Happy Chinese New Year!

NiHao! Hello!

February 16, 2018 might seem as if its just another Friday for many people.  But in Asia February 16th symbolizes the Chinese New Year.  Chinese New Year is the largest holiday celebrated by the Chinese people and reflects centuries old tradition as well as superstition as it is a time of superstitious fortune telling and ridding the home of bad energies.  Each year of the Chinese calendar reflects a year of an animal, depending on the animal the year may be prosperous or disastrous.  2018 begins the year of the Dog, and as such is expected to be a year full of playfulness and energy just as the spirit of the dog.


But where did the Chinese New Year come from?  While the details are vague the Spring Festival, now known more commonly as Chinese New Year is said to have begun sometime around the Shang Dynasty (1776 BC).  Throughout China’s illustrious history the Spring Festival has undergone many changes to tradition to reach where it is today.  Today in China, Chinese New Year is a week long event where families come together, celebrate one anothers company and prepare for the year ahead.  This often means riding homes of stagnate or negative energies, feasting on delicacies and even enjoying local festivities such as Lion Dancing to usher in the new year.

Did you know that the largest Chinese New Years celebration is in San Francisco and has been held there since the 1860’s.  San Francisco holds the largest Chinese New Years celebration outside of China.


Beatlemania Hits US Shores

February 7, 1964, was a milestone in popular music – the arrival of The Beatles in New York!  They arrived at the newly renamed JFK Airport (formerly Idlewild) to a crowd like none had seen before – it even took the 4 lads from Liverpool by surprise.

A little-known fact is that George Harrison had actually visited before – he had a sister living in New York at the time but his previous visit went unnoticed as Beatlemania was yet to be known.  The extent of the frenzy and coverage of this event cannot be understated – it was about all anyone was talking about and culminated in their appearance two nights later, Sunday, February 9, on the Ed Sullivan Show in what is now called the Ed Sullivan Theater (current home of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert). The 73 million who tuned in, that was two-fifths of the population then (the equivalent of 129 million viewers today) were tuning in as much out of curiosity.  They had never seen or heard anything like them before – and they were hooked.

They next took a train down to Washington, D.C. where, at the now long gone Washington Coliseum, made their first U.S. public concert appearance.  Then back to NYC for two performances at Carnegie Hall on 12 February.  Then a flight down to Miami Beach for a little R&R and a live broadcast performance from there on Ed Sullivan on Sunday the 16th.

And so, the British Invasion began.

Happy Birthday, Elmo!

“I grew up on the street. No, not the hood, the Sesame Street.”

That is probably one of my favorite lines from Scrubs, and it goes to show how enduring Sesame Street is. First airing on November 10, 1969, Sesame Street has withstood the test of time and is still a favorite of kids and parents. Almost 50 years of kids have learned their numbers, colors, and the alphabet from the characters of Sesame Street. But we’ve learned more than just that. We learned about diversity, tolerance, conflict resolution, inclusion, healthy habits, and an overall enjoyment of learning which many of us have carried into adulthood.

Although we all have our favorite character, there are few that are as easily identifiable as Elmo. The self-described 3-and-a-half-year-old who almost always refers to himself in the third person first debuted in 1979, and has been capturing hearts ever since. Here’s to you Elmo, Happy Birthday!

Do you know Who or What was born today?

by Becky Layne O’Reilly

Do you know Who or What was born today?


This was the question my mother used to wake us with on every November 10th.   I can’t remember not knowing that the answer was the United States Marine Corps.  My father made the Marine Corps his career, his passion, his life and November 10th was a very special day in our household.

I can remember many a year starting the day with that question and ending the day watching my parents, dressed to the nines, going out the door to the Marine Corps Ball.  Even after moving away from home, the 10th was always a special day that connected us as a family.  My sisters and I would each call my Dad and wish him a “Happy Birthday” and then call each other to make sure everyone had remembered (BTW, no one ever forgot).  In many ways the 10th of November was more important to my Dad than his own birthday.

