MyHeritage Genealogy Web Guide

MyHeritage Genealogy Web Guide

Learn the best search strategies and tips for finding your ancestors' records on the global genealogy site MyHeritage.com.

Web address: MyHeritage.com
Owner: MyHeritage, Ltd.         
Founded: 2003
 

Sister Sites

 

Stats

  • Registered members: more than 75 million
  • Profiles (names in family trees): 1.5 billion
  • Family trees: 27 million
  • Photos: 200 million
  • Languages: 40
  • Employees: 130
  • Contact: 2975 Executive Parkway, Suite 310, Lehi, UT 84043, USA, (888) 377-0588

Major Content Collections

  • FamilySearch Records: As part of a 2013 partnership, MyHeritage.com search results include indexes and records from FamilySearch.org.
  • Census and Voter Lists: US censuses (1790-1940), England and Wales censuses (1841-1901)
  • Family trees: MyHeritage member trees and websites, Geni.com trees, pedigrees and family group sheets from the now-defunct Everton Publishers
  • Vital records: various US state collections; UK parish records; Nordic countries’ church records; some 20th- century UK general register indexes; burial information from Interment.net, Find A Grave, Tributes.com and BillionGraves
  • Photos: MyHeritage member photos and documents, photos from DeadFred.com
  • UK Records: censuses through 1901, General Records Office indexes from 1837 on
  • Military records: US WWII Army enlistment and Reserve Corps, Confederate service records, Revolutionary War pensions, Australian records
  • Migration: Passenger and Immigration Lists, 1500-1900, Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild data, US naturalization records
  • School records: college yearbooks, school directories
  • Newspapers and Publications: NewspaperARCHIVE collection, church publications
  • Directories, Guides and References: Everton’s Genealogical Helper magazine, city directories from DistantCousin.com
  • History books: family histories, biographies, local histories
  • Government, Land and Court records: some US land patents, Index of Irish Wills, 1484-1858
  • Maps: mostly US and UK maps and gazetteers
     

Membership Options

Membership Level  Cost  Benefits
Basic family tree  free  build one or more family trees totaling up to 250 people
view free records in SuperSearch
Premium family tree $99.96/year (discounted rate for first year) build one or more family trees totaling up to 2,500 people
view free records in SuperSearch
Premium Plus family tree $159.24/year (discounted rate for first year)
build one or more family trees of unlimited size
view free records in SuperSearch
Data subscription $119.40/year view all records in SuperSearch collections
unlimited access to Record Matches (if you have a family tree on MyHeritage.com)

 

Searching records

If you already have a family tree on MyHeritage, the site will automatically search for matches in its data collections and email you about these hits, much as it alerts you when others’ family trees match your ancestors.

You’ll need a separate data subscription to view most data matches. Even PremiumPlus family website subscribers, who can view one billion family tree profiles via SuperSearch for free, must pony up for data hits. Note, however, that subscribers to World Vital Records, which MyHeritage acquired in 2011, automatically qualify for a data subscription.

You also can use SuperSearch on MyHeritage without having an online family tree, or if you have a free basic family website. Just go to MyHeritage and click Research at the top or, if you have a tree, the tab at the far right. You’ll see the basic SuperSearch form, with a list of data categories and collections on the right. (Click any of these to search records in just that collection or category.)

This basic search has blanks for first and last name, year of birth, place (of birth, residence or other) and keywords, along with an Exact Search check box. Click Advanced Search under the magnifying glass picture to add a variety of “Match similar names” options to first and last name, a gender dropdown menu and more flexible events choices. Here the Place blank is incorporated into the Events criteria, and you can add additional events with their own dates and places.

There’s also a dropdown menu for Match Flexibly or matching within a range of years. Added to the Advanced Search page, too, are blanks to add relatives to your search, with “Match similar names” options.

Slightly different search options appear when you’re searching only particular collections or categories of records. When searching the US census, for example, you get options for both Birth and Residence. Using the Advanced Search here gives you matching flexibility and blanks to add names of others who lived in the household. Searches of birth, marriage and death records get blanks for each of those events as well as father, mother and spouse. Here, Advanced Search adds gender plus the option to include other relatives.

On any search, it’s up to you which blanks to fill out and which to skip. You can even omit the person’s name entirely and instead search using information about the parents, for example. Or you could search for everyone with a first name and siblings’ first names that you specify, skipping all the other fields. Note that if you don’t opt for an exact search, you’ll still get perhaps thousands of hits, with those that most closely match ranked highest. Even checking Exact Search applies only to the primary name fields. To avoid being overwhelmed, it’s often best to focus on the initial page or two of results (with the most star ratings), and if they’re not for your family, adjust your search.

Advanced searching

To find MyHeritage’s advanced search form, go to www.myheritage.com/research and click the Advanced Search link.

 
1. For first name, the default is Match Similar Names, with these two options selected: Varying on spelling (e.g., John and Jon, Robert and Bob) and Matching Initials (e.g., J and John). You can uncheck these and you also can check “Names starting with letters” (e.g., Jo finds Joshua). Clicking “Match name exactly” unchecks the two default spelling and starting-with options.

2. Last name options let you pick from several systems for finding names similar to the one you enter. The default is Match Similar Names, with Daitch–Mokotoff Soundex (especially helpful for Jewish names) and Metaphone3 checked. You can also check Regular Soundex, Megadex (MyHeritage’s proprietary search technology; see Top Search Strategies), Refined Soundex, Metaphone, Double Metaphone, and Names starting with letters (e.g., Jo finds Jones). Selecting “Match name exactly” unchecks the defaults.
  
