25    Jan 201112 comments

Major improvements to Smart Matches™

We’re pleased to introduce a significant update of our Smart Matching technology. The new enhancements, unveiled on the website this week, include an overhaul of all Smart Matching pages, new collaboration features and easier management of Smart Matches, making this technology even more powerful and easy to use.

Smart Matching was originally acquired by MyHeritage.com from Pearl Street Software. We first released this innovative technology on MyHeritage.com in 2007, and have been improving it ever since. The technology matches between the people in your family tree and more than 680 million people in 17 million other family trees on MyHeritage.com. This can help you discover ancestors and relatives, by harnessing the vast collective knowledge of the 54 million registered users on MyHeritage.com. Smart Matches automatically find people from your tree in other trees, so that you and the other tree owners can learn from each other and also get in touch. The matching technology is sophisticated and bridges differences in spelling, phonetics and relationships that may exist between the trees, to locate as many matches as possible without sacrificing accuracy. Why is this so important? Because it can take just one Smart Match to bring a breakthrough in one's research and even change the life of a family, as you can see from many heartwarming user success stories that are posted here on the blog.

If you, dear reader, are not already signed up on MyHeritage.com, you can receive Smart Matches on your family tree for free. Go to http://www.myheritage.com and start a new family tree, or import an existing tree by uploading a GEDCOM file, and you will receive a notification on the discovered Smart Matches by email. We're sure you'll be intrigued by the results!

Let's dive in and look at the new improvements added this week in more detail.

Getting your Smart Matches

Smart Matches work in real time as you enter information into your family tree. MyHeritage.com instantly compares the new information to all the other trees and will alert you with a green icon if a match is found. Smart Matches are also calculated offline for deeper and more accurate comparisons. You will be notified by email, and no more than once a week, about all new matches discovered for you, and you can then visit the site to view them.

On your family site, the Smart Matches are displayed on 'Family Tree > Smart Matches'. You can view them by family tree or by individual.

See your matches by trees or by people (Click to enlarge)

Smart Matches by trees (Click to enlarge)

Smart Matches by people (Click to enlarge)

You can drill down to see the matches with any particular tree that overlaps yours, or the matches for any individual in your tree.

The suggested matches are sorted by quality score, so the matches most likely to be correct are listed at the top. Hover the mouse on the question mark next to each quality score for an explanation on how your match was rated. New matches are now highlighted so you can easily tell them apart from older ones. This is a new enhancement.

Confirming matches from another family tree (Click to enlarge)

 

Confirming and rejecting matches

One of the first new features you'll notice is the ability to confirm or reject matches. Confirming a match is your way to indicate that a match is correct, and rejecting a wrong match gets it out of the way. Before confirming a good match, or right afterward, you should review the match in detail to see what you can learn from the other tree. The confirmed and rejected matches will move away into separate tabs so you could look at them later. This allows you to systematically work your way through your unconfirmed matches without missing any bit of valuable information. If you make a mistake, you can easily undo any confirmation or rejection you had made previously.

All the work screens related to Smart Matches clearly indicate for each match whether it was confirmed or rejected, by you or by the other tree owner. Mutually confirmed matches are shown with two check marks. When you confirm a match, you can choose whether to notify the other tree owner about your confirmation (recommended) to draw their attention to the match between your trees, and ask them to confirm it too. You can optionally invite the other tree owner to be a member in your family site. Don't worry about notifying people too often: MyHeritage.com automatically collects multiple confirmations and delivers them to other people in a single convenient email, so you won't be bothering other folks by being active with confirmations. And people will not be notified when you reject wrong matches.

Confirming a match (Click to enlarge)

 

Consensus

It is common for some people in your tree to be found in many other family trees. Until today, you had to review those matches one by one, and see whether each match could contribute new information for you, on the same person. This was tedious and didn't show the big picture. That's why our new and unique Consensus Page is a lifesaver. It conveniently displays a summary of the different name spellings, birth and death dates and places, marriage info, etc., for any person, indicating the number of times each piece of information has been used in other family trees. You can then copy the data as you see fit directly into your own family tree, and even copy photos of your choice. Think of the Consensus as an aggregation of data from all Smart Matches™, presenting the big picture for each person. It will help you fill in missing information about relatives more quickly and with more confidence.

The brand new Consensus Page (Click to enlarge)

To view the Consensus Page, simply click on a person's name while viewing matches in the 'By people' section.

If you have lots of Smart Matches you will love the ability to confirm a whole set of matches (from a site or on a person) at once. Or reject a set of matches at once if they are wrong.

