Sunday, June 20, 2010

Daniel Horowitz talk on "Genealogy Super Search Engine"

Daniel Horowitz of MyHeritage gave a one hour plus presentation to about 70 attendees at the Computer Genealogy Society of San Diego (CGSSD) June meeting on Saturday, 20 June. It was fast-paced, informative and humorous. Daniel is an engaging person and speaker, and he had his audience interested the whole 80 minutes.

He started his presentation "Genealogy Super Search Engine" by saying that he was going to show the audience how to "find relatives without searching." Everybody scoffed (well, almost everybody!), and said "that's impossible." Then he proceeded to do exactly that, and he did it using several methods.

The presentation had several components, all using Powerpoint slides (not online), including:

* Demonstrating the Surname Search Engine on the site. He covered the Exact, Soundex and Megadex options. Then he showed the results. Technically, this was a "search" on the surname, but the user does not have to search 1,500 databases - the user puts the name in once and the program finds matches in many databases. The user can then save the search results to the MyHeritage site and click through the matches at their leisure. Daniel recommended that the user "enjoy a cup of coffee" or do something else online while this search engine works.

* MyHeritage offers the Family Tree Builder Version 4.0 software for a free download. The software is full-featured, and can import GEDCOM files from other programs or the user can build their family tree one person at a time. They are working on an upgraded version, and will develop a version for the Mac in the (near?) future.

* MyHeritage offers a free basic website for registered users, with up to 250 persons permitted in the tree. A Premium website permits 2,500 persons in the tree, and a Premium Plus website permits an unlimited number of persons in the tree. A user can upload the tree directly from Family Tree Builder (any number of persons), can build it one person at a time on the MyHeritage website, or can upload a GEDCOM file to the MyHeritage site. A member's tree on the MyHeritage website can be downloaded in GEDCOM format to import to a user's desktop software.

* Once the tree is online on MyHeritage, then their "Smart Matches" system finds potential matches of the user's tree persons with persons in the trees of other MyHeritage users. These Smart Matches come in the online email at MyHeritage and at the user's home email address. This is truly "finding relatives without searching."

* Within the Family Tree Builder software, the user can run "Smart Matches" to other trees on the MyHeritage site. There is also a "Smart Research" capability wherein the user can click on the "Research" button in Family Tree Builder, select one person, a group or everyone in the database, and the program will search in 100 genealogy databases for matches (more finding relatives without searching). If you run this "Smart Search" for everyone in your tree, Daniel said to let it run overnight.

Those are the highlights from my notes. I tweeted the talk on Twitter - see my feed at on Saturday, 19 June. I made 57 entries in 75 minutes during the talk. One time Daniel made a comment "don't tell that to the world, Randy" and my response was "I already have." Oops.

During the first part of the talk, I entered "Seaver" in the Surname Search Engine and let it run. About 30 minutes later it finished with over 315,000 matches in 107 databases. I saved the search results for later review.

All in all, this was a talk that informed and impressed the audience. Daniel gave away 60 free copies of the Family Tree Builder software (I already had it installed on my computer and laptop).

After the presentation, Daniel and I joined several CGSSD/SDGS colleagues at a local restaurant and enjoyed a meal with fine food and conversation. I drove Daniel around Point Loma and downtown San Diego for a little sightseeing before dropping him off at Petco Park for the Padres-Orioles baseball game. He wanted to see batting practice, and I had to get home to pick up my wife to go to the game. Daniel had a seat down in the field level not far from the action. I hope he enjoyed himself.

UPDATED 6/23: Daniel told me in email that a user can upload a GEDCOM to the MyHeritage site. And he had a great time at the ball game too!


Anonymous said...

The myheritage search engine would be MUCH more helpful if the results should which sites were member-only so you didn't have to waste time clicking to those sites only to find you are shut out of them. It would also be nice if that search engine had some advanced features like dates and locations. As it is, I found it to be a tremendous waste of time.

Sheri Fenley said...

Isn't Daniel great! He was here in Stockton in April and was very well received. We had the best turnout in history even though the day was rainy and parking was screwed up due to construction. We plan on having him back very soon!

Daniel Horowitz said...

As an answer for "Anonymous" post, on the result page, next to the name of the database, you will find small icons that will let you know if the database is New, Popular, Indexed, Supports Soundex or Requires payment.
The Registration or "member-only" icon will be a nice add-on for sure, and we will work to try to add this suggestion.

Regarding the advanced features, just below the place to write the first and last name you have the clickable text "Advanced search", were you can add birth and death information.

Daniel Horowitz
Genealogy and Translation Manager