Our genealogy team love challenges – so imagine the reaction of Laurence Harris, MyHeritage's Head of Genealogy (UK), when he was shown a 66-year-old Memorial Board commemorating the names of Servicemen who had died in WWII.
The board had been hidden in a rarely-used storage area for more than 30 years.
The challenge was on! Laurence volunteered to trace living family members of the men so that they could be invited to a special service to remember and honor them and to rededicate the Board.
Laurence took this as both a personal and professional challenge. He recognized the importance of learning about these forgotten heroes of the past, enabling the present generation to honor them, and ensuring that their stories are preserved for future generations.
Along the way, he discovered many interesting stories. Over the next few weeks we'll be sharing with you some of these stories and explaining how Laurence managed to trace the descendants.
Do you have stories to share about unsung war heroes in your family? Let us know in the comments below, and email relevant photos to firstname.lastname@example.org
“Genealogy is not only the search for one’s ancestors, but the sharing of information with others," according to MyHeritage member Gary L. Roberts of Plano, Texas.
Born in Pennsylvania, Gary, 62, attended computer school and served in the US Army as a Morse Code Intercept Operator. Before his 2012 retirement, he spent 30 years working for Verizon Communications as a technical trainer.
Although an only child, he had many cousins on both sides of his family. He’s always been interested in his family history, but travel and work prevented him from working on it. Today, however, he has created a family website, and his travels have taken him around the world to China, Wales, Egypt, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Zaire, Singapore, Switzerland, all over Europe and to the Philippines.
His interest in family history began following the Catawissa (Pennsylvania) Bicentennial in 1974.
My second cousin wrote much of the book on the history of Catawissa. My Roberts family had a large number of family members (aunts, uncles, cousins) in the area and some history related to them. It was wonderful to read about the area and its history.
Aaron wrote this post from the UK where, after what's been called the wettest June in a century, he reports that it looks like summer has finally arrived!
Summer's a great time for meeting up with friends and family. Many of us have relatives scattered in a specific country, if not abroad. When summer comes, it provides an opportunity to reconnect and get together with family.
If we have school-age children, we tend to use some the summer holidays to reconnect with family.
When the family gets together - especially for extended time - it's a great opportunity to informally discuss family history.
We can help by bringing out old family photo albums and scrapbooks. We can encourage senior relatives to share their stories and memories.
These activities can inspire the younger generations to investigate their family history.
Are you planning to organize or attend a family reunion this summer? Tell us more in the comments section below.
Thirty years ago, MyHeritage member Marcia K. Hanson, now 64, began gathering family information:
I talked to all the old family I could find (I began this when I was in my late 30s) and wrote down their stories. The stories were priceless, many were funny. It gave me an appreciation of who they were and the sacrifices they made to give their family a better life.
Marcia describes herself as a retired introvert who likes history, loves puzzles and is good with details. She enjoys having family stay in touch and loves to share family stories gathered during her research. Also an active volunteer, an avid reader and an average golfer, Marcia is certainly a busy woman.
There are many reasons why people become interested in their family history. It may be because of an inherited condition or the discovery of a previously unknown relative.
MyHeritage member Thelma (known as Thel) Brooks’ story includes both!
Born in Sydney, Australia, Thel’s interests were dancing, swimming and tennis. These days, it’s family history.
Now in her 70s and retired, she was a hospital office manager for most of her working life.
Married at 22, she and her husband, William John Brooks, were together for nearly 50 years. She has a daughter and a son, and four grandchildren. For 27 years, Thel was her husband John’s caregiver until his death in 2010.
Today, her life is devoted to her little dog, family and friends and she lives in Sunshine Coast, Queensland.
Thel first became interested in family history when her husband was diagnosed with an inherited incurable disease and she wanted to find out more where it came from. She then discovered, at 56, a previously unknown half-sister in Scotland:
Our post on the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking produced a breakthrough for a South African member of MyHeritage.
Christopher Brian Jennings (known as Brian), 44, of Johannesburg, South Africa became interested in family history as his elders aged. He realized that their wealth of information would disappear if he did not document the family.
Brian lives with his wife Adri, 44, and children Natasha, 19, and Michael, 15. He is an insurance industry director.
According to Guinness World Records, the largest family reunion attracted 2,585 members of the Lilly family from the USA. The record was set on August 9, 2009.
We’re interested to hear about the largest family reunion you’ve attended. Have you come close to breaking this record?
Do you have pictures from your family reunion? Please share them on our Facebook page.
The most populous country in the world - along with its global diaspora - is celebrating its most important caendar day: The Chinese New Year.
Chinese New Year (known in China as "The Spring Festival") marks the end of the winter season and welcomes the first solar term of the Chinese lunisolar calendar year, Lìchūn. This new year is the year of the dragon.
In the traditional Chinese calendar, the festival begins on the first day of Lìchūn and ends on the 15th day with the Lantern Festival, when traditional Chinese lanterns decorate the streets and children visit temples while carrying paper lanterns.
Chinese New Year’s Eve is a day for the family. Similar to the Western culinary spectacle of Christmas Day (or Thanksgiving), Chinese New Year’s Eve (Chúxī) brings the family together for the annual reunion dinner.
In 2011, I was happy to attend many genealogy conferences.
These events included the annual events of the National Genealogical Society (Charleston, South Carolina), Southern California Genealogical Jamboree (Burbank, California), IAJGS International Jewish Genealogy Conference (Washington, DC) and the Federation of Genealogical Societies (Springfield, Illinois).
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.