Past Articles

Is the Art of Handwriting Dead? How It Affects Genealogy Research

Posted on July 3, 2014 in Family History

Should today’s schoolchildren be taught handwriting? It’s a question that’s receiving attention lately, as the laborious process of learning to write by hand is removed from elementary curricula across the country in favor of typing. The New York Times recently reported that the widely adopted Common Core standards suggest teaching printing in kindergarten and first… Read more

All We Need Is Love: How Your Ancestors Courted Back in the Day

Posted on July 3, 2014 in Family History

Courtship: A period when a couple gets to know one another exclusively in order to determine whether they might become engaged or otherwise commit to each other. How did your grandparents and great-grandparents court and fall in love? These days, couples in Western countries usually date casually — though online matchmaking has recently changed the… Read more

What’s For Dinner? What Your Ancestors Ate Back in the Day

Posted on July 3, 2014 in Family History

Your Indus Valley ancestors (3300-1300 B.C.), according to archaeologists, ate a healthy diet that contained more fruits and vegetables than meat. They did keep cows, pigs, sheep, and goats for food, and they grew dates, grapes, and melons. Their field crops included wheat and peas. How did our diets evolve over the centuries, and what… Read more

How the History of Surnames Affects Your Ancestry

Posted on July 2, 2014 in Surnames

 People have always had names, of course. It’s how we distinguish between one another. But in the big picture, we really haven’t used surnames for all that long. China might be the exception. Way back in 2852 BC, the emperor Fu Xi standardized the naming system there, for reasons related to census taking. Until the… Read more

There Are 7 Types of English Surnames — Which One Is Yours?

Posted on July 1, 2014 in Surnames

Many of us have surnames passed down to us from ancestors in England. Last names weren’t widely used until after the Norman conquest in 1066, but as the country’s population grew, people found it necessary to be more specific when they were talking about somebody else. Thus arose descriptions like Thomas the Baker, Norman son… Read more

Want to Know More About DNA? Talk to a Scientist at Chicago’s Field Museum

Posted on July 1, 2014 in AncestryDNA

A group of nine middle-school kids approach the fishbowl-like DNA lab, where six men and women are packing and unpacking coolers, working on computers and studying samples. “Are people actually working there, or are they acting?” a girl asks. It’s a question that comes up daily at the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice DNA… Read more

14 Reasons You Really Belong in the 1920s

Posted on July 1, 2014 in Family History

It’s almost the ’20s again. The last time the ’20s rolled around, the decade earned the nickname “Roaring Twenties,” and those post-World War I years are known in part for the loosening up of some customs and the modernization of others. Would you have been comfortable hanging out with the 1920s ancestors you’re finding on… Read more

10 Truly Strange Pets Owned by Famous People

Posted on June 25, 2014 in Celebrity

Michael Jackson and Justin Bieber may have gotten attention for their pet monkeys (among other things), but the King of Pop and Biebs aren’t the only famous people with a tendency for unusual animal companions. Here are just a few fascinating, exotic, and just plain weird pets from history. 1. Bloodthirsty Roman eels Lucius Licinius… Read more

Did You Know “Twilight” Star Robert Pattinson Has a Real-Life Vampire Ancestor?

Posted on June 25, 2014 in Celebrity

Robert Pattinson sparkled as the fictional vampire star of the Twilight film franchise, and now historians say the London-born actor is related to a legendary vampire in real life, too. Pattinson, 28, is a distant cousin of Vlad III Dracula, the 15th-century Transylvanian nobleman whose bloodthirstiness inspired the legend of Count Dracula. Styling himself a… Read more

8 Truly Weird Deaths in History

Posted on June 25, 2014 in Death Records

Though it may seem morbid, death fascinates us all. Whether it’s a dramatization of a murder case on television, or just a routine examination of newspaper obituaries, stories about how people died always inspire curiosity. Death records are often the most important part of genealogical research, and offers many ways to explore this trove… Read more