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February 28 2017

Today in History for 28th February 2017

February 27 2017

Oscar Night 2017: Surprising Relatives

An Adoptee’s Dream Come True

During the past five months, MyHeritage has been engaged in a special project in partnership with Israeli Member of Parliament Nurit Koren, to help family members who were separated in the 1940s and 1950s in Israel, to find each other and reconnect through the use of DNA. The project is one of MyHeritage’s pro bono initiatives and is being carried out at no cost to the participants, with the goal of reuniting families.

MyHeritage has provided free MyHeritage DNA tests for genetic testing to those families and adoptees who want to be tested. To date, we have tested 750 people as part of this project.

We recently saw this project bear one of its first fruits. Yehuda Kantor, an Israeli physicist, discovered in adulthood that he had been adopted as a baby, and he’d never been able to find his biological family — despite years of searching. A MyHeritage DNA test helped us bring about the moment of a lifetime when Kantor reconnected with his biological family.

Watch below the exciting story by investigative journalist Rina Matzliach that recently appeared on Israeli TV news (in Hebrew with English subtitles).

Yehuda Kantor’s case is so significant that it was discussed in the Knesset (Israeli parliament) before the Prime Minister. In the following segment, Member of Knesset Nurit Koren commends MyHeritage for establishing its DNA database to reunite families. The context is the excitement of discovering Kantor’s biological family through the MyHeritage DNA database. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also praises MyHeritage’s important project to reunite families through the use of DNA.

Yehuda Kantor visiting the MyHeritage office, January 2017

February 26 2017

The Strange History of Vaccines—And Why People Fear Them

Our Volunteers: Gerry van Eeden of South Africa

Gerald (Gerry) Dixon van Eeden, 68, is an Afrikaans translator for MyHeritage. He was born in Cradock, South Africa; grew up in Oudtshoorn, and has lived for the past three decades in Port Elizabeth.

Gerald (Gerry) Dixon van Eeden

Following Technical High School (Oudtshoorn), he qualified as a teacher at the Teachers College. He also holds a BEd (1968) from the University of Port Elizabeth and a BA (1974) from the University of Stellenbosch.

Gerry was a primary school teacher for 34 years and retired in 2009 as deputy principal of the Tjaart van der Walt Primary School in Port Elizabeth.

He became interested in family history after realizing that he did not know his own family members very well, and some of them not at all.

It was always very embarrassing when my family talked about a family member and I didn’t even know who they were talking about.

After he retired in 2009, the first thing he did was to start his family tree.

I tried two or three other programs before I discovered MyHeritage. It is easy to use, can do everything I want it to do, is fantastic for research and is really user-friendly.

Gerry traced his ancestors back to Jan Janse van Eeden (born 1637) who came to South Africa from Germany in 1662.

I decided to concentrate on the descendants of my grandfather, Frederick Jacobus van Eeden (born 1861), the seventh generation of van Eedens in South Africa. He married Rachel Magrita Petronella Radema (born 1867) and they had 11 children (six sons and five daughters). I began with the family members I knew and asked them to add more relatives. So I learned more about my family and our history. Later I began using Smart Matches and Record Matches and discovered even more family members I did not know.


Gerry’s grandfather Oupa Frikkie (center) and his six sons. (From left) Gideon Jacobus (Giel) b1901, Cornelius Jansen (Kerneels) b1894, Daniël Johannes (Dan) b1910, Frederick Jacobus (Oupa Frikkie) b1861, Frederick Jacobus (Kowie) b1892, Gert Christiaan b1898, and Petrus Jacobus (Pieter) b1899.

He later added his mother’s ancestors and descendants to his family tree. Gerry’s father, Daniel Johannes van Eeden married Grace Geraldine Dixon in 1943, and they had two sons and three daughters. Gerry’s mother’s father, Gerald Thomas Dixon (born 1889), came from Ireland and lived in Garies and Springbok in western South Africa. He married Maria Johanna Weich (born 1888), and they had one son and two daughters. Today, Gerry has 460 people in his family tree; 314 are living. Some 88% live in South Africa, with the rest in Denmark, Great Britain, Netherlands, Canada and the USA.

Most of his family know about his new passion for family history. When they get together, they now ask him about family members that they don’t know. Everyone receives notifications about birthdays and anniversaries, so they learn more about each other. They are more frequently in contact and have more family history to discuss.

I find our family is now much closer and we make more frequent contact to congratulate someone on his or her birthday or anniversary. This has improved our relationships and communications with our family. I am so enthusiastic about my family history that I inspired six family members and friends to build their own family trees, using MyHeritage .

The 2002 Van Eeden Family Reunion, held in Swellendam, South Africa.

When Gerry began using MyHeritage, he saw that it was available in 36 (today, 42) languages, but that his mother tongue, Afrikaans, was not one of them. He learned about our volunteer translators and decided that was something he could do for his fellow Afrikaans users.

After translating the first few items, I was hooked. Today it is my hobby and part of my daily routine. I find it both stimulating and challenging, to translate the program, newsletters, the user’s guide, frequently asked questions and other correspondence. I appreciate the thank you letters from the translation team.

One of Gerry’s most exciting family history discoveries with MyHeritage has been when he discovered a cousin who emigrated from South Africa 40 years ago to live in England.

We had lost contact back then, but now I have suddenly discovered many family members I did not know. It is so nice to discuss family history with them. I also found the descendants of my father’s oldest brother whom I did not know.

Would you like to join our Global Translator Community and help other speakers of your language discover, preserve and share their family history? Read more about how you can get involved: http://translations.myheritage.com/



Today in History for 26th February 2017

February 25 2017


5 Animals That Mate Themselves to Death

There's a reason that spiders, eels, and some mammals practice suicidal reproduction.

February 24 2017

Sloth Bear Cub Rescued After Mother Electrocuted

What You Need to Know About Tiger Farms

A viral video showing tigers chasing a drone almost certainly comes from a slaughter facility in China.
Mapping the Urban Bike Utopias of the 1890s
Pasta Potential: Why the World Needs Better Wheat

Exclusive Picture: Female Anaconda Strangles Male After Sex

Photographer Luciano Candisani has captured the first-ever photographs of a green anaconda squeezing her mate to death in Brazil.
‘Ring of Fire’ Solar Eclipse Coming—How to See It

February 23 2017

See Mammoth 'Hole' Open In This Lake
Fly Over a Spectacular Volcano Eruption

Lincoln, Washington and Roosevelts remain history’s best presidents in survey

Dwight Eisenhower moved into the top five for the first time, moving up from No. 8 in 2009 and No. 9 in 2000.

Lithuanian nationalists celebrate Holocaust-era quisling, Pepe the Frog near execution site

The main banner featured a picture of the collaborationist Kazys Skirpa modified to resemble Pepe the Frog, symbol of the Alt-Right movement in the US.

Barack Obama’s presidential library may need $1.5 billion

The Obama Center is due to be so expensive because it will require the construction of both a presidential library and a museum about the lives of Barack and Michelle Obama.
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