Introducing The Theory of Family Relativity™ — a Genealogy Game-Changer

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We’re excited to introduce a new feature, which is a total game-changer in genetic genealogy — the Theory of Family Relativity™. This unprecedented feature helps you make the most of your DNA Matches by incorporating genealogical information from all our collections of nearly 10 billion historical records and family tree profiles, to offer theories on how you and your DNA Matches might be related. If you’ve taken a MyHeritage DNA test or uploaded your DNA results to MyHeritage, this revolutionary technology may offer astounding new information on your family connections.

Powerful Theory of Family Relativity™ example suggesting a relationship path for a DNA Match, traversing trees from MyHeritage, Geni and FamilySearch, and a Canadian Census record! (Click to zoom)

Until now, family history enthusiasts used two distinct domains for making discoveries: the paper-trail world of historical records and family trees, and the biological world of DNA connections. When you received DNA Matches, it was often not clear how exactly the match is related to you and who your common ancestor may be. The “holy grail” of genetic genealogy is receiving DNA Matches where you know the full relationship path between you and each DNA Match and can add new information to your tree based on that.

We have introduced multiple features that enhance DNA Matches with the goal of achieving this, such as Shared Smart Matches™, Shared Ancestral Surnames, or Shared Ancestral Places. Power tools such as the Chromosome Browser also offer additional clues. While these features are extremely useful, and can sometimes help you identify the relationship path to your DNA Matches and the common ancestors, most people still hit brick walls with DNA Matches where they cannot figure out the exact connection and how the DNA Match fits in their family tree. Moreover, up until now, the information we presented was based solely on your family tree and your DNA Match’s family tree. This meant that you only had whatever information you and they had entered to go on, and most often, the common ancestors do not appear in either your or your match’s family tree. With the release of the Theory of Family Relativity™, we have bridged the gap between DNA Matches and historical records and integrated both worlds seamlessly. The “holy grail” has been found!

Through this new feature, we provide you with leads explaining the relationship between your matches based on our entire collection of family trees and historical records, removing the guesswork, and saving you hours of research time. You can then examine the theories and the information associated with them and verify their correctness.

By collecting all available sources of information on MyHeritage, and harnessing the complete power of them collectively, we can unlock mysteries that were never solved before.

How does it work?

The Theory of Family Relativity™ is based on a big data graph that connects billions of data points drawn from thousands of databases on MyHeritage, in real time. We call it internally the “Big Tree”. Every node on this graph represents a person, and every edge depicts a blood relationship between two individuals that is described in a family tree or a historical record; or a match between two tree profiles that are likely to be the same person; or two records that are likely to be about the same person.

MyHeritage’s industry-leading matching technologies establish these connections between people and records. MyHeritage engineers and algorithm experts have developed a unique approach that allows the “Big Tree” to compute all paths between millions of blood relatives instantly. The Theory of Family Relativity™ draws upon this resource to construct the most plausible theories explaining how pairs of people linked by a DNA Match on MyHeritage are related, using family trees and historical records. The “Big Tree” is not static, so it never grows stale as users add or delete new information, or reject certain matches that they consider incorrect. Instead, we compute it quickly whenever we want, generating a fresh view of the world that gets larger and more accurate all the time. The “Big Tree” is unique in that it encompasses all family trees on MyHeritage and the huge collaborative trees of Geni and FamilySearch that are replicated to MyHeritage.

The number of theories you may get depends on several factors, such as the size and level of detail in your family tree (the more the better). This number will increase over time as more users test their DNA on MyHeritage or upload their DNA result, and as we continue to add more historical records and as family trees continue to grow.

It is important to keep in mind that this revolutionary feature produces theories that are just that — theories. They are based on a lot of information provided by other users who may introduce mistakes in family trees as well as matches between tree profiles and records that may be inaccurate. We strongly suggest that you review the theories in depth and judge for yourself whether each one is accurate and decide how to best proceed further with your genealogical research. Verifying everything is a best practice that every good genealogist should do regarding all clues and evidence. Remember that theories can be very helpful, but they are not always correct.

Using the Theory of Family Relativity

 Theories will usually be found for some of your DNA Matches.

