Why do you think people had larger families back then?
What about your family? How many siblings did your grandparents have?
Let us know in the poll below.
Genetic memory is what we call that “feeling” that some individuals have, where they connect with their ancestors in some strange or unusual way.
Today, such people may be of different religions and nationalities than their ancestors, but still feel an unusual connection – often since childhood – to those ancestors who lived very different lives.
Biologically, we are all links in a chain to our past generations. Can these biological links connect us to our ancestors in different ways?
Writes journalist and author Doreen Carvajal:
I'm intrigued by the notion that generations pass on particular survival skills and, perhaps, an unconscious sense of identity that stands the test of centuries. In the case of my own Catholic Carvajal family, I wonder what prompted them to guard the secret of their Sephardic Jewish identity for generations long after the Spanish Inquisition that prompted them to flee to Costa Rica in Central America.
Many families treasure one or more family heirlooms passed down through the generations from their ancestors.
Whether these cherished items are personal objects, letters or photos, they hold great sentimental value and help preserve memories of previous generations.
In my family, we're fortunate to have artifacts and original documents from the older generations. We also love looking through the old family photo albums; it's interesting seeing the relatives, how they dressed and where they lived.
What about your family? Do you have family heirlooms?
Let us know in the poll below.
According to this article in News OK, it's more difficult to find female ancestors.
Some reasons are that women had no voting rights, no land ownership rights, and their names changed after marriage.
Thus, there were fewer documents containing relevant information, or it was hard to find the connections between existing documents and a later marriage, with a new surname.
This makes it hard to locate our female ancestors as well as their extended families.
Today, in most countries, women are equal citizens in every way, and enjoy full property ownership and voting rights. Many women either retain their maiden names or the new couple creates a double-barreled surname. These social changes could arguably make researching our female ancestors a bit easier - at least in the future.
People like genealogy because of the challenge of finding new family members.
Have you had problems locating female ancestors? Are there those you have not yet identified? Were you able to find them? What resources did you use to overcome a specific challenge?
We'd like to learn about your experiences via the comments below.