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Monday, April 13, 2015
"Who Do You Think You Are?" America Ferrera Discovers the Story of Her Honduran Ancestor
Posted by Diane
Guest blogger Sunny Jane Morton recaps last night's "Who Do You Think You Are?", with tips to help you find genealogy records the way America Ferrera did.
Ferrera (you may have watched her a few years back on "Ugly
Betty" or heard her voice Astrid on "How to Train Your Dragon") is
an unusual "Who Do You Think You Are?" guest because her family came
so recently to the United States.
I liked feeling the immediacy of her ties to the Central American
country of Honduras—her parents' birthplace—in last night’s episode.
She didn’t need translation help most of the time: She could
interview Spanish-speakers and read old documents herself.
America’s family history journey begins when she boards a plane to
La Esperanza, Honduras, where her father died. He left her family in
the United States when she was young and never came back. She wants
to know why. She doesn’t get a satisfying answer from his friend
(“he had emotional problems”) but is comforted to learn that her
father missed his children and talked about them often. Like many
people must do, she turns to the more distant past.
She ends up focusing on the story of her great-grandfather, a
controversial and powerful figure in Honduran military and political
history. Through his story we learn about struggles at the top
levels of Honduran government in the early 1900s. His name appears
in elementary school records, a census, newspapers, confidential US
government reports, and even Time magazine. This makes
Fererra laugh in surprise. (“My great-grandpa’s name is in Time
magazine? That’s kind of amazing and insane that I didn’t know
As views inside the Honduran national archives show, many
international repositories are still fairly low-tech. They haven’t
digitized or indexed many of their holdings. Yet some Central
American resources are online. FamilySearch.org
has some digitized censuses, church and other records for Honduras
censuses are called padrones; click here to learn more
about them). You can find an introduction
to Honduras genealogy here and overlapping
resources (including the colonial censuses) at Ancestry.com.
Trace your own immigrant ancestors—wherever they were from—with our
Immigrant Ancestors Premium Collection. When the records you
need aren't readily available online or by renting microfilm, you'll
want our video
class on working with foreign-language records and repositories—it'll
help you with strategies from writing to overseas archives to hiring
"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots | Hispanic Roots
Monday, April 13, 2015 9:32:59 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
"Finding Your Roots" Traces Celebrity Chefs' Italian, Mexican and Chinese Immigrant Ancestors
Posted by Diane
Last night's "Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr." on PBS
focused on the immigrant ancestors of celebrity chefs of different ethnic—and culinary—backgrounds: Tom Colicchio
(Italian), Aarón Sánchez (Mexican)
and Ming Tsai (Chinese).
I don't have family heritage in these places, but I think this already interesting show would be even more interesting if you're researching in any of these areas.
I appreciated how this show detailed various motivations for
immigrants to leave their homelands, and explained how some would
travel back and forth between home and the United States before
finally settling here. This was quite common, especially for men, who would come to earn money to take to their families
back home. More than half of all Italian immigrants in the early
20th century, Gates said, were "birds of passage."
Here are some highlights of this episode:
- Tom Colicchio's great-great-grandfather traveled to America in
1901, returned to Italy, then came back in 1906 and went home
again in 1911. He was pressed into service in the Italian army
in World War I, and finally brought his family to settle in the
United States in 1947. The show described the burgeoning
population, harsh taxes, crime and an earthquake that propelled
Colicchio's family to leave their picturesque town of Vallarta.
- Aarón Sánchez's great-great-grandfather was a prominent
rancher in Mexico who lost everything he had and fled to the
United States during the Mexican
Revolution. He later was able to get his cattle back.
Sánchez's third-great-grandfather, born in Spain in 1822, was
the military commander Hilario Gabilondo. In 1857,
Gabilondo ordered the deaths of about 70 filibusters (Americans
attempting to seize land in Mexico) in an expedition led by
former California state senator Henry Crabb. Read
more about filibustering here.
The show's researchers traced Sanchez's ancestors in
Spain back to his sixth-great-grandfather in the early 1700s. A
DNA test revealed Sanchez has nearly 25 percent American Indian
ancestry (the equivalent of having an Indian grandparent) and 3.7
percent African-American ancestry.
- Ming Tsai's grandfather was a comptroller of a university in
China when Japan invaded before World War II. He was sent to a
prison in Japan, where he was tortured and contracted typhus; he
nearly died. He was able to return to his work after the war,
but the Cultural
Revolution, during which millions of intellectuals and
"bourgeois" were persecuted and killed, forced him to flee.
