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

Friday, March 29, 2024

Google Search or AI Chatbot, that is the question


I hope I don't have to tell you this image is an AI generated image. 

I just read an article from The Verge entitled "Here's why AI search engines really can't kill Google." It started me thinking about the thousands of searches I had done in the past few weeks using Google Search, Google Gemini, and Microsoft Copilot. I realized that I had come to the same conclusion months ago. AI does what it does and Google Search does what it does. AI is not trying to copy Google Search and I assume that Google Search isn't even particularly aware of what AI does. The simple example of this statement is the following hypothetical example search.

Me: Amazon [typed in the Google Search field} (Note: I am wanting to look up a price on an item on but I am too lazy to search more specifically.)

Google Search: The first item is a link to 


How about the same question and response from Microsoft Copilot easily the best generative AI chatbot at the present time. 

Me: Amazon

Here is the answer from Copilot after a few seconds of searching. 

Yes, it gave me the link to Amazon, but also gave information I did not ask for. No, I am not that stupid, I do not need to ask about Amazon's URL, I realize it is and that is the end of this example. 

The chatbot is sort of like one of my friends or even like me. If I just walked up to someone (a live person) and said the word "Amazon" They would probably say What? Why are telling me the word Amazon? Do you mean Wonder Woman or the online store? Copilot didn't mention Wonder Woman but it did, at least, give me a link to the website. I realize this seems to be a trivial example, but it really isn't trivial. 

Using a chatbot to do research is more that simply asking questions. You need to understand what you are trying to learn. Your questions or prompts need to reflect accurate information. You essentially get what you ask for whether you meant to ask for it or not. The chatbot, if it has a huge Large Language Model or a specialized Large Language Model will begin to learn from you about the information you are looking for. For example, If I use the term "Family Tree" with descriptions, a broad chatbot such as Microsoft Copilot will "understand" that I am asking about genealogy and family history. A lessor based chatbot will never recognize the distinction and keep answering with trees and families. 

Both the AI chatbots and Google Searches learn from your past searches. You might realize this by observing the pathetic "targeted ads" on nearly every website. Supposedly, they tailor the ads to what you are interested in buying. Because the ads annoy me, occasionally, I will start making random product searches. Right now, for example, I am getting ads for Alpha Romeo automobiles and random cruise ship offers neither of which have the slightest interest in purchasing. 

I am writing this post late in the afternoon. I went to my Google History and counted that I had done 231 Google searches since 7;00 this morning. During the same time, I had done 8 Microsoft CoPilot searches.  Those numbers and probably low for an average day. How many of those searches gave me responses I was looking for? All of them. Why the Copilot searches because I needed answers such as one URL not an explanation and the short wait for the explanation did not justify using Copilot. 

Working with both the Google Search and Copilot relies on a learned skill. With Google, I am guessing what Google will know and using words that give me the response I need. Copilot is a little more demanding. They call the search input to chatbots, "prompts" but that is not a very good name for the methodology involved. It is more like using a language. If I want to communicate with someone who speaks Spanish, I have to use Spanish. If I want to communicate with a chatbot, I need to use chatbot language. I am learning chatbot language by doing hundreds of searches (or beginning chatbot conversations). All in all, chatbots are pretty limited and not at all intelligent. Carrying on a conversation is an allusion. They are only marginal better in a limited number of ways to regular Google searches. What is helpful is that the chatbot answers questions rather than pointing websites that might answer questions. But as I illustrated with my Amazon example, most of the time I don't need an explanation, I just need a single short answer. 

So, will chatbots kill Google Search. Probably not in my lifetime unless they can learn to give a one work answer to a one word question.

Friday, March 22, 2024

RootsTech 2024 is still online and available

My wife and I have been enjoying some of the presentations from RootsTech 2024 that we missed while being so busy doing other things. Here is a list of some of the current attractions.

You might want to look at the huge collection of videos also. There are 1,500 sessions on 185 topics in over 30 languages. The video collection is a marvelous resource for learning about almost everything genealogical. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

MyHeritage introduces All-New Profile Pages with Hints

Qouting from a recent blog post:

The profile page is among the most visited pages on MyHeritage, and is one of the most valuable ones for genealogists. Many users requested that we add additional capabilities to the page. You asked, and we listened! Today we are proud to release the result: the all-new profile pages. This is a whole new experience that is more than just a single page; it’s a centralized hub for everything known about a person.

This major enhancement includes a more organized layout and cool features to help you maximize your discoveries about your ancestors and relatives. We’ve also added Hints, which are a unique, highly useful way of presenting new details from your matches within the context of an individual profile. The profile pages remain free and are now more useful than ever!

The new profile pages are available on the MyHeritage website on desktop. We will soon add Hints to the MyHeritage mobile app as well.

From my perspective, this reorganization of the profile pages is a very welcome change. I find the newly designed pages to be much easier to navigate. You can read more about the page changes in this blog post, Introducing All-New Profile Pages With Hints

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Come learn about your Central and East European Ancestors!

The 2024 FEEFHS Annual Conference will be an in-person event held at the Plaza Hotel in Salt Lake City, August 6-9. Prior to the conference there will be a hands-on workshop day (as an optional add-on), followed by the conference with four days of instruction with three instruction tracks taught in parallel. 