So, even now that both my parents are gone, as I wake on the 10th, I will still hear my Mom’s voice asking me if I know “Who or What was born today?”  And I’ll still think of my Dad and wish him a Happy Birthday.  And I’ll probably still call each of my sisters, although I’m sure none of us will ever forget the 10th of November and the Marine Corps Birthday.

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Mischief Night. Devil’s Night. Cabbage Night. Or Nothing at All.

Growing up in central Virginia, it was nothing at all. There was certainly more mischief that occurred around Halloween, but no formal name associated with the night before. It wasn’t until I was in my late-20s and just happened to be in the Detroit area that it even occurred to me that there was a name for the night before All Hallows’ Eve. And it seems as though those who do have a name for it can’t agree on what the name is.

The two most popular names seem to be Mischief Night and Devil’s Night. While Mischief Night is popular around New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Devil’s Night is popular in Michigan. Less common is Cabbage Night, which seems to be popular in the New England area (particularly Vermont and New Hampshire). While different areas have different names, the night before All Hallows’ Eve seems to correspond with the “trick” in trick-or-treat. Smashing pumpkins, egging cars, TPing houses.

So, what do you call the night before Halloween? Mischief Night? Devil’s Night? Cabbage Night? Something completely different? Or nothing at all?


Saint Patrick’s Day

by Bill O’Reilly

My Dad was the eldest of 5 kids. 4 of the 5 married and between them had 26 children.  However in the mid-1950s they took family planning to a new high. Every year from 1952 through 1955 each of the four had a son born on St. Patrick’s Day.  Though sadly, the fourth one, the only one named Patrick, died. The other three, coincidentally with the initials J.F.K. (Joe, Frank, Kevin) are alive and well and continue to look at St. Patrick’s Day as “Amateur Night”.


Why do we celebrate Valentine’s Day?

To some it’s the most commercialized holiday of the year. To others it’s known as the most romantic day of the year. But why exactly do we celebrate Valentine’s Day? And why is it on February 14th?

Image result for chaucer valentine's day poem

Valentine’s Day is actually thought to have originated from the Romans. A fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, was held on February 15th. During the festival, boys would draw the names of girls from a box. The pair would then be partners during the festival. These matches often led to marriage.

Though the festival survived the initial rise of Christianity, it was outlawed by the end of the 5th century when Pope Gelasius declared February 14th as St Valentine’s Day.


Geoffrey Chaucer (Canterbury Tales) may have actually been behind Valentine’s Day. Prior to his 1375 poem, there is no record of Valentine’s Day. Chaucer took many liberties with history, and often dropped his fictional characters into real historic events, thus leaving the readers wondering how the events really happened.

But who exactly is St Valentine?
The saint officially recognized by the Roman Catholic Church was a real person who died around 270 AD. He has been described as a priest who was beheaded by Emperor Claudius II for helping Christian couples marry. The emperor, believing that single men made better soldiers, had banned marriage. Valentine felt this was unfair and held marriages in secret. When the emperor found out Valentine was thrown in jail and sentenced to death.

He also may have been Bishop of Terni, also martyred by Claudius II. There are many similarities between the priest’s and bishop’s stories. This has lead many historians to believe that the two are actually the same man.

What does St Valentine have to do with love?
Valentine is the patron saint of beekeepers, epilepsy, the plague, fainting and traveling. None of those sound overly romantic. He did help couples marry in secret, which is arguably very romantic. He is now also known as the patron of engaged couples and happy marriages.

But why do we give Valentine’s cards?
It is believed that while in prison he sent a letter to a young girl he had fallen in love with. He signed the letter “From your Valentine”.

New Year’s – A Genealogist’s Resolution

So often in the pursuit of family history, we focus solely on the past. We’re so wrapped up in preserving history, we don’t think to preserve the living history.

As the new year begins,  I spent some time thinking of a few resolutions. What are some things I want to change? My genealogist resolution is to focus on preserving the story of those who are still living. I’ve taken so much time to learn about my ancestors, but there’s still so much that I don’t know about my parents, aunts, and uncles.

