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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:


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.


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


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:


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!


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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


  • 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. 


Check this out:


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.


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


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." 


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.


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! 


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.


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.


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Thanks Geoff,
This has cleared up a somewhat hazy area for me with My Heritage.
I'm looking forward to Lagacy 9.0. Like many others I cant't wait to have patience rewarded.
Kid regards,
Dave Watts.

Thanks Geoff,

I really appreciate you thoroughness in walking through the steps while you experience and explore My Heritage. Keep it up! Your effort is continuing to help us along the path of using this great and ever improving technology to explore our ancestors.

I am also very interested in the coming update to Legacy.

Jim Vashro

This same ability for my private facts to be used willy-nilly was a worry to me also. I am so glad that you went to such detail to explain how this works and reassure us that privacy is still maintained. Makes me more ready to actually agree to some of those Smart Matches that have come my way. I only hope that I get one's on my Schossow, Dahm and Bunger/Binger side. Those have always seemed to be my terribly short side of family members.

Thank you Geoff. This particular post has answered questions I had. While I did not upload a Gedcom, only entering a four generation direct line as a trial, I now feel far more comfortable and actually like MyHeritage better than Ancestry with regards to how they control the matches.
Looking forward to the next post.
Sonji Ruttan

If you are not sure about the match, does it go away or will you be able to go back to it later?

Amelia - it would stay "pending" - you can filter the list of Smart Matches to pending and then you'd still see it.

Thank you Geoff. I'm thrilled that Legacy 9 will have the hint feature. Can hardly wait for it to be relased.

So on My Heritage, everyone has their own tree that no one can make changes to ?
Also, what happens to all my information if I should decide to remove my tree from My Heritage?

I did not see any mention of your being able to see documentation used to confirm "sketchy" smart matches. Can you see the documentation the other trees use to support their findings?? clues are fine, but 3/4 of Harper trees have the father of my 3rd GGF as "John", and I debunked, with facts and documentation, years ago that was incorrect. I got over a dozen smart matches with information I knew to be incorrect concerning "John".
My question... Is there a way to confirm or discount these matches by looking at actual documentation?? I could not find one and it bothered me.

thank you,

Jo Anne - it is an option to have your own tree that nobody else can change. You also have the option to invite others to your tree, and you may give them permission to add to or change your tree. I haven't utilized these options yet so don't yet know much more than just that.

Thank you very much Geoff for your posts on My Heritage. It has been such great help to me!
Also like many others I really look forward to Legacy 9.0

Geoff, Wouldn't it be advantageous to place all the information in a shoebox or some such place for future research, especially if the information looks and matches what you know already? Is there a way to do save the information for later, maybe on research notes? I know I have so many places to go and be on my family that I may not remember the information I once found on MyHeritage. Also, I live next door to Felt, Id in Tetonia.

Hi Geoff
Thanks for this. Very interesting indeed.
Can you tell me if there is a merge function in My Heritage?

For example, I have just gone in there and they have asked the usual questions about parents and grandparents. Now if I import my Gedcom, will I duplicate that information or can those entries be merged to create a single individual in each case?

Chris, from Perth, Western Australia

How soon will '9' be out?

This is wonderful! I have been really hesitant to jump onboard with MyHeritage and these posts have made me a believer. And your reveal at the end just made me SUPER excited about the Legacy 9 rollout!!!

Geoff -

I too am really enjoying your review of My Heritage. I had uploaded my DNA results a while back, but have been disappointed in my matches from that. But I think I will take the plunge with my tree after reading your blog posts.

Thank you very much.


Jo - on Monday. But I'm not sure which one yet...

Christine - really good question, I'm unsure. Does anyone out there know?

This sounds great. Thank you so much for posting this review of My Heritage. When I create the Gedcom, to transfer my tree, do I include sources and photos?

Thank you very much for your assistance.

Thanks for this series, Geoff. It has been very helpful in answering the privacy question about MyHeritage. Look forward to more.............and to Legacy 9.
Loved your response to Jo.

Amy - citations are uploaded without any additional effort or setting changes. Since pictures are not supported in GEDCOM, pictures were not transferred.

I have been using Myheritage for about 2 years for creating a tree and especially for research. For someone with limited funds it is reasonably affordable. What they do, how they do it and with reasonable accuracy is amazing. I do my genealogy a little different than probably most people. I download as much of the information as possible that Myheritage collects and then start screening it. I have found very few errors. What amazes me is how thorough they are. My comment (question) to you is. I think it would be advantageous to be able to Synch with Myheritage to bring our trees together, Then again maybe not. Just a thought. I do very much appreciate what and how Legacy works. Thank You

Thanks for the useful info on MyHeritage. I would appreciate a future post on how you would transfer new "Matched" information/photos back from your MyHeritage file to your LegacyFamilyTree file. LFT8 does this well with FamilySearch. Will LFT9 be able to do this with MyHeritage and/or FindMyPast?

Howard - LFT9 will introduce Hinting for MyHeritage/FindMyPast and others. A future release will provide the transferring/syncing of information.

Like Geoff, I uploaded a trial family tree, only about 4000 names for my lines, then another 4000 for my wife's lines. Then I had a bunch of orphan trees that for various reasons did not link to the main tree in Legacy. I got an overwhelming stream of matches, including connections to my orphans. Over the next three months I worked with the My Heritage trees. My Heritage will give you steps to do a merge, I think it is very technical and not for the faint of heart, I am a very technical person and don't think following there merge process is a good use of my time. Legacy's merge is wonderful and really easy to use by comparison. The pictures are a good deal, but I haven't seen an easy way to transfer them to Legacy.
I downloaded the resulting trees and am cleaning up the place names and some event usages that are not consistent with the way I think things should be done. Source citations all seem to attribute to "unspecified", but there are citations.

I downloaded Legacy9 and to my amazement had so many hints. I clicked on one on myself and low and behold I was sent to MyHeritage where they have me (very much alive), my brothers and my children all very much alive. Very disturbing to me as I've been researching and authoring books for 36 years now and privacy started with genealogy 101. I have no clue where they got their data from as I'm not a member of MyHeritage and when I tried to email them it wouldn't go through because I didn't have the email I registered in MyHeritage with. Well, surprise..I didn't register with them. So does anyone now how I might contact them and have them remove me and my siblings and childen?

Ida, I, too, was initially surprised to see matches to my living relatives. Then I learned that I would ONLY see those hints if someone else already had those living relatives in their private tree. Nobody else sees them. Since someone else has them in their tree, they're likely a close relative of yours.

I too was amazed at all the links in the new Legacy9 matches to My heritage. Unfortunately most of the links were to Family Search referring to the information I had added over the years. There was some other information but most was not sourced. It did give a starting point to continue research. Every little bit helps. I do love the cloud saving for Leagacy 9.

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