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.

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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" »

18    Feb 20130 comments

Happy Presidents’ Day!

Washington's Birthday Image credit: Wikipedia

Washington's Birthday. Image credit: Wikipedia

Today is, in the United States, “President's Day.” Did you know that this was originally celebrated as “Washington’s Birthday"?

Established in 1885 as a Federal holiday, it was first celebrated on February 22, Washington’s real birthday. It was also the first Federal holiday honoring an American citizen.

In 1971, the date changed to the third Monday in February, after the creation of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.

The Act also combined Washington’s Birthday with Abraham Lincoln’s, which fell on February 12. Lincoln’s Birthday had long been a state holiday in some states. The combining of these two days gave equal recognition to two of America's most famous men.

Since then the day has become known as President's Day and also honors other presidents born during February, including Ronald Reagan and William Henry Harrison. It is popularly seen as a day to recognize the lives and achievements of all US Presidents.

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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)

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24    Jan 20134 comments

Looking at history: Images 101

Your grandmother had one.
So did your mother.
I'll bet you also have one.

In the back of a high closet shelf, in the basement, in your attic, you have some kind of a container.

It may be an old metal box that held cookies a lifetime ago, an old shoebox or hatbox, a modern plastic container with a snap-on lid, or even a handy-dandy sealed plastic bag stuck in a drawer.

The contents may include dried flowers, holiday and life-cycle event cards, and many old photographs. If this is your personal collection, you'll likely know who the people were and when the image was taken. That's good.

However, these treasured possessions may have belonged to your great-grandmother. She, if you are very fortunate, may have written lightly in pencil on the back. The lady in the strange hat is Cousin Helen, you learn, but you've never heard of anyone with that name.

If you are even luckier, the inscription may indicate that it's a holiday gift from "your dear brother in London." You've never heard of anyone who had a brother in London.

If your relative was somewhat obsessive, he or she may have recorded the names, dates and places on each photograph. In this case, your genealogy colleagues around the world will congratulate you on your good fortune!

Continue reading "Looking at history: Images 101" »

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" »

9    Jan 201328 comments

MyHeritage mobile app version 2.0 released today!

We're delighted to announce the release of MyHeritage app version 2.0, our free mobile application, packed with exciting new features. Now you can build and edit your family tree, add more information to it, and take your heritage with you anywhere you go.

MyHeritage App 2.0 - Edit your tree on the go!

Our mobile app is available for iPad, iPhone and Android smartphones and tablets, in 32 languages, and has been optimized for each platform using cutting-edge HTML5 and SVG technologies. Download the new app now, for free, from Apple's App Store or Google Play.

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4    Jan 20139 comments

Family History: Necessary skills

What's required for challenging searches and rewarding finds?

As a New Year begins, offering us a chance to jump start our research using every available resource, we are reminded that family history researchers need skills, according to MyHeritage's US genealogy advisor Schelly Talalay Dardashti. We may already have those skills but - more likely - we learn on the job!

Genealogists are strange creatures.

We live for the dead or the missing. We practically vacation in cemeteries - if we can discover where relatives are buried. We hope for the once-in-a-lifetime thrill of visiting “old country" ancestral towns and villages, wherever they might be.

We revel in bettering our investigative skills, similar to those used by detectives, lawyers or police, while piecing together the most complicated of puzzles, analyzing and dissecting clues, theories, stories.

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31    Dec 20120 comments

2012: A MyHeritage year in review

Now's the time when we look at what we've accomplished over the past 12 months, and plan for the year ahead. It's time for reflection, introspection and preparation.

2012 has been an incredibly exciting year at MyHeritage and, as we stand on the cusp of 2013, here's a quick look at some of the highlights.

We kicked off the year by partnering with Family Tree DNA to introduce DNA testing for genealogy. DNA genetic genealogy testing can help you discover more relatives by comparing your results to a growing database of hundreds of thousands of people.

The results may match you to a living relative with whom you share a common ancestor who may have lived hundreds of years ago.

The results can also reveal ethnic backgrounds, providing more insight into where your ancestors may have lived and thus more clues as to where to search. Continue reading "2012: A MyHeritage year in review" »

20    Dec 20123 comments

South Africa: Fashion, photos and family history

Leigh Toselli with her sons (from left) Devin, Rowan and Kieran

Leigh Toselli with her sons (from left) Devin, Rowan and Kieran

Listening to family stories as a child sparked Leigh Toselli’s interest, but - for her - it’s all about photographs and their stories.

A South African fashion, beauty and decor stylist, Leigh, 52, lives in Johannesburg with her French photographer husband Patrick and three sons (Devin, 25; Rowan, 23; and Kieran, 20).

Her biography reads like an A-Z of fashion, and she’s worked on every facet of image in the industry. She authored a series of books on beauty and image, and was also co-presenter of the South African version of the BBC show, What Not to Wear.

A few years ago, Leigh was trying to find a way of restoring, filing and sharing old family photographs.

Old photographs that gather dust seem so sad; all too often these are neglected and the names and faces forgotten. So I started asking the older generations to put names and anecdotes to the photos.

Family trees didn't really interest me, as they were simply a list of dates and names. That is, until I realized I could put faces to the names! Suddenly, my family’s history became a fascination - seeing family resemblances and spotting faces in old albums became a bit of an obsession.

Continue reading "South Africa: Fashion, photos and family history" »

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