Sunday, March 10, 2019

In the Aftermath of Change

Now that the twenty-thousand-plus attendees of RootsTech 2019 have returned to their homes across every state of the Union—plus those genea-pilgrims from thirty eight additional countries—we've had a chance to take a deep breath and assess the new genealogy landscape. A lot has changed, at least according to announcements from major players in the field. introduced their three new game changers at RootsTech, coupling that with a summary on their blog—though I find the in-depth view by The DNA Geek to be more hands-on friendly. (If you are interested, you can find those posts here, then here, and finally here.) In a nutshell, Ancestry has created a tagging system that you can use on your Ancestry family trees, plus improved their DNA match page options, and exchanged their old DNA Circles for the new and improved ThruLines.

Not to be outdone, MyHeritage supercharged the ante at RootsTech by putting those great ideas on steroids. Instead of just searching through their collection of family trees as Ancestry does to facilitate matching for their DNA customers, MyHeritage gave the process an exponential leap. They call it the "Theory of Family Relativity"—and now draw their data not only from MyHeritage trees, but other "community trees" that are available to access. In addition, collaborating with Evert-Jan Blom of, MyHeritage now offers subscribers what it calls AutoClusters for their DNA program.

While my number of DNA matches in the past two weeks has been a smaller count than I've usually seen post-holiday sales, that's just fine with me. With the "extra time" I've gained in not chasing after unknown connections, I can now play with all these new research toys. Hopefully, the door will be opened to finding just how these matches connect with my trees. After all, I have 7,362 DNA matches at MyHeritage, and who knows how many at Ancestry. Perhaps the rate of discovering how they match will now accelerate.

With all these mystery matches, my original strategy had been to build out my trees—one, actually, for each of our daughter's four grandparents—to include descendants of all those direct-line ancestors. That, as you can imagine, is no small feat. If you have ever wondered, that is why I have 17,051 individuals in my mother's tree—up 175 from two weeks ago—and 15,996 in my mother-in-law's tree.

Of course, we win some, and we lose some; work on one tree takes away from the opportunity to work on another tree. Thus, my father's line is still stuck at 516 names, and my father-in-law's tree moved up only by one name in the last two weeks to reach 1,515. But with more names added to my trees at Ancestry, that company's system picks up matching details among their other subscribers' trees, helping me sort through those thousands of matches there. And now, MyHeritage can do the same—exponentially. I'm seeing convincing results there connecting me to fourth great grandparents on lines I haven't even yet begun to research, tempting me to get to work on those other lines.

All changes bring with them an up side and a down side. I'm sure it will take time to get used to these "beta" program augmentations at Ancestry, as well as all the new power tools at MyHeritage. But I'm certainly game to jump in and test drive these models. It was actually all I could do to pull myself out of the sandbox and get down to the work of writing this post.

I'm sure you can figure out what I'm going to do next. 

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