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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. 


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.


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


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.


1 minutes 28 seconds later:


Importing the GEDCOM into MyHeritage

1. On the Family Tree tab at, 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):


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:


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! 


Tree Settings

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


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.


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.


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.


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Once again Legacy and Geoff are educating us in this activity of family search. Recently at our local Family History Centre Conference I was able to watch a video that could also add to this topic.

For anyone else looking to expand options (yet another backup....) this is worth looking at from

Sunny Morton
Big 4: Comparing Ancestry, findmypast, FamilySearch and MyHeritage

I look forward to "What's Next"

Geoff, the GEDCOM file screen I get with my Legacy version is slightly different than the one you're sharing above. For example, my screen only shows one tab, "Options" where yours shows, "Options," and "Other Options."
Also, should I leave the "Override Source Options - include all source information," radio button checked?
Lastly, I notice that the default value is ANSI for the character set - presumably you had no issues with the export or the import with that value.

Joe - ah, you're right, the GEDCOM export is slightly different. My Other Options tab includes some things that are currently found on your main GEDCOM export screen. They've been rearranged just a bit in v9 to clean things up. I did leave everything else as the defaults, so the character set and the source options are as you say.

Want to subscribe to this

I wonder if the author would care to comment on the fact that MyHeritage has now restricted the use of their Family Tree SYNC facility from UNLIMITED to just ONE SYCE in ev 24 hrs. This for an -on-line site. Its one of the reasons why I intend to try and use another Family Tree Program that has its own software. i.e. Legacy 8 deluxe. Has the author any comment please.

Alan - are you referring to MyHeritage's Family Tree Builder software? If so, I can't really comment since I use the Legacy Family Tree software. But perhaps they've changed the sync settings to prevent overload on their servers?

Whoops, I should have mentioned in my last.....
This SYNC restriction is for Family Trees in excess of 10,000.
They also restrict the actual size of your uploads after you exceed 2,500 records. You have to request each time that you exceed this number etc etc.
These two 'rules' place severe restrictions on the actual daily use of their program on-line.

I agree with Helen. Sunny Morton's video was very informative.

Thanks for 'nudging' some of us oldtimers that didn't know how to upload a GEDCOM. ('What's a GEDCOM?")

Hope you have someone that can monitor the 'matches' because with 23,000 entries you are going to get a ton of them.
Also, beware of the info; there are few real sources and errors are to be expected.

I've used Legacy for many years and MyHeritage for at least four years with one brief break. I also run Ancestry, WikiTree and occasionally FindMyPast.

Over the years I've made several contacts through MyHeritage and had tens of thousands of hits with smart matches. It was a regular chore but I always tried to confirm matches as they occurred for the benefit of others.

With the recent changes to smart matches it is now so time consuming as to be prohibitive to continue this. I have heard this same comment from other long term members.

Smart match material is only as good as the research and records of others. In very many cases this is wanting. We have probably all seen photos mis-identified and records and sometimes whole lines within trees attributed incorrectly.

The new smart match system strongly encourages the user to simply click to add x new members, photos or whatever to your tree. Many do so without discretion or vetting at all which in turn propagates many errors and produces increasingly more false smart matches etc.

Also some members delete and re-upload trees again and again producing many duplicated matches that the system is not smart enough to filter out (this always was the case).

Anyway, due to the recent iteration of smart matches, myself and others are opting not to renew the MyHeritage membership when it expires.

PS: My families are based in Europe and Australia but I note that many of MyHeritage's database of records are USA based so for those researching families there MyHeritage could offer a relatively cost effective platform to access those records. Their DNA offering looks competitive also.

my recent experience there was less than impressed. I could not actually LOOK at supporting documentation to the Smart Matches, and could not even click to look at the individual that was smart matched in the connecting tree. If I am going to be presented with a match, I want more than pretty colored boxes telling me to take their word for it. I may have been using it badly, but nothing I did gave me documents to look at and compare. Sorry, it wasn't a good fit for me...

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