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!" »

9    Apr 20134 comments

MyHeritage: Australia’s ‘Shake Your Family Tree 2013′

MyHeritage is proud to be the official sponsor of Shake Your Family Tree 2013, presented by the National Archives of Australia.

Set for Tuesday, April 16, from 9.30am to 4pm, the event is taking place at local National Archives offices in Australia's state capitals.

Shake Your Family Tree, the annual family history day, includes a full day of activities to help you get started in your family history research, and celebrate your family heritage.

Many Australians are descendants of immigrants, and this year's theme is immigration. Australians can research records at events held at various state offices to learn their family’s story of arriving and settling in Australia.

Attendees will be able to speak to experts and participate in sessions with guest speakers and panels; resource advice will be available to help discover your ancestral background.

For our Australian MyHeritage users, this is a great day to discover tips for family history research and find records for your ancestors.

Continue reading "MyHeritage: Australia’s ‘Shake Your Family Tree 2013′" »

4    Apr 20130 comments

Surname of the week: ANDERSEN

On April 2, we celebrated Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday and International Children’s Book Day.

In honor of the Danish author and poet, we look at the surname ANDERSEN this week.

It is a patronymic surname from the personal name Anders, a vernacular form of Andreas. From the New Testament, the Greek name Andreas derives from andreios, meaning “manly” and aner, meaning, “man” or “male.”

Andreas was the first of Christ’s disciples. Various forms for this personal name throughout Europe are André (France) and Andrea (Italy).

It also gave rise to the northern Middle English name Andrew, which was absorbed in the surname ANDERSON. St. Andrew was also the patron saint of Scotland, making the surname popular in Scotland, under the spelling ANDERSON.

Continue reading "Surname of the week: ANDERSEN" »

13    Mar 20131 comment

Surname of the Week: Dennis

Welcome back to our weekly edition of the history of English surnames.

Today we look at DENNIS, in honor of the debut of the "Dennis the Menace" comic strip on March 12, 1951.

DENNIS comes from the medieval personal name Den(n)is (Latin Dionysius, Greek Dionysios’  - follower) in reference to an early Eastern god believed to be the protector of the vine.

St. Denis, the 3rd-century martyred Bishop of Paris, was one of the first mentions. However, the modern popularity of the name in England came in the 12th-century, via a French influence. The first recording of the name was believed to be Walter Denys in 1272. Throughout the centuries, the surname developed with DENNIS being a variant.

Continue reading "Surname of the Week: Dennis" »

6    Mar 20130 comments

Surname of the Week: Churchill

Welcome back to our weekly edition of the history of English surnames.

Today we look at CHURCHILL, in honor of Sir Winston Churchill’s famous Iron Curtain speech made on March 5, 1956.

Churchill, an ancient Norman name that arrived in England after the Norman conquest of 1066, derives from the town Curcelle, which became confused with the English name “Churchill.”

This geographical surname comes from various towns named Churchill (in Oxfordshire, Somerset and Worcestershire).  The name goes back to pre-7th century Old English for cyrice (church) and hyll (hill). The surname means “the church on the hill.”

There is one known case where the name's translation is different.

Continue reading "Surname of the Week: Churchill" »

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" »

7    Feb 20130 comments

MyHeritage offers major discounts on DNA tests for genealogy

In February 2012, MyHeritage introduced DNA testing for genealogy. And now, to celebrate the first anniversary, we're providing significant discounts to make DNA tests more affordable for all our users.

The discounts are available for a limited period, so now's your best chance to get a DNA test and take your family history research to the next level.

Order your DNA test now

MyHeritage DNA

MyHeritage DNA tests (click to zoom)

Continue reading "MyHeritage offers major discounts on DNA tests for genealogy" »

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" »

18    Jan 20133 comments

Poll: Family history in the genes?

Family history is important to us and, as a reader of this blog, it's probably important to you, too!

While family history is a fascinating subject, with more and more people getting involved than ever before, sometimes the desire to research our family history also runs in the family!

Some of us have family trees that have been passed down through the generations. Others are inspired to find out more via the stories our relatives share with us.

We want to know if researching family history runs in your family? Did your parents and grandparents research their family history? Were you inspired by their research? Alternatively, are you the first of your relatives to catch the genea-bug?

Let us know in the poll (or comments) below:

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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