Introducing MyHeritage DNA - free webinar now online

While MyHeritage DNA may be the newest player in the genetic genealogy community, they have made a strong case for using their DNA services. I met up with their Director of DNA, Yoav Naveh and Product Manager, Dana Drutman this past week and recorded a webinar, "Introducing MyHeritage DNA" which is now available for free in the webinar library here.

The webinar includes:

  • An overview of MyHeritage DNA
  • A background to DNA,
  • How to take the MyHeritage DNA test (or upload raw DNA files),
  • Understanding your ethnicity breakdown results,
  • Understanding your DNA matches
  • The Future

Large international audience

The DNA results they present are similar to other testing companies - they present you with your ethnicity results and your DNA matches. What separates them from others is their large international customer base and their cross vendor matching. If their claims of having the largest international audience are true (and from what I know I have no reason to doubt this), there is a good chance that I will find new DNA cousins who still reside in the countries from where my ancestors left.

Cross vendor matching

MyHeritage DNA also permits the importing of raw DNA data from other providers (FamilyTreeDNA, 23andMe, AncestryDNAtm), meaning, if you have already purchased and taken a test elsewhere, you can import those results and take advantage of the matching to this large international audience. And since this is a free service, there is no reason not to do it.

"Watch Geoff Live!"

In fact, while I'm thinking about it, I'm going to do it right now. Since I've already imported my tree into MyHeritage (described here) I'm ready to go. On my profile page, I will click on the "Upload DNA data" link.

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It provides instructions on how to download the raw DNA data.

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The first checkmark is required, and as always, you should read through terms. From what I learned in Blaine Bettinger's recent webinar on AncestryDNA's Genetic Communities, I'm going to also check the Consent Agreement option.

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About a minute after clicking the Upload DNA data file button, I was brought to this screen.

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While I can see the "In progress" button, I'm kind of left wondering - what's next? My guess is I will receive an email when it is done processing, but if anyone at MyHeritage is reading this, perhaps add a "What's Next" paragraph explaining what I should next expect. Right now, I'm left wondering. I'm looking forward to my first "You've Got DNA Matches" email.

The Future

In the webinar, Yoav and Dana also provided a sneak peak into MyHeritage DNA's near future. They plan on adding:

  • a Chromosome Browser
  • Pedigree Charts
  • and Common Ancestors' Places.

I will be anxiously awaiting the results of my DNA import. Stay tuned!


Geoff's MyHeritage experiment post #2 - Smart Matching, and a surprise at the end

In week two of my investigation into MyHeritage.com I will look into their Smart Matching technology. My initial post explained that just like I have experimented with other genealogy technologies, I felt it was time to give MyHeritage a solid look. Last week I described my experience of importing my Legacy-generated GEDCOM file into a new online tree. It went smoothly and I ended up with a private online tree.

Well, mostly private. This "mostly private" part concerned me enough that I sent an email to the company to get clarification. They responded nearly immediately. What I learned from their response not only satisfied my concern, but gave me great confidence in and respect for their Smart Matching.

What is Smart Matching?

Less than two days after importing my tree, I received the following email which 1) defines a Smart Match and 2) presented me with 45 Smart Matches:

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I recognized one of the Smart Matches as being on my father-in-law's side. And since we're now living with him as we await the completion of the construction of our new house, maybe researching one of his ancestors will earn me some points.

This Smart Match shows that the Fanny Maria Stewart in my tree could be the same person as a Fanny Maria Stewart in a potential relative's tree. If I determine that they are identical, it looks like I may be able to add a photograph and quite a bit of personal information that I did not previously have.

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I clicked on the Learn More button and was presented with this screen (click to enlarge):

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Because I did not start with much information about Fanny, I was not able to determine if they were the same or not. In the absence of an "I'm not sure" button, I instead opened Legacy to take a closer look:

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Sure enough, they are the same person. And even better, I chose someone who ended up in my state of Idaho! I had no idea my father-in-law had family here. I wonder if he knows....

Using Legacy's Relationship Calculator (Tools > Calculator > Relationship), I learned that Fanny is the wife of my father-in-law's great-granduncle. I love Legacy! Maybe MyHeritage has a similar relationship calculator. Good for them if they do!