Conference topics will encompass countries and regions of Central and Eastern Europe, including areas of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, German Empire, Russian Empire/USSR and more. Other topics will include DNA, minority research, resources, and technology. A preliminary conference schedule is posted (just class titles or with class summaries). 

At the conference you will have the opportunity to talk with presenters between sessions and in one-on-one consultations. In the evenings you can do research at the world famous FamilySearch Library—right next door to the conference hotel. The library has access to many resources that are not available online or at other libraries. 

I have attended and presented at this conference several times and will be presenting three classes this year. Their website is a valuable resource for Eastern European genealogy research and the those presenting at the conference are experts in their area. You can find out more by clicking Here with links to the registration. 

Hope to see you there!

Friday, March 15, 2024

MyHeritage opens website

Here is the introductory video to the website.

Quoting from the MyHeritage Blog post about the new website:

We’re delighted to announce the release of, an innovative website for historical newspapers, by MyHeritage. enables genealogists, researchers, and history enthusiasts to search, save, and share articles about people and events throughout history. At launch, includes a huge repository of hundreds of millions of historical newspaper pages from around the world, with millions more added monthly. The website features easy navigation and consists of a diverse range of high-quality publications, from major international newspapers to small-town journals and gazettes.

At launch, more than doubles the amount of historical newspaper content that was previously available on MyHeritage. The website includes all the historical newspapers from MyHeritage, plus new, unique content.

 More as we get a chance to use the new website.

Friday, March 8, 2024

MyHeritage Tree Collaboration with FamilyTree DNA


MyHeritage Tree Collaboration with FamilyTree DNA

At RootsTech 2024, Aaron Godfrey, MyHeritage Vice President of Marketing, announced the following as quoted by Robeta Estes in her blog post on DNAeXplained - Genetic Genealogy, as follows:
I don’t have specific details about how it works, as this won’t happen for a few months yet, but FamilyTreeDNA customers will port their trees to MyHeritage which allows them to take advantage of MyHeritage’s record collections and such. Existing MyHeritage customers will simply connect their FamilyTreeDNA test to their MyHeritage tree.

You can read the details on the linked blog post. At the RootsTech conference I also talked to both MyHeritage and to Katy Rowe-Schurwanz, Product Owner at FamilyTree DNA and she confirmed that the connection at an unspecified time in the future. I am sure there will be more about this at the appropriate time. I suggest you watch Aaron Godfrey's presentation at RootsTech to hear the announcement for yourself. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Introducing he FamilySearch Profile Quality Score

RootsTech 2024 was the forum for announcing a valuablefeature that helps with the Family Tree accuracy. FamilySearch announced the Profile Quality Score which is featured in the website. When this feature is activated by turning it on, it appears on Profile Page of entries in the Family Tree and when clicked on, it gives a break down of the accuracy and reliability of an entry. Here is an example from my own part of the Family Tree. 

The sidebar can be expanded to view additional evaluations. 

You do not see anything unless this app is turned on using the page. I couldn't see any pattern to when the information appeared on an individual. 

Monday, March 4, 2024

Impressive New Updates and Releases from MyHeritage

There is a long list of impressive new releases and updates from Here is Aaron Godfrey on the main stage at to give you a short insight into the latest news. 

Here is a hopefully complete list of the updates and releases mentioned with links to the blog posts about the new products. 

Historical Records Added in February 2024

Introducing, A New Website for Exploring Historical Newspapers

Introducing All-New Profile Pages with Hints

New: AI Record Finder™Chat History

AI Biographer™

MyHeritage Documentary Part 1: The Early Years - A Dream Takes Root This is the first of a six-part series made for the 20th anniversary of the founding of The series will continue with links to the remaining videos. 

Please take a few minutes to watch Aaron's information packed video above. 

Full-Text and AI comes to FamilySearch

RootsTech 2024 was filled with technology with an emphasis on artificial intelligence or AI. One long anticipated announcement by FamilySearch was the beginning Full-Text.

Full-Text is just what the name implies, the FamilySearch program can now search the full or complete text of historical documents. This opens up the ability to find more exact information. Previously and what is still the case with indexed records, the indexes only find records that matched the somewhat arbitrary index fields. With Full-Text searches, you can search for any possible word that may be in the document or record. Presently, there are only two large FamilySearch databases that are available to search; U.S. Land and Probate Records, a record dating from 1630 to 1975 and Mexico Notary Records, a set of records that is primarily dated before 1900 but with some records up to 1947. More additions are planned. 

The records that will become available are those that that have been prepared by sophisticated handwriting recognition software and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software. So the process is that the original documents are processed by the handwriting recognition and converted into text files and then the Full-Text search program can search every word in the documents for your "Keywords." The keywords can be any text string such as names, dates, and places. The challenge is choosing keywords for search that may be in the documents or records you are searching. 

To test the system, I searched using the name of my great-grandfather, Henry Martin Tanner who was born in San Bernardino, Los Angeles, California in 1852 and died in Gilbert, Maricopa, Arizona in 1935. I immediately found the following deed that I had never seen before and was not attached as a FamilySearch Memory. 

I would not know to even look for this document much less have found it in unindexed records previously. 

These are full text searches and so you have to work with your search terms or keywords to get any specific results. 

These new FamilySearch developments give me a lot to write about and additional topics for videos.