An Update from MyHeritage LIVE 2019 – Day 2

Today (Saturday) was the second day of the 3-day MyHeritage LIVE 2019 conference, held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. (You can read my report of Day #1 at https://tinyurl.com/eogn190907.) Today also was the first full day, filled with presentations. The day started with MyHeritage Founder and CEO Gilad Japhet, welcoming everyone and making several announcements about new products, services, and even two acquisitions. More on that in a minute…
Luckily for me, each attendee had a name badge that included their country of residence. I noticed attendees from the Netherlands, USA, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Costa Rica, South Africa, Brazil, New Zealand, and Australia, and I probably did not see everyone. I suspect there were other countries represented as well. All the conference presentations were delivered in English, but it was fun listening to conversations in the hallways and at lunch being conducted in many different languages.

Not only was the attendance good in Amsterdam but the presentations were also visible via live streaming on the Internet, so I suspect many more countries were represented online.

The day continued with three simultaneous tracks: (1.) genealogy, (2.) DNA, and (3.) hands-on workshops. Finally, the day ended this evening with one of MyHeritage’s signature parties. I believe a great time was had by all. At least, I had a great time. I must have enjoyed it; I am so tired tonight that I can hardly move! That’s a sign of a successful conference.

The good news is that there were 3 simultaneous tracks nearly all day long. The bad news is that there were 3 simultaneous tracks nearly all day long. That is good news because there probably was something of interest available for each attendee all day. The bad news is that sometimes there was a conflict when someone wanted to attend 2 (or more) presentations that were given at the same time.

I first attended Gilad Japhet’s keynote speech (which was the only event scheduled at that time), followed by the rest of the morning in genealogy presentations, and then I spent the afternoon in DNA presentations. Since I was unable to attend all the presentations, I obviously cannot describe all of them. However, I can offer some comments on the sessions I did attend.

Gilad Japhet’s Keynote Speech

Japhet’s talk was labelled as “What’s New at MyHeritage?” He quickly described how he got started in the family history business. It seems he became a genealogist as a teenager and soon developed a passion for doing it properly and accurately. Amongst his announcements:

MyHeritage now has 104 million customers around the world.

Japhet’s biggest reward is being able to reunite people with relatives they may not have seen for years or (in some cases) relatives they never knew about. Much of this work is pro bono. MyHeritage’s DNA Quest efforts include reuniting adoptees with their birth families. MyHeritage has given away 20,000+ DNA kits free of charge to adoptees and plans to do more. The results have been very satisfying, as shown in the previous evening’s video and then the on-stage appearance and talks by two sisters who were reunited after more than 40 years’ separation.

MyHeritage also has a project called Tribal Quest that is a pro bono project to preserve the family histories of tribes whose culture is at risk of extinction, including those in some of the more remote areas of the world. This effort is conducted by volunteer MyHeritage employees. The most recent project was with the Achuar, an Amazonian community of some 18,500 individuals along either side of the border between Ecuador and Peru. A video was shown that displayed the work of MyHeritage volunteers interviewing village elders in an effort to capture their names, their life stories, and their family connections, all for long-term preservation.

You can learn more about the “Tribal Quest” project at: http://www.tribalquest.com.

New things at MyHeritage

The MyHeritage DNA Health Test was recently introduced, telling customers about their genetic traits, including many genetic-related medical conditions that may affect the MyHeritage customer as well as his or her relatives. In some cases, these tests will be life saving. The DNA Health Test even tests for the probability of breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, and other inherited medical problems.

For customers in the U.S., this test presently includes physician oversight, something that is now being expanded to other countries. The MyHeritage DNA Health Test is available in many different languages.

Privacy protection is an important issue: MyHeritage promises to never sell or give any customers’ DNA information to anyone – not to insurance companies, not to governments, and not to anyone else with one exception: the information will be supplied to medical professionals if, and only if, the customer being tested gives permission in each case.

Anyone who has already tested with MyHeritage Genealogy DNA kits can upgrade to new DNA health results without having to submit new DNA samples.

MyHeritage now has one of the world’s largest DNA databases.

Unfortunately, direct DNA Health testing is not yet available in all countries due to local laws.

For more information, go to: https://MyHeritage.com/health.

Acquisitions

An announcement made this morning was the acquisition of two other companies. A press release announcing the acquisition of SNPedia and Promethease is available at: https://blog.eogn.com/2019/09/07/myheritage-acquires-promethease-and-snpedia/.

SNPedia is a community-curated wiki for DNA markers. It is the primary online encyclopedia that documents 110,413 genetic variants and cites more than 30,000 peer-reviewed scientific publications with more being added constantly. Access to SNPedia is free for non-profit organizations.