Work queues, links, discussions and other new features

Rather quickly you will find that you have confirmed many matches but are waiting for other people to provide a mutual confirmation on them. So we added a work queue that lists the matches that you are waiting for other people to mutually confirm (and you can send them a reminder). Another work queue conveniently lists all matches that others have confirmed, that are awaiting your kind attention.

Mutually confirming a match creates a virtual link between the corresponding profiles across family trees. In the future we plan to show these links in the trees and allow you to jump conveniently from a profile in your tree to another tree with which you have mutually confirmed matches, and we'll add other visual enhancements to allow navigation in a mega-tree of confirmed matches. Judging from the amazing pace of new confirmations that we are seeing (approx. half a million confirmations in the first 2 days since we introduced this), the users of MyHeritage.com are now building what could arguably be the world's largest family tree very quickly, by forming confirmed connections between the 680 million profiles in their 17 million family trees. We'll keep you posted on our blog as to the pace of growth of this gigantic mega-tree.

Each match can now be a center of discussion: tree owners can add comments when they confirm or reject a match, or just correspond about it and exchange interesting information. The comments are conveniently displayed below each match.

The comments section for a Smart Match (Click to enlarge)

It is now very convenient to edit your family tree inline when you are reviewing a match, and decide what information to copy from the other tree (if at all), including photos. Each piece of information can be copied in one click. To keep track of the source of your data, or to show other members of your site where you found this information, you can add a source citation to the copied data, linking back to the original family tree.

Review a match, edit inline and add a citation (Click to enlarge)

For each match you can view your tree and the matching tree side by side, in a convenient display that shows the full context of the match and the relatives around it. This is not new, but we've added the new means to drill down on any person in this display who is also Smart-Matched, and focus the comparison on that person.

Review matches by comparing trees side by side (Click to enlarge)

 

Note to Family Tree Builder users

You can use the enhanced Smart Matching features on your online family site. Some of the new features, such as the Consensus Page, are not available yet in the Family Tree Builder software, and will be added in one of the next updates. Even if you are using Family Tree Builder, you are encouraged to use the new enhanced Smart Matching on your family site, and enter new information you learn into Family Tree Builder. Any Smart Matches that you reject on the site will be automatically removed from Family Tree Builder. Confirmations made on the family site are not yet synchronized with Family Tree Builder (and vice versa) and we will address this limitation in the near future. Family Tree Builder also has a wizard available to premium users, for copying data from other matches, and this is not yet available on the family site.

What's free and what isn't

Receiving Smart Matches, viewing them and comparing trees side by side are free for all users. The following features are available to Premium and PremiumPlus sites only: Expedited matching, Consensus Page, confirming and rejecting matches, initiating contact with another tree owner, copying photos and editing trees inline. If you already have a Premium or PremiumPlus membership you will get those new benefits at no extra cost. If you are on a Basic plan, this could be your opportunity to upgrade.

Privacy

Smart Matches are a very good solution for peoples' need to protect the privacy of their family tree, while allowing them to be discovered by relatives. If other users have a match with your tree, they will be able to see only the overlapping areas in your tree, plus adjacent deceased people, but not adjacent living people who were not matched. If you wish to turn off Smart Matching for a tree, you can visit the Smart Matching pages, enter the settings from there and turn matching off. This will remove your tree from the matching system so you will not be able to receive Smart Matches yourself. You can also control whether tree owners who matched your tree can or cannot copy photos from Smart Matches with your tree.

What's great about Smart Matches

Some people might say "hey, what's special about Smart Matches? I can also discover new information about my family in the website of Ellis Island, a cemetery, the public library or other places". Well, it's often fascinating to make a new discovery about one’s family. But compared to finding information in a document or archive, Smart Matches are often more exciting as they not only deliver new information but also connect you to a living person on MyHeritage.com who uploaded that info, and that person is very likely related to you! Both of you are given the means to get in touch and learn new information from each other. So Smart Matches not only provide new information, but often help you make a new friend, or find new family members.

