22    May 20111 comment

Links We Like: Edition 2

Links We Like is a periodic feature of the MyHeritage Genealogy Blog. It offers information on new databases, websites, news sources and more, which may help advance your research.

This week's edition spotlights information on an African-American magazine archive, Hawaii resources, a university digitization project, a resource for new genealogy blogs and a new search engine.

Continue reading "Links We Like: Edition 2" »

31    Dec 20101 comment

New Year: Family history plans for 2011

Some studies indicate that January is the most popular month for family history research.

Perhaps it's because people have just spent time with their families and those social gatherings may have triggered a quest, an emotional response to the universal idea of finding out who we really are, who our ancestors were and everything about them.

You may be in that category of newcomers to this passion of ours, or you might be among those who have spent decades researching your family.

In any case, the new year brings opportunities to follow up on clues, become a bit more organized and take on (or complete) tasks that you know must be done.

Many of us have these to-do lists posted by our computers - even if we don't get to them in a timely fashion - but to help readers who may not have such a list, here are some suggestions:

Continue reading "New Year: Family history plans for 2011" »

22    Dec 20100 comments

New Year: Learn something new

Do you make New Year's resolutions?

If so, do you keep them? For how long?

While many people resolve to break bad habits or improve physical qualities, those don't seem to last very long.

For a better outcome, try to learn some new skills to further your family history research. One way is to access free online classes. Some may be short tutorials, others are much longer and provide useful and practical data, including step-by-step videos.

What skills, tips or advice are you looking for? Do you need help in managing paperwork or photos? Would learning how to take better photos add to your MyHeritage.com family website?

Continue reading "New Year: Learn something new" »

2    Nov 20100 comments

Tracking the troops: GI Jane, GI Joe

Do you have ancestors or relatives who served in the military?     

As we peer into our past, we often find family members who served on land or sea in many countries and in many capacities. Some were on-the-ground forces, while others filled support roles such as tailors, doctors, nurses, cooks or musicians.   

London's Imperial War Museum has organized a Family History Day on Saturday, November 6, sponsored by MyHeritage.com. The event will assist participants - from beginners to experienced family historians - to learn how the Blitz affected families, the roles relatives played to help win the war, the aftermath of this history in today's families, and what records are accessible for more information. 

The Imperial War Museum is the museum of everyone’s story: the history of modern conflict told through the stories of those who were there. It is an educational and historical institution responsible for archives, collections and sites of outstanding national importance. You can view the Museum’s main website here.    

Dr. Mary Edwards Walker

 Women as well as men have served in diverse capacities in all US military branches - Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and the Coast Guard. For information on women veterans from Colonial to contemporary times, view stories here (scroll down to see other relevant pages on that site), and a time line here. For a collection of photos and artifacts documenting women's service, click here.    

One Civil War surgeon - Dr Mary Edwards Walker (photo left) - was the first woman to receive the Medal of Honor.     

Accessible records include regiment lists, files for widows' pensions, death and burial records, medals, hospital lists for the wounded, transport lists and many other records, each supplying another piece of the family history puzzle.     

Where can you find more information on those who served?

Continue reading "Tracking the troops: GI Jane, GI Joe" »

26    Oct 20102 comments

House History: Document yours!

A house on Rennweg (Zurich, Switzerland), c1880

 Imagine going down to the cellar of your house and seeing "1423" carved in an original beam.

Our daughter once lived in Zurich, Switzerland. Her fascinating house on a historic street - Rennweg - in the center of town was on all the medieval maps at the city museum. 

In the Middle Ages, it was the main street of the city's upper town and ran along the 12th century city wall from a fortified gate to the town hall. During street renovations, a Roman-era well was discovered.

Except for that carved date in an ancient wooden beam, a casual visitor would not have known the nearly 600-year-old building's history. Of course, other clues were the very steep steps, sloping floors and oddly-shaped rooms, but everything else was  modern.

Wouldn't you love to know the history of your home? When it was built and by whom? Who lived in it through the years? How they were connected to the community in which they lived?

Unless preserved, this type of information is often lost.

In Ithaca, New York,  a group of people have come up with a local project to preserve house history - one which could easily be replicated in places around the world.

Continue reading "House History: Document yours!" »

22    Aug 20102 comments

New Zealand: Find family in photos

A New Zealand library has just launched a database with more than 2,500 historical images, as well as cartoons, drawings, posters, watercolors and ephemera. 

The photo below is of Manurewa’s creamery, circa 1905 (CREDIT: Manurewa Historical Society).

South Auckland's Manukau Libraries Footprints Archive database is now accessible to researchers around the world, with images detailing everyday life from the 1870s-1990s, and covering a geographic area from Otahuhu down to Papakura and Franklin. Continue reading "New Zealand: Find family in photos" »

18    Aug 20102 comments

Family treasures: What’s in your attic?

Aren't attics - and cellars - magical places to explore?

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. Continue reading "Family treasures: What’s in your attic?" »

20    Jun 20103 comments

Prevent loss: Save your history

You've researched your family extensively over many years. What will happen to all that material in the future?

I have to admit that some of my own recent research is not as organized as it could be, due to lack of time. There are notes on loose papers not yet in the correct folder or binder. There are photographs waiting to be sorted. There are miscellaneous printed emails that I understand - would anyone else? 

Although beginning researchers might not think about this important topic, it is essential to address at every stage of research.

