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Thursday, March 7, 2019

Far-reaching Changes from MyHeritage’s The Theory of Family Relativity and AutoClusters: Part Two

Given the fact that two DNA matches provide only the information contained in the matches themselves that is that the two individuals are related by DNA segments, additional analysis is definitely necessary to establish the relationship through a common ancestor. Granted, some DNA matches are obvious because the match is a known close relative. However, in the case of intermediate or more distant relationships, the identity of the match person and the possible common ancestral are a complete mystery.

For some years now, and a very few other large genealogical database websites have been providing ways to match other contributors to the websites’ online family trees. The method of providing these connections to shared relatives in other users’ family trees, called Smart Matches, has been spectacularly successful. In my case, for example, I have over 100,000 shared relatives. I do think that this number is somewhat overwhelming, but if I can narrow down that number through an extension of the DNA matching, such as the one offered by The Theory of Family Relativity™ by MyHeritage, then the total number is irrelevant. In effect, The Theory of Family Relativity™ program makes that entire pool of SmartMatch contacts a valuable resource rather than something to be dreaded and ignored.

Let’s suppose that you have done some genealogical research and have reached an impasse on one of your lines. You could call such an impasse a “brick wall” but that term is misleading. Using the term implies that some external force is stopping you from finding information about an individual or family. Brick walls or end-of-line situations are inevitable. Even the impossible lines back to Adam end at Adam. However, genealogists are perpetual optimists. They seem to believe that any end-of-line or brick wall can be breached by sustained effort. If there really are no more records, such as in the case of an ancestor who lived where or when no records were kept, finding the next generation may be beyond the reach of even the most meticulous or skilled researcher. However, there are lots of cases where researchers believe that a brick wall exists when there is merely a lack of effort or knowledge of where to look. In these situations, The Theory of Family Relatively becomes a key that may unlock these breachable cases.

As I have previously written in a quote from MyHeritage:

This technology uses millions of family trees on MyHeritage, as well as the World Family Tree on Geni, which is replicated daily to MyHeritage, and the single-family tree of FamilySearch, which is also replicated daily to MyHeritage under license. This combination results in the most comprehensive family tree traversal available today. Additionally, the technology utilizes billions of historical records on MyHeritage, including all census records, as well as the MyHeritage Record Detective™ technology that indicates whenever two records are about the same person.

MyHeritage uses its superior technology to search records that would take a lifetime of searching without the applicable technology. Genealogists who do not take advantage of this technology and the additional searches and technology available for the other large online genealogy database programs are simply wasting their time. Granted, there are a lot of records that are waiting to be digitized. Visiting record repositories to search paper records will be necessary for a long time, but right now, we need to recognize that there are billions upon billions of fully indexed and fully searchable records online. Failure to adequately search these records before spending time and money in paper searches ignores reality.

The announcement of The Theory of Family Relativity adds an important resource to these online and paper-based searches. From my perspective, obtaining a full data subscription to MyHeritage, taking a DNA test either from MyHeritage or uploading the results of another test to MyHeritage and then analyzing the results using the new Theory of Family Relativity should be the very first step in any investigation of an end-of-line or brick wall inquiry. The alternative is both much more expensive and less sure of positive results.

Before the introduction of the MyHeritage technology, using DNA tests to discover a common ancestor involved determining the existence of a possible common ancestor by research. In the absence of records conclusively identifying the ancestor’s relationship, the researcher would have to search out potential descendants of the proposed common ancestor and try to obtain DNA tests from each of the potential relatives. If the tests were obtained, it was then necessary to apply advanced DNA analysis techniques to see if matches indicated a common ancestor. One complication of this process was that the potential relatives could be related through a different common ancestor, so this procedure was only helpful if each of the potential test subjects had also done extensive research on the same line as the possible common ancestor.

Although this description of the existing process of determining the identity of a common ancestor without The Theory of Family Relatively is a generalization of the process, it is evident that MyHeritage has made a significant advance in finding an elusive common ancestor. At the very least, obtaining a MyHeritage subscription would help to find potential relatives for DNA tests through the huge pool of SmartMatches.

My very short experience in using The Theory of Family Relatively on the website has shown me that the system works. Of course, there are basic limitations on the accuracy of DNA tests used for determining ancestral relationships. These limitations are inevitable and immutable but over time as the pool of DNA tests on MyHeritage continues to grow and as the family trees become more reliable and more source documents are added to the website, the entire process will become more reliable. But there is one more tool from MyHeritage that helps to clarify relationships and identify elusive remote ancestors; those are the additional DNA Tools available now and the promise of more such DNA tools in the future.

Here is a screenshot of the three presently available DNA tools:

All three of these will improve over time and I am sure additional tools will be added. The new AutoCluster tool can be used to identify a cluster of people who share DNA markers which could provide a pool for identification of a common remote ancestor.

Stay tuned.

Here is the first installment of this series:

Part One:

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