Monday, June 11, 2007

Visiting the "MyHeritage" data portal

Many of us visited the My Heritage web site last year when they offered the face matching game, but I haven't been there since. I was reading an article by Schelly Talalay Dardashti and saw the link to My Heritage in her article "Cutting Edge Genealogy."

So I tried the My Heritage site and had to have them send me my password again, but I quickly got on. This site is interesting in that it accesses over 900 online databases that match your search terms. And the site itself is FREE. There are several different options on the main page - Products, Face Recognition, Community, Genealogy, Research.

I was interested in the "Research" part of the site so clicking on that tab gets me to http://www.myheritage.com/FP/Company/myheritage-research.php.

The "How We Do It" link on the Research site says:

"MyHeritage Research is a search engine built specifically for genealogy, capable of searching hundreds of major genealogy databases in a single query. It's the most comprehensive genealogy research tool existent today and the first of its kind. In simple terms, this search engine runs each query simultaneously in hundreds of genealogy databases, aggregates the results and displays them in one consolidated report. This gives you more genealogy search power than has ever been available before, in a simple, friendly and convenient interface.So if you want to learn more about your heritage, or find information about ancestors, you've come to the right place."

There is a search box with Given Names and Last Name options. The default setting is for a "Megadex" search - meaning they decide alternate spellings of the surname and you can pick up to 10 spellings to search on. You can choose Exact or Soundex.

The search engine goes through all the available databases, and provides a number of hits for each one that has a match. The list of databases shows a thumbnail picture of the web site, the name of the web site with a short description and parameters for it (new, popular, indexed, supports soundex, and requires payment), and the number of hits.

You can click on each web site and be taken to the matches (assuming they don't require payment).

There are the usual US-based databases, plus a number of New York small town newspapers (which require payment for the entire article). There are also links to many UK and Canada databases.

It takes a while to search all of the databases, and you have to wait until the list stops "moving" to see all of the results. The bottom of the web page says "Done" even when it is not finished, so be patient.

At the bottom of the results page is a list of all the researchers searching for the surname and their last access. You can view their profiles and make comments to them, but you cannot email them.

You can also save your searches (but it takes a real long time to do it). I tried this, but gave up after 10 minutes of watching the rotating ball until I nodded off).

Based on the two searches I tried, it appears that some of the databases don't provide searches for the specific "Given Name AND surname" but for pages with both the Given Name and Surname on the same page. This results in many extraneous matches, of course, and renders the search fairly useless if you are using a common surname (I used Given name = "Robinson" and Surname = "Hall").

For the "Robinson" "Hall" name combination, I got 60,871 matches in 208 databases, although 25 databases timed out (they don't tell me which ones) using the default "Megadex" search.

Using the Advanced Search link, you can select a birth year, birth place, death year, death place, gender, types of records, and specific sources. Doing this with "Robinson" Hall" born in 1886 in the US, I still got 709 matches in 5 databases (out of a total of 83 US databases available). Most of the results were in http://www.ancestry.co.uk/ and the UK BMD indexes at http://www.1901census.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ .

All in all, this site is good for what it does - collect research matches in one place. You do get to search some unusual databases. It would help if it used the input search names to find people with only those specific names.

Have you used this My Heritage site? Have you had success with it? I need to search a bit more on it to make a judgment about its usefulness.

2 comments:

Steve said...

Ah, Randy!

I'm so glad you blogged about the My Heritage website! Schelly talked about this website in her lecture at Jamboree 2007, but I didn't mention it in my report.

I can't begin to tell you how impressed I was with Schelly's lecture. Listening to Schelly speak was like listening to a poet. I'm so glad I was able to attend her presentation.

Steve

Schelly Talalay Dardashti said...

Hi, Steve

Now I am blushing! It was great to meet you. One of the best bits about attending conferences is that we get to meet the real people behind the email signatures!

Randy, the MyHeritage.com Megedex is now up to 1200 databases. If your name only shows in 900 of them, then that's the number it will check. Try some common names and you will see results in the entire group!

Best wishes to all,

Schelly