MyHeritage’s New Theory of Family Relativity

2019 Theory of Family Relativity

MyHeritage’s new Theory of Family Relativity, introduced February 28, 2019 at RootsTech combines the power of DNA matching with trees and documents to suggest, SUGGEST, potential common ancestors with your matches. You can read the MyHeritage announcement article here.

As the title indicates, the results are a theory about how you are related to other people you match. In fact, there may be more than one theory for a match – and multiple theories might be accurate if you descend from more than one common line.

That happened with one of my matches and the two separate theories were both accurate.

Tree resources utilized include MyHeritage trees, Geni and Family Search.

Documents include the entire library of MyHeritage resources.

I must say, I was somewhat of a Doubting Thomas on this, given the number of bad trees in cyberspace, but the results have been amazingly accurate for me.

Are Theories Accurate?

I have a total of 51 matches with theories.

There are a total of 61 theories, because some matches have multiple theories. In some cases, one is wrong and one is right. In others, both are accurate because of descent through different lines. In one case, none of the three theories were accurate because other researchers have conflated multiple William Crumley’s into one person.

However, and here’s the great news, in all cases except one, I was able to discover the correct path even in the situations where the information was not accurate. It got me “close enough” that I could do the rest myself. There is only one of 61 that I cannot yet confirm. That’s pretty amazing.

Of the 51 matches, I already knew where 20 people fit into my tree (although they weren’t in my tree at MyHeritage), so this advance knowledge helped me immensely in evaluating the accuracy of the MyHeritage genealogical theories of why these people matched me.

So are Theories accurate? Yes, for me, they are very accurate.

How Does the Theory of Family Relativity Work?

Borrowing from the MyHeritage blog article (with permission), MyHeritage shows the Big Tree with this interconnected graphic.

Theory Big Tree

They describe the Big Tree thus:

The Theory of Family Relativity™ is based on a big data graph that connects billions of data points drawn from thousands of databases on MyHeritage, in real time. We call it internally the “Big Tree”. Every node on this graph represents a person, and every edge depicts a blood relationship between two individuals that is described in a family tree or a historical record; or a match between two tree profiles that are likely to be the same person; or two records that are likely to be about the same person.

Ok, now let’s see how to use the Theories.

Finding the Theories

Sign on to your account and click on DNA.

Theory of Family Relativity

Initially, you’ll see this purple banner, but eventually you’ll just filter your matches, at right below, and look under “All tree details” and select “Theory of Family Relativity.”

Theory finding

Please note that you can click on any of the images for a larger, more clear view. Unfortunately, some images are difficult to see otherwise.

Evaluating Theories

I discovered that I have Theories for 51 matches. Many individual theories have multiple paths. In other words, MyHeritage is telling you HOW they arrived at these theories, AND they rank the paths with a confidence level based on match quality.

Please note that if you see the note “plus 1 more theory,” it’s easy to miss the second theory for a particular match. This is NOT the same thing as multiple paths on the same theory – but a completely different theory for this match altogether.

Theory multiple

To clarify, multiple paths on one theory means different trees and documents that get you and your match to the same set of common ancestors.

Different theories means that you have two potentially separate lines. Either the ancestors can be entirely different, or the path to the same ancestral couple can be different enough to result in a different end relationship for you and your match, meaning 3rd cousins versus 3rd cousins once removed for example.

I would encourage you not to skim these paths and theories, but to review them carefully and thoughtfully and compare with credible documentation.

Theory 2 theories

On a match that has multiple theories, when you view the first theory, you see “view another theory” but it’s easy to miss.

It’s worth noting that if you match on more than one segment, one segment can descend through one line and another segment through a different line. Every segment has its own history.

OK, let’s take a look. I’m going to step through my 4 closest matches with theories to illustrate how theories work and what to look for in different scenarios.

Match 1 – Known First Cousin

I filtered for matches with theories and here’s my first match.

Theory match 1

I happen to know the identity of this match who just happens to be my first cousin who is not in my tree. (I know, my bad.) However, knowing exactly how they matched and not having them in my tree helped me evaluate the accuracy of Theories.

To view the theory, click on “View theory.”

Match 1 – Path 1

You’ll notice immediately that this match has three different paths. Path 1, the highest confidence path, is displayed first.

