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Friday, 09 December 2016
Evolution of a Holiday Tradition
Posted by Diane
This is a guest post from Online editor, Vanessa Wieland.
While most of America (or, at least, most of the Americans I know) think of Thanksgiving as their favorite meal of the year, in our family, it’s Christmas day brunch. It used to be Thanksgiving, where we’d get together with all my dad’s siblings and their families for a massive meal. Once the 13 cousins started having children of their own and started scattering to various parts of the country, it got too big and unwieldy to fit inside any one of our houses, so new traditions have evolved.
That is my dad and I, many years ago.
It’s interesting, how family changes over time - and with them, the traditional celebrations. While we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving with my dad’s side of the family anymore, we’re still a close-knit group. However, the nucleus has changed. While it used to be my dad and his siblings providing the center around which we revolved, now we celebrate Christmas with my sister and her husband’s family.
My definition of family has expanded to include my sister’s in-laws. We have words for our relatives by blood - mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter, aunt uncle, cousin, niece, nephew. We have the in-laws - brother-in-law, father-in-law, sister-in-law, mother-in-law- but there are no easy or common ways to reference my relationship to my sister’s nephews or niece, at least not in English. How do you describe your nephew’s aunt on the other side, or your niece’s cousins on their other side? In their marriage, my brother-in-law and sister combined two families into one, but that means the relationships can get a little more difficult to define.
Both holidays involve sitting down together to eat a large meal that we’ve all contributed to, but food-wise, I prefer breakfast. Maybe it’s a throwback to all the Sunday mornings my dad - disgustingly cheerful morning-person that he was - would make breakfast for us. He’d drag us out of bed with the scents of coffee and bacon. Our dog, Princess, got her share of eggs as well, since my father took his breakfast preparation rather seriously. Things had to be just right. If an omelet wasn’t perfectly shaped, into her bowl it’d go. Luckily for her, my dad always had one “oops” that went into her bowl.
You can see Princess here, waiting patiently for her omelet.
It could also be that from the time I was a toddler, I’d head over to our next door neighbor’s house for “second” breakfast. See “Mawmaw” Marge’s Coffee Cake recipe in the 30-day cooking challenge, which is my mom’s contribution to Christmas brunch.
Unlike my father, I’m definitely not a morning person, so brunch is far more of an appropriate time of day to eat breakfast foods. And Christmas brunch is the best brunch of all. Everyone contributes, which means there are far more types of foods than any one person can eat in one sitting. Pancakes, waffles and coffee cake indulge those with a sweet tooth; there is also usually toast, potato breakfast casserole, and biscuits and gravy. There are also sausages and bacon, and fruit, but the best part are the omelets. My brothers-in-law make omelets to order. Omelets can have everything from ham and green peppers to mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, and cheese. It’s the job of one of the older kids to go around and take everyone’s order for their omelets.
And of course, with the food there must be beverages. There’s coffee, tea, orange juice and my favorite contribution - mimosas. I’m fine with leaving the cooking to those suited to it. After all, there are plenty of debates and schools of thought about crafting the perfect cup of coffee or tea, and creating a sparkly, tasty mimosa is an art form that allows me to exercise my creativity far from the stove. I can stay out of the way and still be part of the activity.
You can see two of my mimosa recipes on the drinks page; one alcoholic and one friendly to kids, new moms and people wishing not to imbibe.
Friday, 09 December 2016 11:30:53 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Tuesday, 06 December 2016
31 Days of Family Holiday Recipes: Easy Birthday Cupcakes
Posted by Diane
We at Family Tree Magazine are sharing 31 Days of Family Holiday
Recipes in December to honor the folks in our family histories who
prepare mountains of cookies, pies, fancy entrees, beverages, coffee
cakes (my mom-in-law has about 40 stashed in friends'
freezers all over town) and other special dishes.
For those of us who enjoy the fruits of our baking relatives' labor,
the holidays just wouldn't be the same without their culinary
Of course, all this cooking and baking takes time, which you might
find in short supply at this point of the year (and all the other points, too), so the recipe I'm sharing today is easy.
My sister, arguably
my family's best chef, taught me the secret of starting with boxed
mix and making it better with a few adjustments.
My husband is a big fan of homemade frosting so I make my own
(though I do keep a backup tub of store-bought in the pantry just in case).
I just made these cupcakes for our publisher Allison Dolan's
milestone birthday (I'll keep you guessing which one), and they're
pretty good if I must say.