Visit your DNA Matches to see them. During the introductory period of this feature, a banner, shown below, will be displayed at the top of your DNA Match list telling you if you have theories. Click the button on this banner to conveniently view all your DNA Matches that have theories.

Whenever a DNA Match has a theory, this is also indicated in the DNA Match card, as shown below.

DNA Match with a theory (Click to zoom)

When the estimated relationship (according to the shared DNA) is a wide range, with no clear indication of the true relationship, the theory will assist in narrowing down the relationship.  You can compare the relationship suggested by the theory to the relationship suggested by the DNA to see if they are compatible.

Click “View theory” on the card will display the full theory, including the complete relationship path. Alternatively, you can start with a summarized view of the theory which is presented in the Review DNA Match page.

Summarized theory view in the Review DNA Match page (Click to zoom)

When more than one theory is available, this means that we have identified several theories with different relationships between you and the DNA Match. This can happen when people in the family have married within the family in earlier generations. In these situations, you can choose which theory to view by choosing from the drop-down menu.

Switching between multiple theories (Click to zoom)

In summarized theory view, move the mouse over any individual to see additional information.

Click “View full theory” to see a more detailed view that shows which family trees and historical records were used to establish the theory.

Viewing a full theory (Click to zoom)

Viewing a full theory is a unique capability where MyHeritage’s new technology really shines. Its importance is in that it allows you to see how MyHeritage established the relationship path and which sources of information were used along the way.

The top of the Full Theory page shows the estimated relationship (by the DNA) and the relationship suggested by the Theory of Family Relativity™. If more than one theory was found, as mentioned above, you can switch between them.

Viewing a full theory (Click to zoom)

Theories always begin in your tree and end in the family tree of your DNA Match. The traversal of the path may include other family trees on MyHeritage, Geni, FamilySearch or historical records.

Every time you see a horizontal “hop”, this means the theory is using a match to continue from one source to the next. Each Smart Match or Record Match is graded with a confidence level in percent, based on the quality of the match. The higher the score, the better the match is. Smart Matches and Record Matches that were rejected are never used in theories and we also require a very high minimum confidence for every match along the way, to ensure that theories you see are in very high quality. The lowest confidence among the matches, is considered the confidence score for the entire theory (and is displayed at the top of the page).

Within each theory, there are often multiple paths, showing different ways that we arrive at the same theory and providing more evidence to support it. All paths still culminate in the same summarized theory, but differ in the sources used along the way. For example, one path may start in your family tree and end immediately in the DNA Match’s family tree: such a short path, if exists, will always be offered first. There may be other paths among the same relatives that follow other trees or other historical records. Clicking any path number to view it.

Switching between multiple paths for a theory (Click to zoom)

The green icon represents a Smart Match™ between two trees on MyHeritage.

Smart Match™ found within a theory (Click to zoom)

The brown icon represents a Record Match. These are matches with historical records.

Side comment: there is something a bit confusing here because matches with trees on Geni and FamilySearch are currently considered as Record Matches because they are not trees on MyHeritage (although they are family trees and not records). In the future, we will probably reclassify such matches as Smart Matches and we might even rename “Smart Matches” to “Tree Matches” one day.

Click on a match icon (green or brown) to see a convenient side-by-side comparison of the information that exists for that individual in the two sources. Using this information you can determine for yourself whether the match is accurate.

Reviewing a match within a theory (Click to zoom)

In the example above, the Smart Match looks accurate so it is safe to rely on it.

There is more to a theory than meets the eye. Moving the mouse over any item in a theory opens a tooltip with more information about it. For example, you can move the mouse over the name of a tree owner in order to get access to buttons for contacting that person or viewing the tree. Moving the mouse over a collection name or a historical record opens a tooltip with buttons that allow you to search it, and so on.

Example of two theories for the same DNA Match, due to two half-brothers marrying two first cousins (Click to zoom)

Filters

There is an easy way to see all the theories you have.  

You can now filter your DNA Matches to see only those matches that have a Theory of Family Relativity™. Do this by clicking the “Filter” toolbar, select “Tree details” and then click on the “Has Theory of Family Relativity™” option. This is available in addition to the previous filtering options that show you which of your matches share places, ancestral surnames and other Smart Matches™ with you.

