Friday, February 27, 2009

Working with the MyHeritage Search Engine

I received the press release from MyHeritage earlier this week concerning their improvements and database additions to their Search web site. You can read the announcement at Dick Eastman's blog here (I know Dick appreciates the hits!).

Rather than just print the press release, my preference is to try out the "improved" web site and report my experiences, and draw conclusions about the claims in the press release.

I had an ulterior motive too - I'm about to start my massive online genealogy database search for the parents of Devier J. Lamphere, who changed his name to Devier J. Smith in 1865 in Dodge County, Wisconsin. He is one of my second great-grandfathers. What better way to look for any records of him than in a Search Engine that queries over 1,500 genealogy web sites! I decided to just look for the Lamphere surname on MyHeritage rather than also search with a first name.

In order to perform a search on MyHeritage, you need to have a UserID and a password, and Login to the site. The UserID is free. Here is the Research page on MyHeritage with a simple Search box (first name and last name, and a selection of types of Search - Exact, Soundex or Megadex). I input only the surname and chose Megadex to search with:

I clicked on the Advanced Search link below the Simple Search box and got this screen, which I filled in with my information, adding born in 1839 in the USA (no state allowed):

Note that I could have selected a record type from the list, and I could have selected one database from the next list down. I resisted the temptations! I clicked on Search and the system gave me a list of possible spellings for the surname. I was allowed to pick up to five, or the program could pick them for me. I chose Lamphere, Lamphear, Lamphire, Lanphere, and Lanphear. I could not add another variation (I really wanted Lamphier and Lanphier too):

I clicked on the Search button and the web site started to check out a number of databases. After about three minutes, the Search had found over 179,000 matches in 48 databases. It said that it had checked 137 top genealogy databases, 13 had timed out, and 685 had no results. Here is the top of the list of Matches:

The databases that it found matches for included:

* - 8,711 matches in UK records (but I requested USA)
* - 21 matches
* - 49 matches in the WorldConnect family tree database
* - 750 matches
* - 31,689 matches for each surname variant - something tells me they didn't use an Exact search here! This totals out to be 158,445, or more than 88% of the total matches found by MyHeritage.
* - 2 matches
* - 6,698 matches (all UK matches, I requested USA)
* Tribal Pages - The Deaths Master File (Deaths) - 8,273 matches - this is SSDI results
* Tribal Pages - The Deaths Master File (Births) - 8,270 matches - same as the persons in the Deaths.
* USA People Search - more than 500 matches (living people)
* 15 MyHeritage user-contributed databases containing the surname variants.

The Search seemed to perform as advertised, although I'm wondering why it didn't search all 1,500+ databases. Perhaps because I specified a country to search. That doesn't explain why it searched or, but perhaps those are included in a list of USA databases.

The Rootsweb WorldConnect, Wisconsin newspaper, and Sons of Union Veterans matches look intriguing, so I will check them out soon.

I chose a fairly uncommon surname Lamphere, to perform the search with. If I had not specified a birth year or a country, I would have had many more matches. I have searched on just the surname Seaver before, and the Search process took over 30 minutes to find many matches. In order to limit the search time, I recommend that a user input a given name and a last name, especially for fairly common surnames.

Are you using this MyHeritage Search engine to find databases that contain your ancestral names? If not, you might consider it.

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