Promethease (in Greek mythology, Prometheus stole fire from the gods, giving it to humanity and thereby helping create civilization. The name was changed slightly to Promethease but still is in honor of the god that helped civilize humanity.)

Promethease accepts DNA data uploads from 23andMe, Ancestry.com, and others and provides detailed medical reports, providing very detailed results. Promethease is also inexpensive at $12 for a report with optional DNA data storage space available.

Admittedly, Promethease results are “raw reports” of the test results but with no interpretation included. The reports assume the reader is already a DNA expert. This admittedly “geeky” product is not (yet) for everyone. The plan is to keep Promethease databases SEPARATE from MyHeritage’s existing databases. The Promethease results do bring attention to DNA results that deserve your (the user’s) further attention.

Starting today, MyHeritage is making access to Promethease’s reports and services completely FREE until December 31, 2019.

European users will initially be excluded because of GPDR compliance regulations. However, European users may opt in if they wish. By giving explicit permission to use their data, Promethease then has the legal ability to produce reports, according to the European GDPR regulations.

All Promethease users will receive an email about the acquisition in the next few days.

Genetic Genealogy

The Theory of Relativity was announced a few months ago and has recently been updated. I wrote about that announcement at https://blog.eogn.com/2019/02/27/myheritage-breakthrough-the-theory-of-family-relativity/ and at https://blog.eogn.com/2019/07/18/myheritage-announces-an-update-to-the-theory-of-family-relativity/. If you looked at it before, you should visit the Theory of Relativity again as more details and possible new matches have recently been added.

As the name insinuates, these are THEORIES, not proven facts. The theories are POSSIBLE relationships. The aim is to narrow the possible matches for you to then analyze, saving you hundreds of hours of manual searching and matching. The computerized process displays the connection between you and every possible relative found by the computer algorithms. The process works well in many geographic areas as long as names tend to be unique. It does not work well in in areas where there are lots of people with the same surname (Smith, Jones, Johnson, and so on) and also does not work well where patronymic names areas have been used extensively (Scandinavia, Iceland, and similar areas).

The Theory of Relativity works with FamilySearch, Geni, and MyHeritage data.

The Theory of Relativity has proven to be a name changer in genetic genealogy, bringing together the world of genealogy and genetics.

Again, these are THEORIES, not proven facts. It is still up to the user to prove or disprove each possible connection. The Theory of Relativity is designed to show POSSIBILITIES, not proven facts.

Gilad Japhet also offered an insight into future plans. These are in development but not yet implemented:

Better ethnicity estimates

Genetic Groups with high accuracy, high-resolution ethnic regions (with percentages)

Will not only show national origins of your ancestors, but also show (in many cases) the local area (province, county, and metropolitan areas). These reports only work because of MyHeritage’s largest database of European DNA information.

The reports will include precise mapping showing local areas where your ancestors’ DNA matches others in various geographic areas. In his example, Gilad used Scandinavian DNA results and displayed areas in the U.S. (mostly Minnesota) showing where the immigrants settled and the cities or even Swedish counties where they originated. It became even more interesting when he displayed similar results of native Hawaiians that shows specific areas of origin in Portugal as well as in Polynesia. He also displayed Estonian and Netherlands and Dutch Caribbean areas with Dutch and African origins, showing where they originated and where they settled. In addition, he displayed Mormon (LDS) migration patterns, along with similar reports of the Jews from Iran and Iraq and West Asians, mostly from Tashkent. Please keep in mind these are future products that are still under development. Undoubtedly, there WILL be some changes before these become announced products available to everyone.

Fresh News from the Netherlands

As of yesterday, MyHeritage signed an agreement with Ajax, the Dutch football club. The club’s athletes will each receive MyHeritage DNA tests and genealogy research. (There was a big applause from the audience as there were a lot of Dutch residents in the room and obviously many of them are Ajax football fans.)

Finally

At that point, Gilad Japhet started describing other projects that are presently works-in-progress, but he covered things so fast that I couldn’t keep up with him. There are more European census records coming, digitized Dutch newspapers, Dutch vital records, France Nord Civil Marriage records (first time available online anywhere), and more. Here’s a hint: if you have ancestors from Brazil, stay tuned…)

The remainder of the day

A dozen or so more presentations were offered throughout the rest of the day. Some presentations were made by MyHeritage employees while others were made by other genealogy experts, including Cyndi Ingle, Lisa Alzo, Yvette Hoitink, Roberta Estes, Diahan Southard, and Blaine Bettinger, all of whom are non-employees. Their talks varied; some described usage of MyHeritage services while other presentations were not related to the company at all. You can find the subjects of their talks and the presenters’ names in the conference web site at: https://live2019.myheritage.com/.

The Party

Yes, there was a Saturday evening party but I will report on that in a separate article.

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