September is here! For most of the northern hemisphere, the month marks the beginning of cooler weather and the beginning of school. Did you know that September is also national Americana month? The word Americana is often used to refer to places and things associated with American culture and history—in particular the United States or all of North America.
This month, RootsTech wants to honor and celebrate both United States and Canadian culture and people. And of course, because RootsTech is the world's largest genealogy conference, with hundreds of videos online and available for free, we also have tips on how to find out more about your own United States or Canadian family history.
North American Continent and Heritage Sites
North America is the third largest continent in the world. From the frozen arctic tundra in the north to the sunny semitropical south, from the eastern coast to the western coast, the climate and landscapes vary widely and influence the culture of various areas.
Many countries make up North America. The United States and Canada are the largest in size, but North America also includes Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Haiti, and Barbados. The countries in Central America are also often included in the list of North American countries, including Guatemala, Honduras, and Costa Rica. These countries offer a rich diversity to North American culture.
UNESCO has designated nearly 50 World Heritage sites in North America. Here are a few from that list:
- Miguasha National Park
- Everglades National Park
- Grand Canyon National Park
- Wood Buffalo National Park of Canada
- Redwood National and State Parks
- Gros Morne National Park of Canada
In addition to natural wonders, these World Heritage sites also include places that celebrate the history of North America:
- Statue of Liberty
- Independence Hall
- Quebec City, Canada
- L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site
- Lunenburg, Canada
- Chaco Culture National Historical Park
- Mesa Verde National Park
- Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
North American Culture
North America is known as a melting pot of nations and cultures. Each section of the continent has been influenced by Native American tribes as well as those who came from other lands. Groups that settled here have contributed to the American experience. Immigrants from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mucioko and Regine Banza, noticed that American culture is a mix of many cultures. “Out of many, comes one,” they said.
For example, watch one family’s experience with immigration:
Canada is the second largest country in land mass and has a large multicultural population.
Did you know:
- The name “Canada” likely comes from the Huron-Iriquois word “Kanata,” meaning “village.”
- Canada's smallest province, Prince Edward Island, is connected to the mainland by a long bridge that opened in 1998. The 12.9-kilometer Confederation Bridge was designed by Canadian engineers to withstand ice, wind, and even boats crashing into it.
- The Toronto Film Festival is the second largest in the world, and Toronto and Vancouver are important centers of film making.
- Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta had 352 grain elevators at the end of 2019.
Do you have Canadian ancestors? Here are some videos to help you learn more about them:
United States Culture
The United States has admitted more immigrants than any other country in the world. Because of the influence of people and cultures from many lands, including enslaved people who were brought to America, the country's food, sports, and traditions reflect great diversity and also have a distinctive American flavor. For example, American music, including jazz, blues, country, and bluegrass music, was influenced by spirituals from African-American slaves and the music of settlers from the British Isles.
Did you know:
- The United States has the world's oldest federal constitution. The preamble and 7 articles of the United States Constitution were drafted in 1787 in Philadelphia. The first 10 amendments are known as the Bill of Rights. These amendments guarantee rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, a free press, the right to bear arms, and the right to a fair trial.
- The United States is known for its various industries:
- Henry Ford began the first assembly line in his automobile plant in Michigan in 1913.
- The first skyscraper was built in 1884 in Chicago using steel made in the United States.
- The first transcontinental railroad was finished in 1869, built largely by immigrants.
- The first film completed in Hollywood was 1908’s The Count of Monte Cristo. By 1915, most major film studios had moved to Hollywood, in southern California, in part because of its warm weather and variety of scenery.
Although the United States is known for its large cities, many people live in small towns located across the continent. Watch an example of life in small-town America:
Do you have United States ancestors? These videos may be helpful for you:
Other North American Countries
While we can't do justice to each North American country in one article, RootsTech and FamilySearch are always trying to connect people to their family and heritage all over the world. Here are some other rich resources that can help with North American family history and cultural connections.
As you celebrate your American heritage and culture this month, consider what the late American historian David McCullough wrote:
The laws that govern us, the freedoms we enjoy, the institutions that we often unfortunately take for granted, represent the hard work of others stretching back far into the past. . . . The freedoms we enjoy are not just a birthright, but something for which millions have struggled, suffered, and died.
Researching Your Ancestors
For more information about North American heritage and how to find your ancestors in the United States and Canada, visit these RootsTech classes:
What Is RootsTech?
RootsTech is a place to learn, be inspired, and make connections through family history. Hosted by FamilySearch and sponsored by other leading genealogy organizations, RootsTech has hundreds of expert classes, tips and tricks videos, and inspiring stories that can help you experience family history like never before. Visit our on-demand learning library, or make plans to join us for our next virtual or in-person conference event.