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After my closer look, I can with confidence click on the orange Yes button.

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This took me to a Review Match screen where it compares what I have in my tree with what the other submitter has in their tree.

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Scrolling to the bottom, it compares our trees in graphical format. Clearly, there is a lot that I could add to my tree from theirs. Yet, any good genealogist knows to use content from others' trees as clues and not as evidence or conclusions. Regardless, it looks like they've done a lot of work and I love the many photographs they have.

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Before clicking on the Confirm Match button, I noticed an arrow to its right. Clicking on it popped up a message that I could save this submitter's data to my tree - "only New and Improved information will be saved." Like I just mentioned, I probably would not want to do that without verifying the data. Instead, I will just click on the Confirm Match button.

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Not knowing for sure what or if anything would automatically be added to my tree, I was relieved when I saw the next screen. Although I probably will not use its functionality, it has arrows pointing from the right side to the left side indicating that I could copy bits and pieces of information if I desired. It's actually quite similar to the FamilySearch tools in our Legacy Family Tree software.

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At the very bottom it showed two photographs that I could add to my tree, and since I love photos of my ancestors, to see how it works, I clicked on the copy button. Pretty easy.

Scrolling to the end, two buttons await my next click - "Extract all info" or "Save to tree." Clicking "Save to tree" I would expect that the only thing that would be copied to my tree would be the one photo. Let's do it.

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The "Review Match" screen appeared along with a confirmation of when I confirmed the match.

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Just below her picture, I am going to click on the "View in Tree" link.

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Just like that, her picture now appears in my private online tree.

Conclusions

  • MyHeritage did a good job of correctly presenting me with a possible match to Fanny.
  • If I ever wanted to, it appears to be very simple to copy information from another tree to mine.
  • Yet is the ease of copying going to contribute to the duplication of inaccurate trees? 
  • I am still going to treat data like this as clues and follow up with solid genealogical research.
  • I will always be a believer that someone else may hold a missing piece of my family's puzzle and so I continue to believe that it's okay to look at others' trees.
  • In each step, there was a link to contact the submitter of the information. If I am looking to get in touch with a submitter, it seems to be pretty simple.

More Smart Matches?

The email I received showed 45 possible Smart Matches. Clicking on the "Matches by People" option of the Discoveries menu shows that MyHeritage has been busy since they sent me the email. 

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Check this out:

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I don't know whether to be excited or overwhelmed by those numbers. Keep in mind, I uploaded my entire tree - my side, my wife's side, ancestors that I'm not currently researching, ancestors that I think about every day. Wondering if I could narrow the matches down, I clicked on the "Sort by" menu and then clicked on Relation.

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This is where things started getting, in my kids' words, "sketchy." 

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Among the first Smart Matches, when sorted by Relation, was my grandmother! It showed that there were three matches. How could there be Smart Matches to my grandmother, who is alive, when I thought my tree, and the living people in it, were private? This shows that Grandma is a Smart Match to someone in the "Fjeldsted Web Site," the "Reed Web Site," and the "McCall Web Site." 

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Clicking on the orange Review Match buttons definitely shows that Grandma does appear in these other websites as a living person. Her personal details and the personal details of her children are there as well. This is where I became concerned with the privacy.

I sent an email to MyHeritage asking them to help me understand this experience as it relates to their privacy policy. My email to them was sent at 10:34am. Their response to me was sent at 11:39am. Impressive. I halfway expected to learn about some little-known "gotcha" fine print in their privacy policy. While they did point me to their privacy policy, the feeling I had after reading through it was that of amazement. What they are doing really is incredible - in a good way! Here's the copied/pasted policy from https://www.myheritage.com/FP/Company/popup.php?p=privacy_policy

What are Smart Matches™ and how do they affect your privacy?

Smart Matches™ is a technology developed and owned by MyHeritage to find matches between family trees, by looking for individuals that they have in common, and bridging across differences in spelling, phonetics, facts and languages. Smart Matches™ are very useful in that they facilitate discoveries of unknown relatives and reuniting families whose ties have been disconnected over time.