You will need:
What to do:
- Your favorite cake mix
- Cocoa powder if using chocolate cake mix
- Your favorite frosting (Mine is cream cheese from my mom's
recipe: Beat together 1/2 cup softened butter and 8 oz. softened
cream cheese, then beat in a splash of vanilla and 4 cups
powdered sugar, plus a tablespoon or two of milk.)
- Sprinkles, mini chocolate chips or other decoration
Prepare your favorite boxed cake mix, but use melted butter instead
of oil (the same amount) and milk instead of water (also the same
amount). If using a chocolate mix (which I do 99% of the time),
sprinkle a tablespoon or so of cocoa powder into the dry mix for
more chocolately-ness. Beat the batter with an electric mixer
(instead of by hand) for about 2 minutes.
Fill cupcake liners and bake according to the instructions on the
box. Let cool and frost, Be sure to add sprinkles or other decorations before the frosting sets.
Follow us on
us on Pinterest and stop
by FamilyTreeMagazine.com to see all 31 Days of Family Holiday
saving and sharing family history
Tuesday, 06 December 2016 15:33:47 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Monday, 05 December 2016
Free Access to Fold3 In Honor of Pearl Harbor's 75th Anniversary
Posted by Diane
Madge Maril, associate editor of Family Tree Magazine, here with news from Fold3. This Wednesday will mark 75 years since the attack on Pearl Harbor. For many, it is difficult to believe that much time has elapsed since the tragedy unfolded in 1941.
Photo from the Library of Congress
During December, Fold3 is also allowing free access to over 113 million WWII records—including 35 million WWII draft registration cards. “Fold3 hopes these resources can help each user discover their own military ancestors and the brave lives they led,” Fold3 announced.
To honor the fallen and respect those who bravely fought, Fold3 is featuring the stories of twelve Pearl Harbor survivors, highlighting their genealogy, military service and personal histories. Four of the men are USS Arizona veterans.
Explore the Fold3 USS Arizona interactive virtual memorial as well for free on Fold3. Simply enter the name of the serviceman you are searching for, and the image viewer scans a photo of the Hawaiian memorial for the name, allowing you to find the name of a loved one on the memorial online.
The bottom of the website also offers a 10$ off coupon for an AncestryDNA test, for those looking to expand their genealogy research through DNA testing.
Monday, 05 December 2016 13:17:23 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Thursday, 01 December 2016
Are You Missing the Best Genealogy Websites for Finding U.S. Ancestors?
Posted by Diane
David Rumsey Historical Maps
We published our annual list
of 75 top US state genealogy websites in the December
2016 Family Tree Magazine (you can see the list right here).
These state-focused genealogy websites stand out for their digitized
historical records, searchable indexes to vital and other records,
and how-to advice.
But our list is just a starting point. There are many more
state-focused genealogy websites to mine as you research American
ancestors. Nonprofit and government sites don't have a lot of money
to market themselves, so it's easy for them to slip
under a genealogist's radar. Here are five types of state-focused
genealogy websites you should look for in every state where your
Google a state and "state archive" to find the website for
the state archive, which usually manages records created by the
state (such as state censuses and adjutant general records), may
archive old county records, and often collects newspapers, city
directories, federal censuses and other records that cover citizens
of the state.
On the website, look for:
State Historical Society
an overview of genealogy-related holdings
links to digital collections
- tips on research topics of interest to you, such as vital
records or burned counties
a catalog of holdings you can search for your ancestor's town and
county, as well as other terms, for a list of records that might cover your clan
- locations, hours and visitor information
- a "research services" or similar link to see if you can borrow
items through interlibrary loan or pay for an archivist's
links to genealogy resources for more websites to check or
guides to consult
Search for the name of a state and "historical society."
Some historical societies are affiliated with the state government
(in Ohio, the state
archive is part of the state historical society, called Ohio History Connection),
and some are independent membership organizations. Look for the same
features as on a state archives website.
Search for the name of the state and "state library." The
state library may or may not be part of the archive (as for the Texas State Library and Archive),
and it may or may not hold genealogical materials. Indiana's State Library has
a description of
its genealogy holdings here. Look for the same features as on
a state archives website.
