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.
Did your ancestors receive treats of whale blubber as a Christmas delicacy?
If they did, they must have come from Greenland.
Learn more about holidaycustoms around the world - which may be quite different from your experiences. It may help you understand your ancestors' traditions.
Santa Claus - who has many names - doesn't always wear his traditional red suit, fly around in a sleigh pulled by reindeer, or pop down a chimney.
In Hawaii, he wears a red Hawaiian shirt, and arrives in an outrigger canoe, with elves in aloha shirts.
In some countries where the main religion is not Christianity, there are also interesting traditions.
When we lived in Teheran, I was surprised to see that one could buy Christmas trees, and many stores sold all types of brightly colored lights and decorations. There was a large Armenian community (both Protestants and Catholics) along with Iranian Nestorian Christians.
In India - in the former Portuguese colony of Goa - there are nine days of fireworks and parties to celebrate the Wise Men's arrival. Christians and Hindus celebrate together on January 6, the Feast of the Three Kings. Young boys from prominent families are chosen to play the kings, wear bright costumes and ride in on white horses.
Some other traditions:
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.
If you are lucky, these lifecycle events will be documented in the newspapers where your family lived. The pages also allow us to glimpse how people lived, what they bought, what they ate, their social activities and more through advertisements and local event coverage.
If your family lived in New Mexico, you may find information dating back to 1860, as the University of New Mexico Libraries has just received a major grant to digitize the state's old newspapers (1860-1922).
As a young girl visiting my grandmother in upstate New York during the summers, we would often go to see her friend Fanny who lived not far away.
I remember the old country farm house set in large surrounding fields. While Grandma and Fanny were talking downstairs, I was given permission to go up to the attic and scrounge around.
Fanny and her family had bought the place from people who had long been living there, and the attic was full of what people generally hide away. I found ancient letters, old newspapers covering historical events, all sorts of documents, books, photographs, as well as odd pieces of furniture, art work and old-fashioned clothing. At that young age, I didn't recognize the importance of these finds.
Now that I am so involved in family history and artifacts, I often wish I had an opportunity to revisit that treasure trove. Unfortunately, the house is long gone, and a housing development fills those fields.
Now that I'm back to my normal routine, I'm trying to review the great experiences from this summer.
Great times included four conferences in California, Washington State and Texas; visiting dear friends and family members; and meeting several relatives for the first time as we shared family history.
At all the conferences, I helped explain what we do at MyHeritage.com and how our tools and features make it easy for families to connect and communicate no matter where they live.
My suitcase now includes several new T-shirts from this year's events and some for 2011 events.
Here are some highlights:
Some 50 geneabloggers attended the Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree this year.
In a move that could be a real moneymaker - and thus an incentive to provide genealogical services - for many additional countries, Ireland will begin providing Irish Heritage certificates by the end of 2010.
There are some 70 million individuals worldwide with Irish heritage, and this seems like a great way to show it. The certificate may also provide travel and tourist discounts when the certificate-holders visit Ireland.
Genealogists are not normally a wild bunch.
Our "happy dances" tend to accompany the discovery of new records for elusive ancestors.
Our "wild and crazy" moments happen as we help others find answers to their family history questions or help them locate hard-to-find records. We enjoy discovering the clues and pointers in both unusual and ordinary places.
This week produced two interesting developments.
I'm in northern California - Silicon Valley - at the home of friends, as I rest from one conference and rest up for three more in quick succession with only a day between each, beginning this coming weekend.
So, along with continuing prep work for my presentations - and blogging - it's nice to get in some fun. Fun, to those of us who pursue our roots, can mean many things.
My friend Rosanne is a semi-retired reference librarian - and an accomplished genealogist. I went with her to her library one day last week. As we parked, I noticed this great license plate on the adjacent car. We agreed that the vehicle MUST belong to a genealogist.
Not sure what these are? Read on for quick descriptions and video links to provide more information. I'm focusing on TimeLine in this post.
Timeline is an interactive feature demonstrating the relationship of history's main events to your family's important dates.
This is an important feature because each person's unique family history has always been impacted by worldwide historical events that caused very local effects.
One example might be an early 19th-century cholera epidemic, quite common at the time around the world and frequently fatal for young children and the elderly. Such epidemics may be responsible for many deaths noticed in historical vital records.
And, while regional and world wars covered a wide swath of territory, local events may have "encouraged" your ancestors to move somewhere less chaotic and more safe.
To truly understand the lives of our ancestors, we need to learn about historical events that may have effected them.