For first or last name, you can return to the default similar-name options by clicking the blue Use Default Settings at the bottom of the dropdown.

3. The Gender dropdown menu lets you search for Any, Male or Female. Searches of record collections that don’t specify gender won’t display this option. Choosing a gender in an overall search won’t affect the ability to retrieve hits in non-gender collections, such as military records.

4. You can choose Any, Birth, Death, Marriage, Residence, Immigration or Military for event type. To enter more than one event, choose “Add another event.”

Results will be ranked by how well they match both events you entered, but if you click on results from specific collections where one event isn’t applicable, you’ll still get the best matches for the event that does apply. For example, searching for an ancestor born in 1908 with military service in 1952 puts military records at the top of your overall results. But the same search still gets vital or census records, based on the 1908 birth.

5. Date dropdown menus let you choose a day and month for the event you chose; you must type in the year. You can search with only a year, but if you select a day, you must also specify month and year. If you select a month, you must specify a year.

By default, date searches use flexible matching. You can click the arrow to instead exactly match the date you entered and, optionally, add a range of 1, 2, 5, 10 or 20 years.

6. The Place field may not override other factors in results ranking, so be sure to view all equally ranked hits. A person who matches on name and birth year but who was born in Nebraska might still top the list over one who exactly matches the birthplace of Alton, Belknap, NH.

7. You can specify a father, mother, spouse, child and sibling who may appear in your ancestor’s records. You can’t enter a name without specifying a type of relative. To narrow a census search to find a William Smith with somebody—father, child or sibling—named Jack Smith in the household, you must choose Add Another Relative and fill in all three types.

8. The first and last name options for finding similar relatives’ names are the same as for the primary person.

9. Enter keywords that might appear in the record you want to find, such as an occupation if you’re searching the census, or a ship name (such as “SS Anglia” in quotes) if you’re searching for a passenger list. You also could try keywords such as a military rank or ancestral homeland.

SuperSearch doesn’t recognize everything as a keyword, however, and the distinction can be mysterious. Adding a cemetery name, for instance, fails to improve search results for death records, and using a maiden name as a keyword doesn’t seem to work. Though not documented, keywords seem to affect searches in textual documents (such as newspapers), but not in structured data (such as censuses). Experiment and, given SuperSearch’s other fields and options, don’t rely too heavily on the Keyword field.

10. According to MyHeritage, this Exact Search option, which looks like it might cover all your search terms, actually applies only to the primary individual’s first and last name. It thus duplicates a dropdown option under each name you add to your search. Those dropdowns offer more flexibility, such as letting you match a first name exactly but match variant surname spellings.

11. Choosing Clear Form resets only the fields you typed in, not any selections you made in the dropdown menus for matching similarity and flexibility. To completely start from scratch, select Research/Search All Records (or any more-specific category search) and reload the page.

Top search strategies

Let Myheritage do the work for you. If you have a family tree on MyHeritage, you can take advantage of the site’s automatic email notification when records seem to match your ancestors. On the site, access these matches (organized by source) under Family Tree/Record Matches. When viewing Record Matches, you can see more details (or limit what’s displayed) by clicking the blue Filtering Options link at the top of the list. Here you can adjust the confidence level of the matches that get displayed; show pending, confirmed and/or rejected matches (in case you have a change of heart); and opt to view structured records (such as vital or census) and/or textual records (such as newspapers or yearbooks).

Don’t have a family tree on MyHeritage? Sign up for at least a free Basic account, which lets you add up to 250 ancestors. Premium and PremiumPlus members can upload larger trees and get “enhanced” smart matching.
Give Megadex a try. Although it’s not checked by default, MyHeritage’s proprietary Megadex search system for matching surnames might ferret out spelling variations you hadn’t thought of. Find it under the Match Similar Names last name dropdown menu. MyHeritage claims, “It will not return the typical Soundex false positives, and it will not miss out on so many good matches like Soundex.”

Search by collection or category. If what you really want is a census listing or a birth record, choose those categories on the right-hand side so you can use the search form specific to such records. That way, too, SuperSearch won’t top your results with hits of a type you’re not after, such as newspaper pages or family trees.

 
Don’t sweat the sex. Although there’s a dropdown menu for gender, SuperSearch will actually figure out the likely gender of the person you’re looking for based on the name. If you search for a George, SuperSearch automatically infers that you’re most likely searching for a male. Therefore your search results may include initials, like Michael G. Smith, but females such as Rachel G. Smith won’t show up. On the flip side, if you’re searching for a female ancestor with a traditionally masculine name, use the gender dropdown so SuperSearch doesn’t assume she’s a man.
 

Quick Tips

  • Click the Summary tab on the upper right of your search results screen for a count of your hits by collection. You’ll be able to quickly see where your matches are coming from, and click on a collection to view only those hits.
  • When you find a record that matches someone in your tree, click Save Record. You’ll see a list of possible ancestors to match it to, or type in a name. You can then extract text from the record and attach it to the selected ancestor.
  • As well as searching through international records, you can also use the MyHeritage search engine interface in 40 different languages.
  • Want to add some bragging points or other info about yourself? Click on My Profile under your name in 
  • the upper right and then scroll down to use the Wizard to add web content (such as a Wikipedia entry) to your profile. This also works for all your immediate family members shown on the page.
 

Shortcuts

 

More Online

 

 

Family Tree Shop
•  MyHeritage Record Matching tutorial
•  Online Genealogy Value Pack
•  Trace Your Roots Online CD

From the March/April 2014 Family Tree Magazine 

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