Theory match 1 path 1

Path 1 of this theory, with a 74 % confidence level is that the tester is my first cousin on my mother’s side, based on first, DNA, and secondarily trees that show we have a common grandfather, John Ferverda.

This happens to be correct.

To review the match that connects the trees (John Ferverda), click on the green icon on the seam between the two trees. You’ll see the display below, which shows at the top that the 74% confidence factor is predicated on a SmartMatch showing a common ancestor in a tree.

I’ve noticed that it appears that the only SmartMatches that receive Theories are those with incomplete couples or with matches that aren’t clear enough to be deemed a definitive match. Don’t assume that people with SmartMatches don’t have Theories or that people with Theories don’t have SmartMatches. Filter for both separately.

On this match with both a Theory and SmartMatch, the Profile card information is not an exact match – which is probably why the confidence level is only 74%.

theory Ferverda profile

The red arrows above have to be the matching criteria because the information is either the same or similar. However, they aren’t exact. My tree is much more robust than my cousin’s tree.

The red squares are differences between the trees. Note that in one case, a surname is misspelled in my tree and my cousin’s tree is missing a great deal of information, including our grandmother’s surname.

Match 1 – Path 2

Path 2 shows that my record in my tree matches a record of me in my cousin’s tree.

Theory match 1 path 2.png

Note that in Path 2, my cousin doesn’t show either his parent or my mother as deceased. However, I’m living and showing in both trees. MyHeritage would not expose a living person unless both people gave permission by participating in matching, which is probably why neither of our parents are matched, even though both are deceased.

Clicking on the 93% green joining spinner, we can see that my cousin did not enter my father’s name and he doesn’t show my mother as deceased, which is why she is showing in his tree as private.

Theory match 1 path 2 profile.png

Match 1 – Path 3

Path 3 is actually quite interesting because it’s made up of two separate items, one being a tree match and one being a record match from the 1940 census.

Theory match 1 path 3.png

In this example, you can see three different records and the two “join seams.”

Beginning at the left, my tree is joined at my mother to the census record by the 1940 census. Note that my mother’s name is misspelled in the census. The 1940 census record is joined to my cousin’s tree by my mother’s father.

Theory match 1 path 3 review.png

This record just happens to be accurate, but the information is not identical, but similar – hence the low confidence score.

The second link between the census and my grandfather is shown below.

Theory 1 match 3 profile.png

This match connects John Ferverda, but there’s a lot missing in my cousin’s tree and my mother’s middle name is misspelled.

Match 1 Conclusion

All 3 paths are accurate, just different, which can provide me with various hints as to trees and records to view for additional information.

Match 1 Suggestions

These suggestions are in no way criticisms – it’s just that genealogists are always wanting something more😊

I’d love to be able to do three things at this point.

  • First, to click through to view the specific census page. You can hover over the record description and search the collection, but I’d like to automatically see this record since MyHeritage already found it for me.

Theory census.png

  • Second, to be notified if I already have the census attached to any of these people in my tree and if not, to have the option of attaching the census record directly from this point.
  • Third, add my cousin to my tree in the proper location. Not automatically, but with prompts perhaps.

Match 2 – Known Half Niece

This second match is my half-sister’s daughter. Half relationships are more difficult to discern.

There are two ways to reach theories.

  • Through your match page by filtering for “Theories.”
  • Through your “Review DNA Match” page.

A short summary of the most confident theory, shown below, is provided on the “Review DNA Match” page, with a link to view the full theory.

Theory match 2.png

On this summary page, the relationship between my sister and me is correctly shown as half, but the relationship with my half-niece is simply shown as niece. While I’ve always referred to my sister as my sister and my niece as my niece, and this may seem picky, it’s not genetically, because it means that we likely share about half as much DNA as a full sibling or a full niece would share. You can see the differences in the chart in the article here. Full siblings share approximately 50% of their DNA and half share approximately 25%. A full niece would share about 25% and a half niece about 12.5%.

Click on the purple “View Full Theory” button to reach the Review DNA Match page from the summary page, or, you can return to the DNA Match page, shown below.

Theory match 2 theory.png

By clicking on “View theory,” I see the following:

Theory match 2 half niece.png

The theory is actually accurate, but the relationship is named incorrectly on the Theory of Family Relativity page. My sister is actually my half-sister and this person that I match is actually my half-niece since my father had me and my sister by different wives.

