Archive for the ‘Holiday’ Category

ANZAC Day – April 25th

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

ANZAC Day - April 25th

The Sides We Don’t See (or Commit a Small Act of Family History this Season)

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

The holiday season provides excellent opportunities to commit small acts of family history. With just a little effort, we can learn new things about people in our family trees.

People we know, even family members with whom we’ve lived, have sides we may not see or consider. These are facets of their personalities or experience which enrich our sense of who they are or were, if we can discover them through some act of family history.

Consider, for example, my first grade teacher, Miss Keller. (The name is changed to protect her, in case she’s more innocent than we thought at the time.) Miss Keller was mean. She yelled at us. She punished the whole class for the minor offenses of one or two students, which is as quick a way to pique a child’s sense of injustice as any. She also taught us to count in German.


Family Video Night, Holiday Version

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

When I was single and dating — about one generation ago — they told me that taking someone to a movie wasn’t a very good first date, because we’d just sit there quietly and passively absorb the movie, and when we were done we wouldn’t know each other any better than we did when we started. It made sense, so I didn’t go on a lot of movie dates.

family video nightSometimes they say the same thing about movies at home — family video night, if you will. But there I disagree. Movies work differently for families at home. Sometimes we do sit quietly at home as we watch them, but that’s not the end of it. The best movies, by which I mean the ones we like best, live on in our conversation. Then we go back and watch them again and again, and they live even longer.

Great Lines

In my family it’s usually not profound themes or moving monologues that enter the family’s language. It’s great lines, and most of them are funny. In just the last few days, these much-loved lines have been quoted aptly in ordinary conversation among members of my family:

  • “Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.” (Cary Elwes’ Man in Black in The Princess Bride)
  • “I tell you, it’s a whole different sex!” (Jack Lemmon’s Jerry in Some Like It Hot)
  • “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?” (Benjamin Whitrow’s Mr. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice)

Some of our movie references require a second participant, which makes them sort of an inside joke. Two of the most common are from the 1993 comedy Dave. Kevin Kline’s title character and Ving Rhames’ Duane have this exchange:

“I can’t say.”
“You mean, you don’t know, or ‘you can’t say’?”
“I can’t say.”

And when relatives come over, especially during the holidays, they’ll wave and call out, as they drive away with their windows down:

“Thanks for doing this, Ellen!”

There are two canonical responses, depending on how naughty we’re feeling, because Dave says this two times in the movie, and his wife (played by Sigourney Weaver) responds differently. One is:

“You never change, do you, Bill?”

The other is:

“Go to h-ll, Bill!”

(For the record, Sigourney Weaver didn’t use the hyphen.)

For full effect, picture my relatively straight-laced family in front of my house on our quiet, Christmas-lit street, as midnight approaches on Christmas Eve. Huge snowflakes fall gently. My brother-in-law and his relatively straight-laced family pull away in their car, headed home. Their windows are open, the horn honks, and they yell out the windows, “Thanks for doing this, Ellen!” I and mine call loudly after them, as if with one voice, “Go to h-ll, Bill!” It’s a beloved ritual.

Scenario: Snowed In

My colleagues here at MyHeritage’s Utah office, the home of WorldVitalRecords, are fun and interesting, so I decided to consult them. I e-mailed them this question, and several replied. (The others, I assume, were too busy working.)

“It’s two days before Christmas. You’re snowed in with the family. The cable, satellite TV, and Internet are out, and you forgot to order anything new from Netflix, but the electricity’s still on. By mutual agreement, it’s video night. The popcorn’s popping, someone has a stash of relatively fresh Junior Mints, and there’s time for two movies. You’re all feeling nostalgic, and the consensus is to watch two family favorites: one that’s related to the season and one that’s not. What movies might you watch? Tell me your short lists. They have to be in your, or the family’s, video collection.”

I told them my short lists, to get them started. (Later I consulted my family and was told I got them mostly right.)


  • While You Were Sleeping (1995)
  • The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
  • Miracle on 34th Street (1947 or 1994, but some of the family strongly prefer the older one)
  • It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)


  • Some Like It Hot (1959)
  • Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
  • My Fair Lady (1964) or The Music Man (1962)
  • Dave (1993)

For some reason, most of family’s favorites tend to involve a scam or impersonation of some sort. That probably means something.

But to My Colleagues . . .