To Merge or not to Merge (hint: not)

Confirming Smart Matches creates a virtual link between the trees. It does NOT merge profiles, and it does NOT cause two family trees to become fused into one. We are against that. We believe that users on MyHeritage.com should remain the owners of their tree, in full control of their own tree, always able to export or delete it, and without anyone else coming unexpectedly to modify its data. MyHeritage.com has another competitor that is building a big tree by luring users into merging their profiles with other people. This is unfortunate because those users, after merging their profiles over there, lose control of their tree: they are no longer considered its sole owner, they cannot delete data they have entered themselves, and if they are inactive for a few months, the competitor confiscates their data irreversibly and makes it public domain. Other people can mess with their tree and create a chaos. Other people can export portions of their tree and post them elsewhere on the Internet. Living people in their family are exposed publicly including their relatives and any minor children. All of these horrors do not happen on MyHeritage.com: each tree remains separate, managed by its owner, and kept private, and even if there are duplications between trees, this is not necessarily a bad thing. There is no "single truth" and trees must not be forced to merge if there are differences of opinion, every user should be at liberty to pick what data they want to add to their tree, from the research of others. Wikipedia is a great concept for a public domain encyclopedia, but not for family trees, where the data is PERSONAL and PRIVATE, and owned by the user who contributed it, and not by a commercial entity. So before you upload your family tree anywhere, or enter it online, make sure that you will always be its sole owner, and will always be able to delete it in a click, like on MyHeritage.com, or export it with your photos as GEDCOM in a click and for free, like on MyHeritage.com. These actions sound natural and trivial and MyHeritage.com provides them, but other sites do not.

Wrapping up

There are a lot of smaller improvements added. For example, you can now manage large amounts of matches as they are split to smaller pages. You can search for any person to see if there are matches for him or her. You can ignore all matches from particular family trees or for a particular person, if you are familiar with those matches and they do not add value, and you will not be notified about new matches from those sources. Sometimes matches for people with very common names might be wrong: in this case just click the link to ignore all matches on that person and those wrong matches will be instantly removed. Much of these improvements were based on feedback from our users, so thank you for sharing your thoughts and suggestions with our team, and please continue to do so by writing to us.

A personal note: as the founder and manager of MyHeritage.com, I have my own family tree posted on the site, now with 2916 people and 2181 photos. It is actually the first tree ever posted on MyHeritage.com. So far, the site has found 2089 Smart Matches for me with 163 other family trees, and I was able to meet a large number of relatives and learn new information. I'm sure you will also experience similar success.

I sincerely hope you'll enjoy using the new Smart Matches – and that they will be of valuable help to you in your quest to trace your family tree and the history of your family.

To read our press release on Smart Matching, click here.

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Comments (12) Trackbacks (9)
  1. Awesome update and I'm anxious for more but I hate to contradict you; there is only a single truth when it comes to genealogy. The lack of a single truth is what creates problems in tracing one's roots; when people disagree about ancestors. While there may be disagreement about trivial facts, name, dates, etc. or untruths in families because of divorce, family planning, or past strife, you are a descendant of exactly the same people as your relatives. Your trees are one in the same. Your position seems to encourage and perpetuate disagreement and variation rather than validation of history.


    I really hope you reconsider your stance on merging trees. I for one am not a fan of having a bunch of trees out there of which I'm a part and have to contribute separately; data becomes disparate and I can't encourage others to ensure the accuracy of my own work when they are off on their own path.

    Again, thanks for the great progress. I recognize and appreciate that your approach encourages people to pursue the investigation and management of their trees more than the automated building that can come merging but I'd really love to see you offer the option rather than preventing the connections. I hate to say it but I'm curious, who is the competitor that more effectively connects family?
  2. Thank you Paul for the feedback. I am sure there are people like you who think merging is a good idea (until the point where they actually try it). Since you are diving into the matter, here are some more thoughts for you to consider.

