Tuesday, 14 May 2013

My Heritage launches Record Detective tool

My Heritage (www.myheritage.com) has launched a tool on its site called Record Detective, which tries to locate additional records once a document has been found via a search on the site. Here's how it works:

PROVO, Utah, and Tel Aviv, Israel, May 13 2013: MyHeritage, the popular family history network, today announced the launch of Record Detective™, the first technology of its kind to automatically extend the paper trail from a single historical record to other related records and family tree connections.

Record Detective™ turns historical records into smart objects that determine which people they are about, and conducts further research about them. Records found in MyHeritage’s digital archive, SuperSearch, will now include a summary of additional records and individuals in family trees relating to them, thanks to the Record Detective™ technology. This will provide users with new information and clues to take their research to new directions.

Examples of how Record Detective™ benefits users:

• When a user finds a gravestone photo, Record Detective™ is capable of automatically finding and displaying who was buried there, and providing a link to the person’s family tree, plus birth, census and marriage records and even newspaper articles about that person.

• For users viewing a page in a digitized yearbook on MyHeritage, Record Detective™ will show the people mentioned on the page in their respective family trees and allow users to learn more about their families and get in touch with their relatives (subject to privacy protections).

• When viewing a record in the US census collection, Record Detective™ will provide census entries of the same person in former or subsequent years, and do this for the entire household. The additional information could include newspaper articles about the person’s son or the immigration papers of his parents.

The new technology is highly accurate with almost no false positives.

To maximize its benefits, the technology behind the Record Detective™ uses an innovative technique called the Transitive Conclusion Trail. For example, it can link a death record to a birth record of the same person, by first linking the death record to a matching person in a family tree with the same death date, then linking that person through his parents to the same person in another family tree, this time having a birth date, and then use that extra information to locate the birth record of that person. During the process checks are made to ensure the lack of contradictions, and conclusions are made only if they are statistically solid. Users are not aware of the calculations behind the scenes, and are only handed the related information with confidence scores. This way Record Detective™ helps users find relevant information they may have never found on their own.


To extend the benefits of this new technology to the wider community, MyHeritage is making Record Detective™ available for license to other family history websites and services that provide historical records, with revenue sharing. By adding just a few lines of code to their webpage, partners can harness Record Detective™ and display for each record, other records and family trees related to it, providing better value for users. Interested parties can contact bd@myheritage.com.

“We’re excited to unveil Record Detective™ - a major addition to the tool arsenal of any family history enthusiast”, said Gilad Japhet, Founder and CEO of MyHeritage. “Record Detective™ makes a single discovery more interesting and rewarding by linking to more information about the same person. With this powerful new technology, our users will be able to make even more exciting discoveries. This is an industry first, and a testament to our focus on creating truly innovative technologies for family history.”

A summary of any record can be viewed for free and users can choose between affordable pay-as-you-go credits or a Data subscription for full unlimited access to all historical records.

COMMENT: This is a potentially interesting new tool that may help to find other sources, but there is a comment on the online video accompanying this release at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cx3yTHMBAWc which I must admit made me absolutely cringe. The narrator's last line states the following:

"Discover Your Past... fast".

I'll be honest - I'm not necessarily in such a rush to have all my family history so readily short-cutted to provide an instant hit - I've been chasing dead rellies for over 13 years now, and happy to chase for at least another 13! Half the fun of family history is in the discovery, but the other half is the hunt, and I suspect that's true for many others. Fast food I'll occasionally submit to - fast genealogy is potentially something my doctor would advise against. It's entirely possible that with more haste, there could be less speed...!


My new book, Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet, is now available from Pen and Sword. My next Pharos Scottish course, Scotland 1750-1850: Beyond the Old Parish Registers, starts May 15th - see http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/scotland-1750-1850-beyond-oprs-starts.html. Time to smash a few brick walls...!


  1. I agree with your comment, Chris. I watched the presentations on this and on FamilySearch's new Family Tree streamed from RootsTech this year. Both organisations seem to be pushing the idea that in the future no one would need to bother doing that boring research stuff because everything would be available online and you could discover your entire family history at the click of a mouse.

    As far as I'm concerned (and quite a few others it seems) they completely miss the point of what makes genealogy such a popular activity. The thrill of the hunt, following the clues, putting the pieces of the jigsaw together or whatever other metaphor you choose to use are a large part of why many people spend years tracing their families, and nothing beats the satisfaction of a family mystery finally solved!

    There is certainly a need for improved search options of online records and catalogues as these can at times be frustratingly limited, but this seems like another case of a company charging you to upload your family tree and then using that information to add value to their own data.

  2. Yes, improved search options are definitely welcome, but to wrap that in an ethos that suggests no research discipline is needed at all, just place your order and pick it up at the window on your way out seriously misses the point. In some ways, my ethos is "discover your past...last"!!! Take your time, work through online resources, but visit the archives, graveyards, stand back, consolidate your findings, create a new strategy, go back in. Family history is a campaign, not a hit and run raid!