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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Recently, Mark Rigg (Stockport, UK) was going through his attic, when he found a treasure he never knew existed.
His great-aunt, Annie Droege, was a British woman living in Germany during WWI. What Mark didn't know was that Annie had kept a diary of her experiences.
She recounts her emotions of spending the war in Germany, and having German friends fighting against her British friends and family.
At one point, Annie and her family were under siege in their own home, as a mob from the nearby village descended upon them.
Mark was excited by the discovery, and decided to publish the diary to demonstrate the hardships of life during the Great War. He dedicated the book to the 16.5 million people who lost their lives.
No other artifact or family heirloom - other than personal diaries - helps us understand the lives and emotions of the previous generations.
Have you inherited a family diary or journal? What did you learn from it?
The opening ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics - the Games of the XXX Olympiad - begin tonight in London.
The largest international sporting event in the world takes place every four years; it is the third time that it has been held in London. The last time was in 1948.
The first modern edition of the games was organized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Athens in 1896. The original Olympics - with nude athletes - took place in ancient Olympia, Greece, from the 8th century BC to the 4th century AD.
The Olympics is an historical event enjoyed for generations. Participating - as a competitor or spectator - connects you to your ancestors who also lived through the moment.
We've trawled the Internet to find weird and wonderful historic Olympic facts. Here are some of them:
To some people, this is a source of frustration as the difference between the two is clear. For others, there is no difference and their interchangeability is acceptable. With this in mind, we ask whether there is a difference and if it matters.
The simplest way to explain the traditional difference between the two terms is that genealogy is a subset of family history.
Wikipedia defines genealogy as:
The study of families and the tracing of their lineages and history.
Wikipedia then goes on to define family history as:
The systematic narrative and research of past events relating to a specific family, or specific families.
While MyHeritage.com was at the recent Federation of Genealogical Societies conference in Springfield, Illinois, chief genealogist Daniel Horowitz had an opportunity to visit the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum.
I was part of a detailed tour of the facility with Gwen Podeschi, history reference librarian.
Opened in October 2004, the library is maintained via state funds. Its main goal is to collect and preserve family and personal (non-official) correspondence and material of Abraham Lincoln and other Illinois state personalities. It holds more than 12 million historical items including 1,100 oral histories, 2 million manuscripts and 3,000 old and contemporary maps.
Collections also include early Mormon history, anti-slavery, coal miners’ accidents, train accidents and the 1893 World Colombian Exposition.
The library is home to the largest Lincoln documents database and such items as the documents of trials in which Lincoln was involved. The legal collection is fascinating as it also preserves the lists of juries in every case tried. If your relatives lived in Springfield, this can be a good resource as they may have served on one of those juries.
The law practice collection is not open to the public, but librarians are more than happy to help visitors find the information they seek. Appointments are suggested, and the collection is searchable via the Internet.