As with most questions in today’s internet-age, I took to Google for some research. There are many wonderful articles out there related to preserving today’s history for future generations.

With the help of the internet, I put together a few quick questions to get the ball rolling:

  1. What is your full name? Did you have any nicknames?
  2. How did you get your name?are you named after someone?
  3. When and where were you born?
  4. Did you have any siblings? (This one may sound silly, but it wasn’t until my grandfather was in his 80s that we learned that he had another brother that we had never heard about)
  5. Did you have any pets? What were their names?
  6. What is your earliest childhood memory?
  7. What is your favorite memory of your mother? And your father?
  8. What was school like for you? What was your best and worst subjects?
  9. What sports or extracurricular activities were you involved in?
  10. What did you want to be when you grew up?
  11. What special treats, meals, snacks, or other food did your family eat?
  12. Who was your childhood best friend?
  13. Tell me about when you learned to drive. Who taught you? What type of car was it?
  14. What was your first job? How old were you?
  15. Where did you meet your husband/wife?
  16. What was it like when you proposed/were proposed to? Where and when did it happen? How did it feel?
  17. What was your most memorable family vacation?
  18. Were you ever mentioned in a newspaper?
  19. What world events had the most impact on you while growing up? Did any of them personally affect your family?
  20. What’s one piece of advice your parents gave you that has always stuck with you?

What other questions would you ask? Leave some more ideas in the comment section below 🙂

The Moral of This Small World Story Is…

By Bill O’Reilly

The moral of this small world story is… never assume!  It was my great-great-grandparents, Andrew O’Reilly and Bridget Reding, who left Ireland and County Cork.  They left with their son James, my great-grandfather.  I knew from my father that Andrew and Bridget ended up in Faribault, Minnesota and that James moved on to Virginia City, Nevada where my grandfather, Thomas O’Reilly, was born.  The first record I had on Andrew and Bridget was the 1870 U.S. census – in Faribault.  It was also known that Andrew had a younger brother Michael and I was able to find records of Michael and his wife in Faribault as well.  Andrew, Bridget, Michael and his wife all passed away and are buried in Minnesota.

So the biggest assumption I (wrongly) made was that these ancestors arrived first at an Eastern United States port and migrated west.  Imagine my surprise when, almost by accident, I found this family on the 1861 Canadian census in Ontario! And living nearby was brother Michael and his family.  But wait, it gets better.  The fact that they were in Ontario was surprising, where in Ontario was an unbelievably good small world story.  They were in the beautiful small town of Picton.  The reason this location was such a surprise is that I already knew I had other ancestors just a few miles away from Picton at that same time – my McCauley ancestors who had also settled there after moving from County Antrim.

Here’s where the small world story unfolds…  As I mentioned above, my grandfather, Thomas O’Reilly, was born in Nevada.  He too traveled extensively “out west” in the first decade of the 1900s and eventually ended up in Vancouver, British Columbia.  In about 1908 he traveled to the small town of Merrill, Michigan where his parents, James and Alice, had settled after moving from Nevada, then living in Nebraska and Minnesota before finally settling in Merrill.  He was just there for a visit but during that visit he happened to meet the one room school teacher who was then teaching the youngest of his siblings.  They quickly fell in love and married and she traveled to Vancouver with him and that is where my father was born.  My grandfather’s bride’s name – Mary McCauley – the granddaughter of the ancestors I had near Picton, Ontario – in the small town of Marysville.  Mary McCauley was born and raised in Marysville but after receiving her teaching certificate moved to Merrill, Michigan to live with an aunt & uncle who had moved there from Marysville.

So while their grandparents had lived just a few miles from each other in the early 1860s, it took thousands of miles of travels and another 50+ years before these two would meet by chance and fall in love.  No, my O’Reilly and McCauley great-great-grandparents almost certainly did not know each other and never would but I cannot help but wonder if they may have once passed each other on the street.  And I wonder too if my grandfather was ever aware, when visiting his in-laws in Marysville, that his young father and grandparents lived there as well 60 years previously.  A quick p.s. – my grandfather and his children, including my father, eventually settled in Detroit which happened to be where my mother was born and raised – where had her father moved from?  Minnesota!