Theory review match icon.png

On the Theory of Family Relativity main page, by clicking on the little green join icon above the percentage sign, I can review the match as shown below.

Theory review match profile.png

There is a lot of common information (red arrows), but there is also a lot of different or missing information (red boxes). For example, my father’s death date is incorrect in my match’s tree. The city is the same, but the county is missing in one record. Siblings are shown in my record, but not hers. My name is correct, then incorrect in the other record, including being listed with my mother’s maiden name and also with my former husband’s surname.

Theory view tree.png

Note that by flying over any MyHeritage link you can click to see the tree, which means you can click to view the profile of any individual in the tree. I’m showing mine to illustrate, but it works the same for any site listed.

When viewing the tree, click on the “box” of the person you want to view to display their detailed information at left, below.

Theory tree and profile.png

To view the attached records, click on Profile.

Theory profile records.png

You’ll notice that there are two records attached to my father, but no census, SSDI or otherwise. Don’t neglect the second, “Events” tab.

The “Events” tab, shown below, shows that indeed, he was shown in the 1910 census. If you click on the citations for any event, you’ll see the source for that piece of information. In this case, the 1910 census, even though I haven’t attached the actual image to his profile. I should do that!

Theory profile events.png

Match 2 Conclusion

This match theory is accurate.

Match 2 Suggestions

  • I’ll notify MyHeritage that their half relationships are mislabeled an I’m sure they will correct that.
  • I would like to be able to message the other person from these screens to ask them a question or inform them politely of an issue, such as my father’s death date. I would also like to be able to “invite” them to attach a record, such as a death certificate or census, for example, if it’s attached to my account.

Match 3 – Known Third Cousin Once Removed

This person descends through my great-grandparents and is my 3rd cousin once removed.

Theory match 3.png

By clicking on “View theory,” I see her tree and mine.

Theory match 3 theory.png

This stitched three tree theory is incorrect.

The middle tree shows that Margaret Clarkson was married to William Lake Monday.  She wasn’t, but her daughter Surrelda, was married to William Luke? Monday. The middle person’s tree has incorrectly married my great-grandmother to her daughter’s husband. This is the perfect example of GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) BUT, and a very big BUT, MyHeritage very clearly says these are theories and need to be verified and proven.

The second path is exactly the same as the first path, except that a different person has the exact same inaccurate information in their tree.

Match 3 Conclusion

The match 3 theory is inaccurate due to an inaccurate tree. However, if I didn’t already have this information, I have a new hint to work with.

Match 4 – Previously Unknown Third Cousin

This fourth match is more interesting for me, because I don’t know Shela or why I match her DNA.

Theory match 4 unknown.png

Shela is estimated, by DNA alone, to be my 3rd to 5th cousin.

Notice I don’t have a “Smart Match” with Shela which means that she and I don’t have a common ancestor in our trees, so how we match isn’t evident and wouldn’t be without a significant amount of work.

By clicking on “View theory” I can see how MyHeritage thinks we are related.

Match 4- Path 1

Theory match 4 path 1.png

This is actually very cool, because I just verified this connection through Leora. Obviously, Shela knows who her mother is, confirmed by DNA matches.

The path to confirmation is me ‘up” through Rachel Hill, who connects through the Family Search data base, then “down” to Shela’s mother, Leora. The amazing thing is that Shela has provided just one generation, her mother, that could match on her mother’s side of the tree. She has entered her grandmother by her married name, so Family Search picked up on the daughter, Leora Snyder. I’ve reached out to Shela, and if she’s interested, I can take her back generations on her maternal grandmother’s line.

Theory match 4 surname difference.png

Match 4 – Path 2

The second path reaches the same conclusion but connects through my grandmother which is an exact match at FamilySearch. That could be because I originally entered the FamilySearch information.

Theory match 4 path 2.png

It’s interesting that the link between the two Edith Barbara Lores is 100%, while the link between Leora V Snyder and Leora Snyder remains at 57%. MyHeritage uses the smaller of the various confidence scores to rank the entire path.

Match 4 – Path 3

This last pathway also reaches the same conclusion but connects three times with three seams: my tree to another MyHeritage tree, to FamilySearch, to Shela’s tree once again.

