5    Jul 20113 comments

Memories: Start recording them!

Do you want to begin recording your family history, but just don't know where or how to start?

Or, have you been researching your family for a long time and are now experiencing writer's block?

This post may help everyone interested in recording family history.

Many researchers want to do more than just record names and dates. What we'd like to do is "add meat to the bones," or flesh out our ancestors as we learn about them as individuals.

Amy Coffin of the WeTree genealogy blog has organized 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History, which offers a weekly prompt on a different topic.  Readers can also access this list at Geneabloggers.com.

We think that this list is as valuable for recording your own life for your future descendants as it is for those considering interviewing older relatives.

It doesn't matter if you start in the middle of this list, at the end or at the beginning. The essential thing is just to start.

How you record your answers doesn't matter:  Use "notes" on an iPad, a document on your computer,  write your ideas longhand in a leather-covered journal, an ordinary school notebook, or on plain white paper. Just begin. However, recording them in a nice journal that can be passed down through the generations seems a good idea to us.

As you start recording this information for yourself - and that notebook may become a prized possession for a great-grandchild in the future - you will find more information useful when you interview senior family members.

It is also a great suggestion for your family members at your site at MyHeritage.com. Ask your relatives to contribute their own memories of a topic each week.

I've included a bit about my favorite stuffed animal - in the toy category - but you'll need to read on to learn about Wolfie!

Some warm weather topics:

Continue reading "Memories: Start recording them!" »

2    Jun 20114 comments

Languages: More are better!

Genealogists often lament the fact that immigrant ancestors did not pass on their native languages to their descendants.While the children of immigrants were mostly fluent in those languages - the first generation - those children only rarely passed down those languages to their own children or grandchildren - thus losing them forever.

Years ago, as I sat struggling through Cyrillic to understand records from Mogilev, Belarus, I often wished my great-grandparents had passed down Russian and Yiddish. Russian seems to have disappeared the day the family hit the streets of New York, while Yiddish was transmitted to their children. Their grandchildren knew only phrases or could understand some but not speak it, and they only rarely could read it.

How much easier it would have been if I had learned both languages fluently from my parents and grandparents! However, I did learn Farsi fluently when we lived in Iran. Our daughter studied it, used to read and write it, understands it nearly fluently, but refuses to speak it.

Now, through one scientist's research, we learn that there are two major reasons that people should pass their heritage language on to their children.

Continue reading "Languages: More are better!" »

20    Feb 20110 comments

New Mexico: Taste of Honey

Talk about busy!

As soon as RootsTech ended, Daniel Horowitz and I flew to Albuquerque (New Mexico) to participate in A Taste of Honey, a community-wide education event, sponsored by MyHeritage.com.

Here we are at the MyHeritage display:

A Taste of Honey - 13 February 2011 - Albuquerque, NM

Genealogy is a popular subject here, even though there were many sessions on on completely different topics.

My presentation focused on Genealogy 101 - how to get started and, more importantly, why - while Daniel's presentation encouraged family history researchers to utilize all of MyHeritage.com's features.

Continue reading "New Mexico: Taste of Honey" »

26    Jan 20110 comments

Family History: A moving experience

Moving can be chaotic and even traumatic.

Anyone who has ever moved house - even just a few streets away in the same city or as far away as another country - goes through this experience, albeit with varying degrees of complications.

An international move  can be more troublesome.

However, if you're a fan of family history - a newcomer or a professional - you won't be alone in your new community.

All you need do is contact the local genealogical or historical society in your new neighborhood before your move.

Our recent international move to the beautiful state of New Mexico had its share of problems. However, I had already made contacts with the family history community in our new city.

Once I arrived, I called old and new contacts, and soon had a full calendar of meetings, lunches, events and much more. People can't believe that we've only been here for two months.

I've met a wonderful group of researchers - covering all levels of skill and specialities - who belong to at least three genealogical and historical societies.

I've received an excellent beginning education in local Hispanic genealogy - a relatively new area for me - from a local expert. Just one example was an 11am brunch meeting at a great local eatery which went on to well after 6pm - and we could have kept going for hours! This amazing person has offered to introduce me to the archivists at the Hispanic research center, and has invited me to join her at future meetings of another historical society which meets in the next town. I'm looking forward to that.

I've been asked to speak to several groups, as well as to participate in community events, and am already on committees planning local genealogy events and programs, some of which MyHeritage.com is sponsoring.

When I visited our local library branch - a beautiful contemporary building only a few minutes from our home - to sign up for our new library cards, I asked about family history activities and offered to speak. This branch has two librarians who are also genealogists, making this transition very easy.

I'm now on the planning committee for  the library's first major Genealogy Day event in April, aimed at relative newcomers. We'll have a major speaker and then break into several smaller groups offering "how-to-get-started" offerings in several categories. The goal is to plan further workshops  throughout the year and raise awareness of family history throughout the local area. 

