Friday, March 2, 2018

RootsTech 2018 - Day 2

Thursday at RootsTech found me focusing on FamilySearch and MyHeritage programs. Each one of them was presenting upcoming improvements and advancements that are planned for this year.

FamilySearch is focusing on connecting with your family through ways to share experiences and stories on their website. When people were asked what information they intend to share about themselves for future generations many answered with things such as birth certificates and other vital records. However, when asked what they wish their ancestors had shared they talked about stories and experiences. So FamilySearch is working on ways to encourage people to share those stories.

The FamilySearch Family Tree is growing rapidly. Currently FamilySearch has over 1.18 billion individuals included in their tree.  They are adding about 3.8 million new individuals each month. Of those 1.18 billion individuals, 915 million have at least one source attached to them and 5 million new sources are being attached each month. That means that there are now 1.28 billion attached sources in the Family Tree. FamilySearch's record collections are also increasing rapidly. They currently have 6.2 billion searchable records and 1.25 billion historical images, with 271 million new indexed records being added during 2017. Users are also adding their own records with 24 million items currently in the Memories section.

Some additional items were added to the user interface of FamilySearch during 2017. These include items such as additional generations being added to the Recommended Tasks section. These recommended tasks now suggest tasks for 7 generations back and 2 generations forward from the user. The indexing now has migrated to a fully web based interface. FamilyTree Lite was released and is now available in 15 languages. The upload restrictions in Memories have been loosened somewhat for living people with tags of living people only being visible to the contributor, but the images are still publicly viewable. Users can now import images from their social media accounts and from Google Drive Photos. Deleted memories remain in the basket for 120 days so you can retrieve them if they are accidentally deleted. And the Map My Ancestors function now allows you to see the places of origin for multiple generations of your ancestors.

During 2017, FamilySearch stopped sending out microfilm. This has allowed FamilySearch to focus on acquisition of new records. They have prioritized the acquisition of important and endangered records. Once the records are digitized by field teams they are sent to FamilySearch for review and are posted within 24 hours of having been received.

In 2018, FamilySearch is expecting to release some major improvements. One improvement is related to the unindexed records. The program will make an estimate of the location on a given set of images where your search results are most likely to occur. This is based on certain search parameters, such as range of years or alphabetical order of names. Also, they are working on improved performance. Under a new initiative they have already reduced the size of pages from 300 MB to 800 K. This means that pages should load substantially faster. They are also working on releasing the shared projects and areas so multiple family members can work on living individuals together. Other items will make it easier to work in the mobile environment. For example, the pages will be scalable from mobile to large screen formats and you will be able to open multiple windows in the mobile environment.

So, what is coming up for MyHeritage? Well, they announced today the release of DNA Quest. DNA Quest is designed to aid adoptees in finding their birth families. MyHeritage will donate 15,000 DNA kits across the US. Adoptees interested in participating in this project have until April 30 to register at If selected, individuals should receive their kits sometime by the later part of May. The program will provide research assistance as well as emotional support for participants. These DNA kits will be added to the 1.25 million kits that MyHeritage currently has in their database and searched for relationships.

MyHeritage also announced a major addition for LDS members. They have released the beta version of Tree Sync with FamilySearch. This will make it easier to sync your family data across the two platforms.

This week, MyHeritage will add an additional 300 million new records to their data set. These new records include the 1939 UK Register including 33 million records, 2 million Canadian obituaries, and 280 million records from over 253,000 US Yearbooks published between 1890 and 1979.

Coming soon, MyHeritage will change their tree view to allow for it to be viewed in a pedigree format and will make maiden names more prominent. They are also working on ways to integrate genealogy and genetics more closely. MyHeritage is also working on a project they call "The Big Tree" which combines all records and data on MyHeritage into a related database with over 10 billion nodes. This "Big Tree" will be recalculated daily to keep it current with new data and changes made in their system. This will help them to develop their "Theory of Family Relativity". This theory will take all of the data available (records, trees, DNA, etc.) and produce the most logical relationship path between individuals. It will use all the data on MyHeritage, Geni and FamilySearch to calculate how they are related.

On Friday, we will see the release of the One-to-Many Chromosome Browser on MyHeritage. This browser will allow users to compare up to 7 individual DNA sets with their own DNA. It will illustrate common DNA segments between these individuals.

Many of the new items on MyHeritage relate to their DNA analysis. A recent survey indicated that 78% of Germans were not aware of personal DNA tests and only 9% knew about MyHeritage. Only 3% were aware of Based on this survey, MyHeritage has taken steps to improve education about DNA within the European countries in the hope that many more will be willing to provide samples and hopefully connect to their American relatives.

There are many changes and new advancements coming to the users of these sites over the next year. My hope is that these will all advance the practice of genealogy and introduce more people to their relatives.

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