Thursday, December 11, 2014

Another Try at MyHeritage "Instant Discoveries" Feature

My Heritage released a new feature on 10 December 2014 called "Instant Discoveries."  You can read a description of it on the MyHeritage Blog in Introducing Instant Discoveries.

Basically, the feature permits anyone with an email address to create a new family tree on MyHeritage, by inputting their name, their parents and grandparents, and letting MyHeritage find records, and perhaps more ancestors for the grandparents, for free.

There is a YouTube video of the feature being tested on the streets of New York City in

I posted about my first attempt, using a fictional person to connect into a real Seaver family, in MyHeritage Introduces Instant Discoveries Feature.  In that post, I found that the "Instant discoveries" feature didn't find any ancestors of the real historical persons that I input to the MyHeritage screens.  However, I determined afterwards that several of the people I entered used their middle names in records rather than the name I input to the program.

I had a phone call today with MyHeritage personnel, who said my failure with the system was perhaps because I input a fictional person to start with - and I should try it with a real person as the starting point.

So I did that, using my wife's maiden name, and inputting her real parents and grandparents into the MyHeritage screens shown yesterday (which I won't repeat).

After inputting the seven persons, and waiting only a minute or two for the "Instant Discoveries" system to find matches, I got this screen:

After comparing the information on the right (from my own MyHeritage tree), I clicked the blue "Yes" button on the screen above.  That provided a list of the 50 people I could add to the tree:

In order to add them, I have to intentionally click on the blue "Add to my tree" button.

I received a congratulatory screen:

Well, that didn't take long!  A few clicks and my wife has a new family tree of her own on MyHeritage.

I clicked on the blue "Go to family tree" button and saw the tree, along with a message:

The message at the top says:  "Use the '+' buttons to add the rest of your family.  also add photos and dates.  As your tree grows, we'll be able to discover new information for you."

There are "+" buttons below each person on the tree, but clicking on them didn't change the screen.  Where is the "+" button that I can use to "add the rest of your family"?

I noticed the small blue and pink icons above Severt Leland (husband of Amelia Leland) and Edna Leland (wife of Leo Leland) and clicked those one at a time.  That opened the ancestry for those two persons.

Here is the tree chart for Severt Leland:

And the chart for Edna Leland (actually Edna (Schaffner) Leland):

I know that I have more generations back on the Leland, Schaffner and McKnew lines in my MyHeritage tree.  It didn't show me any more generations for some reason.

The "Instant Discoveries" system works, but I'm concerned that the system doesn't find every ancestor for the four grandparents input into the system, assuming they are available in Smart Matches (to MyHeritage trees).

What happens if I click on the name of one of the persons in the tree?  When I do that, I go to the list of Smart Matvhes for the person - I used the grandfather, Severt Leland (two screens):

If I click on the green "Yes, confirm all 2 matches" button I get this notice:

So I have to buy a "Premium" MyHeritage tree subscription to confirm the two matches.  I chose not to.  If I had, I could have added the "consensus" information into my tree automatically (I think).  

But I can click on one of the individual matches listed on the second screen above, and can see the information in the match for the person in my tree.  I could copy that information down and edit the name, date, place, etc. information into my tree.  I could contact the person with the tree found by the Smart Match.  

In a profile, I can Search the person, but it only provides a list of matches without dates and locations.  To see real results, I have to subscribe to a MyHeritage data plan.
When I looked at several profiles, the information in the Timeline was for the person's birth, death and marriage, and the births of their children.  I think all of the information in the "Instant discoveries" comes from other MyHeritage trees - I don't see any records searched and found.

So I could build a free tree (up to, what, 1,000 persons?) doing this process one person at a time.  But that all relies on the research of one or more persons being accurate.  My opinion is that it's better to build a family tree online or in a software program using historical records rather than other family trees.  The tree data can be used for clues, but shouldn't be relied upon.

My conclusion is:  I don't think it matters that I put a fake name and tied them to real persons in my test yesterday.  The "Instant Discoveries" system didn't find the grandparents in Smart Matches because the grandparents were not in a MyHeritage tree.  In the present case, I used a real name and real parents and grandparents, and the "Instant Discoveries" system found 50 more relatives (not ancestors - they found ancestors and siblings).  However, it did not find ancestors of the grandparents and siblings on the mother's line at all, even though they are in my MyHeritage tree.

I watched the video noted above again, and the subjects saw photographs of their ancestors, and even a document image.  I didn't see any of that in this present study - probably because I haven't added photos of my wife's ancestors and their siblings, or any document images, to my MyHeritage tree.  

Now I wonder how often this "Instant Discoveries" system works?  It seems to depend on the Smart Matches to the family trees of other MyHeritage subscribers.  It wouldn't surprise me if the system works 30% to 50% of the time.  That's great if you are one of those 30% to 50%.  It's not so great if you are not - if no other researcher has entered data about your grandparents.  

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Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver


James Tanner said...

Thanks for your very insightful analysis. As you know, I have been talking about this possibility for some time. I can see how this is a great incentive for some people to become interested in the rest of their family and as an incentive to become a MyHeritage customer. I am not sure that experienced genealogists will be either attracted to the program or think much of the results. But for that percentage that get good results, it could be a major event.

Geolover said...

Good sleuthing, Randy. It is helpful to have an idea of what these sites are actually doing.

IsraelP said...

And of course when it is copying from someone else's tree, it is only as accurate as the tree it is copying.

Chris Whitten said...

Randy, I love how you take the time to investigate things like this and write out what you learn for everyone to benefit from. I'd been wondering what the Instant Discoveries thing was all about and was going to do the test myself. But you did it for me. Thank you! :-)