Filtering DNA Matches to see all matches that have a theory (Click to zoom)
Another theory example (Click to zoom)

What to do if a theory seems correct

If you have a theory that looks good to you, congratulations! It tells you how you are related to a DNA Match, and you can view the full theory and add the people and information that are currently not in your tree, to your tree. In this first release, we did not provide a way to do that automatically, i.e. to add a branch to your tree in one click, but we may allow that in the future if there is enough demand for it. For now, add new information manually to your tree, like a good ol’ genealogist.

What to do if a theory is wrong

Currently, it is not possible to confirm or reject a theory. Perhaps we’ll add that functionality later on.

If you consider a theory as incorrect because of a wrong Smart Match in your tree, you can easily reject that Smart Match in the Smart Matches section of the website (accessible from the menu at Discoveries>Matches by People). This will cause the bad theory to disappear.

If you spot a wrong theory because of a mistake that another user made in their tree, please consider being a good genealogy citizen by contacting the tree owner where you spotted this mistake and letting them know what you think is wrong. Once they fix it, it will repair the theory or eliminate it altogether.

If a theory is incorrect due to a match and that match is not in your tree, you can let the tree owner know about it so they will reject that match. Or you can simply ignore any theory that you consider as incorrect.

Privacy

There are almost no privacy concerns with this new feature, because when traversing a theory, MyHeritage will automatically privatize the details of living people outside of your tree. Most theories do not include any living people (besides you and the DNA Match whose details are visible anyway), because theories only traverse through ancestors to find a blood relationship, they never go down to younger generations, so they very quickly reach previous decades and centuries in the realm of deceased ancestors.

Users who do not wish to see any theories or to have their family tree participate in theories suggested to other users can use the privacy settings to opt out of this (by disabling Smart Matches for their tree and its inclusion in SuperSearch and making sure that their site is not visible to guests). This is possible, but not recommended, as it will prevent them from receiving Smart Matches and other benefits.

Summary of benefits

The “holy grail” of genetic genealogy is to understand exactly how you are related to your DNA Matches. The Theory of Family Relativity™ gives you just that, on a silver platter. However, speaking of silver, it’s not a silver bullet, because you will not get theories for all your DNA Matches, and some theories may be incorrect.

Here are the main benefits you’ll get from this new feature:

* You will make new discoveries. Theories will explain some of your DNA Matches using genealogy (trees and records), allowing you to solve brick walls and (manually) add entire new branches to your family tree.

* You will discover new ancestors, because theories go beyond the boundary of your tree, and include people from other trees and records, including new ancestors that are not in your tree currently.

* You will gain confidence. Theories will give you an indication, based on DNA, of which Smart Matches you can trust, allowing you to add people and information to your tree based on tree matches that you were previously skeptical about (or unaware of).

* You will save time. By exploring your theories you can save hundreds of hours of research that would have been required for you to reach the same conclusions yourself using the 10 billion records and tree profiles on MyHeritage.

* You will get more theories every month as the MyHeritage DNA database, family tree database and historical records database grow by leaps and bounds every day.

Cost

Theory of Family Relativity™ is a premium feature that requires a site subscription on MyHeritage (Premium or PremiumPlus or Complete). Users who upload their raw DNA data from another testing service to MyHeritage and do not wish to purchase a subscription can pay a one-time fee of $29 per kit to unlock all advanced DNA features offered by MyHeritage, including Theory of Family Relativity™. Learn more about our subscription plans here. Users without a subscription will still see all theories that we found for them, but when they click to see the full theory details, some of the information will be hidden.

Credits

The Theory of Family Relativity™ was a team effort to which many people at MyHeritage contributed, over a period of nearly 2 years. The overall concept for this feature as well as its name were invented by MyHeritage’s founder and CEO, Gilad Japhet. The realization of its vision was made possible through genius technological breakthroughs made by our CTO, Sagi Bashari. The user interface concepts were invented and polished by our senior VP of Product Management, Uri Gonen, and further enhanced by our DNA Product Manager, Ran Snir. The functionality was programmed by the excellent engineering team at MyHeritage which includes many skilled algorithm and user interface developers. The beautiful design was provided by our Design and UX team and quality assurance was provided by our QA team. Many other groups at MyHeritage took part in the realization of this significant genealogical and technological breakthrough.