Richard listed non-holiday flicks Ever After (1998), Harry Potter (2001), and The Count of Monte Cristo (2002), and, for the holidays, ‘Twas the Night before Christmas (1974) and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966).

Will listed, for the holidays, “in order of awesomeness,” It’s a Wonderful Life, Elf (2003), Scrooged (1988), and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966). His non-holiday choices are The Sting (1973), Groundhog Day (1993), and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969).

popcorn and filmClare wrote, “Love my Christmas horror flicks!” She named Santa’s Slay (2005) and Jack Frost (1996), “and then of course the cult classic, Gremlins (1984).”

Randy’s mixed short list includes The Grinch (2000), Dumb and Dumber (1994), and White Chicks (2004).

Roger’s family likes holiday films It’s a Wonderful Life, Elf, and The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), and non-holiday pictures Enchanted (2007), Mary Poppins (1994), and Jungle Book (1967).

Ashley listed these for Christmas: It’s a Wonderful Life, How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966), Home Alone (1990), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993),  The Santa Clause (1994), and Elf. Her non-Christmas choices are Tangled (2010), “any of the 007’s,” the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Harry Potter series, the Star Wars series, The Expendables (2010), Alien (1979), Predator (1987), and AVP (2004). (Her family may have to be snowed in for several days, not just an evening.)

Russ’s clan prefers A Knight’s Tale (2001), Tourist (2010), Knight and Day (2010), and, for the holidays, White Christmas (1954),  Home Alone, and Jingle All The Way (1996).

Mark offered Elf, Miracle on 34th Street (1994), Polar Express (2004), and The Grinch (2000) for the holidays, and also “Harry Potter — all of them” and “Lord of the Rings — all of them.”

Julie listed A Christmas Story (1983) and Mixed Nuts (1994) for the holidays, and Tommy Boy (1995) and Crocodile Dundee (1986) of general interest. She added a story about Crocodile Dundee:

My grandpa had a cabin when I was young. We would go up there at least once a month in the spring andsummer. There was a TV and VCR, but we could never remember to bring movies with us. For years the only tapes left up there were Crocodile Dundee and some 1980s ski movies. We ended up watching Crocodile Dundee every time we were there.

A Thought, a Suggestion, and Two Questions (not necessarily in that order)

Julie’s brief tale of Crocodile Dundee appeals to the family historian in me. Here’s my suggestion:  When the parents or grandparents or uncles or aunts are over for dinner during the holidays, ask them what have been their favorite movies — and when and why they loved them, and with whom they watched them, and how much it cost to get in.

My questions for you are these. First, based on the movies listed above, whose home would you prefer for an impromptu, snowed-in video night? Second, what would you and your family watch if you were snowed in at home?

Finally, the thought may be out of bounds for this blog post, perhaps, but Ashley added this at the bottom of her list, and it belongs at the bottom of mine, too: ”And, of course, we would cozy up and read books.”

Happy holidays, everyone!

Death, Halloween, and Family Traditions (It’s Almost October!)

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Halloween celebrations have increased through the years, and have become more fun and less morbid. But, like family history, Halloween is still very much about the dead.

Throughout October we’ll bring you several blog posts about death and the dead, some serious and some not. We’ll talk about finding and using death records (such as the SSDI), wills, obituaries, etc., in our family history work, as well as some of the things we ourselves should not leave undone as we contemplate our own eventual deaths. In preparation, we’ve been collecting Halloween memories and traditions from colleagues, families, and friends; playfully inviting coworkers to design their own tombstones (there’s a web app for that) and write their own epitaphs; and even interviewing morticians.

All that’s coming, but first, here’s some background.

A Bit of History

The word Halloween itself is a contraction of All Hallows’ Eve — the eve of All Saints’ Day, celebrated November 1 by much of Western Christianity, especially in Scotland and Ireland. Traditionally, it was believed that the souls of the departed wandered the earth until All Saints’ Day, before moving on to the next world, making Halloween their last chance to take vengeance on the living. The living, in turn, wore masks and costumes to avoid being recognized, and used fire (which turned over time into Jack-o-Lanterns) to ward off the spirits of the dead. There are also some pagan influences.

Learn more of the history of Halloween from this video at

The spooky side survives, now more secular than religious in feeling, but for most people Halloween is great fun, with costumes, trick-or-treating for youngsters, and parties for youth and adults. The day of the dead is alive with fun and family traditions. (more…)

Holiday Competition

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

MyHeritage is having great Holiday Competition – Join in the fun by following the details found HERE on the MyHeritage Blog.