Many historical relics were destroyed during the
Cultural Revolution, including steles, or carved
stone tablets recording families. The Ming family stele was the
only one remaining in their town. It led researchers records at
the Shanghai public library (probably jiapu,
or books recording paternal family lineage) that allowed them to
trace his ancestry all the way back to his 116th-great-grandfather
in the 27th century BC.
In trying to find out more about steles, I came across the House of Chinn website,
about Chinese genealogy research and the author's own family. You
might find it helpful if you're researching ancestors in China.
You also can search
a surname index to jiapu on subscription website Ancestry.com.Each chef's cuisine is inspired by the foods of his ancestors; each recalled delicious meals with parents and grandparents. As the holidays approach, it's good to remember that food is a great way to introduce family members to their ancestors. You might even say that the way to a nongenealogist's heart is through his or her stomach.
can watch this episode of "Finding Your Roots" online, at the
Asian roots | Celebrity Roots | Genealogy TV | Hispanic Roots | Italian roots
Wednesday, October 22, 2014 10:36:08 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, January 02, 2013
What's in a Name?
Posted by Beth
Bonne année, Gutes Neues Jahr, Xin nian yu kuai, Feliz Año
Nuevo and Kali hronia … Whether you say it in French, German, Mandarin, Spanish or Greek, they all translate to "Happy New Year!" Hope yours is off to a great start!
Speaking of languages, genealogists understand and appreciate the value of names and all the family history information that they can provide. Naming patterns and traditions; spellings; pronunciations; and meanings can impact your search for ancestors from a given locale.
To provide added insight to your ancestral search, we've created 15 PDF downloadable reference guides featuring first names from around the world. Each comprehensive guide is presented in dictionary-style format, making it easy to search for names, spellings and their meanings. For example, A Genealogist's Guide to British Names reveals that the name Harry means "ruler of an estate." Rather prophetic for Prince Harry!
Get more information from your genealogical research this year with a better understanding of your ancestral names!
A Genealogist's Guide to Ethnic Given Names
A Genealogist's Guide to African Names
A Genealogist's Guide to British Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Chinese Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Eastern European Names
A Genealogist's Guide to French Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Gaelic Names
A Genealogist's Guide to German Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Greek Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Hawaiian Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Indian Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Irish Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Italian Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Japanese Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Jewish Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Native American Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Russian Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Scandinavian Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Spanish Names
African-American roots | American Indian roots | Asian roots | Celebrating your heritage | French Canadian roots | German roots | Hispanic Roots | Italian roots | Jewish roots | ShopFamilyTree.com Sales | UK and Irish roots
Wednesday, January 02, 2013 12:04:21 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Exploring Hispanic Heritage on PBS' "Finding Your Roots"
Posted by Diane
Sunday's season finale of "Finding Your
Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr." on PBS focused on the
Hispanic genealogy of political analyst Linda Chavez and actors Michelle
Rodriguez and Adrian Grenier.
The trio shares Hispanic heritage, but each thought of him- or
- Chavez considered herself of mixed European heritage. She had
roots in Spain's New World colonies going all the way
back to the 1590s, when an ancestor sailed to Mexico. In a
surprise discovery, she learned many of her family were "conversos,"
Jews forced to convert to Catholicism, many of whom continued to
practice Judaism in private. A large number of conversos left Spain during
Her grandmother's custom of turning a religious statue to face
the wall hinted at the surprise—you
can read more about this custom in Chavez' essay here.
- Grenier, who'd always identified with American Indian roots
because of a story in his mother's family, discovered he had a
conquistador ancestor in Don
Juan de Oñate
's army (kind of the opposite of having American Indian roots).
Grenier seemed shaken when his connection to American Indian
heritage was in question, but Gates' team did find a 1663
record at the New
Mexico state archives identifying an ancestor as "Indio."
So he does have American Indian roots, just further back
than he'd believed. I wonder if he'll still identify
himself as being American Indian?
- Rodriguez is Puerto Rican through her father and Dominican
through her mother. Gates described her tree as a "tangled web," provoking a hilarious reaction from Rodriguez.
Her father's family intermarried repeatedly, likely in an effort
to preserve "pure" bloodlines. Three of her
third-great-grandfathers were brothers, and her
great-grandparents were first cousins.