Competition?

We’ve just learned that one of our major competitors has released a feature that resembles our Theory of Family Relativity™. That’s good as it shows that great minds think alike! It’s also a blessing for the entire genetic genealogy community. However, there is a big difference (note Einstein’s reaction above 😊). On MyHeritage, you can view any theory, see its full path and verify its correctness. You can see and contact all the tree owners along the way of the theory traversal, and examine all the matches and see if they make sense. It is much easier that way to spot incorrect theories, and to add much more to your tree than only just the direct line of people leading to the common ancestor and back. On the competing solution, only a summarized view of each theory is provided, and users are asked to treat it as gospel and “take it or leave it”, without being able to verify it or see the full path or the matches, and no additional information is provided on the source of the information, the family trees used along the way or additional relatives that can be found in them. Thus the MyHeritage feature is clearly superior.

Conclusion

The Theory of Family Relativity™ is a game-changer in genetic genealogy, finally bringing together the worlds of genealogy and DNA. It harnesses the full power of all assets on MyHeritage – the 10 billion historical records and tree profiles, the 2.5 million strong DNA database, the Smart Matches, the Record Matches, and the Record Detective Matches. It allows the genealogy domain to explain DNA Matches, and the DNA domain to validate genealogical matches.

MyHeritage promises to always strive to develop innovative technologies to make family history more accessible and to help break through genealogical brick walls. We are proud to yet again make good on this promise today.

We hope that the Theory of Family Relativity™ will help you on your family history journey and that it will open up exciting avenues of research for many of our users.

This is only the first of additional breakthrough features that we intend to provide using the new “Big Tree” infrastructure. Stay tuned for exciting new features in the future!

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  • Jo Swearingen


    February 28, 2019

    I’m blown away with this new functionality. Its superiority to the competitor’s tool was evident the first day I compared them. Exciting stuff!

  • Sue Wyatt


    March 1, 2019

    Great for close matches with trees.

  • John Blythe Dobson


    March 1, 2019

    I could not agree more with Jo Swearingen. All seven of my hints are correct, and what’s more, three of them manage to get around serious errors — not just gaps — in my match’s pedigrees. On the other hand, the competitor’s tool appears to have been rushed into release without adequate testing. It gives me no matches whatsoever, even though according to the documentation, it should show more than 40 DNA+pedigree matches that can already be found using existing features on the site!

  • Susan J Cerri


    March 3, 2019

    I too am very impressed with this feature. I now know that I am certainly related to Mary [Private]. She is my fifth cousin once removed though a common ancestor.

  • Teri


    March 7, 2019

    Thanks to the new feature we just found out that my grandmother’s best friend was actually her 2nd cousin, 2x removed! So exciting!

    • Esther


      March 7, 2019

      What a nice discovery!

  • Sandra Gawinski


    March 15, 2019

    I too am amazed at your company’s rapid, very advanced and seamless approach to matching such valuable information to a still new and progressing science! Keep up the good work, you continue to surprise your customers with your ever advancing tools!

  • Leandra Ford


    March 15, 2019

    I find the TOFR very helpful, even with an error in someone else’s tree.

  • Clemens, Richard D.


    March 15, 2019

    Very interesting.

  • Patty Davis


    March 15, 2019

    Hope to see some brick walls come down

  • Jeannie Strohoff-Bourassa


    March 15, 2019

    This is going to be a game changer! Especially if you add the enhancements mentioned in the article. Because as you know manually copying information can lead to errors. Removing this risk by having an option to electronically send the information from one family tree to the other family tree. The suggestion to recognize information from Geni and FamilySearch as smart matches rather than records is a brilliant suggestion. I feel that too must trust is placed on “records” as being absolutely correct. Which is definitely not the case when taking information from these sites. Definitely helpful for many users. In closing, thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • Elane Duncan


    March 15, 2019

    I am really excited to try this put. I have seen the competitors and was thinking of how MyHeritage was superior!