Other MyHeritage users may receive notifications regarding Smart Matches™ between individuals in their family tree and individuals in your family tree. Smart Matches™ may also be found on living individuals in your tree. If you are concerned about the privacy of your family tree, to the extent that you do not wish to allow potential relatives to find and view parts of it, you can disable Smart Matches™ for your family tree(s). See "Privacy Preferences" below. By default, Smart Matches™ are enabled.

With permission from MyHeritage, I also am including their follow-up comments to me:

It is very rare that we have people concerned by this, and their remedy is to turn off the Smart Matching. When others cannot match with your tree, you too do not get matches with other trees, so 99.99% of the people prefer to keep it enabled. The ability to match living relatives is very helpful, because many discoveries and family reunions happen that way. btw, if the other user didn't have your children in his tree already, he won't see their details in a Smart Match, to protect their privacy. If he does have them in the tree, he is very likely related to you, and he knows about them already, and in that case hiding information such as their age defeats the purpose of having matches.

So these three other trees in which my grandmother was listed as a Smart Match already had the living details about my grandmother and her children. So like MyHeritage wrote, they are likely close relatives, and someone I would probably actually want to communicate with. And if they did not already have the private information about Grandma, I never would have matched to their tree anyways. Without this explanation, or the careful attention to the explanation of how their Smart Matching works, some may be concerned, like I was. In my opinion, this is actually very good technology, and like they said, if it bothers you, you can easily disable Smart Matches.

Smart Matches in the Tree

I also learned that while browsing the tree in the chart mode, you can tell if a person has Smart Matches if they have a little green icon. Just give it a click and their list of matches appear.

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Surprise at the end - Smart Matches in Legacy 9.0

For the first "official" time ever, I'm announcing here that the soon-to-be-released Legacy 9.0 will have built-in hinting. Instead of going out to sites like FamilySearch, GenealogyBank, or even MyHeritage, Legacy will do the searching for you! 

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Above, Jeremiah Brown's new Hint icon shows the number of 9+. Clicking on it shows 39 hints from MyHeritage, 23 hints from GenealogyBank, and 1 hint from FindMyPast. Clicking on each one will present the results. While I could go visit each site each month on my own, Legacy is using some pretty advanced logic to find results that you may miss on your own.

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Coming soon to Legacy 9.0!

What's Next

This post was a little longer than I intended it to be, but I think I now have a good grasp of the ins and outs of MyHeritage's Smart Matches tool and like what I see. Coming up next, I will report on the second of the seven unique technologies from the MyHeritage webinar - Record Matches. Stay tuned.


Geoff's MyHeritage experiment post #1 - starting my tree

There is an online genealogy service that for years I dismissed. I already have my data in Legacy Family Tree software AND manage a research-in-progress tree at both FamilySearch and Ancestry - do I really need my data in yet another tree? This is what I thought before viewing Mike Mansfield's excellent webinar, "7 Unique Technologies for Genealogy Discoveries at MyHeritage." Afterwards my opinion completely changed. I was impressed both with Mike as a speaker and with their technology. About a year later I published the "Top 20 Webinars of All Time" list, and was shocked to see that this class came in at number three - of all time! And now that MyHeritage has entered the DNA community, I've decided that they deserve more of my genealogical time and a solid look. 

This post is the first of a series where I will investigate and report on my use and impressions of each of the "seven unique technologies" that Mike introduced.

  1. Smart Matching
  2. Record Matches
  3. Newspaper & Free-Text Matching
  4. Record Detective
  5. Instant Discoveries
  6. SearchConnect
  7. Global Name Translation

Combined with the other two MyHeritage-related webinars...

...I have become very impressed with their technology. As with any other genealogy technology, when I learn a little of its potential, I try to make time for a thorough investigation. Previous investigations have resulted in my support and love for tech like AniMap, Google Photos, Flip-Pal, and GoToWebinar. Now it's MyHeritage's turn. Either I'll like it or I won't, and I look forward to giving you my honest opinions of what I learn.

