MyHeritage Quick Guide

MyHeritage Quick Guide

We'll show you the best tips and strategies for finding your ancestors in records and family trees on genealogy website MyHeritage.

Membership Options

 Level Benefits Cost
Basic  family tree with up to 250
names and 500MB storage for photos and videos, basic Smart Matching
free
 Premium  family tree with up to 2,500 names and 1,000MB of storage, enhanced Smart Matching  $75 per year

 Premium Plus family tree unlimited size, enhanced Smart Matching $119.40 per year
 Data  access to all MyHeritage premium records, view Record Matches in your tree  $119.40 per year

 

Overview

MyHeritage boasts 5 billion historical records, 27 million family trees and 200 million photos. Based in Israel, it has members all over the world, a multilingual website and genealogy software available in 40 languages. Put your family tree on the site and it automatically matches the names in your tree with billions of names in its huge collection of family trees and records.

MyHeritage has birth, marriage and death records from 48 countries; the complete US and UK censuses; immigration, military and tombstone records; 815 million US public records from 1940 to the present; and more. (But beware of the public records on living people: I looked up my family members and found that many of the birthdates are wrong.)
Through partnerships with other genealogy organizations, MyHeritage is expanding its genealogy record collections and services. For example, in exchange for access to the site’s matching technologies, FamilySearch is sharing its family trees and 2 billion records from all over the world. MyHeritage also licenses gravestone records and photos from BillionGraves and obituaries from Tributes.com.
 

Search strategies

Employ these search strategies to find your ancestors among the records on MyHeritage:

Put your tree on MyHeritage. To take advantage of the site’s automated searching, you’ll want to put a family tree on the site. As part of the registration process, new users are prompted to enter basic information about themselves, their parents and grandparents. If you’ve never used the site before, Instant Discoveries (one of MyHeritage’s clever names for its technologies) compares your tree with names in its records and family trees and produces a free matching report that could instantly expand your tree. If you’re already a MyHeritage member, click the family tree tab at the top to add people to your tree. If you already have a family tree in your genealogy software or on another site, you could upload a GEDCOM to start your MyHeritage tree. You also could use the site’s free Family Tree Builder software. Edit your family tree online, on your computer with Family Tree Builder or on your mobile device, and MyHeritage automatically syncs your tree so it’s up-to-date on all devices. You can make your tree public or limit access to MyHeritage members you invite, and optionally, let family members edit it.
Get automated Matches. Once your family tree is on MyHeritage, the site does two kinds of automated matching, Smart Matching and Record Matching:
Smart Matching: MyHeritage compares the profiles in your tree with family trees from other site members, analyzing names, dates, places and relatives’ names. The site finds Smart Matches to your tree even when profiles contain discrepancies (such as variant name spellings or different birth dates). You can access your Smart Matches via a link under the Family Tree tab. Premium or Premium Plus members can confirm or reject a match, view full information from family trees with matches and contact the trees’ owners.
 
Record Matching: MyHeritage automatically searches its collections of historical records, such as censuses and passenger lists, to find records that match people in your family tree. Like Smart Matching, Record Matching works even if names and other data don’t exactly match up. View Record Matches by clicking the link under the Family Tree tab, but you’ll need to pay for a separate Data subscription to access most of the matching records.
 
Record Detective takes Record Matching technology a step further. Once you find a record pertaining to a relative, Record Detective gives you a summary of other records about the same person and about that person’s relatives. For example, if you find someone in the 1900 US census, Record Detective might show you the 1910 and 1920 census records for that person and his household members, as well an 1888 passenger list that names him and newspaper articles that mention him. Once you confirm a record is a good match, you can save it to the person’s profile in your family tree, along with a source citation. If a record (such as a census) pertains to several family members, you can extract the information into all the relevant family tree profiles at once. If a record names someone missing from your family tree, you can add the new profile to your tree right from the record.
Use the Search form. Whether or not you have a family tree on the site, you can manually search records using SuperSearch, the site’s records search engine. Access it by selecting Search All Records under the Research tab. The basic search form lets you enter a name, birth year, place and keywords. Click Advanced Search to specify exact matching and use name, date and place filters. These include:

  • First name (choose any or all): spelling variants, matching initials, and names starting with the same letter(s) as what you typed. 
  • Last name (choose any or all): several types of Soundex systems (including Daitch-Mokotoff, designed to work with Eastern European names); Megadex, the site’s proprietary system for finding surname variants; and names starting with the same letters as what you typed.
  • Date: match flexibly (results containing closer dates rank higher in your search results) or exactly match what you typed, with an optional range of plus or minus one, two, five, 10 or 20 years
  • Place: match the place you type exactly or match it optionally (results containing closer places rank higher in your search results)
 
 
(Click to see a larger image in a new window.)
 
Filters on the left of your search results page let you view matches by the collection they’re part of, so you could see, say, all results from censuses and even drill down to matches from individual censuses. Below that filter, you can refine your results to view only matches containing a particular first or last name, birth year or other criteria.
Browse for records. You also can individually search collections and databases related to your family history. Search forms for specific categories and record sets have search fields customized to that type of record. You’ll find record categories and subcategories listed to the right of the Search page. Another way to access these is by place: Scroll down on the Search page and select a country or a region from the map, then a place within that country. You’ll get a page with a search form for records of that place, as well as a list of databases covered in the search; click a database title to search just those records.
 

Power-User Tips

Edit your tree on the go. The MyHeritage free mobile app for iOS and Android lets you view and edit your MyHeritage family tree and search the site’s records with your smart phone or tablet. Find it in your device’s app store.

Control your matches. Smart Matching and Record Matching work wonders, but they can be too much of a good thing. A large tree might get thousands of matches—probably more than you have time to review. Unfortunately, there’s no way to limit Smart Matches or Record Matches to one branch or generation of your tree. But you can avoid information overload by creating a new family tree with only the people you want to focus on. Then disable Smart Matching for your master tree like this: Log in to your family site, hover over your name and select My Privacy. Under the name of the family site, click on Content. Uncheck Enable Smart Matching for MyHeritage and MyHeritage websites and partners. To disable Record Matching, open Family Tree Builder, click on Tools in the menu bar and select Options. In the General section, change Automatic Record Matching to No. Matching settings apply to only one tree. If you have more than one tree, you need to manage the settings for each one separately.

Search automatically with software. MyHeritage’s Family Tree Builder software uses Smart Matching and Record Matching to help you search MyHeritage. Now the latest versions of RootsMagic and Family Historian software do the same.

Use your DNA. MyHeritage recently announced a collaboration with genetic genealogy company 23andme that will help you find family tree connections with someone whose DNA matches yours. The first phase of this integration should be completed in early 2015. 

 

Helpful Links

From the March/April 2015 Family Tree Magazine

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