From time to time I find genealogy services or products that are especially interesting. Sometimes I can negotiate a special deal on them for readers of the EOGN newsletter. Today I can announce one of those special offers. It is for a service that I love and use often: MyHeritage.com. Best of all, MyHeritage is now offering a 50% discount to EOGN newsletter readers. This limited time offer will expire on January 7, 2014.
You can click here to immediately see the special offer. However, first I would like to describe why I think MyHeritage is a service you need to use.
I have watched MyHeritage grow since the company's launch in 2005. It started as a web site and software focused on family trees, that was used in many countries around the world. In the past eight years, MyHeritage has grown in size, increased its offerings, and acquired several other companies, adding even more offerings. As a result, MyHeritage has grown to become a leading “power house” of genealogy records and services.
MyHeritage combines billions of records obtained from archives around the world, including a huge collection of newspapers, with family trees. The collection of records is very good for the U.S. and the United Kingdom, but the company now has excellent online resources from many other countries. For instance, I believe MyHeritage has the biggest collection of records available online from Eastern Europe, and the company recently announced huge new collections from all the Scandinavian countries, which are being added now. These records from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland date from as early as the 1600s and extend through the early twentieth century. I don't know of any other online service that can match MyHeritage's worldwide collections.
In addition, you and millions of other genealogists are encouraged to store your own ancestral information on MyHeritage. In fact, 75 million other MyHeritage users have already contributed 1.5 billion profiles and 27 million family trees. There is an excellent chance that details of some of your ancestors are already available in the MyHeritage databases. For several years MyHeritage has provided a service that lets you search both the archived information on the site and the family trees of other MyHeritage users in order to find matching information.
Of course, MyHeritage has competitors, and some of them also have great services. However, MyHeritage has three offerings I have not seen elsewhere—offerings I use often: Record Matching, Record Detective, and Facial Recognition.
When I first used these three services, I was amazed at the results. Within minutes, MyHeritage showed me more information about a number of my ancestors than I had found in 35 years of searching on my own! It even found a couple of new ancestors that I hadn't found at all previously. I suspect MyHeritage can do the same for you. You'll never know until you try it.
Let me explain the unique capabilities of these services:
In short, rather than going to a genealogy web site and manually searching for an ancestor by entering names, dates, and places (which you can also do on MyHeritage and they call it SuperSearch), Record Matching does that for you. You enter your genealogy information into MyHeritage's database (either manually or by uploading a GEDCOM file), and the technology at MyHeritage searches for matching information from its archives and from other members' family trees. To be sure, this doesn't find information that you couldn't find yourself through manual online searches. However, MyHeritage's matching will save you a lot of time.
In my case, I uploaded a GEDCOM file containing information about 2,761 of my ancestors and other relatives. Using old-fashioned manual search methods such as we all used a few years ago, I would have to search for information about each of these people, one at a time.
Figuring a manual search typically would require about five minutes per person on average, searching for information about all 2,761 individuals would require about 230 hours! That's almost ten days of continuous searching at the keyboard without sleep, meals, or breaks. Instead, MyHeritage did all the searches for me automatically. I spent a few minutes uploading the GEDCOM file and then returned to the site some hours later to view all the results. That's all! My time required? Five minutes plus some time to read the matches. That's a lot better than spending 230 hours at the keyboard! It also saves a lot of time when new records are added – MyHeritage matches my tree against them automatically so I don't have to spend 230 more hours to search again!
Record Matching will sometimes find people without even knowing their last names. For example, it can find three brothers in the same family by using only their first names and relationship as siblings, or it can find the right person just because he was born on a certain date in a certain small town.
What surprised me was the accuracy of the results. I have performed similar searches on other web sites, and often the results returned are highly inaccurate. Sometimes the name is correct, but the birth, marriage, and death records reported on other web sites are for individuals born in a different century in a location thousands of miles away. Not so with MyHeritage. The results were almost perfect. Most all of the identified individuals were, in fact, my relatives. Even the very few that were not were at least the correct name and were always close to the correct years and locations.
Okay, so I like Record Matching. However, a newer offering really blew my socks off.
MyHeritage later added something called "Record Detective." It is a bit difficult to describe. However, the results have to be seen to be appreciated. In short, Record Detective takes the matching technology a step further to identify records by searching for things you might never think about. Record Detective uses a form of "artificial intelligence" to perform additional searches that I have never seen in any other genealogy web site or software. The easiest way to describe this is with a few examples:
1. You might supply information about someone in your family tree named William Dawes. This is a common name, and I suspect that hundreds of men named William Dawes have lived throughout the centuries. On many web sites, you can narrow the search by specifying men named William Dawes in a certain state or county and within a range of years. Obviously, this can help narrow the search somewhat. However, for common names, you still receive a lot of "hits."
