"I can't tell you what it means to finally meet my brother after 65 years."
At MyHeritage, we regularly hear from our users about life-changing discoveries they have made about their families using our website. Today we share with you a truly exceptional story, and one that we had the privilege of taking part in as it unfolded. This is the story of two brothers separated as young children in post-World War II Europe. They hadn’t seen one another in 65 years — until MyHeritage reunited them.
We recently wrote about the fascinating Secret of Ereikoussa, where the residents of a small Greek island risked their lives to save a Jewish tailor’s family from the Nazis during WWII.
In November 2013, Emmy Award-winning writer, producer and author Yvette Manessis Corporon contacted MyHeritage to ask for help in finding the descendants of the Jewish tailor - Savvas from Corfu, Greece - who had been hidden on Ereikoussa during the war. She had written a book inspired by her grandmother’s memories of the island, and the story of Savvas was an important part. For Yvette, the story was incomplete and she wanted to discover what happened to the family after the war.
MyHeritage accepted the challenge and embarked on a genealogical journey to uncover the mysteries of this long-kept secret. Starting with just five first names (Savvas, his three daughters Spera, Julia and Nina, and another child - Rosa) we were successful in locating descendants of the family in the U.S. and in Israel. Last month - at an official island ceremony - the families reunited to honor the island's residents for their courageous efforts.
We had a great time at the Global Family Reunion last week!
Hosted by best-selling author A.J. Jacobs, this epic event brought thousands of “cousins” from around the world to the New York Hall of Science for a family fun day of activities, while raising money to benefit Alzheimer’s research.
We recently wrote about the start of Anna’s journey to meet her relatives in Australia. A journey that really began 125 years ago, Anna crossed oceans to meet relatives related to their common ancestor, Oskar. Here is Part 2.
In late December 2012, several relatives in Gotland, Sweden received a call from a man speaking English. Many hung up the phone and thought it was a hoax. They didn’t understand why an English-speaking man was calling them.
After many disconnected calls, the same person called my cellphone on December 30, 2012. David Michel said he was calling from Sydney, Australia.
Contributing writer Schelly Talalay Dardashti is the US Genealogy Advisor for MyHeritage.com
Wouldn't it be great to get your far-flung family together and meet them in person? E-mail and Skype only go so far.
Some families plan reunions every year or two, while some have been meeting annually for decades. Others have never organized a formal get-together.
We've been talking about this for our Dardashti family - there are so many relatives that we'll need a football stadium. Several years ago, we had a mini-reunion with descendants of six Talalay branches. It was probably the first time in more than 100 years that that these branches had been together since the late 1890s, when many cousins began leaving Belarus and Russia for the US. We were all stunned by the familial and personality resemblance within the group, which included those who had remained in the ancestral towns until only very recently.
Don't forget that your family website at MyHeritage is a great way to communicate with reunion attendees. Share pre-event planning and programs. Then provide - after the event - photos and videos for the whole family to see. It will encourage those who didn't attend to show up next time.
Imagine going on a journey back 125 years and across continents. That's what Anna, from Sweden, will be doing as she flies across the world to Australia to travel to her ancestors' towns and learn about them.
Anna will be documenting her genealogical trip to learn more about her roots on her blog. Here is her first post, originally published on our Swedish blog.
I'm nervous, excited, tingly and happy, and a bit fearful to be going on this journey. However, there is a huge difference in traveling now than in 1890 when Oskar decided to go on his journey. He left his job, family and friends for an adventure filled with uncertainty in search for something new. Today, that level of fear isn't as necessary with all our technologies that connect us to our family no matter where we live. It's easy to stay in touch with our loved ones, unlike 125 years ago.
Her post continues:
The Global Family Reunion is only a few months away and tickets are available now!
If you haven't yet heard, best-selling author A.J. Jacobs is planning the world’s largest family reunion this summer and all 7 billion of his cousins are invited.
What? The largest family reunion that will make history
When? June 6, 2015
Where? New York Hall of Science in Queens, New York
Watch the video below for more information on the Global Family Reunion and how to get involved:
All event proceeds will go toward Alzheimer’s research and education. Learn more about how to purchase tickets, donate or join the Global Family Tree at the Global Family Reunion Festival Page.
Hope to see you all there!
MyHeritage member Dayne Skolmen, 24, of South Africa, has been working on his family history since he was 14, when a family tree school assignment caught his interest. His ancestors come from Norway, Germany and the Netherlands.
Dayne lives in Port Elizabeth, and is currently completing his Master of Technology (MTech) in Information Technology Research at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.
His grandfather, Thorbjorn Christian Synnestvedt Skolmen, died at 81 when Dayne was only 3.
It was a family reunion unlike any other. When members of the Douse family met in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island (Canada) last month, one of the central events of the week-long event was excavating their ancestor's crypt. They gathered from all over the world, coming from Ohio, Michigan, and as far as Zimbabwe.
Their story was featured in the Toronto Star last week.
Their ancestor, William Douse, arrived at Prince Edward Island, from Wiltshire, England, in 1822. He was known for his strong wit and tenacity. He was a character, and became well-known on the island. He contributed to the early evolution of P.E.I., serving nearly three decades in the island Assembly, longer than any politician in history.
Long summer days are the perfect time for family gatherings and a great opportunity to ask questions of relatives to discover more about your family heritage.
Here are some hints and tips for furthering your family history research this summer:
1. Visit close family members. Encourage the younger generation to record relatives' stories and anecdotes to learn about earlier generations and preserve those memories for future generations.
2. Plan a vacation to meet distant family members. Come prepared with questions about their branch of the family and use the MyHeritage Mobile App to fill in gaps in your family tree and to add photos while you're on-the-go.