Her surprise came on a
trip to the Dominican Republic to learn more about her mom's
family from a great-aunt. The aunt's parents—Rodriguez's
great-grandparents—weren't married, it turns out. Her
great-grandfather had a legal wife, and the two women raised the
As in other episodes, DNA tests revealed guests' percentages
of maternal ancestry from various parts of the world. You can read
more about the tests and each person's results on the Your
Genetic Genealogist blog.
Also as before, Gates emphasized that mixing between ancestral
groups or "races"—in this case, colonial Spanish and American
Indian peoples—was common. This is part of what makes the
definition of American really pretty broad.
Good news: From Lisa
Louise Cooke's interview with Gates in her Genealogy Gems
Podcast, it sounds like a second season is already in
Watch the full episode on the "Finding Your Roots" website.
Celebrity Roots | Hispanic Roots
Tuesday, May 22, 2012 9:25:11 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Friday, March 16, 2012
Genealogy News Corral, March 12-16
Posted by Diane
- Genealogy and family network website MyHeritage now has a feature that lets members easily create family calendars. You can choose from 15 designs and 28 languages, and create a calendar in one click. It's automatically decorated with your family photos and populated with birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and other events from your MyHeritage.com family site. You can add or change events and photos, too, and purchase your calendar for as low as $19.95 plus shipping.
- Family tree wiki site WikiTree.com has started a Genealogist-to-Genealogist Sharing Network (aka G2G). It'll allow researchers (whether or not they're WikiTree members) to ask other genealogists for help on topics such as general genealogy, research brick walls, or how to use WikiTree.
- FamilySearch added 20 million new, free records to FamilySearch.org this week for Canada, Chile, New Zealand, Portugal, Sweden, and 13 US states. The release includes 9 million California death records and 5 million Nevada marriage records. See the list of updated databases and link to each one here.
- Florida International University (FIU) has acquired Felix Enrique Hurtado de Mendoza's collection of thousands of books,
handwritten and typed letters, photos and other primary documents
relating to Cuba and Cuban genealogy. They include rare 17th- and
18th-century books, out-of-print publications, and thousands
of unpublished genealogies and family manuscripts. FIU is now raising
funds to create a Cuban center for genealogy centered around this
collection. Read more about the Felix Enrique Hurtado de Mendoza collection here.
FamilySearch | Fold3 | Hispanic Roots | Military records | MyHeritage | Social Networking
Friday, March 16, 2012 9:54:45 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Happy Triple Heritage Month: German, Italian & Polish Genealogy Resources
Posted by Diane
Did you know October is German American Heritage Month, Italian American Heritage Month and Polish American Heritage Month?
That’s right. The month is almost over (that was fast!), but we can’t let it go by without sharing resources to help you trace these heritages. Here are some of our favorite online articles, sites and resources:
People with German heritage make up the largest ancestry group in the United States, according to the 2000 US census. I'm part of this statistic, at one-half German.
Those with Italian heritage make up the seventh largest ancestry group in the United States, with 15.6 million Americans claiming Italian roots in the 2000 US census.
Hispanic Heritage Month (celebrating the ancestry of another big US heritage group) spanned part of this month, too, ending Oct. 15. You can see Hispanic heritage tips and resources in this blog post.
If you have Polish ancestors, you share heritage with 9 million Americans and are part of the country's eighth largest ancestry group.
Family Tree University | Free Databases | German roots | Hispanic Roots | International Genealogy
Wednesday, October 26, 2011 2:40:33 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Friday, September 16, 2011
Genealogy News Corral, September 12-16
Posted by Diane
- FamilySearch released more searchable records this week, including more than 6 million Hungarian Catholic Church records, 4 million Mexican civil registrations, 1 million new Chinese genealogies (1500 to 1900), and Quebec notarial records (1800 to 1900). US additions come from California, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New York, Washington and the Virgin Islands, plus 1942 WWII draft registrations. See the full list and link to each database here.
- Family tree site Geni introduced its $4.95-per-month Geni Plus service as a level between the free Basic and $12.95 Pro memberships. Genealogists’ frustrated feedback after changes to those memberships led to Geni Plus, intended for social genealogists who want to collaborate with other researchers. It's "designed to give these members more power to build their personal family trees while discovering some of the benefits of working with others on their family history," says CEO Noah Tutak. Features include unlimited relatives in your tree and GEDCOM exports for any profile you can view on Geni (up to 100,000 records). See Geni’s blog for more details.
