13-Year-Old Budding Genealogist Visits MyHeritage

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While most of his friends are spending their summer vacations outdoors, Yehonatan Cohen, a 13-year-old from northern Israel, is hunkering down and concentrating on his genealogy research.

Yehonatan caught the “genealogy bug” after completing a family history project he was assigned at school — and he hasn’t stopped since. He spends hours a week researching and building his family tree, hoping to learn more about his ancestors and where life took them.

Over the past two years, Yehonatan has interviewed family relatives, collected stories and photos, and added all of his findings to his MyHeritage family tree. Using advanced research tools such as Smart Matches™ and Record Matches, his family tree has grown tremendously. To date, Yehonatan has 250 people in his tree that spans 8 generations.

Yehonatan’s parents were surprised about his new hobby but encouraged his efforts. At the start of the summer, while observing her son’s passion for genealogy and love for the MyHeritage platform develop, Yehonatan’s mother Dafna suggested that he reach out to the company. On a phone call with a support team representative, Yehonatan explained that it would be a dream come true for him to come to visit the MyHeritage office and get an inside view of its daily workings. His request was granted, and Yehonatan and his parents were invited to the MyHeritage office for a tour. The MyHeritage team was touched by his dedication and planned a small surprise for Yehonatan.

After arriving at the office and enjoying a tour, Yehonatan learned that he’d be meeting with MyHeritage Founder and CEO Gilad Japhet for some genealogy tips and advice. He was speechless!

During their private lesson, Gilad explained to Yehonatan that he too began his family history journey thanks to a school project at a similar age. That hobby turned into so much more after Gilad founded MyHeritage.

Gilad dove right into Yehonatan’s roots, asking him where each branch of his family originated. He gave him ideas for where to search for each branch. Yehonatan explained that as far as he knows, his ancestors have always lived in Israel. Gilad suggested searching for them in the first census of the Jewish population in Israel, commissioned by Sir Moshe Montefiore in 1839. Sure enough, they immediately located Yehonatan’s family in the census.

MyHeritage CEO Gilad Japhet helps Yehonatan with his family tree

Gilad showed Yehonatan his own family tree and told him a little about his personal family history. He also shared some research tips and advice, based on what he does now and what he wishes he’d known at Yehonatan’s age.

If I were your age and I knew what I know today, there is one thing I would improve upon: Add a source to every piece of information that you enter into your tree. If you add where you learned it or found it, it will help you better understand your research and explain the findings.

Gilad shows Yehonatan his own family tree Sun Chart

When they parted, Gilad gave Yehonatan some homework for the rest of the summer — collecting all the family’s old photos, scanning them and adding them to the family tree.

Gilad also promised to follow up.

We will meet in the future and see how you have progressed.

A day after the moving visit, Yehonatan sent a letter of thanks to MyHeritage detailing how much it meant to him.

I always wanted to visit and see firsthand and see where things are done. I even dare to dream that I will work at MyHeritage when I grow up. The visit was beyond all my expectations… you’ve opened up a new world to me. It was really one of the happiest days of my life. Thank you.

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  • Janice Smith


    August 4, 2019

    i have been a My Heritage member for almost two years. I have been doing genealogy for about 60 years, And still at a brick wall on a great grandfather Richard Harwood. He was born in England, moved to U.S. in early 1800’s. He was one of the first school teachers in Bedford, co. Pennsylvania. I have deeds for him and his wife Jane Davis} in 1850 to 1860, but do not know when he died, or where he was buried.. His brother William was buried in St.Pauls church cemetary

  • Robert Marks


    August 6, 2019

    I would love some help to break down a brick wall in my tree. I can not find any confirming records of the parents of this person who would be my 4G grandfather Johann Wilhelm Marcks
    Direct ancestor (5 generations)
    June 1752
    July 9 1847
    He was married to Anna Maria Christina Tillmann
    Direct ancestor (5 generations)
    Nov 3 1771
    May 19 1808
    This has stopped me right in my tracks. I believe they originated from Munden Germany or within that area. I have added a few names above him but can’t confirm if they are correct. Is there any way I can receive help from My Heritage ?. For one of your experts this could be easy.