By: Carolyn L. Barkley
Last month I wrote a posting about my experiences with MyHeritage.com. In it, I noted that I had been a subscription-level member for approximately three weeks and had received no messages about record matches or Smart Matches™. As a reminder, a record match is a match between information in a family tree which you have uploaded to the site and information in a variety of data collections; a Smart March™ links a specific piece of information in your family tree with information contained in “hundreds of millions of profiles in other trees.”
My lesson learned, I soon found out, is that you need to be careful what you wish for! Today, two full months later, I have 589 record matches and 3,659 Smart Matches™ to review!
I decided to review the record matches first, as the number seemed more manageable. I had been notified of these matches in a series of emails, and I could review the matches either through links in the email, or by logging onto MyHeritage.com where I could review all of them in one list. The list could be sorted by individual (first name or last name) or by collection. Each match provided me with an opportunity to confirm the information as a match, or delete it as unconnected to the individual in my tree. My matches fell into ten separate data collections: California Births, 1905-1995; California Deaths, 1940-1997; Everton Pedigree Charts and Family Group Sheets; Find a Grave; Illinois Marriages 1763-1900; the Maximillian Family Tree; Newspaper Archive; the Social Security Death Index; Texas Births, 1926-1995; and WikiTree. The site also noted that there were thirty-seven further record matches not listed as they did not meet my search criteria for “match confidence.” Of my 589 record matches, 59.4% were from WikiTree, 24.6% were from Find a Grave, and 11.7% were from the Social Security Death Index. I quickly looked through the list. From the first sixty matches, only two were not pertinent; eight will require a bit more research for me to confirm that the individual from my tree and the individual in the record match are identical. I could confirm the remaining suggested matches.
I made several observations as I reviewed the suggested record matches.
- In many cases, the information in my tree is more detailed than that contained in the suggested match abstract.
- As all of the individuals in my family tree were considered, I had matches on many individuals in collateral lines that I have had little opportunity (as yet) to research in any depth. The new information may spur my interest to pursue these lines further.
- The matches will save me a great deal of time searching individual names in resources such as Find a Grave. I now have a long list of cemeteries to visit to investigate further. The Find a Grave matches can be viewed for free (see data collection cost information below), and a link will take me to the actual Find a Grave page with its additional information concerning the individual.
- One significant caveat is that you need to carefully assess the use of women’s maiden and married names. For example, in my family tree there is an individual named Hannah Gaylord, the daughter of William Gaylord and Anna Porter. She was born in 30 January 1626 in Windsor, Hartford County, Connecticut, and died on 3 August 1678 in Westerly, Rhode Island. She was the wife of Elder John Crandall. The match abstract provided for my review (from Find a Grave), however, lists her name as Hannah Crandall Gaylord (same birth and death dates), buried in Old Crandall Cemetery in Rhode Island. I find the transposition of the maiden and married names disconcerting. When I selected the link for the match, I learned that the Find a Grave site does list her name appropriately and notes her husband’s name correctly. This problem of maiden name/married name appeared several times throughout the MyHeritage matches.
- It appears that suggested matches from the Newspaper Archive are the least reliable, but require my close review of the suggested match to be sure.
- Given the need to move past the suggested match abstract to a review of the full match information surfaced an additional caveat. When I selected the “Review match” box for a suggested match from a data collection such as the Newspaper Archive, California Births, 1905-1995, or even the Social Security Death Index, the subsequent screen prompted me to purchase a data subscription for $5.40 per month (unlimited credits) or $33.96 for 180 days (5,600 credits). Based on an international data subscription model, the number of credits used to view a suggested match will vary with each specific data collection. These costs represent a 45% introductory discount good for the first year only. Hmm! My less-than-careful reading when I purchased my annual subscription to MyHeritage.com failed to reveal that the subscription did not include access to all data collections. While some, like Find a Grave are provided at no cost, many are not.
I also looked at some of the suggested Smart Match™ abstracts. These are aggregated by site with a notation of the number of matches in each. For example, the Rumrill Web Site has twenty-seven suggested matches, predominantly in my Chapin line. I will (at some point) begin to work my way through these matches, analyzing the information for accuracy, available documentation, etc. My emphasis, however, will continue to be on the record collection matches.
In the course of my work on this article, I have received a phone call from MyHeritage.com as a follow up to my recent subscription. While the call was probably intended solely as a solicitation to purchase a data subscription, I seized the moment and spent almost thirty minutes in conversation about my review articles, my experiences with the site, and other related information. The company seems genuinely interested in user feedback and is planning “progressive” growth and expansion with enhanced features planned for the future. I was able to share my dislike for the modern tree view (see my first review) and my concern about the maiden name/married name issue that I discussed above. What good timing!
I intend to continue to explore MyHeritage.com and learn more about the research assistance it can provide me in the future. I hope you will too.