Digital Library or Memory Project
Search for the name of the state and memory or "digital
library." Many states have online memory collections with old
photos, maps, yearbooks and other digitized records contributed by
organizations and individuals around the state. Check out Florida Memory
Digitized Newspapers Site
Search for the name of the state and historical (or historic)
newspapers. Some state libraries, archives or historical
societies run websites where you can search and view digitized
Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection is here; Utah Digital Newspapers is
in ShopFamilyTree.com for research guides, webinars and video
classes for doing genealogy and discovering your ancestry in every
state in the USA.
Genealogy Web Sites | Libraries and Archives | Research Tips
Thursday, 01 December 2016 15:13:01 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Friday, 25 November 2016
What Gift Would You Buy Your Ancestor On Black Friday?
Posted by Diane
Today's prompt for Family
Tree Magazine's 30-Day Family History Writing Challenge
In honor of Black Friday, review resources like the
Sears Catalog and “buy” three Christmas presents for an ancestor.
Why did you choose them?
I'm going to cheat and skip the Sears Wish Book and choose one gift, because
it's allowed and because I know EXACTLY what I want to buy an
ancestor—my grandfather—for Christmas.
Library of Congress
To be more specific, a sow.
If you want to know why, you have to promise not to tell my dad what
he's getting for Christmas.
Snooping in Dad's papers while putting together a book about his
dad, I found an essay my grandfather wrote about going to high
school at a Texas children's home.
In Grandpa's sophomore year, the animal
husbandry students had to acquire and raise a farm animal.
My grandfather spent $75 on a registered sow. He didn't say whether
the school provided funds. That would be quite a sum for a high
school student today, let alone for a boy in 1919 with no family
Unfortunately, the pig fell victim to hog cholera, also called classic
swine fever. This virus (now eradicated in the United
States) is usually fatal within 15 days. Grandpa's sow died not long
after he bought her.
"In the short space of time," wrote my grandfather, "I had grown to
like my sow so much that when she died, I cried as if she were my
Library of Congress
I never met my grandfather. What I know of his personality comes
from my research, relatives, and my dad. The same dad, a mechanical engineer, who
taught me to sweep the kitchen floor in straight lines, following
the pattern in the linoleum to ensure thorough coverage. Other than
getting worked up at the occasional soccer game, he's pretty stoic.
I get the feeling Dad comes by it honestly. Another of his dad's essays, titled "Studying," includes the
recommendations "Each lesson in every course should be allotted a
certain time and studied a certain day," and "In going over your
lesson, study each sentence, and do not leave a difficult one until
you are convinced you must have help to understand it."
My grandfather eventually became a civil engineer, one you'd be comfortable having
build the bridges and large river dams you rely on to not fall over.
The orphanage he entered at age 11 wasn't the stereotypical
miserable kind of place in Little Orphan Annie. Newspaper
accounts describe a pleasant home, efficiently run, with children
engaged in activities. My grandfather had friends and adults who
cared about him. His brother and sister lived there for a time. So I
could be wrong, but I can't help imagining him as a boy, putting on a
brave face despite missing his mother terribly.
Great, now I'm going to cry.
Grandpa wrote that his junior year was when he decided to pursue
engineering instead of agriculture. Maybe losing his pet played a
I have no idea how to buy someone a pig, but if I could go back a century to
East Texas, I would make it happen.
saving and sharing family history | Social History
Friday, 25 November 2016 16:51:21 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Monday, 21 November 2016
Sharing is Caring When It Comes to Family Photos
Posted by Diane
This week's post is from Vanessa Wieland, online editor for Family Tree University, with gratitude and credit to Sandra Mingua Stephens for the photos and the inspiration.
A week or so ago my mother’s friend, Sandy, posted some pictures on Facebook. The first was of she and my mom and some other kids, arms flung around each other on a sidewalk. The image is quintessential 50s, but while the cars and the clothes have changed, the neighborhood - not so much.
The second image she shared was of her father, my grandfather, and two of their other friends standing guard in uniforms, holding American and Kentucky state flags.
I grew up not just a few blocks from the street in the photo of my mom. In fact, both my dad and his mother grew up on the same street I did, and that was only a five-minute stroll from my grandparents on my mom’s side. My parents met because she lived next door to my dad’s best friend.
I’m fortunate to have grown up in a neighborhood where friendships don’t just span decades - they span generations. My father's yearbook contains the same last names as mine and it's sometimes hard to tell the difference between census years. I'm certainly not complaining, though. It means I have a bunch of uncles and aunts, moms and dads, grandparents, siblings, and even a couple of nieces and nephews, even if they won't show up in my DNA matches. While it means that every trip to the grocery store becomes a family reunion of sorts, it also provides a lovely sense of security and community.
