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.

Continue reading "Happy Presidents’ Day!" »

6    Feb 20130 comments

Games: Feeling ‘board’? Roll the dice

Monopoly Board Image Credit: AP Photo/Hasbro

Monopoly Board Image Credit: AP Photo/Hasbro

The famous board game Monopoly has received a makeover ahead of its 78th anniversary tomorrow with a revamp of its original 1935 design.

The game’s birthday milestone made me nostalgic for all the times my family and I played Monopoly and other board games.

With new technology and busy daily schedules, we often get distracted and forget the importance of spending time with our families.

Take a break with a traditional board game and bond with your family.  With just a roll of the dice, enjoy laughter, joy and amusement. All you need to worry about is whether your uncle or sister cheated in the last round.

Continue reading "Games: Feeling ‘board’? Roll the dice" »

30    Jan 20130 comments

Innovation: What’s next?

When was the last time you used a typewriter?

Technology crept into my life when I switched from my beloved black portable manual Remington typewriter to an IBM electric.

Just a few years ago - relatively speaking - personal computers were just appearing on the scene. We researched the old-fashioned way - handwriting letters, loading rolls of film in our cameras, visiting dusty archives and winding through endless rolls of microfilm in resource centers. It took hours of effort to search for family information.

Today we connect in ways we couldn't imagine only a short time ago. We communicate almost instantaneously with email and messaging, and we access ever-expanding Internet resources for family history. Everyone is connected by computer, by smartphone, by technology.

Once upon a time, my tech arsenal consisted of an electric typewriter. Period.

Continue reading "Innovation: What’s next?" »

25    Jan 20132 comments

Australia Day: Do you celebrate?

Australia Day - Image credit: timeanddate.com

Australia Day - Image credit: timeanddate.com

January 26 marks Australia's national holiday, Australia Day.

Australia Day celebrates the establishment of the first settlement in Port Jackson (which is now Sydney Harbour), in 1788.

What's known as the "First Fleet", consisted of 11 ships that set sail from Great Britain and landed on this day at the Port. By 1808, January 26 was celebrated as “First Landing Day” or “Foundation Day”.

In 1818, the Governor of Australia gave all government employees a day off, and in the years that followed, bank employees, and other employees, were also given a holiday day.

Continue reading "Australia Day: Do you celebrate?" »

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" »

26    Dec 20120 comments

Holidays: Boxing Day

Boxing Day is a holiday traditionally observed in the UK and Commonwealth on December 26, but has nothing to do with the sport of the same name!

Where did it originate?

There are various opinions about its origins.

One view is that it comes from a very early Christian custom where boxes were left outside of churches for people to donate offerings for the Feast of Saint Stephen.

The European belief is that it stems from a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages where people would give money and gifts to needy tradesmen. In Britain, it was customary for tradesmen to collect boxes of money or presents, as thanks for their services, much like the concept of the Christmas bonus that many companies in western countries have adopted.

In the days when wealthy aristocrats employed servants to manage their homes, servants would have to work on Christmas Day, but would be given the next day as a holiday. The masters would give the servants a box of presents and leftovers to take home to their families.

Today, Boxing Day in the UK is mainly about shopping. Most people who celebrate Christmas will have spent a large amount of time and money shopping before the holiday, buying food for their festive dinner and presents for their family. To entice people back to the stores, Boxing Day is the day retailers traditionally hold sales. In this regard, it's very similar to Black Friday in the US.

As many families come together for the holidays, Boxing Day is also a ''bonus'' family day.

Are you celebrating Boxing Day? If so, how?

Let us know in the comments below.

23    Nov 20123 comments

Hidden Memorial: Honoring fallen heroes – Part 2

Recently, we wrote about the discovery of a memorial board - listing the names of 11 WWII servicemen - that had been hidden for 3o years in a communal building's basement.

Laurence Harris, MyHeritage's Head of Genealogy (UK), led a small team to quickly trace the living relatives of these men who were killed in action, to invite the relatives to a ceremony on Remembrance Sunday, in which the board was rededicated and their stories retold.

Over the next few weeks, we'll demonstrate how Laurence was able to do this, while sharing some of the stories of these unsung war heroes.

Continue reading "Hidden Memorial: Honoring fallen heroes – Part 2" »

12    Nov 20123 comments

Birthplace: We all come from somewhere

Ever wonder about where your family comes from and how that place makes you feel?

New York filmmaker Francesco Paciocco did, and the result is a short documentary – Birthplace - about his ancestral home. Importantly, it addresses the importance of where our families come from and what it means to us.

Says Paciocco:

No matter what background we come from, who our parents are or where we currently live, we only have one birthplace.

No matter where we live, our race, color or creed, we all have roots somewhere. History progresses, societies evolve, and people shift location. Origins, however, remain the same.

Past generations of our families crossed mountains and oceans to find better lives. But Paciocco asks how they felt about their choices, and what impact it left on future generations who today have only stories and old photographs to look through.

Continue reading "Birthplace: We all come from somewhere" »

9    Nov 20120 comments

Hidden Memorial: Honoring fallen heroes

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 stories@myheritage.com

3    Oct 20120 comments

Genea-journey: Using Google’s Street View

As I grew up, I often heard about the places my family came from, the countries, cities, streets and houses in which they lived.

We recently wrote about Genea-journeys, which we described as "a journey to research your family history and discover new relatives and information about them, or it could be an actual physical trip to the places your ancestors lived."

Without the chance to personally visit my ancestors' homes, I wondered what they looked like. I wanted to get a sense of the physical surroundings in which they lived.

After reading an interesting article about how to use Google Images for family history research, I decided to take my own virtual genea-journey using Google's Street View. This tool lets you tour - virtually - almost any road in the world.

Continue reading "Genea-journey: Using Google’s Street View" »

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