MyHeritage Holiday CompetitionHappy Holidays

Finding, recording Christmas traditions and stories

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Finding, recording Christmas traditions and stories

I heard a story recently about a Christmas tree decorated with real candles.  In years’ past that’s how they did it – real trees and real candles – possibly a combustible combination.  It was a great story and one that will be handed down through the family for years to come.

In our home, the tree goes up on or near Thanksgiving and comes down soon after Christmas. We think it looks boring after the gifts are gone.  My wife insists that we begin placing gifts under the tree as soon as possible instead of waiting until Christmas Eve.  Growing up, we waited to place the presents because we kids just had to peek.

Our tree ornaments in my childhood home were re-used each year.  Little clay figures made at school, paper chains, popcorn strands – it was very much a kid’s tree.  As we got older, the decorations became more decorative than historic.  Now, at home, we have no historical ornaments – just those that look nice.  It’s a big decorative tree which puts us all in the holiday mood. (more…)

Cooper’s grave a reminder of the special nature of burial sites

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

I work with genealogy data every day at, but lately, as a genealogist, I’ve wanted to get out of the office and help record the important facts left behind on tombstones. One of the many content partners whose data we index at WorldVitalRecords is Find A Grave, so that’s where I started.

I signed up as a contributor at Find A Grave and found some photo requests for a local cemetery I had never visited before. It was nice to discover that this cemetery was only a mile or so away from my office in Provo.

During lunch I jumped in my car to locate the cemetery and take a look around. I planned on going back again later with the printed photo requests to gather the requested information.

In no time I was winding up the side of a mountain on an old paved road, just high enough to be above most of the homes. East Lawn Memorial Hills Cemetery was quite the surprise. I thought back to the recent burial of my grandfather in Lindon and wished this picturesque location could have been chosen for his final resting place. I meandered through the cemetery roads a bit and then pulled over and began to walk the rows of in-the-ground, flat tombstones.

The cemetery is nestled in the foothills above Provo, near the mouth of Provo Canyon. Mountains soar behind it. Paths wind among the trees, hills, flower gardens and graves. Utah Lake dominates the

Halloween Memorial

Halloween Memorial

vista to the west, with more mountains beyond it. Truly this is the most beautiful of all burial grounds I’d ever imagined.

There are more gravesites here than first appear; the flat headstones hide in the grass until you come close to them. I was alone with the residents, at peace, a few hundred feet above the hustle and bustle of the suburbs.
I ventured toward a couple of young trees, which appeared to have a sign strung between them.

I could see that great care had been taken in stringing the sign, and the tree trunks had become columns of pictures, tied with orange ribbons and bows. There were pumpkins at the bases of the trees.

The pictures were of all of the same family, dressed for several Halloweens. The little boy in the pictures was Cooper; his name was spelled out on the sign. I had not yet seen his grave.

Cooper's Headstone

Cooper's Headstone

A few steps from the trees, I found it. Little Cooper’s windswept hair, mischievous eyes and big, happy smile were now embossed forever in bronze, with a lake in the background. Cooper’s parents have since told me that the lake is Navajo Lake, near Cedar City, where Cooper loved to wade and skip rocks. It was the most beautiful tombstone I had ever seen.

Suddenly, the graves all around me felt alive. A gravestone is not just a rock in the ground with some lettering on it. It marks the final resting place of someone’s son or daughter, brother or sister, parent or neighbor or friend. To someone like me, who is involved in the never-ending work of family history, perhaps this should be obvious. But on that day in that place, I felt it as I hadn’t felt it before. A grave is a place to keep memories alive.

I went back a couple of days later with Cooper’s name on my list of photo requests, because the Internet is a place to keep memories alive, too. I met a brother and sister who are also Find A Grave contributors. They were busy walking the rows, looking for graves of which photos had been requested. They hadn’t seen Cooper’s grave yet. I told them they were in for a special moment. I imagine them lingering, as I had, amid the Halloween decorations, at the beautiful resting place of a beloved little boy.

Take the time to work on your genealogy. Learn more of the stories of your own ancestors, and sooner or later you’ll find some special places like Cooper’s.

Discover Your Family Stories

Note: Cooper’s family has a blog where you can learn more about Cooper, the annual run established in his memory and the family’s memories of their son and brother.

