A few months ago, as you’ll probably remember, MyHeritage.com completed a merger with the German family network group, OSN.
This change meant that several million new family trees from sites like verwandt.de, meusparentes.com, moikrewni.pl and others were added to our network, along with over 100 million profiles within those trees. The merger enabled former OSN users to make use of all of the technology at MyHeritage.com, but it’s also bringing benefits to existing users. Among those benefits are new Smart Matches within the significantly increased database.
With the new users joining our community come new opportunities for making connections. Whereas Smart Matches already allowed you to find connections among a pool of millions, now that pool is even bigger – and, crucially, even more diverse. Smart Matching is particularly effective when it comes to finding international branches of your tree, because when the documentary information breaks off it’s often due to an ancestor migrating from elsewhere. Because so many OSN users are from Germany, Poland, and other European countries, these new connections present fantastic opportunities for users in the USA, Canada and beyond to trace their roots abroad. Often when you reach a ‘brick wall’ in your conventional genealogy work, Smart Matches are just what you need to open up these new avenues of research.
We have just put live matches among all family trees that were moved over from OSN. We’re now letting the smart matching algorithm go through all trees. That means that over the next few weeks your tree(s) will be compared to all the new data, so it’s worth keeping an eye out to see if you can make some new connections.
We’re also continuing to better the Smart Match tool, and we’re currently improving some functions to assist in how users can collaborate with them. We’ll have more on that in the coming weeks.
How do Smart Matches work, exactly?
For those of you who aren’t too familiar with Smart Matches, we thought we'd offer a brief overview of how they work.
Within your tree there may be hundreds of individuals, and it’s likely that some of those individuals are present in other people’s trees too. Your fourth-cousin might be somebody else’s uncle, for example; or your great-great-great-grandmother might be shared with another researcher who you don't yet know.
Traditionally, these connections would go unnoticed, since there were very few opportunities to find that the commonalities even existed. This is unfortunate, because it’s often the case that two separate researchers have a lot to offer each other in their genealogy goals; while your tree might come to a halt at one branch, another individual might come to a dead end on the other side of it. You’re both holding a key to the other’s genealogy research, but you wouldn’t know your data could help each other because there was no way to find out.
Smart Matches allow you to make these connections, by identifying where individuals in your tree seem to overlap with individuals in others. They’re ‘smart’ in that they compare dozens of variables (names, dates, relationships, and more), as well as taking spelling, phonetic variation, nicknames, and ethnic variations into account. An ‘Alexander’ in a German tree might correlate with an ‘Alexandre’ on a French tree, or even with a ‘Sasha’ in Russia (where ‘Sasha’ is a nickname for 'Alex'). These are compared subtly and intelligently; the function tries to avoid sending you meaningless matches, and uses complex software algorithms to ensure that as many matches as possible are valid ones.
The technology runs in real time, and works with both our website and our Family Tree Builder program. It’s also free to use, and works with both our Basic and our Premium packages.
It really works, too! Take a look at how Terry found relatives everywhere from the Channel Islands to Norway. Or how Wanda managed to build a tree of over 20,000 individuals using the Smart Match function. There are many more such stories on our site.
Despite the benefits these matches can provide, our priority is always to maintain your privacy. So while you can get a lot out of Smart Matches, we've made sure that they don’t give other people access to your tree, and if you’d prefer to disable the feature you can do so on your ‘Manage Trees’ page.
Stay tuned, and we hope some of you make discoveries from the new matches!