In this first post, I will describe my thought and decision making process as I determine how I will use the site. Initial questions I have include:

  • Should I just use their search form to see if I get any matches in their trees or records, or like Mike suggested, should I first upload my tree to take advantage of their automated searching?
  • If I do upload my tree, should I upload my entire tree or just the branches I am currently researching?
  • How does MyHeritage protect my privacy?
  • What about DNA? Will they let me import the raw results of the DNA tests I've completed elsewhere? If so, is their pool of testers large enough to be of any value to me?

How Should I Start?

In a previous MyHeritage-related webinar I uploaded a GEDCOM that I created from Legacy to demonstrate how the process worked. It was simple. But because I am beginning my serious investigation into their site, want to begin fresh, and to be able to demonstrate for you the steps involved, I've gone ahead and removed anything I previously shared.

Next is the decision of "how should I start my tree?" The Family Tree tab at MyHeritage shows that I can manually start a new tree or import a GEDCOM. 

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Since my time is valuable and because I already have my data in Legacy, I've decided to create and import a GEDCOM into their system. Should I import all 23,702 individuals, or should I import just the ancestors I am actively researching? A few minutes go by...I've decided to import my entire family file for this reason - DNA. Although I do not yet know anything about their DNA services, with my experience at other DNA sites, I've learned that the more I share the more genetic matches I find.

Good, another decision made. This is way easier than all the decisions I'm making about the new house we are building.

Privacy

Since the file I will upload will contain information about my living family, I'd better check out MyHeritage's privacy policy. Hopefully they give me complete control over what is public and private. Reading their privacy policy here has given me the confidence that I can share my personal information without fear of it becoming public. I've pasted a portion of their policy below.

The user decides to what degree information on the family tree and other information from the family site will be visible to and discoverable by other users, by setting the Privacy Preferences (described in a detailed section below). The user decides whether to build the family tree on the Website on his/her own, or to make it a collaborative effort by inviting family members to assist, using facilities available on the Website for inviting members. If other members are invited, they make similar choices on entering information into the family tree. All information is entered into the Website directly and is not collected implicitly. The Website prevents information on living people from being disclosed to strangers, to protect privacy, and such information if entered will not be visible outside the family site or discoverable by search engines such as Google. It is often useful however to allow deceased people entered into the family tree to be visible to and searchable by other people, to allow one's distant relatives to discover it.

The personal information that you and other users enter is stored in the Website only for the purpose of delivering the Service to you and the other users, i.e. displaying the family tree, printing the family tree, searching historical records, and other genealogy features.

Creating the GEDCOM file

The first step is to create the GEDCOM file. This is done in Legacy Family Tree. Follow the steps below.

1. Go to File >  Export > GEDCOM file

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To change WHO you will include in the file, click on the Record Selection button. To change any privacy settings for whom you will export, click on the Privacy Options button. I'm going to leave things as they are because of my reasoning above.

2. Click the "START EXPORT" button in the upper right, select the location (the desktop is a good spot) and enter the name of the file.

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1 minutes 28 seconds later:

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Importing the GEDCOM into MyHeritage

1. On the Family Tree tab at www.myHeritage.com, click on the Browse button, locate and select the GEDCOM you just created, and click the orange Import GEDCOM button.

20 seconds later the upload was complete (1:28pm):

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Thinking this would take a while, I got up to go eat some lunch. Then Pavlov's Theory proved true once again - I got the email notification sound on my phone which meant I immediately checked my inbox. It was just one minute later that I received the following:

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Wow, that was quick.

Clicking the link took me to my tree where the first thing I noticed was the balloons - it's my son's 15th birthday in 12 days. Thanks for the reminder! 

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Tree Settings

I next went to the Tree Settings page to make sure that the privacy settings are what I expected them to be.

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Since I'm not certain what a "site member" is yet, I'm going to turn off the ability for site members to "download the family tree file" and for now I'm going to change the permissions so I am the only person who can edit the family tree.

Privacy Settings

The privacy settings are on its own page.

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The first option of "include family tree in MyHeritage historical search engines" concerned me as I do not want any living individuals in my tree to be searchable. Hovering over the little information icon, it explained that only deceased individuals will be searchable and viewable to others.

So far so good.