View From the cemetery

View from the cemetery

Cooper's grave and Halloween Memorial

Cooper's grave and Halloween Memorial

Victory over Japan Day (V-J Day)

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

The month of August may seem like a quiet month with no major holidays, and can be a month of transition from summer to fall. But August is an important month globally, especially when it comes to military history. Did you know Emperor Horhito announced Japan’s surrender, ultimately ending WWII in the month of August? On August 15th, 1945, the Japanese accepted the Potsdam Declaration- which had called for the surrender for the Empire of Japan from World War II. The declaration stated that if Japan did not surrender, they would face “prompt and utter destruction.”  News spread of the Emperor’s announcement, and by 7 P.M. daylight time, U.S. President Harry Truman sent out a nation-wide broadcast announcing the surrender, and that the war would formally end on September 2, 1945. September 2nd came, and a ceremony was led aboard the battleship USS Missouri, where the papers were signed- making the surrender of Japan official. In Japan, V-J day is called “the day for mourning of war dead and praying for peace”, and in Korea it is called “Liberation Day.”

Victory over Japan day (also known as V-J Day) is recognized on August 15th in the UK, Japan, and Korea- because that is the day it was announced by Emperor Horhito. Whereas the U.S. recognizes V-J Day on September 2nd, when the papers were signed- making the surrender official.

Do you have ancestors who fought in World War II, or any war for that matter? Search over 20 million military records to find who you are looking for!

Search our records specific to World War II -

Search our Military records-

Honoring Your Military Ancestors on Memorial Day

Monday, May 25th, 2009

By Whitney McGowan,, Inc.

Monday, May 25th is Memorial Day. Memorial Day has always been a special day in my family, a time to remember my military ancestors, and also a day to visit the headstones of my loved ones who have passed away. As many of my family members (aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, etc.) that can make it gather at the cemetery at the same time and pay tribute to these special people who have made a difference in our lives. We place flowers on the graves and also take a family picture to mark the occasion.

Memorial Day commemorates the men and women who died while serving in the military. It was originally enacted to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War, and then extended to celebrate American casualties of any war or military action.

How do you honor your military ancestors on Memorial Day? If you have never paid tribute to your ancestors on this day, why no start this year? Here are a few ideas of how to observe Memorial Day:

  • Visit cemeteries and place flags or flowers on the graves of those who died while performing military service.
  • Visit a memorial, such as the National World War II Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the USS Arizona Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the National Civil War Memorial, etc.
  • Fly the U.S. flag at half-staff until noon.
  • Participate in a ceremony in honor of military ancestors.
  • Serve or visit widows/widowers of military ancestors, as well as disabled veterans. also has a variety of military databases to help you find out more information about your ancestors who served in the military. Here are links to a few of these databases Click here to view all military databases):

Army Casualties 1956 – 2003

In the early 1980s, in response to a demand from veterans, Richard D. Coffelt began
a project to create data files to identify units down to the company/battery/troop
level for U.S. Army deaths in the Vietnam War. During the 1990s, Richard J. Arnold
and David L. Argabright joined Mr. Coffelt in the research effort. In 2001, the
data files project expanded to include unit information for those members of the
Marine Corps, Air Force, and Navy who died in the Vietnam War. In 2002, the Vietnam
Helicopter Pilots Association and The Virtual Wall contributed significant additional
amounts of information to the data files for members of all the Armed Forces. These
data files contain the records for this series. This database contains information
on U.S. military officers and soldiers who died as a result of either a hostile
occurrence, including while missing in action or while prisoner of war, or non-hostile
occurrence in the Southeast Asian combat area during the Vietnam War. In particular,
it provides unit information the series creators had been able to locate about the
following: more than 37,000 of the 38,200 casualties from the U.S. Army, more than
11,000 of the 14,836 from the U.S. Marine Corps, more than 1,700 of the 2,584 from
the U.S. Air Force, more than 2,200 of the 2,564 from the U.S. Navy, and all 7 from
the U.S. Coast Guard. Each record includes identifying information for the casualty,
such as name, service number, date of birth, date of death, and city and state of
home of record.

