MyHeritage Launches Breakthrough Global Name Translation™ Technology

I think this is a huge advancement in online searches for genealogy information. I saw the brand-new Global Name Translation demonstrated earlier today at the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) annual conference in Jerusalem and I am very impressed.

Global Name Translation is the easy way to search through MyHeritage’s massive multilingual and international database of 6 billion family tree profiles and historical records. As stated in the announcement below, the Global Name Translation “…automatically translates names found in historical records and family trees from one language into another, in very high accuracy, generating all the plausible translations, to facilitate matches between names in different languages. In addition, a manual search in one language will also provide results in other languages, translated back to the user’s language for convenience.”

Click on the above image to view a larger version

A search for “Jacob Schmidt” will find all the results shown above and more.

Yes, that’s right. If your ancestors came from a country that keeps its records in a language other than your preferred language, you can enter the search in your own language and MyHeritage will find matches for the same or very similar names in other languages as well. For instance, a search for Alexander or for Alessandro (Alexander in Italian) will also find “Саша” which is the Russian form of Sasha, a popular nickname of Alexander in Russia.

The first version successfully translates names to and from English, German, Dutch, French, Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Greek, Hebrew, Polish, Czech, Russian and Ukrainian. The next version currently in development will add Chinese and Japanese, and additional languages will follow.

I am not aware of any other genealogy service that has anything like this.

Disclaimer: This newsletter is sponsored by MyHeritage and I can be accused of bias towards that company’s products and services. In fact, that claim probably is correct: I am sure that I am biased! However, I honestly believe I would write this article with these or similar words even if this newsletter was not affiliated with MyHeritage in any way. I’ll invite you to judge this product for yourself to see if you agree with me.

Here is today’s announcement:

MyHeritage Launches Breakthrough Global Name Translation™ Technology to Power Family History Discoveries

New technology eliminates language barriers to enhance family history research and preservation

TEL AVIV, Israel & LEHI, Utah – July 8, 2015: MyHeritage, the leading destination for discovering, preserving and sharing family history, today announced the launch of Global Name Translation™, a new technology to help families break through language barriers in the quest to uncover their past. The technology automatically translates names found in historical records and family trees from one language into another, in very high accuracy, generating all the plausible translations, to facilitate matches between names in different languages. In addition, a manual search in one language will also provide results in other languages, translated back to the user’s language for convenience. This is a unique innovation not offered elsewhere, useful for anyone interested in discovering their global roots.

There are many immediate benefits for users. For example, people living in the USA with Russian roots previously had to search for their ancestors in Russian to maximize their chances of finding pertinent information. The new technology will now accept searches in English, automatically increase their scope to cover Russian and Ukrainian as well, and conveniently translate all results back to English.

The new technology also enhances the acclaimed MyHeritage matching technologies to bridge across language gaps. For example, If a user from Greece with a family tree in Greek, is related to a user from Israel with a family tree entered in Hebrew, MyHeritage will be able to connect them, automatically matching between names in the ancient languages of Greek and Hebrew, and show the two users how their family trees overlap, leading to exciting family reunions like never before.

“Global Name Translation™ helps overcome the Tower of Babel syndrome”, said Gilad Japhet, Founder and CEO of MyHeritage. “The world is getting smaller and more connected, yet information from other countries is still mostly hidden from those who don’t speak the language. It’s our mission to develop the best technologies for facilitating family history discoveries for everyone, everywhere. Therefore we set an ambitious goal of taking down one of the most formidable walls that hampers research and discovery – the difficulty of translating names from one language to another. We’re proud to have pioneered this solution and thrilled with the value that it will provide to users around the world.” MyHeritage has developed this technology using original research, advanced algorithms and based on its massive multilingual and international database of 6 billion family tree profiles and historical records. The technology covers first names and last names and is able to tackle not only names encountered in the past but also new names it has never encountered before. The technology is generic but also utilizes extensive dictionaries built by MyHeritage to cover synonyms and nicknames. Therefore a search for Alessandro (Alexander in Italian) will also find “Саша” which is the Russian form of Sasha, a popular nickname of Alexander in Russia.

The first version successfully translates names in between English, German, Dutch, French, Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Greek, Hebrew, Polish, Czech, Russian and Ukrainian. The next version currently in development will add Chinese and Japanese, and additional languages will follow.

