The MyHeritage parties are legendary. That in and of itself is a bit ironic, because Gilad Japhet, the founder and CEO is a rather reserved man. The words Gilad and party just don’t seem to fit together, but he certainly knows how to host an awesome party.
Know what? Genealogists will take time away from records to party, dress up and dance too. We aren’t serious all the time!
The article I wrote yesterday about the DNA announcements was quite hurried.
Now, it’s 4:30 AM, I’m terribly jet lagged so unexplainably awake, and since I can’t sleep, I’m writing this article to catch you up on Day 1 of the conference. Of course, this means that by about noon, I’ll be dying for a nap. You’ll have to watch my live panel discussion at 3:30 PM Oslo time today to see if you can tell I’m running on about 4 hours of sleep. (Don’t forget in the US some places changed to Daylight Savings time overnight.) Here’s the link to my article with the livestream link and the time zone calculator.
Day One in More Detail
Here’s Gilad just before he opened the conference. Everyone was excited. Don’t you love his shoes?
Before I go any further, I want to thank Gilad for the conference invitation and access to him and the team to be able to take these awesome photos and for the information provided.
Now, if you haven’t already done so, please go and read the day 1 announcement article, here.
I’d like to clarify a couple points and expand on that article.
I had dinner last night with Ran Snir, DNA Product Manager, along with fellow colleague Diahan Southard, and we discussed the new upcoming DNA related features. I’d like to clarify some terminology surrounding anticipated features.
Painting – The term “painting” was used yesterday, and in the context of what MyHeritage is doing, it does NOT mean the same thing as DNAPainter painting. I’ve written several articles about how I use DNAPainter, but the introductory article is here.
DNAPainter paints your own chromosomes only, identifying the segments of your ancestors. This is not what MyHeritage meant by painting. MyHeritage is referring to reconstructing your ancestors’ DNA.
Reconstructing Ancestral DNA – When MyHeritage referred to painting yesterday, they meant that several descendants’ DNA segments that they carry identically by descent (IBD) will be combined and “stitched together” to “create” a partial genome of that ancestor. No, they didn’t say exactly how this would be done, and no, they did not discuss how it would be managed. In other words, who controls the profile of the ancestor – and mitigates disputes about what segments should be, and should not be attributed to that ancestor.
For me, this raised several questions, but we’ll have to wait until the new feature is released to see how MyHeritage will deal with the inherent issues of:
- Your most distant autosomal ancestor is actually a couple because you can’t yet divide the DNA into husband and wife.
- The trees of the descendants need to be complete and accurate.
- People descending from the same child of the ancestor will also carry the DNA of the wives in each generation, so they need to be compared to people descended from other children of the ancestor to ascertain that the DNA is of the ancestor – not of wives in downstream generations.
- People tend to marry cousins, siblings, etc., especially when living in the same area. DNA from another line may be unknowingly introduced into two different children’s lines, appearing that the resulting segment comes from the ancestor (or ancestral couple) when in fact, it doesn’t.
These are challenges, not barriers, so let’s continue with Gilad’s presentation.
Extracting DNA from Old Envelopes and Stamps
In the next slides, Gilad discusses extracting DNA from old stamps and envelope seals – the goal being that the resulting file can be uploaded to MyHeritage so that your deceased relative’s DNA can be resurrected through the DNA held in the envelope stamp and seal – which they hopefully licked. This is something we’ve dreamed of (and attempted) since the beginning of DNA testing for genealogy. Apparently Gilad dreamed of it too, because several of his own items are being processed right now.
Gilad provided some examples of other types of stamps and seals that might contain the saliva of our ancestors. Think outside of the box, or in this case, outside of the envelope. No, hair and other items were not discussed. There was a sidebar discussion but at this point, only envelopes and stamps are being utilized.
Theory of Family Relativity
The last session of the day was presented by Maya Lerner, the VP of Product where she discussed, among other things, their new Theory of Family Relativity.
I apologize for the quality of some of these photos. I opted not to bring by larger camera to reduce travel weight, using my cell phone instead. I regret that choice.
The Theory of Family Relativity, currently under development will combine the DNA estimates of where a person is likely to fit into a tree with actual records from the MH database to show the most likely placement of a DNA match.
Today, when we have a match, based on the amount of shared DNA, MyHeritage estimates and illustrates the relationship position that this person holds in our tree, but does not show us on our actual tree itself where this person might fit. That’s up for us as genealogists to figure out.
As I understand the new feature, the relationship distance, shown above, will be combined with records such as phased DNA, census, birth, death, logical criteria (women don’t bear children at age 7 or 70) and other records which would exclude some relationships in our actual tree, while providing evidence for others.
Aside from the DNA announcements, MyHeritage is also introducing a lot of new non-DNA related features.
City Directories – For example, they are digitizing and indexing city directories. The great thing is that they aren’t just indexing names, but also addresses. As a genealogist, Gilad has personally discovered the usefulness of being able to search for an address in immigration records to view everyone, even with misspelled names, who claimed they were joining family at that specific address. It’s another clue.
European Newspapers – in multiple languages. Digitizing and indexing.
Other New Content – Czeck census, German registration records, Brazil records,
There are so many awesome new features coming, what should you be doing to prepare now?
What You Should Be Doing NOW
- If you’ve tested elsewhere, upload your DNA raw data file to MyHeritage. The upload is FREE and so are all of the features, but ONLY until Dec. 1st. After that, there will be a fee associated with some advanced features. So upload your file and those of your family members (with permission of course) now. I wrote instructions about how to upload to MyHeritage here, to and from Family Tree DNA here, and from Ancestry here.
- If you haven’t tested elsewhere, purchase a kit, or two. The more of your relatives such as parents, siblings (if your parents are gone,) aunts, uncles, cousins that you can test, the more information that can be learned about your genealogy and connections to others. Give DNA kits for the holidays. Take them to family reunions. Thanksgiving is coming. Kits are on sale right now for an amazing $49 each. Click here to purchase.
- Be thinking about envelopes and stamps that your deceased family members have licked. Who else in your family, that you might be seeing over the holidays might have these types of items? The technology for extracting DNA from these prized genetic heirlooms may finally be ripe. We’re waiting for early samples submitted to see how successful this technology will be.
Ok, I know you’ve been patiently waiting for the party pictures.
Two entertainments groups were featured. The first was a Norwegian folk group. The music was awesome, haunting and ethereal. Like nothing I’ve heard before. They actually make some of these sounds with their cheeks.
The second group was a contemporary band and they were amazing too. Did you know that genealogists love to dance? Must be in the genes!
For those of you wondering, yes, I really do have a halo, but it slips from time to time😊 Here’s living proof!
Thanks Gilad, for a great party to celebrate the MyHeritage wonderful new features😊
How exciting to be on the leading edge.
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