    There is no single truth: there are, in fact, at least two of them: the "paper trail" truth which is the genealogy that is known and documented (itself, often with many contradicting versions, assumptions and leaps of faith); and the biological truth, which is the real biology of who fathered who, sometimes holding undocumented secrets. A genealogist could spend a lifetime establishing a magnificent family tree going back 50 generations or more, meticulously researched and matching all known documented evidence. And yet that tree would very likely be wrong, because over the years, many of the documented fathers have not been the real biological fathers, there were adoptions that were not documented, parents and children were not who they were thought to be, and similar surprises, causing the documented trail to differ from the real one. Genetic genealogy often uncovers skeletons in the family closet. But since there are no DNA samples of everyone in the last few thousand years, it too cannot establish the complete real biology. That's why some of us might never know who our real ancestors were; our knowledge might be extremely firm several generations back, but shakier as we go further and further back in time. That's why an approach that tries to force everyone to align on one version will not necessarily result in a version that matches the real, biological family tree. And there are many delicate personal matters that are best left private, where making the biological truth (if known) accessible to the entire family is not the best practice. For example, if someone is an adopted child and grows up not knowing about it, but a genealogist in the family reveals this, I doubt this person would rejoice in receiving the shock of their lives by discovering that they are adopted, on some public "wikipedia-style" family tree, where a hardcore genealogist insisted on documenting "the single truth" as you called it. Indeed, genealogy has many ethical challenges.
    At MyHeritage, we are not trying to perpetuate disagreement. We value privacy, ownership and control more than we value singularity. We encourage dialogue between tree owners which is why we have added so many methods of collaboration. If genealogists collaborate, they can establish a single version if they wish (in their respective trees), or they may choose to diverge. We disagree that people should be forced to agree. We believe source citations are a key factor in genealogy, it would be ideal if every fact is documented with pointers to the sources from which it was obtained. This way, even if people copy facts from other trees, the citations can be followed to locate the information sources, and every genealogist can check references before deciding whether or not to accept new information. Consider, that if you fully merge a person in your tree A, with a person in another tree B, then the two trees become one tree, tree C, that neither of you own, and therefore neither of you can delete. Now further imagine that you have relatives who don't like being on the Internet, and they ask you to delete them from the family tree, and you might find that you cannot delete information about them, as it's already part of some large tree that no single person owns. This will not happen on MyHeritage, where every tree has a single owner, who can delete it in one click, or delete any portion of it, and every tree is private, and information about living people is not exposed to strangers. I believe that professional genealogists would not like other people to edit their tree, as this introduces chaos. Our system prevents this. The other website that merges profiles has run into such acute problems of chaos, that it recently banned new tree imports, so people can no longer upload GEDCOMs there. Apparently the upload of trees enslaved the users of that site to repeatedly merge profiles endlessly. So no new trees can be added without typing them up record by record. Think of it as a genealogy website with a big sign "new trees not welcome" in front of it. I will send you complete information about MyHeritage competitors via email, so you could evaluate their pros and cons. MyHeritage will continue to evolve and improve and we will try to bring forward solutions to some of the challenges that you and I are discussing here.
  3. Brilliant response Gilad and thank you. I do hope my public criticism was not unwelcome; it's certainly intended with praise. I've tried other online family tree services and found none as exceptional as MyHeritage.

    I think we're uncovering the same truths from different perspective. I'm suggesting their is one truth, the biological truth; though there are other possibilities. Your point that the other truths stem from adoption are perfectly valid BUT from a genealogical standpoint, they aren't THE truth.

    What I'm trying to help budding genealogists avoid is the much more frustrating experience I've, personally, had trying to navigate that truth when there are different records. I've experienced the challenges of dealing with adoption and while there is therein truth, preference, and privacy to consider, it prevents people from tracing their true history.

    So what you are pointing out is the need for records, options, and preferences.

    I'd argue that solving for the challenges created with merges and the need for control for the sake of something like privacy are two different issues. I can see the mess that merging creates and don't welcome that, I think you've made the right decision. Then again, in defending the right to control you've sacrificed the potential to collaborate.

    I have 5 relatives I've never met, each working on their family history. Our trees match on two or three individuals and what I fear is that as some time in the future, and perhaps even now, they uncover an ancestor from hundreds of years ago to whom I'm related; but because our trees only match on a few more recent relatives, I'll never really know of their discovery and be able to help connect the dots between my life and their past.
    That's what I'd love to see solved.
  4. Love the new smart matches but what happened to the Australia day special that was supposed to end at *midnight tonight!!! At 11pm I found that I could not upgrade at the advertised special price of 35%off. It means that the upgrade is once again out of my budget
  5. Jeanette Cameron
    January 29th, 2011-2:12pm
    With the new smart matches i've now found where my half brother that was killed during WW2 is burried also lots of other relos from my step-father's side which has opened up yet another link for me to further research. Since joining MyHeritage i've found many family members that was lost & unknown to me, therefore i'm looking forward to continnuing my journey, who knows just where & when it will end. To all of the MyHeritage staff & researchers, well done & keep up the excellent work in helping many people to find their beginnings & at times a sense of belonging to a family.
  6. Hi Margaret - not sure why this happened, but we've tried to rectify the situation and ensure you the discount you should have got. You should have received an email.
  7. @Jeanette Thanks - glad we've been able to help you in your family history research!
  8. Looking forward to having the new features in FTB. Good job on the online version.
  9. Is there italian people?
  10. If you buy the premium for one year and use it to find and add the front to help smart, and after you cancel the premium version of what will happen?
  11. Mir gefalt das sehr.ich gruse Dir herzliche!
  12. Why does the site keep sending me requests to "Please be kind to the other users and provide your confirmation on those matches (or reject them). " but won't let me confirm them unless I upgrade to premium ??? Why doesn't MyHeritage "be kind" to other users by actually letting me confirm them for those users ??

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