Theory match 4 path 3.png

Match 4 Conclusion

Match 4 is accurate whether you utilize path 1, 2 or 3.

Match 4 Suggestion

  • I would like to be able to confirm or dismiss these theories, once I’ve worked them, and have them categorized as such and held separately from new Theories that I need to work with.
  • I would like the ability to flag a theory as “seen” even if I don’t confirm or dismiss the theory so that I know it’s still a possibility.
  • I would like to quickly see if I match the owner of the intermediate trees. You can view the tree owner information when you fly over the name of the person who manages the tree.

Theory DNA icon suggestion.png

I created an example with a DNA icon. If I also match the person whose tree is being used as an intermediate, Mr. Jones in this case, I want to see that little helix icon and be able to click on it and see my match with Mr. Jones.

  • I would love to be notified by e-mail of new theories as they emerge.
  • I would like to see on the Shared DNA Matches section of the Review DNA Match page whether each match has either a shared ancestor or a theory, along with the names, so that I don’t have to go back and look individually.

Theory theory or smartmatch suggestion.png

  • I would like my “Notes” icon to show on the Shared DNA Matches view so that I can see if I’ve identified the relationship to this person. I use notes extensively.

Next Steps

Since the first three matches were already known to me and I used them as proof of concept, I don’t have homework from those, but I do from my newly discovered third cousin, Shela. What’s next and how can I further utilize this information?

  1. I’ve already clicked on the “contact Shela” on the match page. You can also fly over the name of the person managing the website at the top of the Theory page to contact as well

I told Shela that I was pleased to find this match through Theories of Relativity and that if she’s interested, I can provide her with additional information on her maternal grandmother’s line. Won’t she be surprised! I bet she doesn’t know she has a river pirate in her lineage! Maybe I won’t go there right away😊

Theory contact.png

  1. I’m going to see if Shela triangulates with other matches from this line by reviewing the DNA match.

theory review dna match.png

I noticed immediately that Shela triangulates with other known relatives on this line, such as match #1.

  1. Shela and I share 3 DNA segments, which I’m going to immediately paint on DNAPainter. You can read about DNAPainter here and here.

Theory paint chromosomes.png

  1. Shela also carries the mitochondrial DNA of Rachel Levina Hill because she descends through all females to the current generation (which can be male.) You can read more about mitochondrial DNA here. If Shela replies to me, I’ll offer to test her mitochondrial DNA at FamilyTreeDNA (MyHeritage doesn’t do mitochondrial testing) so we both have that information about our common ancestor, Rachel.

I’m only to Theory 4 of 51 matches, and it’s already a great day!

How to Get Theories of Relativity

If you tested at MyHeritage or transferred your DNA to MyHeritage prior to December 16, 2018, Theories of Family Relativity is free and included. If you transferred after that date, there’s a one time $29 fee (per kit) or you can subscribe to MyHeritage to avoid the unlock fee.

Truthfully, I recommend the subscription over the unlock fee, in part, because the subscription covers all kits uploaded to your account and you can try a subscription for free by clicking here. I already subscribe to Ancestry and doubted for a long time the utility of a second records subscription, but I’ve found the MyHeritage subscription absolutely indispensable this past year with many records (96 billion total) and collections at MyHeritage not found elsewhere. For example, I found over 1000 invaluable newspaper articles alone on the Ferverda family, farmers in northern Indiana.

If you haven’t tested at MyHeritage, you can transfer your kits from other vendors. I wrote the article, “MyHeritage Step by Step Guide: How to Upload-Download DNA Files.”

If you tested elsewhere, you can transfer today and pay the one time $29 unlock fee or subscribe to unlock Theories of Family Relativity and other advanced features.

You have not tested elsewhere, meaning you can’t transfer, you can order a DNA testing kit at this link.

DNA at MyHeritage Theories of Family Relativity
Transferred prior to Dec. 16, 2018 Free
Transferred since Dec. 16, 2018 $29 unlock per kit or subscription
Tested at MyHeritage Subscription

You can read MyHeritage’s DNA upload policy here.