To take advantage of Global Name Translation™ technology, create a new family tree for free on MyHeritage and enjoy the automatic matches or use MyHeritage’s SuperSearch search engine for historical records.

About MyHeritage
MyHeritage is the leading destination for discovering, sharing and preserving your family history. As technology thought leaders, MyHeritage is transforming family history into an activity that’s accessible and instantly rewarding. Its global user community enjoys access to a massive library of historical records, the most internationally diverse collection of family trees and ground-breaking search and matching technologies. Trusted by millions of families, MyHeritage provides an easy way to share your story, past and present, and treasure it for generations to come. MyHeritage is available in 40 languages. www.myheritage.com.

6 Comments

It sounds interesting for sure. However, I can imagine a possible problem already. I spent around ten years transcribing Ukrainian names from several areas, thousands of names. The time span covered (off the top of my head) 1784 when Austria began the records until the late 1800s, Birth/Marriage/Death records with some Christenings involved within usually the birth records. Because of Ukraine’s tortured history, names appear in either Cyrillic alphabet or Romanized–or occasionally, over a period of time, a person’s birth record was once Romanized (Birth) and later became Cyrillic (Marriage), and then could be back to Roman lettering by the Death record. But the bigger problem I see is how to “translate” a name that begins with a Latinized given name, might include a local dialect nickname and then a surname in Ukrainian. Rarely was another country’s language also involved, but it sometimes happened.

I suppose, since MyHeritage is doing this for Ukrainian already, they must be taking this into account. But since the “translation” of Alexander also shows up as the diminutive or nickname Sasha, how is this going to be particularly helpful for researchers when so many like names exist even within same villages (saints’ names are the deal most of the time), and unless one looks at house numbers (addresses) one isn’t going to be able to easily sort things out. Family relationships may or may not be given.

I agree that this has a strong draw because it seems at first that we won’t have to learn rudiments of foreign languages to find our people.

I struggled terribly at first when I began transcribing because–even with a year’s study of Russian a long time ago–it was difficult sorting families out one from another during the document years when Austria’s Romanized script was abandoned for the Cyrillic alphabet. What became interesting to me over time, though, was that it actually was easier in the Cyrillic because of the very limited pronunciations of letters. I didn’t have to “translate.” I merely had to pronounce the name properly according to Cyrillic pronunciation. Some Romanized letters can have up to at least four different sounds, making it hard to know exactly how to transcribe the name into Cyrillic–hence, lots of spelling changes from one person’s record to another record. With a pile of genealogy workshop handouts next to my computer, dictionaries from countries of interest, and prayer (don’t discount that last one), I learned the system and was able to do the work decently. I hope Ukrainian speakers are taking over now; I learned there’s no substitute for a language expert, for sure.

This above is only one example of why I think the crutches of “translations” might be counted on too much for support before the research gets under way on a progenitor of interest. It’s a useful tool in some ways; but it might slow us down in others or get us lost in thinking we’ve found someone whose criteria doesn’t really apply.

My first and main concern, though, came up in my mind with the mixing up of languages within any given name. It happens all the time in Ukrainian, other Catholic countries too.

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The link in the sentence “To take advantage of Global Name Translation™ technology, create a new family tree for free on MyHeritage…” is incorrect – just a typo I think.

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It will be extra exciting if or when this is applied to Geni because we could REALLY benefit from more help when looking for World Family Tree profile matches to merge. Dick, did he mention anything about that or Geni at all? Maybe they had their own session? I hope so because there’s always MyHeritage news but nothing about Geni even though it’s amazing.

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    —> Dick, did he mention anything about that or Geni at all? Maybe they had their own session?

    Yes, and yes. Geni is well represented here, both in the exhibition hall and with presentations being made. I also had the good fortune to spend several hours in MyHeritage’s offices near Tel Aviv today and met with a number of employees and the CEO. However, nothing was said about exporting this new technology to Geni and I didn’t think to ask. However, such a move would not surprise me.

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Mary Rosaire Anderson July 14, 2015 at 12:41 pm

Where do I find Global Name Translation on MyHeritage? I have a family tree on MyHeritage, and when I search a name, it does does not do a Global Name Translation. What am I missing? (Can you do a “print screen” instruction showing how I get to this on MyHeritage? Thanks.

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