9    Sep 20137 comments

Our Stories: Planning a family reunion

By his own account, Norwood Wayne Newkirk says that reading and history were not his greatest passions as he grew up. Today that has changed, as he was the project manager for his family’s reunion held August 1-4, 2013, in New Jersey.

He holds a degree in electrical engineering and worked as a loss prevention consultant. Today he creates risk management systems as a senior account executive and computer application developer.

So what I have done over the past two years [since the 2011 reunion] in preparation for our 2013 reunion is not a far stretch from what I do vocationally. I see the issue and try to develop a solution.

However, as he went through life, he began to recognize that something was missing.

I found a church with teaching ministry that filled the void in my spiritual life and became very active in leading the Media Volunteer Ministry (it is in my genes). Yet there was an area still lacking.

I eventually recognized I had become distant from my family, not because I wanted to, but life situations and circumstances caused things to happen just that way. In fact, there was a time when I truly could not remember a large chunk of my past.

As life would have it, things changed and there was a rekindling of his family history. As family members grew older and died, it offered occasions for the family to come together more frequently than they would like.

It was on those occasions that I heard stories about family members including myself. Stories that made you laugh and stories that made you say, “Did that really happen?” At that point I began to understand what I was missing. It was family. Cousins that I grew up were now distant relatives.

At his grandmother’s funeral, a family pastor talked about thing his grandparents experienced over 92 years of their life and the legacy they left behind.

The Starling family could have written “Roots.” This revelation showed me the importance of family.

Continue reading "Our Stories: Planning a family reunion" »

7    Sep 20131 comment

Family Heritage: Patriots, spies and other surprises

While some genealogists have been at it for only a few years, MyHeritage member Gary Fenton Kemp, 76, has been researching for decades.

Gary became interested in computers in the early 1970s.  He also observed his parents, then in their 70s, trying to put together their genealogy by typing and writing everything out by hand. He knew that there had to be some way to use computers and began searching for a program that would be able to organize the data.

I found PAF and started using it. In 1987, I went to my parents’ home and spent three days entering data for 752 names.

Gary has many interests in addition to family history, such as surfing, fly fishing, geocaching, glider racing and lifting weights. He’s been an educator from kindergarten through university, and conducted teacher training programs in Fiji and elsewhere. Although now retired as a teacher, coach, high school principal and school district superintendent, he is still active, serves as a local school board member and as a Boy Scout merit badge counselor.

The San Tan Valley, Arizona resident has been married to Nancy for 54 years, has four children, 13 grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and four more on the way.

Gary's paternal grandparents' wedding photo,1881

He’s discovered so many exciting and interesting things about his family history. Continue reading "Family Heritage: Patriots, spies and other surprises" »

21    Aug 20138 comments

Nostalgia: Old family photographs

A few years ago, my grandmother gave me a shoebox filled with some of her mother’s heirlooms and photos. I looked through it briefly, but had then forgotten about it until last month.

My grandmother had told me stories about her childhood, but these photo discoveries really brought my family history to life. I finally got to put faces to those stories I had heard over the past few years, and to see my family heritage displayed in front of me.

I moved last month. Although moving can be stressful, I was in for a surprise when I discovered a box filled with family treasures at the back of a closet.

Last week I sat with my grandmother and together we looked through these family memories. As we viewed each photo and heirloom, she began to tell stories she hadn't mentioned before about the people and events in each picture. Continue reading "Nostalgia: Old family photographs" »

21    May 20132 comments

Memorial Day: Free access to US military records

Memorial Day in the US  is May 27, and millions of Americans will remember the men and women who died while serving in the US Armed Forces.

In honor of this special day, we are proud to provide free access - through May 28 -  to our most popular collections of US military records.

Search now

Journey back in time to some of the most important conflicts in world history that not only  impacted families in the US, but millions of families worldwide.

Continue reading "Memorial Day: Free access to US military records" »

12    Apr 20135 comments

Family History: Going home again!

An exciting dimension to family history is returning to our ancestors' hometowns, whether overseas in the "old country," or closer to our current home.

Every year, increasing numbers of families walk the streets that their great-grandparents walked in Scotland, view the Greek and Portuguese village buildings their ancestors saw each day, and visit Eastern European houses of worship and cemeteries.

An historic drawing of a street in Mogilev, Belarus, where my family lived

Some geographical areas even promote ancestral or heritage trips - such as Ireland. Trips can be just just quick tourist-type visits to where ancestors might have lived or entail intensive research trips to archives. Go on your own or visit locales with major genealogical societies, such as the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) which organizes trips to London, Belfast and Dublin.

Thinking about such a trip? Here are some resources to help you plan the trip of a lifetime. Don't forget to bring the kids and the grandparents! Continue reading "Family History: Going home again!" »

28    Mar 20135 comments

Competition: Win ‘Labyrinth’ on DVD!

Do you have any secrets passed down through your family's generations?

Labyrinth is the story of two intelligent headstrong heroines, 17-year-old Alaïs Pelletier (Jessica Brown Findlay) from 13th century Carcassonne and modern-day PhD graduate Dr. Alice Tanner (Vanessa Kirby), who experience an adventure that intertwines their lives.

After inheriting a house in the South of France from an aunt she has never met, Alice stumbles upon an 800-year-old archaeological find.

Separated by time, but united in a common destiny, Alice is driven to find out about Alaïs and the past, which leads her through a journey into discovering the stories behind secrets passed down through the generations.

Continue reading "Competition: Win ‘Labyrinth’ on DVD!" »

19    Mar 20133 comments

Poll: Where are your ancestors from?

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 Matcheshelp 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?

Tell us your stories in the comments below, or via Facebook , Twitter or Google+


26    Feb 20130 comments

Family History: Our children, their ancestors

When the genealogy “bug” hits us, we just can't help ourselves. We want to search deeper into our heritage.

It's disappointing when some family members don't share our ancestor interest. We want them to ask questions and learn about our shared family history.

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.

23    Jan 20135 comments

Weddings: Celebrating the present, remembering the past

At family celebrations, and especially at weddings, we tend to think about those relatives who are no longer with us.

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. Continue reading "Weddings: Celebrating the present, remembering the past" »

16    Jan 20134 comments

Family History: Our place in space

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.

What an image he presented of a home’s talking walls! What if we could access those memories? What do you know about the spaces in which your ancestors lived? Continue reading "Family History: Our place in space" »

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