Past Articles

Beyond Corleone: Italian Place Names as Surnames

Posted on January 27, 2015 in Surnames

It’s a famous scene in cinema: In “The GodfatherPart II,” 9-year-old Vito Andolini arrives at Ellis Island and, being unable to tell the clerk his name, becomes Vito Corleone, the town of origin listed on his paperwork. While the scenario of an Ellis Island clerk changing immigrant’s names on a whim isn’t historically accurate, it’s… Read more

8 People Who Were Supposed to Sail on the Titanic…But Didn’t

Posted on January 26, 2015 in Family History

On April 15, 1912, the Titanic slammed into an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sank, sending 1,517 souls into the cold deep. Since that dark night, the legend of the Titanic has only grown, propelled by the glamour of the ship and its first-class passengers, complicated by the immigrant dreams of its steerage travelers,… Read more

10 Baby Boy Names That Used to Be Popular

Posted on January 22, 2015 in Family History

Names — they can be as timeless as some found in the Bible (John, David, James) or as trendy as a celebrity’s kid (North, Sparrow, Brooklyn). Every parent understands the complexity of choosing a name, because while some names never fall out of favor, others can stop being in vogue in just a few generations.… Read more

Calling James Smith! 10 Most Common First and Surname Combinations

Posted on January 20, 2015 in Surnames

If you look up when someone says “James Smith,” you’ve got plenty of company. That’s the most popular first and last name combination in the United States, according to a study conducted last year by a retired university professor. So as you research your family background, you might find some spouses or distant cousins with… Read more

What Doesn’t Kill You? 5 Strange Historic Cures

Posted on January 15, 2015 in Family History

Did you know that a century ago, you could order hard drugs through the mail? These were considered legitimate medicines taken under doctor’s orders. In the “prescription department” of a 1902 Sears Roebuck catalog, found on Ancestry, it straightforwardly says that “orders for opium, morphine, cocaine and drugs of this class should be accompanied with a… Read more

Why Your Great-Grandmother’s Life Was Totally Awesome

Posted on January 14, 2015 in Family History

When you think about someone born circa 1894, or right around the turn of the century, your mind probably jumps to the fact that they had no refrigerators to keep their leftover Chinese food in (and worse, no Chinese food delivery), which sounds pretty terrible. But while she probably faced plenty of hardships in her… Read more

Do You Come From Royalty? Your Last Name May Tell You.

Posted on January 12, 2015 in Surnames

Do you think your family originated from the top 1 percent? According to a new study of unique last names from around the world, moving in or out of the upper class doesn’t take just a few generations — it takes centuries. Measuring not just income and wealth but also occupation, education, and longevity, researchers… Read more

10 Big Facts You Didn’t Know About WWI

Posted on January 6, 2015 in Military Records

  It’s been a hundred years since Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo in 1914. That, of course, set off the chain of reactions and events that led to “the Great War,” as people called World War I at the time. By now, you’d think we know everything there is to know about “the… Read more

Yes, That’s Grandpa in a Dress

Posted on December 31, 2014 in Family History

Blue is for boys. Pink is for girls. Right? It wasn’t always that way. Tastes in children’s fashions have changed with every generation. Believe it or not, pink used to be the color of choice for dressing little boys. Not only that, but Grandpa (or Great-grandpa) probably wore a dress until he was about 6.… Read more

Strange Ancestral Traditions You Won’t Believe

Posted on December 30, 2014 in Family History

Need an excuse for a party? Celebrate like your ancestors did! You might want to ask guests to sign a waiver, though–these holidays could get way out of hand. Largely an excuse for binge drinking and gluttony, traditional festivals around the world include everything from fistfights to bonfires to jumping over babies. Here are some of… Read more