    I also tried the auto clusters last week and was amazed at how those work.

    Kudos to the teams involved in creating these incredible new features!

  • Linda Badham


    March 15, 2019

    Very exciting and very clever.

  • Bettie Posey Bullard


    March 15, 2019

    Wow! The most exciting advance imagined!

  • Steven Robinson


    March 15, 2019

    I love it.

  • Jerrie


    March 15, 2019

    This will be an awesome new tool!

  • Gilles Long


    March 15, 2019

    Interesting.

  • VERNON K ROGERS


    March 15, 2019

    Thank you for your on going research to make exciting break through technology work. This can save hundreds of hours of work, plus all the time I spent on expanding my tree more rewarding. Now if we could just fill in the NPE gap, or maybe a color for suspected NPE event.

  • Linda Slone


    March 15, 2019

    I am looking forward to finding out more about my DNA family tree….not about the family by marriage to my uncle’s wife.

  • Russell Addison


    March 15, 2019

    This sounds very interesting as I have a number of 3rd to 5th DNA Cousins that I have not been able to connect with Russell Addison in Australia.

  • Carol frances wade


    March 15, 2019

    I will combine Heritage with my Ancestry membership.

  • Rose Raven Camidge


    March 16, 2019

    I like new feature but will have to study it more.

  • Marcia Carstensen


    March 16, 2019

    Such good news! I am looking forward to ssving hours off searching.

  • Allison Bauer


    March 17, 2019

    Yes, I have done my DNA testing.

  • nicholine hobby


    March 17, 2019

    excited to try it

  • Carin Froehlich


    March 18, 2019

    So proud of everyone at Heritage excellent news that I am sure took a lot of hard work and a lot of passion am looking forward in using your new technology keep up the good work

  • Donna Behaeen


    March 19, 2019

    Sounds great!

  • Karen Treloar


    March 19, 2019

    Thank you for this information as it is really hard to put together the pieces when I dont know either my dad nor any information about him nor any about my Mum’s dad so we are at a loss quite a bit to fill in the pieces, but havent given up Hope and this adds to that.

  • Elizabeth S Peterson


    March 19, 2019

    How do I bring my Ancestry DNA results to your program?

  • Rebekah


    March 23, 2019

    How wonderfully amazing

  • Alex Holub


    March 23, 2019

    You’ve certainly explained a lot here. As Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria said to Mozart when Mozart was describing his new opera (“The Marriage of Figaro”) “Too many notes.” A lot of description of what to do but with no direct experience. It will certainly take a while to figure out what to do in order to figure out how it works.

  • barbara strausz


    March 27, 2019

    this is great.I will think about it

  • Rosemary creighton


    March 29, 2019

    Hi Team
    You are all brilliant!!!
    Just a quick question, how do I upload my DNA results please?
    Kind regards
    Rosemary Creighton

  • Lawrence Phillips


    March 30, 2019

    This looks amazing. It will surely increase the chances of my finding a relative from my mother’s (1936 Jewish orphaned refugee from Lithuania) side of the family. Well done MyHeritage.

  • Bill Taylor


    March 30, 2019

    I am very excited about this new and look forward to using. Thank you.

  • Jene Wise Klopp


    March 30, 2019

    Once I figure all this out, I”m sure I’ll be thrilled!! Sounds as though this site is becoming more authentic. I have some questionable relatives from “back in the day” that I’ll watch to see if they are who they say they are.

  • Julio Valentim Dias


    April 2, 2019

    Um belo e perigoso jogo!

  • Peter


    April 2, 2019

    I’m excited by this new feature and hope to see it’s benefits in the future.

  • Shane Hopkinson


    April 7, 2019

    Hi
    Just started experimenting with the new tools and its interesting.
    Shane

  • Byron Renner


    April 9, 2019

    Very very excited by this new feature! I am trying to assess how this can help me in solving other mysteries within my tree. For me I have already matched 15 of the 17 theories presented for myself. I found of one connection that one option was more valid that the others presented. On my adopted mother-in-law’s DNA, I did not have her tree filled out as I current knew it (I had no one listed beyond her); so other than my wife’s connection to her, I understandably could Not solve the other 9 people’s theories. I have since placed what ancestors I know for her in my tree and hope MyHeritage is constantly running this utility to embrace my newly updated tree!?

