Past Articles

The Story Behind America’s 4th Most Popular Surname

Posted on October 29, 2014 in Surnames

The last name Brown essentially derives from a nickname. In England, Scotland, or Ireland, those with brown or red hair, or dark skin, might have been called “Brown,” and the name stuck. Sometimes, it has roots in a translation from another language, such as the French “Brun,” the German “Braun,” or the Gaelic “Donn.” In… Read more

Williams: A History of the Popular American Surname

Posted on October 29, 2014 in Surnames

      Williams means “son of William,” and its origins date to medieval England, when an increasing population meant people needed a way to identify each other by more than just a given name. One way to do this was to use a person’s father’s name as a surname. Williams got its start as just… Read more

How Does Your Family Stack Up to the Average Life Expectancy?

Posted on October 28, 2014 in Family History

We’ve all heard about that one older relative who lived until 100, but where does your family fall when it comes to the national average of lifespan? Do you have a particularly strong gene pool? If not, don’t fret. No matter your genetics, people are definitely living longer these days; over the past century, there’s… Read more

Five Jobs That Transformed America

Posted on October 28, 2014 in Family History

From 1860 to 1910, the population of the United States nearly tripled, from 31.4 million (including 3.9 million enslaved individuals) to 92.2 million. During that period, of course, the United States endured the Civil War. But the country also underwent the Second Industrial Revolution, transforming itself from a largely agrarian society into the greatest industrial… Read more

Jones: A Short History of an American Surname

Posted on October 21, 2014 in Surnames

There are a lot of Joneses because there have always been a lot of Jons. In the Middle Ages, children were given surnames related to their father’s first name, such as Williamson for the son of William, which meant that the surname changed with each generation. Jones fits into this category, modified from the Middle… Read more

What’s the Most Common Surname in the United States?

Posted on October 20, 2014 in Surnames

If you have a Smith in your family, you have a staggering 81 million records to pore through on Ancestry. Smith has long been the most common surname in both the United States and Great Britain. Each U.S. census lists more and more Smiths, from 274,919 in 1850 to 2,376,206 in 2000. Yet the name… Read more

7 Real Patent Medicines the FDA Would Never Approve

Posted on October 14, 2014 in Family History

Once upon a time, some of the greatest medical crises America faced included “tired blood” and “female weakness” — or so many patent medicines claimed. Between the end of the Civil War and the Great Depression, Americans spent millions of dollars on heavily advertised “natural” remedies whose claims of being free of addictive substances overlooked… Read more

Designer Impostors: 8 People Who Faked Membership in Famous Families

Posted on October 14, 2014 in Family History

You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family, the saying goes. Throughout history, though, there have been particularly skilled and audacious con artists who’ve done a darn good job of faking membership in the family of their choosing. A few succeeded in passing as royal heirs to ascend a throne, some used… Read more

A Trip to the Past: America’s 8 Best Living History Farms & Museums

Posted on October 14, 2014 in Family History

If you’ve been researching your family tree on Ancestry, chances are you’ve stumbled on a relative or two who has worked in agriculture or experienced the challenges of pioneer life. If you are looking to get a feel for how they actually lived, living history farms and museums scattered all across the U.S. that use… Read more

There Are Four Common Types of German Surnames. Which One Is Yours?

Posted on October 9, 2014 in Surnames

In German, a surname is called the “Nachname” or “Familienname.” The family name gradually started being used during the Middle Ages. Prior to that, people generally used only a given name. As the population increased, though, that population needed a way to differentiate between all those new people. Now, those surnames can help you trace your family… Read more