- Subscription British records site Findmypast.co.uk added a million 20th century merchant navy seamen records—the first time they’re accessible online. They list crew members of UK merchant ships from 1918 to
1941 and include photos.
- This from the New York History blog: If you’re planning to visit Ellis Island and see where many immigrants first entered America, you can download a $1.99 cell phone tour taking you through the immigrant experience. Read more here.
FamilySearch | Hispanic Roots | International Genealogy | Museums | Social Networking | UK and Irish roots
Friday, September 16, 2011 4:49:42 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Search the 1930 Mexican Census Free Online
Posted by Diane
Subscription site Ancestry.com has added the 1930 Mexico National Census (El Quinto Censo General de Población y Vivienda 1930, México) and made the records free to search in celebration of Mexican Independence Day Sept. 16.
With nearly 13 million records, this census counted an estimated 90 percent of the population. Note that citizens from the Federal District, which includes Mexico City, aren’t named.
In its announcement, Ancestry.com calls this the most comprehensive historical Mexican census available online. (FamilySearch.org, the source of Ancestry.com’s index and images, also has the 1930 Mexico census records available in its free historical records search.)
Nearly 30 million Americans—about 10 percent of the US population—can trace their families to Mexico. Other Ancestry.com collections they can use to research their roots are border crossings from Mexico to the United States (1895-1957) and parish records. The records are gathered in a Mexico collection landing page. (The 1930 Mexican census is free to search, but not all the other records in the collection are free.)
If you’re researching ancestors in Mexico, check out these resources from Family Tree Magazine:
Ancestry.com | FamilySearch | Hispanic Roots
Friday, September 16, 2011 11:33:22 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Genealogy Tips for Hispanic Heritage Month
Posted by Diane
Hispanic Heritage Month begins on Sept. 15, the anniversary of the 1821 declaration of independence for the Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.
September also is marks the independence days of Mexico (16th), Chile (18th) and Belize (21st).
President Lyndon Johnson approved Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968. Twenty years later, President Ronald Reagan expanded the observation to cover a 30-day period ending Oct. 15.
The month celebrates the long and important presence of people of Hispanic descent in North America. The Spanish fortress of St. Augustine, Fla., founded in 1565, is the first continuously inhabited European settlement in North America. The Spanish explored the US Southwest in the 16th century and founded Santa Fe, NM, in 1610.
The website Our American History/La Historia de Nuestra América relates the part the Spanish and Hispanic Americans played in the American Revolution—a role I have to admit I’ve never learned much about.
You can research Hispanic roots with help from our Hispanic Heritage Toolkit, which has articles including
In ShopFamilyTree.com, you can snap up our digital research guides to Mexican roots and Spanish and Portuguese roots.
If it’s language tips you need (maybe for reading records or visiting your ancestral homeland), try our Everything Guides to learning Spanish and learning Brazilian Portuguese.
Hispanic Roots | International Genealogy
Tuesday, September 14, 2010 2:15:52 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Resources for Tracing Hispanic Roots
Posted by Diane
Today’s the start of Hispanic Heritage month, honoring the histories of the United States’ 46.9 million residents of Hispanic origin, who according to the Census Bureau make up the nation's largest ethnic minority.
About 64 percent of the country’s Hispanic residents have a Mexican background; 9 percent are Puerto Rican; 3.5 percent, Cuban; 3.1 percent, Salvadoran; and 2.7 percent, Dominican.
Four Hispanic surnames ranked among the 15 most common last names in the 2000 US census: Garcia (placing eighth with 858,289 occurrences), Rodriguez (ninth), Martinez (11th) and Hernandez (15th).
Researching Hispanic roots? Here are some places to start:
- Our online Hispanic Heritage Toolkit has resources and tips for learning about Mexican, Spanish, Portuguese, Basque, Central and South American ancestors.
See our advice for research in the Caribbean, too.
The site also has a growing collection of church, civil registration and census records from the Caribbean and Central and South America.Besides researching your Hispanic roots, here are a couple of other ways to mark the occasion:
- PBS is airing "Latin Music USA," a documentary series, Mondays, Oct. 12 and 19, from 9 to 11 p.m. ET.
Ancestry.com | FamilySearch | Hispanic Roots | immigration records | International Genealogy
Tuesday, September 15, 2009 9:50:25 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)