Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

MyHeritage PedigreeMap -- How you really do genealogical research

As genealogists progress in their efforts to find their ancestors, they go through different stages of learning about historical research. Some are fortunate enough to have the experience and/or education to grasp the concepts of basic research. Most of us had to learn slowly over time. The PedigreeMap developed by is an illustration of the most developed and sophisticated level of historical research.

I suspect that most of the people who look at this "app" will consider it interesting and leave it at that. But those who have been doing research in countries like England, Wales, Scotland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, may understand that much of the detailed, systematic work they have done in the past has just been automated. There are several other genealogy-oriented, online mapping programs that appear to do the same thing, but nearly all of them are merely informative and lack the essential connection to research. What is that connection?

Let me explain how a detailed genealogical research program should proceed.

After doing a survey and determining what information is known about any particular ancestor, the first and most important step is determining the exact location of an event in the individual's life. Historical genealogical records are strongly associated with the locations of events in a person's life. The ability to differentiate individuals with similar names and vital information depends on the researcher's ability to localize events down to the smallest possible detail. More than any one other factor, geographic determination is essential to accurate genealogical research.

Once an event is localized, the next step in extending genealogical research is the ability to examine corresponding events in the lives of related family members. For example, I have an ancestor born in Farcet, Cambridgeshire, England (formerly Huntingdonshire). How many of my other ancestors were born in the same place? There are several ways I could determine this information. All of them involve some detailed, time-consuming work. At the same time, I would like to know if any of my other families were located in the same area. Why is this important?

In this case, these ancestors lived in the 1700s. Travel was difficult and few people moved far from the location where they were born. Here is a screenshot showing how the PedigreeMap can help to find this information efficiently and quickly.

By clicking on any of the little, colored icons, I can immediately see all those individuals in my family tree that are identified with that particular location. This is a Google map and the distances are shown at the bottom of the map. This entire area is only a few miles across. If someone does not appear on this map or is not related, it is easy to see that they are out of place.

The usefulness of this map depends on the accuracy of my entries in my family tree. If my places are incomplete or inaccurate, the map does not work.

Once I have determined that some of my ancestors came from a small area in England, I can concentrate on doing research in that area. I can use other programs to determine how many people of a certain surname were located in that same area and then focus on connecting the families who are very likely related due to geographic proximity. This is not a certainty. But the smaller the area, the more likely there are relationships.

There are many additional aspects to this level of research, but it is primarily important to focus on the places and this PedigreeMap from is a huge step in analyzing the information I have in my family tree.

If I click on any one of the individuals listed by the program, I can see all their details, including all of the sources I have used for identifying the individual and the places.

More about this process and this program later.


  1. Claudio PiccininiJuly 10, 2016 at 12:52 PM

    Hello Mr. Tanner. My name is Claudio, from Italy.
    I started a family tree on MyHeritage with their free plan in 2013, mostly to transcribe the little information I wrote down a lot of years ago with Reunion for Macintosh (purchased when still sold on floppy disks)
    Although I wasn’t much aware of the "modus operandi" of genealogy, I have always been in love with the past, and recently I realized a cousin of mine (which I barely met before) started quite a work on MyHeritage with their paid plans.

    I want to read this article with attention, as it is very interesting (and I really liked MyHeritage's recent improvements) but before considering the Premium plans I wished to understand better what’s the best approach and have a clearer picture of what interests me more in genealogy, so I might ask a few questions.

    For now, thanks much for your work, articles and reviews, which seem well thought and well written.

    1. Thanks for your comment. Questions are always appreciated. I always respond. You can contact me directly through my email at if you wish to. Thanks again.

    2. Claudio PiccininiJuly 13, 2016 at 11:31 AM

      Thanks much for the reply, I will do so.