In honor of Black History Month, established in 1926 and celebrated in February, here’s a roundup of resources – websites, blogs, repositories and more – to help you learn more about your family. Each resource listed offers more links to additional information.
Today is also the birthday of African American baseball superstar Henry Louis "Hank" Aaron, born in 1934. A major league baseball icon, Aaron is best known for breaking Babe Ruth's home run record. Read more on Aaron.
For many black families with roots in the Southern US states, research can be frustrating. Although African American genealogy research can get back to the 1880s and much earlier, it is difficult for most researchers. Researching their family trees has been almost impossible, as their ancestors' original names were literally erased. Slaves' African given names were replaced by English names and their surnames were those of their owners.
With the advent of new databases and technological tools, research has become much easier. A growing number of individuals are preparing their family stories and discovering images of their unique history.
Family history is important to us and, as a reader of this blog, it's probably important to you, too!
While family history is a fascinating subject, with more and more people getting involved than ever before, sometimes the desire to research our family history also runs in the family!
Some of us have family trees that have been passed down through the generations. Others are inspired to find out more via the stories our relatives share with us.
We want to know if researching family history runs in your family? Did your parents and grandparents research their family history? Were you inspired by their research? Alternatively, are you the first of your relatives to catch the genea-bug?
Let us know in the poll (or comments) below:
Do you have an address book? Have you inherited an old address book from your parents or grandparents? This is almost as good as discovering an ancestor's journal.
Will Kenny, wrote a post for Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) - Address book is a family history, bound by tradition - in which he writes:
....And this annual ritual recently reminded us of a big difference between pulling out a physical, paper address book and pulling up a contact list.
These days, if you keep your contact list on your phone or your computer, you live very much in the present. When you update an entry in your electronic contact list, you just edit the information. You replace the old with the new.
And when people are no longer connected to you, whether you somehow lose touch or they pass away, you merely delete them from your list, and from your life. At the same time, you delete a piece of your own personal history.
Diane Richards wrote a great blog post in Upfront (the National Genealogical Society blog) on her own use of these hand-written resources for family history, who writes that she is on her third one (begun in December 1998). Earlier ones now live in her "memory boxes." She also shows examples from her latest address book.
Do you have a genealogy mentor? Someone you can turn to and have your questions answered? Someone who can guide you through the problems and pitfalls or help you break through brick walls?
The genealogy community worldwide has always been very helpful to newcomers.
Someone once asked me why genealogists were so friendly. My answer was that we never know if the next person to ask a question might hold the “missing link” to our own research!
We are also reminded of the concept of paying forward help we ourselves received in the past. As we are helped, so we attempt to help others.
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.
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.
Genealogy research defines taking the road to discovery. There are traffic lights, stop signs, many turnings, and cars stuck in traffic. In the country, narrow lanes are fringed with trees, obscuring views of towns, few cars and dead ends. Highways have slippery curves, rest stops and fast-moving vehicles, while exits lead to other byways or tollbooths! Sometimes we may have a map, while at other times, we are in uncharted territory.
MyHeritage's US genealogy advisor Schelly Talalay Dardashti wrote this piece back in 2003 for a newspaper column. It has been adapted from the original version, but the journey remains the same in 2012 and beyond.
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
Kerry, 67, lives in Redmond, Oregon, with his wife Joyce and children Aaron and Amber, both college students. Born in Neodesha, Kansas, he received his biology BS and MS from Pittsburg State University (Kansas).
Now retired, his career has included a stint as a sonarman on the destroyer USS Brownson, as an FDA investigator, a radiation safety officer, a health officer and the owner of a computer store.
He caught the gen bug from his mother, who worked on her family’s history.
Recording and collating this information for your family tree - and ensuring that your family and descendants will have access to it in the future - has far-reaching effects, not the least of which is improving your writing skills.
This article in the Sterling Observer describes how Marianne Wheelaghan (Edinburgh, Scotland) caught the "genea-bug" and how it led to writing her debut novel, The Blue Suitcase. It's about her mother's and aunt's experiences growing up in Germany during WWII.
Marianne said she had very limited knowledge of her mother Gertrude's background. She knew her mother was born and raised in Germany, and came to live in Scotland after the war.
One day, a suitcase filled with letters and diary pages was discovered by a family member. The documents were written by Marianne's aunt (Gertrude's sister) who immigrated to Argentina after the war. Translated, they provide insight into their lives during war-time Germany.
Marianne - thanks to these documents - become very interested in her family history, and began to write her book.
Has finding information about your family inspired you to begin a new hobby (family history), or even to start a new career?
Let us know in the comments section below.
According to this article in News OK, it's more difficult to find female ancestors.
Some reasons are that women had no voting rights, no land ownership rights, and their names changed after marriage.
Thus, there were fewer documents containing relevant information, or it was hard to find the connections between existing documents and a later marriage, with a new surname.
This makes it hard to locate our female ancestors as well as their extended families.
Today, in most countries, women are equal citizens in every way, and enjoy full property ownership and voting rights. Many women either retain their maiden names or the new couple creates a double-barreled surname. These social changes could arguably make researching our female ancestors a bit easier - at least in the future.
People like genealogy because of the challenge of finding new family members.
Have you had problems locating female ancestors? Are there those you have not yet identified? Were you able to find them? What resources did you use to overcome a specific challenge?
We'd like to learn about your experiences via the comments below.