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on the link to one of the vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay, but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog completely free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

27 thoughts on “MyHeritage’s New Theory of Family Relativity

  1. 13 out of 13 suggestions were spot on. Take that, ancestry.com! MyHeritage didn’t give me any matches to my great grandmother’s 2nd husband’s wife’s parents! Could it be because we aren’t related??

  2. I haven’t really had the time to check out the Theory of Relativity on Myheritage as I’ve been checking stuff out on Ancestry. I am checking things out now and I see one for my dad and myself. 15 for my mother. I guess I have a lot of work to do.

    One of the people is already on my match list on Ancestry and I know where we connect. Another person I figured out on my own too. Both seem to line up with what I found without help. So, that’s pretty cool. Nice to have that line up perfectly. =D

  3. Thank you for a comprehensive review of the new MyHeritage tool. I have checked out both MyHeritage and AncestryDNA looking at the same ancestor. I spent some time reviewing the genealogy of the descendants to verify the suggested genealogical connection. I think the tools from both companies are fine at providing hints. The caveat has to be tree completedness: if you and/or your match’s tree is less than complete there could be other theories to explain the shared DNA. I have more confidence with MyHeritage as I can compare the shared segments to other matches. I hope you don’t mind me posting a link to my exploration here https://ayfamilyhistory.com/2019/03/07/dna-finding-new-connections-with-the-latest-tools/ regards Anne

  4. Good article–fun! I clicked on your link for the 14 day “try a subscription for free by clicking here,” and was offered a much larger discount than I’d been offered just 5-10 minutes before, when an offer appeared upon my having clicked on a record icon in my tree. I backed out of that one–I knew I’d rather link through your article, remembering your having mentioned a 14 day trial period. Smart me! And thank you! Oh, and if anyone is looking, my tree might not have visible members right now, and I’m not sure why. I’ve tried to fix it, but on my end it says I have a “private site” at My Heritage, which isn’t my intent. So I’ll contact customer service early next week. In the mean time, I’m adding a few extra tree members so maybe my cousins and I will be able to see more connections! 🙂

      • You’re welcome! I love these new tools also! And I always try to link to offers, subscriptions, discounts, and whatever you’ve told us about, or even just to go back and forth from and through your articles. I think that’s important these days.

  5. I only have one theory, which is off by a generation because I can’t seem to tell the system that it is thinking my great grandfather is a brother to my cousin’s grandfather when it is actually the same person. Oh well. I look forward to the tool getting more sophisticated.

  6. I have 12 theories and 11 are correct. WOW let’s hear it for MyHeritage. I put up a quick 6 generation chart at MyHeritage a couple of years ago but I am going to expand it and see if I get more matches.

    Just for the record, I have 31 Possible Ancestors over at Ancestry and NONE have been correct. Nada, zero, zilch…

  7. Hi, and thanks for a great article!
    I have one question though: I administer several kits: myself, my aunt, my mom and an aunt of my mom. They are all in my tree. But I am the only one with theories. Is the “myself” test the only one with theories?

      • Yes, I know! But they are all in the same tree, and their tests are linked to them in this tree as mon/aunt etc.
        We have “tons” of triangulated matches and non-triangulated common matches, but still they have no theories. My first conklution was that theories only show up for the “myself” person, but since it doesn’t I think the service is still av bit unripe, and that this will work in the future.

  8. My Heritage’s Theory of Relativity has an elaborate theory how I am related to a person through an ancestor on my father’s side due to a similar name in the trees, but they are not related to my father at all. They match my mother! EPIC FAIL!

  9. I don’t have any theories on my test, although all the other kits that I administer do. Not sure what’s up with that! Oh, well … I’ll just work on my brother’s.

    Roberta – your cousin Bonnie is my fourth cousin once removed. Serelda’s husband is William Lake Monday (b. 1854). Presumably, he is named after his uncle and my third great grandfather, William Lake Monday (b. 1827).

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  11. I love this feature. My mother’s kit only has one theory, and my grandfather’s doesn’t have any, but hopefully more will come with time.

  12. Pingback: Ancestry’s ThruLines Dissected: How to Use and Not Get Bit by the ‘Gators | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  13. I love this new feature. I’ve already found a lot of information I had been missing. Thank you MyHeritage for developing and making available this awesome feature!

  14. Very innovative – it brings out relationships or possible relationships in a very clear manner – a great idea! Thanks.

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