In contrast, MyHeritage looks at the information about your William Dawes, including his close relatives, and then seeks records for people who match ALL of his information. In this case, MyHeritage will look only for records of men named William Dawes who ALSO have a father named John or a mother named Abigail or a brother named Joseph or a sister named Anna or a wife named Louise, and children named Henry, Ebenezer, Jennifer, and Pamela. MyHeritage does not require ALL of those relatives' names, but the more matching names that are found, the higher YOUR William Dawes will be shown on the list you see. If MyHeritage finds three or four or five relatives' names that are matches to the information you supplied, the information displayed to you will be close to 100% accurate.
2. When viewing a record in the US Census collection, Record Detective will provide census entries of the same person in former or subsequent years—and it will do this for everyone in the entire household. The additional information could include newspaper articles about the person’s son or the immigration papers of his parents. When you find someone listed in the 1870 census, you no longer have to manually look for the same person in the census records for 1850, 1860, 1880, 1900, and so on. MyHeritage will do all that for you.
3. When Record Detective looks at a wedding announcement published in a newspaper, it automatically goes searching for information about all the people listed. This includes bridesmaids, the best man, the parents and grandparents of both the bride and groom (if they were listed as being in attendance at the wedding), and even the ushers. Sure, you could do that manually; but how long would that take? And how long would similar searches require for EVERY relative in your database, including your cousins, aunts, uncles, and others? WOULD you do that? MyHeritage will do it for you.
I can offer my own experience as one example. I have been tracing my family tree for more than 35 years and have had great success. MyHeritage found many of the same relatives again but then added something new that I hadn't found on my own: details.
For instance, I already knew that my recently-deceased uncle served in the Korean War and was wounded. I didn't know many details, and he never liked to talk about the war. Even his children knew little about his wartime experiences. MyHeritage AUTOMATICALLY found a contemporary newspaper account from his home town paper that gave the details of combat experience. He was badly wounded during combat, evacuated to a M.A.S.H. unit, triaged, and classified as “unlikely to survive.” The M.A.S.H. unit was flooded with wounded personnel, so my uncle was one of the last to undergo surgery. He fooled the triage process, however. He not only recovered but also returned to civilian life, married, raised a family, and seemed to be in good health for the rest of his life.
Perhaps I would have found that obscure newspaper article sooner or later on my own. After all, it is available on the Web. Instead, MyHeritage found the article for me because the automated Record Detective apparently recognized his name as a son listed in my grandparent's census records and then went looking for other records for men of roughly the same age. My grandparents' names weren't even mentioned in the newspaper article, but MyHeritage's Record Detective made the connection anyway.
These are but a few examples. Record Detective does that and a lot more as well.
Face Recognition Technology
I am also very impressed with MyHeritage's face recognition technology and automatic photo tagging. You can tag a family member in one photo, and an automated photo tagger will recognize their face and tag them in all your photos automatically. Yes, this really works a high percentage of the time.
Dictionary of Names
Finally, I am most impressed with MyHeritage's dictionary of names. Experienced genealogists are aware that spelling of names was not standardized years ago. Another common problem is that of languages. When Great Uncle Bill was born in Germany, he may have been christened with the name Wilhelm. When he moved to America, he perhaps adopted the English equivalent, William. Of course, family members called him Bill. MyHeritage will search for all three possibilities. In fact, it will search for a lot more than three.
For a man named Alexander, MyHeritage will also search for records listing him in all these ways:
MyHeritage also offers many more features. For one thing, MyHeritage allows you to (securely) store your information BOTH in your own Windows computer and in the cloud. (A Macintosh version is in the works). Even better, you can carry all your genealogy information in your pocket with Android and Apple iOS (iPhone and iPad) applications. Not only is your genealogy information conveniently available at all times, but it is also securely backed up in the cloud, protecting you from hard drive crashes, viruses, and other disasters that could destroy your data. You may also elect to share your information with other family members or even with everyone on the World Wide Web. Of course, you always have full privacy control; you can elect to share with others or not, as you wish. Details of living people are always kept private.
MyHeritage also has a long, long list of other offerings to enhance and speed up your research, including:
- Over 4 billion records such as birth, marriage, death, burial, census, military, immigration, yearbooks, plus scanned images of the original documents.
- The world's largest collection of historical newspapers, some of them as early as 1739.
- 75 million users have contributed 1.5 billion profiles and 27 million family trees.
- 5.5 million gravestone records from BillionGraves.
- 3.5 million obituaries from Tributes.com.
- 2 billion records from FamilySearch’s global historic record collections.
- All US census records from 1790 through 1940.
- All of the England and Wales census records from 1841 through 1901.
- Hundreds of millions of UK birth, marriage and death records.
- Vital records from 32 countries.
- 200 million photographs.
- … and much more being added every month.
I think you can see why I am enthusiastic about MyHeritage.com. In short, it is an excellent example of the future of online genealogy with one qualification: it is available now.
The folks at MyHeritage have agreed to make a special offer to readers of Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter. You can sign up now for a 50% discount. The normal price for a one-year subscription to MyHeritage's full set of family tree services and historical records costs $238.80 US. However, the company now has an exclusive low price for EOGN Readers: just $119.40! This limited time offer will expire on January 7, 2014.
There is only one way to receive this half-price offer: click here.
I expect you will be as pleased with MyHeritage as I am.