Army Casualties 1961 – 1981

This database contains information about U.S. Army personnel and their dependents
who died or were injured worldwide, including missing in action and prisoners of
war. Approximately 85 percent of the records relate to the Vietnamese Conflict,
1961-1975. The file includes records for active duty enlisted personnel; general
officers on active duty, retired, or otherwise separated from the service; some
National Guard and Army Reservists; and some civilian employees and dependents if
overseas and the casualty required a notification to someone. The records include:
Country of Casualty, Category of Casualty, Master Casualty Number, Social Security
or Service Number, Name of Casualty, Category of Personnel, Military Grade, Military
Classification / Dependent, Current Casualty Status, Previous Casualty Status, Major
Attributing Cause, Complimentary Cause, Vehicle Type Involved, Vehicle Position,
Vehicle Ownership, Date of Casualty, Report Date, Province of Casualty, Grid Coordinates,
Republic of Vietnam Report Control Number, Component, Military Occupational Specialty,
Officer Branch, Source of Commission, Sex and Marital Status, Posthumous Promotion,
Race, Religion, Home of Record, Birth Date, Major Organization, Date Commenced Tour
or Retired or Separated, Previous Master Casualty Country, Previous Master Casualty
Group, Adjustment Code, and Card-ID / Battle Determination. This data file contains
duplicate records for some soldiers.

Known Military Dead During the American Revolutionary War, 1775 – 1783

This database contains the first complete list of the known military dead during the American Revolution.. Known Military Dead consists of an alphabetically arranged
listing of upwards of 10,000 names, with rank, date of death, and state of birth
or service or place where buried. Also includes a bibliography of published Revolutionary
War records.

Korean War Casualties

This database contains information about U.S. Army officers and soldiers who were
casualties in the Korean War. According to the variable “casualty type,” 27,727
records are for Army personnel who died, including personnel who died while a prisoner
of war or missing in action. The remaining 82,248 records are for nonfatal Army
casualties. The information on each casualty includes: name, service prefix and
number, grade, (Army) branch, place of casualty, date of casualty, state and county
of residence, type of casualty, detail/previous casualty type, casualty group, place
of disposition, date of disposition, year of birth (for deceased casualties only),
military occupational specialty, organization troop program sequence number, element
sequence, unit number, race, component, and disposition of evacuations.

Maryland Revolutionary Records

Data obtained from 3,050 Pension Claims and Bounty
Land Applications, including 1,000 Marriages of Maryland Soldiers and a List of
1,300 Proved Services of Soldiers and Patriots of other States.

Tennessee World War I Veterans

The data in this index was taken from Record Group 36, the compiled service records
of soldiers and sailors who served in the First World War from Tennessee. The index
is not a “complete” list of all Tennesseans who served in World War I; individuals
from Tennessee who enlisted in other states are not included. Additional information
regarding the soldier’s rank, training, dates of service, discharge, etc. can be
obtained from the microfilmed records.

Vietnam Memorial Index

Search the newly expanded, geo-mapped database of nearly 60,000 Vietnam veterans.
Here you will find extensive unique statistics such as location, date and reason
of casualty, religion, tour dates and even reference numbers to the exact location
on the Vietnam Memorial. Also included are vital statistics such as birth, marriage,
death, hometown location, nearby cemeteries and much more.

USA World War II Army Enlistment
The information below outlines the content that can be found in the USA World War II Army Enlistment database.

Questions Asked:

Serial number


State and county of residence

Place of enlistment

Date of enlistment


Army Branch

Term of enlistment


Nativity (place of birth)

Year of birth



Civilian Occupation

Marital status

Height and weight (before 1943)

Military occupational specialty (1945 and later)


Box and reel number of the microfilmed punch cards

Take a Family History Vacation

Monday, May 18th, 2009

By Whitney McGowan,, Inc.

School will soon be out, and all the kids will soon be home. This summer, instead of taking your children to Disneyland, why not take them on a family history vacation?

Involve your children by helping them research where your ancestors lived. You could use a map and have them mark the cities and towns where your ancestors lived (their birth place, death place, and other places where they lived throughout their lives).

Next, you and your family can research online or at a library to find events or places you can visit in the areas where your ancestors lived. For example, you may want to take your family to a local museum to experience the ethnic and cultural background that existed there. You can also visit cemeteries and other landmarks. Your family history vacation should also include visits to living relatives if they are in the area where you are traveling.

You can still have a wonderful time without spending a lot of money. You may also want to have your children write a family history, or make or print out a family tree in preparation for your vacation.

Once you have chosen the places you will visit and are on the road, make sure to take plenty of photos, and even video of some of the places you visit. This way your family can create an album or a movie of its experience. You may also want to compare your photos with the photos you have of your ancestors.