28    Jun 20110 comments

Jamboree 2011: Education, technology and fun

The Southern California Genealogical Society’s annual Jamboree is one of the best-run large regional events in the United States.  MyHeritage chief genealogist Daniel Horowitz and myself again attended and presented at this year's conference, held June 10-12, 2011, in Burbank, California.

Conference co-chairs Paula Hinkle and Leo Myers, in addition to their large team of volunteers, always make this an excellent experience.

Some highlights:

Some 70 genealogy bloggers – a record number at any gen conference - blogged, tweeted and Facebooked throughout the event, as well as participating in social events, including an ice cream party and a piñata smashing, among others.

There are many good sports among this friendly group whose conference get-togethers are like a family reunion. A blogger media island enabled the bloggers to continuously tweet and Facebook over the three-day event.

More seriously, there were outstanding sessions to attend, ranging from breakfasts to evening dinners and everything in between. Among those attended by Daniel and myself were:

  • A free Kids' Camp attended by many young people, including Boy and Girl Scouts.
  • World table discussion, where Daniel and I headed the Jewish table at two sessions, answered questions and directed visitors to many resources for their individual quests.
  • An informative breakfast presentation on using social media for societies by Thomas MacEntee, and
  • A full-day family history writers conference.

Read on for more details.

Continue reading "Jamboree 2011: Education, technology and fun" »

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!" »

17    May 20110 comments

Gen conferences: Information for all

Three genealogy conferences in two countries were on my schedule over the past 10 days.

Each conference provided food for thought, learning opportunities and practical information. Additionally, each event offered networking opportunities, and chances to meet others with the same interests.

On May 7, the Society of Genealogists (London, UK) held their Centenary Conference, a major event for this group founded in 1911. The world of family history and how we research hadn't changed much over the decades until rather recently.

Continue reading "Gen conferences: Information for all" »

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" »

2    Feb 20118 comments

Family History: Learn from experts

2011 provides a great opportunity for family history enthusiasts and genealogists to learn from experts who might be visiting their communities.

MyHeritage's own Daniel Horowitz has a daunting tour schedule in the coming months, and I will also be speaking in numerous venues. We will both be speaking at the major genealogy events as well as staffing the company's booth.

We invite MyHeritage.com users to stop by and say hello at the conferences or to attend the other programs at the conferences.

We are especially looking forward to greeting our UK users at the upcoming Who Do You Think You Are? Live family history fair in London.

Here's Daniel's upcoming tour. His topics cover information-packed talks covering a broad range of topics - from MyHeritage features, technology, genealogy school projects, resources and more.

Continue reading "Family History: Learn from experts" »

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?

17    Jan 20110 comments

Genealogy of Color: Resources Online

In the US, we celebrate famous civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday as an official holiday on the third Monday in January.

This year it is today, January 17.

It is a fitting day to discuss the increasing number of family history resources available to African Americans searching for their roots, which can be difficult.

When the book "Roots"  was published and later screened as the most-watched television series of all time in the '70s, it offered people of all ethnicities the idea that it was possible to learn about their families. In the past few years, increasing numbers of resources have been made available.

For African Americans, it meant that more resources would be developed allowing the people of today to find out about their ancestors, whose history and even names had been hidden or erased. With today's DNA resources, many can now trace their families to areas in Africa.

Here is a round-up of resources - websites, blogs, DNA research - that will help you learn more about your family. Remember that each resource listed also offers even more links to additional information.

Continue reading "Genealogy of Color: Resources Online" »

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.

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" »

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