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.
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.
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!
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.