You’re probably familiar with Utah-based genealogical giant, Ancestry.com, which operates in Canada as Ancestry.ca. Also making an impact throughout the world is MyHeritage, an Israeli company launched in 2005 and based in Bnei Atarot, just outside Tel Aviv.
Currently employing 150 people, the company was started by Gilad Japhet, a genealogist who began working on his own family tree at the young age of 13. Japhet’s idea was to build collaborative family trees in which a user enters his family tree at www.MyHeritage.com and invites relatives to assist in building the tree together. Its program differs from other providers of similar services by offering users the ability to enter information in 40 different languages, enabling people from around the world to join together in a family project.
Over the past eight years, MyHeritage has grown to the point where it now boasts 75 million registered members and 1.5 billion names on its 27 million family trees. Most members start by using the company’s free Family Tree Builder software, which allows the user to enter his family tree, and can store the results on the company’s server and on the user’s personal computer.
MyHeritage gives away Family Tree Builder CDs at genealogical conventions and through magazine and newspaper inserts – in fact, Ottawa Jewish Bulletin subscribers will find one with this issue – or you can download the program free at www.MyHeritage.com. While the software is free, the basic membership limits users to a maximum of 250 names on the family tree, so serious users are encouraged to purchase a premium or premium-plus subscription.
Over the years, MyHeritage has expanded its services by acquiring collections of historical documents, such as old newspapers, birth and marriage records, and much more. Much like Ancestry.com and familysearch.org, the company understands that, unlike the days when genealogists would spend hours looking over documents and microfilms at archives, researchers today are looking for instant ratification.
It fulfils this need by allowing the user to locate information on that elusive family member while researching comfortably on a home computer or smartphone. MyHeritage also grew by acquiring eight competing companies, the most notable being Geni.com in 2012 in a move strategically designed to prevent Ancestry.com from acquiring it.
While all of the major players offer the ability to store family trees and to search records within their vastdatabases, MyHeritage has developed some unique and powerful tools.
Smart Matching compares the user’s family tree to the millions of others on the site and looks for matches. The developers built in sophisticated technology to compensate for differences in spelling and language. Once matches are found and verified, the owners can communicate and collaborate with each other.
Record Detective is a unique technology that takes a person on your family tree, and intuitively looks for other information about that person. For example, if a family member on your tree is listed as having been married in a certain city in a certain year, when MyHeritage finds that person mentioned in a news-paper wedding announcement, it will take additional information located in that announcement to build a larger profile on that person and will automatically research other family members listed in the announcement. Similarly, if you search through the site for someone in a U.S. census record, it will go beyond that initial search to find information on everyone in that household in various census years and will look for other types of records on those people, such as newspaper articles, immigration records or death records.
Super Search is MyHeritage’s search engine used to explore historical records contained in hundreds of databases. By entering a name in the search box, the software will pull matches from over four billion records, saving the user the trouble of searching each database one at a time.
MyHeritage also allows users to scan and store copies of photographs and family documents on its server, which has a powerful Facial Recognition capability. This function allows you to tag a family member in one picture, and the tagger will recognize and tag them in all of your pictures automatically.
So, why not install the Family Tree Builder CD and try working on your family tree. You have nothing to lose and may just discover why millions around the world are hooked on genealogy.