Conclusion

At this point, I am comfortable with my tree and its privacy settings. It was easy to upload and the resulting tree looks appealing and easy to navigate. If I never do any more with MyHeritage, at the very least, I now have another backup of my entire tree just in case. I took a quick peek at the Discoveries page to see if it had found any Smart Matches or Record Matches yet. It hadn't, but I didn't expect it to be that quick. I'll check back in a few days to see what it has found for me.

What's Next

Coming up next, I will report on the first of the seven unique technologies from the webinar - Smart Matches. Stay tuned.


My New Journey with MyHeritage, PLUS a new webinar on their new Book Matching

My explorations into the MyHeritage.com genealogy site have just begun, and after the discoveries it made in my tree today, I anticipate MyHeritage will soon become one of my top go-to resources.

I've heard of MyHeritage, have consistently seen it appear in the annual rankings as one of the top genealogy websites, and have seen their large presence at major genealogy conferences. But it wasn't until our recent webinar with MyHeritage's Mike Mansfield that I began to see that it deserves more of my attention. In "7 Unique Technologies for Genealogy Discoveries at MyHeritage" Mike showed off some really cool technology and the genealogy challenges they solve.

This week, for the first time, I uploaded a small part of my tree and nearly immediately began to experience two of these technologies: Smart Matching and Record Matching. And just this morning I made another big discovery thanks to their newest innovation - Book Matching.

First, the smart matching and record matches. At www.MyHeritage.com, I clicked on the GEDCOM option in the Family Tree menu.

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It then imported the small GEDCOM file I created from my Legacy family file. (In Legacy, go to File > Export > GEDCOM.) I imported four generations of ancestors beginning with my great-grandfather, Kenneth BROWN. A few minutes later I received this email, notifying me that my tree is now ready to view:

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Sure enough it was. I've zoomed out here to show you the entire tree, plus I added my grandmother, mother, and myself so I would also be linked.

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Less than two hours later I received the next email with this subject line:

Geoff Rasmussen, you've got Record Matches!

Cool! And while the most of the initial record matches were census records I had already located elsewhere, it did have a few nuggets like a tombstone image and a newspaper article I didn't previously have.

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The next day I received an email notifying me of my first set of Smart Matches.

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These are potential matches in other researchers' trees that appear to overlap someone in my tree. In the olden days of Internet genealogy, we had to seek out our relatives and living cousins - now they get emailed to me while I'm sleeping. :) Today, just three days after importing my tree, I now have 2,470 smart matches and 159 record matches to review. All this from my tree of just 159 individuals.

Book Matching

But it's what showed up as a record match for my Hezekiah Bond this morning that I'm really excited about! 

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This didn't take me to a list of hundreds of books with the names Hezekiah and Bond on the same page. Rather, it located the one book with my Hezekiah Bond.

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My previous experience with searching for my ancestors in digital books has usually returned hundreds, if not thousands, of results, and most of the time the books do have a Hezekiah and a Bond on the same page, or if the two names were back-to-back, they don't usually refer to the right guy. This is what makes MyHeritage's new Book Matching technology so unique. In fact, MyHeritage described Book Matching as this:

"...perhaps our best technology yet."

Further, they explained,

"Book Matching automatically researches individuals found in family trees on MyHeritage in our vast collection of digitized historical books. Unique to MyHeritage, the innovative new technology uses semantic analysis to understand every sentence in every page in the digitized books, in order to find matches with very high accuracy. Book Matching has already produced over 80 million new matches for our users! Every match is a paragraph from a book specifically about the person in the family tree, providing direct access to that paragraph and the ability to browse through the rest of the book.

MyHeritage located the right Hezekiah Bond married to my 4th great-grandaunt, Ann Hough in the book Bond Genealogy: A History of the Descendants of Joseph Bond, told of his service in the Civil War, and gave me the names of two children I had previously overlooked:

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New Webinar

So...what do I usually do when I get really excited about something? I turn it into a webinar. I've invited Mike Mansfield of MyHeritage to demonstrate their new Book Matching technology to a live webinar audience. Mark your calendar for Friday, April 29, 2016 at 2pm eastern U.S. time for the free class.

Registerbut 

My first experience with using MyHeritage certainly won't be my last. And while I'll continue to keep my main tree in my Legacy Family Tree software, I'm happy to have discovered this new tool for my genealogy toolbox.