The international genealogy community is composed of interesting, helpful individuals united in our common interest in family history and how we can help others get involved.

Our family has moved several times, sometimes internationally, and I have been on both sides of a move - being the newcomer and also welcoming those new to our community.

I believe that all genealogy communities are welcoming to newcomers as each person brings new skills, special interests and knowledge to the mix.  We are always learning about new resources and from each other.

Is a move in your future?

Think about contacting the genealogy groups in that new location ahead of time.

It can make all the difference to a successful transition. Remember that the move to a new location becomes an important part of your family's unique history, so record it with photographs, video and other methods.

Find a genealogy society in your future home via an internet search.

Have you moved recently? What are your tips and advice for newcomers?

24    Nov 20100 comments

Family: Voices from the past

Voices from the past are an integral part of family history. These voices may come through in diaries or letters written by ancestors.

Today, however, there's another way.

To put it another way, every story matters.

Individuals can record interviews with relatives, friends or community members via the non-profit StoryCorps, which has scheduled its third annual National Day of Listening on Friday, November 26, the day after Thanksgiving.

The Day encourages Americans to follow a new holiday tradition which promotes listening and understanding to share their stories on the day following Thanksgiving, which itself is an essentially family-oriented holiday.

Participants use equipment found in many homes, such as a computer, mobile phone, tape recorder or even pen and paper.

To learn more click nationaldayoflistening.org for a free instruction guide with equipment recommendations, suggested questions and ideas for preserving and sharing interviews.

Of course, another great way to preserve your family interviews  is on your  own MyHeritage.com family site, so all your relatives can them.

Imagine preserving an interview with your grandmother that would be available for future generations to hear.

“In an era of fierce political and cultural divides, we hope that the idea of listening to one another during the holiday season resonates with many Americans,” says StoryCorps Founder and MacArthur “Genius” Dave Isay. “Through our National Day of Listening, StoryCorps hopes to remind Americans of all stripes how much more unites us than divides us.”

Although a US-based day, the idea is certainy appropriate for people in all countries around the world and - as an additional benefit - encourages talking about family history and connecting families, which is exactly what MyHeritage.com is all about.

Although the Day of Listening is celebrated on the day after Thanksgiving, you can record family members, friends or community members on any day of year or in connection with any holiday.

Since 2003, StoryCorps has collected and archived more than 30,000 interviews from more than 60,000 participants. Each is recorded on a free CD to share, and is also preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress (Washington, DC). 

The project is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind.For more information, or to listen to stories online, visit storycorps.org.

Have you recorded interviews with any of your relatives?

If you have a senior relative, remember to record them as soon as possible so that interview will be preserved. This is truly voices from the past!

Who have you recorded? Where and how have you preserved that interview?

Let us know via comments to this blog.

24    Nov 20101 comment

Family: Remember to laugh!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Day is one of my favorite holidays.

As we get closer to the fourth Thursday in November - and plan for holiday celebrations - our family remembers our special tradition.

We have just relocated to the beautiful state of New Mexico and enjoying our few first weeks here. Even better, our daughter will be visiting from New York for the holiday.

Any holiday that brings family together is an opportunity for family history, even if it is only talking about previous holidays.

One story that is always part of our get-together is the story of our first turkey day celebrations when we lived in Iran long ago.

I had ordered a fresh turkey from a Teheran supermarket and specified that it had to be at my house on Wednesday morning - cleaned and ready.

Wednesday came and went, while I was busy making pies, preparing  stuffing, and doing other myriad tasks. The store said it would be delivered in the afternoon.

The afternoon came and went.

He then said it would be there in the evening.

The evening came and went.

Early Thursday morning, there was a knock at the door, and Mr. Turkey arrived. Finally!

I took the large brown-paper wrapped parcel into the kitchen, and felt it was suspiciously warm. I gingerly opened the package and found an entire turkey. I mean an entire turkey.

It was compete with all its feathers, neck, head, eyes - everything but the gobble - and it was sitting right there on my kitchen counter.

At that point, I didn't know whether to cry or to laugh. Our friends were coming for Thanksgiving Day dinner in only a few hours and I'd never seen a bird like that, even less how to go about getting ready for the oven.

My husband called my mother-in-law - and as they laughed hysterically - she agreed to send over her housekeeper-cook to help out the poor foreign daughter-in-law who couldn't clean a turkey!

The woman arrived and efficiently de-feathered, de-necked, cleaned out everything that needed to be cleaned out - giggling the entire time.

Hey, I'm from New York, where Thanksgiving Day turkeys come cleaned in plastic bags, whether they are fresh or frozen. I had seen live turkeys, in person and on television, and turkeys ready for cooking, but never one in the intermediate stage.