Though they might not show up in my official family tree, they do contribute quite a lot to my family history. After all, who better to tell you stories about your mother’s childhood than her childhood best friend? Our parents’ friends can offer a unique perspective and set of memories that we might never get from them - plus, it’s really fun to gather them together and get them talking about the “good old days.” It certainly makes doing cluster searches a lot easier.
Both images were new to me and they’re both fantastic. I’m grateful to have new sources and looks into the past. Why not take some time this week and share some old photos online? Believe me - you'll make someone's day.
Celebrating your heritage
Monday, 21 November 2016 16:24:25 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Thursday, 17 November 2016
FamilySearch Announces Property Brothers to Keynote 2017 RootsTech Conference
Posted by Diane
Madge Maril, associate editor of Family Tree Magazine, here with some exciting news: If you’re a fan of HGTV’s Property Brothers, you’ll be happy to hear that FamilySearch announced today that the two brothers, Jonathan and Drew Scott, will keynote the 2017 RootsTech conference.
RootsTech is the largest genealogy conferences in the world, aptly held in Salt Lake City, Utah. Organized by FamilySearch, RootsTech is sponsored by Ancestry, Find My Past, MyHeritage and other beloved genealogy websites and organizations. Former First Lady Laura Bush, New York Times columnist Bruce Feiler and many well-known genealogists like Lisa Alzo, Lisa Louise Cooke and Judy Russell have all been speakers at RootsTech.
Jonathan and Drew shot to fame as the stars of the reality TV show Property Brothers. The show consists of the brothers guiding homebuyers through the process of renovating old homes, all while sticking to a budget. Due to the success of Property Brothers, the two have starred in spin-offs like Brother vs Brother, Property Brothers at Home, Buying and Selling and Property Brothers At Home on The Ranch. So… why are they speaking at RootsTech?
RootsTech notes in their press release that “the brothers will talk about their unique family ties, and the can-do attitudes it fostered, their positive outlooks, and childhoods, their careers, their shared passions for buying and renovating property, and for the entertainment industry.”
While it’s possible they can’t tell difference between microfilm and microfiche, hearing about “unique family ties” may prove to be inspirational for many genealogists. After all, half of researching your family history is the family part. The two may also tie in their knowledge of antique and vintage homes, along with the playful rapport that has made them so well known.
Learn more about other speakers and purchase tickets for RootsTech 2017 on the official website.
Thursday, 17 November 2016 16:02:17 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Wednesday, 16 November 2016
30-Day Family History Writing Challenge: Day 15
Posted by Diane
November rolls on! We’re at the halfway point of our 30-Day Family History Writing Challenge, and guest editor Andrew Koch shares his response to today’s prompt in this guest post:
"Pick an ancestor from the 1800s, drop him into today, and (as your ancestor) write a letter to family members still in the 1800s. How would he describe today? What surprises him? What questions would he have?"
In this letter, my third great-grandfather, a 25-year-old clothing repairman named Henry Winter (1853–1926), writes to his wife, Isabella (1857–1894):
My dearest Isabella,
I’m writing to tell you of the most strange and marvelous adventure I’m having. I find myself in a new—and terrifying—world, full of people and inventions I’ve never even imagined.
Our city looks nothing like we know it. The buildings rise high into the sky, and I can hardly see the top without bending over backwards. The noises and smells are overwhelming…so many people, and so much movement. The streets are crowded with horseless coaches in all variety of colors and shapes, and people rush past each other without speaking to each other. Instead, they barely look up from their hands—Many of them carry strange devices that they speak into. I heard them called “sell fowns,” though it seems more than just salesmen carry them.
But what confounds me most are the people’s dress. Such indecency! Such scandal! Men strut through the streets in just a shirt and trousers, with garish ties and unshined shoes. And the women—why, they’re hardly dressed at all! Many wear men’s trousers, and some don only nightdresses as they go from place to place. And citizens of both sexes wear those new-fangled denim trousers—some with holes in them! You can imagine the fit my supervisor would have should he see how they are all dressed. You’d think they had never even heard of a clothing repairman!
I pray I will someday return to you and our familiar life and home.
I have the honor to be yours,
Follow along with our challenge on our website, and share your responses with us on Facebook or Twitter.