What will happen to your research if you become ill or worse? Will it be just thrown away? Will close family or other relatives understand what your work represents and its value?

This is a very personal topic for me as our family lost a 300-year-old family tree brought by one of the last family members to arrive from Belarus to the US in the early 1900s. He died in Florida in the 1950s and neither of his children were there. Everything in the house, including our priceless family history, was simply thrown away.

No matter how much research I do, the information contained in that tree will be impossible to replace in its entirety. It was compiled by those who lived that history and who knew much more than I can ever learn. Continue reading "Prevent loss: Save your history" »

17    Jun 20090 comments

Picture That: New photo features launched

Imagine attending a wedding, a birthday party, a graduation or a family reunion. Take photos with a mobile device - even a video of the bride and groom cutting the cake - and send it directly to your family site for other family members to see.

You can do this now, as one of the recently launched MyHeritage photo features that make it even easier to store, share and present digital photos online.

Some of the elements are the ability to upload photos from mobile devices, create slideshows from those images and tag them more quickly. The goal is to make the most of your family photos.

To really get your family members connecting and sharing photos, videos and other information, each member of your family site will receive unique email address and a PIN code. Any photo, video or document sent by your family site members via any mobile device will be published there.

The special email addresses prevent strangers from posting content to your family website, and helps MyHeritage identify who sent what item.

Just save the unique address in your mobile device and your email contact list. Members can also email photos and videos from web or email to the family site.

The innovations make your family site a safe place to store family images and documents and make them accessible to members.

It isn't only images, either. Imagine researching at an archive and finding documents, or in a library and finding family information in a rare out-of-print book, or an old family photograph - just take a photo of the document, page or photo and upload it to your site.

One way to view a large collection of photographs is via full-screen animated slideshows in various formats.

MyHeritage's CEO Gilad Japhet just created a "Ken Burns" style slideshow of his own family photographs. See it here:

Here's another way to present a slideshow, the album format using Barack Obama photos and even videos. See this presentation.

Other effects are also available, such as a traditional slideshow and others (3D walls, photo stack, etc.):
Continue reading "Picture That: New photo features launched" »

3    Apr 20080 comments

Orphan photos reconnected online

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AncientFaces.com and DeadFred.com are websites dedicated to reuniting old photos with the families of their original owners. They are only two of many in a subculture of amateur genealogists, antique hounds, and others who attempt to find real homes for old pictures.

DeadFred.com currently features 14,695 surnames, 77,573 photos/records, 1,278 reunions and experienced 62 million hits last year; AncientFaces.com houses 43,654 photos.

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According to a Boston Globe story, this subculture wouldn't exist without the Internet and its features. These days, libraries are also getting involved, and the Waltham (Massachusetts) Library has joined this community.

His picture arrived in the mail at the Waltham Public Library in a small manila envelope. The well-dressed stranger wore a dark pinstriped suit - late-19th-century vintage. His hair was parted sharply at the left temple, his starched collar crisp and white.

His photo carried the trademark of a Waltham studio, called Brown, L.C. on Main Street, which hasn't existed for more than 100 years.

"Hello," the handwritten note accompanying the picture said. "Don't ask me how I wound up in Sasser, Georgia! Would you please put me on display in your library so my family can find me? Thanks! Sincerely, A Lost Soul."

What was once a treasured image of a brother, husband or son is now an orphaned photo. But though this image might be a "Lost Soul," it is by no means alone. The Internet has created a thriving community of people who have found a calling in rescuing the thousands of these orphaned photos that surface in dusty attics or estate sales, and trying to reunite them with family or friends or anyone who could identify them.

And now Waltham's library has joined that community, drawn in by the arrival of the "Lost Soul" photo in January. Library workers have posted the image and several other unidentified pictures from its files on the library's website, and in a display case outside its Waltham Room.

Librarian Jan Zwicker oversees the local collection and says the library has more than 5,000 historical photos in diverse categories.

Amazingly, the "Lost Soul" is one of only five photos without a name or history attached. It was sent in by Patrica Rock of Georgia who found it in an antique shop. She hopes someone might recognize the man who might have been a local resident, visitor or student.

Another one of Rock's orphaned photos, this one depicting a 19th-century girl, included a name and the name of the man she eventually married. Rock used the information to track down their grandson, an 80-year-old doctor living in Chicopee. Soon afterward, the doctor contacted her with the reaction that she always hopes for. "He was absolutely amazed. She had died giving birth to his father, and they only had one photo of her, taken when she was older ...He sent me a paperweight this Christmas."

The library's other four mystery photos have been there for years, and whether those or Lost Soul will connect with family isn't certain. His best clue is the photo studio, in business on Main Street between 1893 and 1895.

Another - late-19th-early-20th century - is a white-haired gentleman wearing a long, fur-trimmed coat, staring into the camera, and taken at a known Boston studio, Elmer Chickering in 1904. A third shows a middle-aged man wearing the clothes of a priest or minister, in a pair of pince-nez glasses. The fourth is of a large crowd, mostly men, on the steps of a large stone building, taken by mystery man Adolphe Bean, who isn't listed in any records of the period. The last is a street scene of a streetcare, showing a steeple above the trees.

Read more about the friends of lost photos in the Boston Globe story here.

I'd like to know if readers have used either of these sites, have submitted photos or have found family photos. I look forward to your comments and questions.

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