My great-great-grandfathers and somewhat neighbors –

andrew-oreilly            bernard-mccauley

Andrew O’Reilly (1820-1888)          Bernard McCauley (1816-1883)

August 14, 1951

By Katherine Dials

Welcome to MyAncesStory, where we help you create the story of your family tree. We help you get beyond “just the facts” and discover the stories that make your family tree.

Speaking of family stories, one that is very near and dear to our hearts is about two people who, without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Proudly presenting, Donald Quenton Layne and Hazel Elizabeth “Betty” Stephan (shh.. Don’t tell her we told you that her first name is “Hazel”)! Today would be their 65th wedding anniversary.


Don was born on March 10, 1930 in Betsy Layne, Kentucky to William  and Margaret Layne (bonus points if you know where Betsy Layne, Kentucky is). He was one of five sons, though only four survived to adulthood. Growing up during the Great Depression wasn’t always easy, but in later years Don would speak fondly of his time in Kentucky. He particularly enjoyed talking about coming home from school and his mother would have fresh out of the oven sweet potatoes waiting for him and his brothers. His family later moved to Richmond, Virginia, where Don attended John Marshall High School. He was an All-Virginia football player who receive full football scholarship offers from over 30 universities. He decided to attended The College of William and Mary, and went on to play football for four years before graduating in 1953 with a degree in Economics.

Betty was born on May 3, 1931 in Summerville, Pennsylvania. She was the only child of Harold and Hazel Stephan. Though born in Pennsylvania, she grew up in Arlington, Virginia. Unlike much of America during the Great Depression, her family remained fairly well off. Her father was able to keep his job throughout the Depression. As fate would have it, Betty also attended The College of William and Mary, and that’s where she and Don would meet during the first week of their freshman year.

As his grandchildren were growing up, Don would frequently tell them that he knew the first time that he saw their grandmother that she was the woman he was going to marry. They went on their first date on September 23, 1949 and married two years later on August 14, 1951.

After graduating from William and Mary, Don had the opportunity to play professional football. Several teams, including the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Chicago Cardinals (now the Arizona Cardinals) sent him offer letters. He turned down this opportunity and chose instead to dedicate his life to serve in the United State Marine Corps. Throughout his 30-year career, he traveled and lived in many distant places. Though they could not join him every tour, Betty and their three daughters did when permitted. They lived up and down the East Coast and even lived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti for a few years in the early 1960s. One of Betty’s proudest accomplishments was starting the first Girl Scout troop in Haiti.

The family eventually settled in Woodbridge, Virginia, where Betty began teaching at Marumsco Hills Elementary School in 1964. Many of her former students have referred to her as “the best teacher I ever had.” While in Woodbridge, Don continued to serve his country, including two tours in Vietnam before retiring in 1976. After retirement he continued his service to his country when he was asked to join the State Department as the Associate Director of Plans and Operations for the Sinai Support Mission and later as Consultant with the Multi-National Force and Observers (an international peacekeeping mission born out of the Camp David Accords).

Don had a lifelong love of carpentry. In his “retirement years” he began his own business as a contractor and home builder, with Betty there to help him run the business. He had a great talent for woodworking, which can be seen in every project he worked on, ranging from custom-built home to rocking horses that he made for his grandchildren. If you’re ever near Marine Corps Base Quantico, stop in at the Globe and Laurel (located off base, south on Route 1 from the main gate) and take a look at some of the beautifully crafted, custom made tables that he made.

Sadly, Betty left us November 19, 2011, just three months after her 60th wedding anniversary. Don passed away three years later on September 17, 2014. However the universe works in mysterious ways. Betty’s viewing was held on her oldest daughter’s birthday (November 23rd) and her funeral was held on her youngest daughter’s birthday (November 25th). They both felt it was only fitting, she was there to see them into the world, and now they were seeing her out. Not to be outdone, Don’s funeral was held on the 65th anniversary of their first date.

Myrtle Beach Family Portraits -21