  • Joyce Brown Makarowski


    April 11, 2019

    I had my DNA done by Ancestry and after reading all about Theory of Family Relativity, I wish that I had chosen My Heritage. Now, from what I understand, I can upload my DNA results from Ancestry, but do not know how to do so. Do I forward my results to your Email. I plan to buy my Premium Membership, sometimes next month, when time becomes more available, this year.
    Thanks for sending me emails, I do appreciate that my Family Tree was acknowledged despite not having Membership.

    • Esther


      April 14, 2019

      Hi Joyce,
      You can easily upload your DNA data to MyHeritage by going to http://www.myheritage.com/dna/upload and following the directions listed there.
      Best,
      Esther / MyHeritage Team

  • Nathalie Michaud


    April 22, 2019

    C est un excellent site de partage et de point de vues sur l histoire généalogique de nos origines

  • Pamela Hayter


    August 29, 2019

    I found this awesome. Would like to know how to get more.

  • Demaris Miller


    September 2, 2019

    Love this new feature. Now, this will be at least as helpful as Thru Lines in Ancestry.com.
    Good work!

  • Lynna Marie Schultz (born Cayer)


    September 3, 2019

    When I started my tree with MyHeritage, I also started trees on several other sites. I ended up concentrating on my tree with MyHeritage because I found it to be the most user friendly site. I don’t do much on my tree with Wikitree because they would not allow me to transfer my whole tree from MyHeritage, as it was too large.
    I have no confidence in information with Family Search because I have found a multitude of errors in other trees on that site. Many of the people working on Family Search trees appear to “force square pegs into round holes”…they don’t thoroughly vet information before posting it to their trees on that site. In one instance, my ex-husband’s grandmother, Velma Schultz (born Bebb), who preferred to be called “Vicki” because she didn’t like the name Velma, was listed under both names, as two individuals within the Harvey Carl Bebb family. Another incident, which I noticed several years ago, within the same family, was the erroneous listing of life events for a generation of Bebb family members as occurring in Overland Park or Overland Township, in Johnson and Morris Counties (respectively) in Kansas when the incidents actually occurred in Oberlin, Decatur County, Kansas. Some of the errors have been corrected since I originally ran across them. I posted a message to let the person responsible for that tree to check the accuracy of their information. Obviously, the person who originally entered the information did not check the census records as the family was living for years in Oberlin. I believe the information was originally obtained by word of mouth from other (maybe older) family members, and Oberlin was mistakenly heard as Overland and was mixed between Township and Park in a haphazard fashion. Both of these incidents could have been prevented if the researcher had just used some common-sense and checked the census records. The one incident that really infuriated me, though, was when several people took it upon themselves to completely change the family of my G-Great Grandmother, Philomène Caillé (born Langlois LaChapelle), from her siblings to her parents, which nullified her entire ancestry. I traced her entire pedigree through the Programme de recherche en démographie historique (PRDH) at the University of Montréal. The data base is one of the best for tracing French Canadian ancestry. I came close to deleting my family tree on Family Search because of the “hijacking” of Philomène’s family and ultimate pedigree, but I changed my mind. Instead, I plan to change all the entries back to my original and CORRECT information. If it happens again, my tree WILL cease to exist on Family Search.
    In conclusion, I want to say that I never take anything into my tree from other trees without verifying the information first…ESPECIALLY FROM FAMILY SEARCH because I don’t trust other researchers’ commitment to accuracy.

  • Ronald Reafs


    September 15, 2019

    Your records consistently misspell my father’s mother’s name. It is Mildred Ester Eggleston Reafs. I would very much appreciate this correction and it might–just might– help my familial search.

  • William George Dunbar


    October 8, 2019

    I have had several ‘theories’ sent to me and the majority were wrong, for example two individuals supposed to be the same person were born years apart in different locations obviously with different parents.

    However, one which was correct introduced me to a previously unknown ‘cousin’.