Wednesday, 16 November 2016 14:24:12 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Thursday, 10 November 2016
Free Online Access To Genealogy Websites for Veteran's Day
Posted by Diane
In honor of Veteran’s day, some genealogy websites grant free access to online military records as well as other genealogy resources.
Image via Library of Congress
This year you can browse Findmypast's military category free in honor of Veteran’s day. Their collection of more than 70 million military records will be available starting 04:00 EST November 10th and ending 18:59 GMT November 13th.
The category on Findmypast is called “Military, Armed Forces and Conflict,” and includes 43 million US and Canadian military records, 89,000 Revolutionary War Pensions, 1.3 US Army enlistment records and more.
Findmypast will also be hosting a free Remembrance Day webinar on November 11th at 11:00 EST. You can register for “Unpicking the past: revealing secrets in old military photographs” now.
FamilySearch is hosting a photo gallery of veterans for the holiday, submitted by users on the site. Reading through the stories of the veterans is a great way to celebrate.
As with any genealogy website that allows free access to honor holidays, may need to create a free basic registration with the site in order to view records, and downloading record images may be restricted.
Madge Maril is the editorial intern at Family Tree Magazine
Thursday, 10 November 2016 12:53:19 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Monday, 07 November 2016
New! in Genetic Genealogy: MyHeritage DNA Autosomal Testing
Posted by Diane
MyHeritage today debuts MyHeritage
DNA, an international, mass-market, home-testing autosomal DNA
kit it says "is simple, affordable and will offer some of the best
ethnicity reports in the world."
The $79 (plus shipping) kit includes a cheek swab to collect cells
from the inside of your cheek. Testers mail the sample to the
MyHeritage lab (located in the United States) for analysis, wait
three to four weeks, and view results on the MyHeritage website.
This post includes a few screenshots of what results look like.
MyHeritage DNA Test Results
Results initially include ethnicity results, which map your ethnic
origins, and DNA matches among other testers at MyHeritage DNA.
Additional features are planned for the future.
Good news! When I asked whether a chromosome browser would be available, spokesperson Brandon Weinstock answered "Yes, sometime in the future."
DNA Matches & Family Trees
MyHeritage DNA match list
According to the press release, "MyHeritage provides its DNA
customers with features not offered by most competing services
including 23andMe, such as viewing family trees of the majority of
their DNA Matches to pinpoint the connection path, and automatically
identifying which surnames and geographical locations they have in
common." Viewing family trees of matches will be free.
Until now, Ancestry DNA was the
only service that combined DNA test results with test-takers' family
trees, and test-takers on that site need an Ancestry.com subscription to view their matches' trees.
DNA testers at MyHeritage DNA can add a family tree
to the site and link it to their test results. MyHeritage trees are free for
a limited size (250 people when I last looked); upgrading to a
Premium or Premium Plus subscription lets you add more people and
Illustration showing where a matching person might be on your family tree, based on the amount of shared DNA.
Ethnicity Results & Founder Population Project
Ethnicity map of your genetic origins
Ethnicity results currently can include 25 ethnicities, but
MyHeritage expects to increase that number with its Founder
Population Project, also unveiled today. "More than 5,000
participants have been hand-picked for this project by MyHeritage
from its 85 million members, by virtue of their family trees
exemplifying consistent ancestry from the same region or ethnicity
for many generations."
Once the Founder's Project participants' DNA is analyzed over the
next few months, MyHeritage will have a DNA data set for more than
100 ethnicities. By comparing this data to the DNA of new testers,
MyHeritage will be able to provide testers with ethnicity results
with greater resolution that what's currently available. When
available, these improved ethnicity reports will be provided at no
additional cost to current MyHeritage DNA customers.
What You Should Know
According to the
site's Informed Consent agreement, MyHeritage testers can opt
in to allowing their results and family tree data to be used for a
study "intended to assist academics or researchers to better
understand the human species, learn or confirm certain facts and
make predictions about future trends."
MyHeritage DNA is integrated with the site's other services on its
DNA and mobile platforms. A new, stand-alone mobile app called
MyHeritage DNA also lets you explore your results.
If you've tested autosomal DNA with another service, such as Ancestry DNA, Family Tree DNA or 23andMe, you can add
your results to your MyHeritage tree to find matches among the
site's other members.
MyHeritage DNA is available in all major countries except France, Poland and Israel. Now that it has its own testing service,
MyHeritage will no longer offer DNA tests from third-party
Genetic Genealogy | MyHeritage
Monday, 07 November 2016 13:13:15 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)