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.
A few days ago we posted a poll on MyHeritage’s Twitter account, asking readers if they’d ever paid a genealogist to do family history research.
Of those who responded, 33% said that they, or someone they knew, had paid a genealogist; 67% said they hadn’t.
The idea that 1 in 3 people are paying genealogists to research is an interesting one that we’d like to explore further.
Have you ever paid a genealogist and, if yes, what was it you wanted them to help with that you couldn’t access yourself through MyHeritage or some other genealogy source?
Lisa Kudrow, executive producer of the US version of “Who Do You Think You Are?” was the guest for a group phone interview on Friday, January 27.
I was honored to participate in the call which focused on the show’s new season, which begins at 8pm, Friday, February 3, on NBC.
This year"s celebs are Martin Sheen, Marisa Tomei, Blair Underwood, Reba McEntire, Rob Lowe, Helen Hunt, Rita Wilson, Edie Falco, Rashida Jones, Jerome Bettis, Jason Sudeikis and Paula Deen.
Unfortunately, due to a technical glitch, my own questions could not be answered. However, the others asked some great questions, and Lisa responded in kind (see below).
Other geneabloggers on the call were Thomas MacEntee, Lisa Louise Cooke, Angela Walton-Raji, Kathryn Lake Hogan and Diane Haddad, along with newspaper and entertainment industry magazine writers.
Here are some questions and Lisa’s responses.
Q: What advice do you have for people who become frustrated or stuck in their research?
Lisa: There doesn’t have to ever be an end. That's what makes it such a great hobby. I think there's always research you can do on different branches, different cousins and you go back. And then it's not just names and dates. Then you start looking at where they were living, what was happening there at that time, you start looking at historical documents. And you can maybe draw some conclusions or guesses about what was motivating some of their choices in life.
It’s almost New Year's Eve 2012. Do you know where your resolutions are?
Will it help us - as family historians and genealogists - if we make these lists?
The answer is yes, according to a Wake Forest University study, in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,by Assistant Professor E.J. Masicampo, who found that committing to a plan to accomplish a goal makes it more likely to be achieved, and allows you to think about other things.
Nearly 1,400 individuals responded to a study of genealogists and family historians as a sociology professor undertook a survey of the membership of the Ontario (Canada) Genealogy Society.
Although Professor Ronald D. Lambert - of the University of Waterloo - undertook this study in 1994, its results, I believe, are just as relevant today as they were then.
In addition to questions on age, sex, national origins, marital status, employment, income, religious affiliation and other details, he asked two questions about researchers’ reasons for doing genealogy and what value they found in that pursuit.
One question sought to rank 25 reasons we pursue genealogy. Respondents marked the statements as important, fairly important or personally irrelevant.
The three reasons considered most important by respondents:
Creepy crawly? That's my name for old-style research.
The kind that involves digging through musty, dusty archives filled with cabinets and shelves stuffed with papers, files, ledgers, registers and books. We never know what might be found – or what might find us – during those excursions.
This is what the University of Leyden's library looked like, c1610. Many old archives and libraries in out of the way places look much the same.
So much information is available online today – and more appears daily - that many newcomers are unaware of what research used to be like . Many of us continue to access information the old-fashioned way!
Newcomers also need to remember that not everything is online yet, and a good portion may never be. Thus, all researchers need to know where to find original documents and records. These may range from making a personal visit to a remote courthouse to obtain a 250-page probate file - with valuable family information - to viewing old property records that may never be digitized.
When I began my research, I began with phone calls to and interviews with many people. I needed that basic information (names, dates and stories) to be able to learn more about those individuals.
As many genealogists say, genealogy is the framework upon which family history is built. Think of genealogy as the construction framework, and family history as what we add to that framework. Without genealogy and its focus on names and dates, one could not pursue family history with any accuracy.
We all have various ways of organising our time when it comes family history research. Whether you're an amateur, or indeed a professional genealogist, it's often easy to be consumed by one or two 'branches' of your family story.
The aim of this week's poll is to discover just how engrossed we are in our research on a weekly basis. Let the voting commence...