In any case, I was then able to prepare Mr. Turkey properly, stuff it with a favorite cornbread and chestnut mix, roast and baste it to golden brown. Everyone said how delicious it was, despite the tragi-comedy of the situation.

We also mention how we American wives would search at a few special stores to hopefully find cranberry sauce, pumpkin puree for pies, and MiracleWhip for leftover sandwiches. These were not common items in Iran in those days, so one either paid astronomical prices for each can or jar or hand-carried it back on trips home.

We began telling the story of Mr. Turkey that year and tell it again each year. It is still funny.

It is our Thanksgiving tradition, no matter who is at our table. 

We will tell the story again on Thursday in New Mexico.

Enjoy the holiday, if it is your tradition, and enjoy having your family around the table.

Tell the stories of holidays past, of family traditions. Keep the memories alive, and don't forget to take photos and video of your celebration to add to the family archive.

Post those photos and videos at your MyHeritage.com family site, so all family members - no matter where they live - can participate.

What is your most memorable Thanksgiving tradition or story? Share it with MyHeritage.com via comments to this post.

4    Nov 20101 comment

Cemeteries: Gravestone symbols

Grave of David Belilios, died at age 16 (March 1898). Hong Kong Jewish Cemetery

What do you see in a cemetery?

Gravestones, at a minimum, provide the name and dates for the deceased individual. But there's often much more.

Many stones also carry symbols with specific meanings, which may indicate the deceased's age (young, old), an occupation,  religion, organizations, military service or other meanings.

The Heritage Bulletin of Oregon devoted an issue to a detailed list and photographs of many symbols commonly found in cemeteries.

Here are some common symbols and their meanings.

ANCHOR: Hope; sometimes a trade or field of military service (photo left)

ANGEL: Guardian or messenger between God and man

ASPHODEL or LILY: Plants with white, pink or yellow flowers - including the narcissus and daffodil - reminds visitors of their mortality.

BOOK: The holy book or Bible, "book of life." Closed, end of life or a complete life. A pile of books may indicate the deceased was scholarly or educated.

Continue reading "Cemeteries: Gravestone symbols" »

30    Oct 20100 comments

The genie in the lamp

the answer to our questions?Could a genie help solve your family history problems?

Although family history is becoming increasingly high-tech, there are those days when we wish we had a genie in a lamp.

After hours of fruitless searching for what seems to be a non-existent direct ancestor - although we know they MUST have existed or we wouldn't be here looking for them - it would be great to just grab that lamp, rub it a few times (depending on the version of the folktale you follow) and ask the emerging genie for help.

Genealogy conferences might feature workshops titled  "The care and feeding of your genie," "Getting your genie online," or "Polishing the lamp: Keep your genie happy."

According to folklore, of course, the problem is asking the correct three wishes, and we look forward to experts presenting workshops on techniques for constructing them.

Something else to consider: Would there be a difference between asking a polite question or giving a command to "dig up" the information we need? Does the word "wish" need to be included?

"Could you please find Uncle Melvin's birthdate" might bring a very different result from commanding the genie to "I wish you would bring me Uncle Melvin."

What are the three most urgent questions that your genie could help answer?

Continue reading "The genie in the lamp" »

7    Sep 20101 comment

Family reunions: Remembering

Wouldn't you like to meet all those people you've discovered and who now appear on your family tree?

This is the time to start planning for next summer - the most popular season for such events - so here are some tips and resources to help you get together with your far-flung relatives in person.

For even more on family reunions, see  another previous MyHeritage Genealogy Blog post which provided more tips, resources and a 12-step "getting organized" outline to plan a family reunion.

Don't forget that your family website at MyHeritage is a great way to stay in touch with prospective family reunion attendees. Share pre-event planning and programs, and then provide - post-reunion - photos and videos of the reunion for the whole family to see. It will encourage those who didn't or couldn't attend the event to show up next time.

 "A Good, Sacred Memory From a Family Reunion," in The Huffington Post by Al Eisele expressed his feelings as he returned from his family's reunion of the descendants of his German immigrant grandparents, Joseph and Elizabeth Eisele.
1    Sep 20104 comments

Names: How do you say that?

They look at your name, stammer, and ask "how do you say that?" What do you do? 

Do you patiently spell it several times? Will you, as I often do, spell it out as in "D as in David, A as in Apple, R as in Robert".........

Do you break the name down into syllables for the other person? Do you give up and say, "Call me by my first name!"

People look at DARDASHTI and their eyes glaze over. "Is that two Ds and two As?" asks the person on the phone or in a store. I usually break it into three syllables: Dar-dash-ti. For TALALAY, strangers usually put the accent on the wrong syllable, and say Tah-LAY-lee, instead of TAH-lah-lie. To confuse matters, one family branch uses TALALAY in English, but pronounces it Tah-la-lay.

Continue reading "Names: How do you say that?" »

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