MyHeritage Updates Theories of Family Relativity

If you have taken a MyHeritage DNA test or transferred there, quick, check your results because you may have new Theories of Family Relativity! I do.

MyHeritage theory update.png

MyHeritage introduced Theory of Family Relativity for their DNA customers in February this year at RootsTech. I wrote about the introduction and how to use and evaluate Theories here.

Theories of Family Relativity, sometimes abbreviated as TOFR, first looks at your DNA matches, then their trees, and provides you with theories as to how you share a common ancestor.

These are called theories for a reason. They utilize your tree and other people’s as well. Sometimes multiple trees have to be used to connect the dots if you or your matches tree isn’t extended far enough back in time.

My normal cautions about trees apply here. One of the great things about theories, though, is that if there are different “paths” suggested by trees, TOFR shows those multiple paths and allows you to evaluate for yourself.

Evaluation is crucial – which is why they are called theories.

Multiple DataBases Contribute to Increased Theories

MyHeritage utilizes trees and other information from multiple databases and then ranks their probability of being accurate. Databases include:

  1. MyHeritage records
  2. 45 million trees at MyHeritage
  3. FamilySearch trees
  4. Geni trees

In their blog article, MyHeritage provides additional details such as:

  • The total number of Theories has increased from 6 to 14 million
  • More than 46% of their users have at least one Theory (no tree, no Theory)
  • A new notification system is being rolled out, so you’ll receive an e-mail when you receive new Theories
  • For now, the TOFR database will be updated periodically, but eventually it will be automated so that TOFRs will be reported as they occur

My Theories

In February, I had 51 Theories. This week, MyHeritage refreshed TOFR again and now I have 26 more for a total of 77.

Of these new 26, 24 are accurate. One connects me to the wrong son of my ancestor, and one is inaccurate – but I know why both are wrong.

The second inaccurate theory is because most trees include the wrong mother for my ancestor Phoebe Crumley. Her mother was Lydia Brown, not Elizabeth Johnson. I performed extensive research, including mitochondrial DNA testing, and proved that Phoebe’s mother was Lydia, not Elizabeth. However, wrong trees are plentiful and have been propagating like weeds for years now in many databases with no documentation.

This is why evaluation is critical.

I particularly like that theories aren’t just provided blindly, expecting you to just have faith, but each “link” is evaluated and given a confidence ranking.

Using Theories

He’s an example of how to use theories. You can find them by clicking on the purple View Theories banner or under DNA matches by utilizing the Tree Details filter.

MyHeritage example theory.png

If you have a new Theory, it will be labeled as such so you don’t waste time looking at Theories you’ve already processed. I write a note for every match I’ve reviewed in the notes box in the upper right hand corner.

MyHeritage new theory.png

Theories are important, but don’t overlook the information in the green box. If the theory turns out to be not exactly correct – the additional information may still be the link you need.

View the theory by clicking on either the View Theory link or the Review DNA Match button. Your theory is the first thing you’ll see below the match itself.

MyHeritage view full theory.png

The theory is presented with the detail available when you click on View full theory.

In this example, my first cousin tested and entered at least a partial tree. TOFR created 5 different “paths” based on combinations of trees as to how we are related.

MyHeritage review match.png

I’m displaying Path 3 where the link has a 93% confidence ranking. To view that comparison, click on the green intersection button and additional information between the two trees used to create the theory will display. In this case, it’s me with no additional information, but Path 1, below, shows the link between two trees at our common grandfather level.

MyHeritage green intersection.png

Now if I click on the green intersection button, I see a lot more information, based on the information in both trees, shown side by side comparatively. The more information in the trees, the more information MyHeritage has to use when constructing these Theories.

MyHeritage match detail.png

I love this tool!

Even my Theories that aren’t completely correct provide me with hints and other people’s information to evaluate. I can almost always figure the rest out by myself.

Better yet, given that I paint my matches with known ancestors at DNAPainter, I now have 26 more matches to paint, AND, if I look at my shared matches with these people, I’m sure I’ll have even more. I may never surface for air!

Many people are very likely to discover new ancestors, especially people who are newer to genealogy!

Beware though, and verify, because these connections are hints and theories, not gospel.

How Do You Get Theories?

Maybe you don’t have Theories and want some. How can you encourage the system to generate Theories?

MyHeritage DNA person card.png

  • If your DNA is not attached to your person card, connect it by clicking on the DNA tab at the top of any page, then on Manage DNA Kits.

MyHeritage manage DNA kits.png

  • Under Manage DNA Kits, you’ll see 3 dots to the right side. Click there to assign a DNA kit to a person.

MyHeritage assign DNA kit.png

  • You must have a tree, even if it’s a small tree. The more robust your tree, the more Theories you are likely to have because MyHeritage can make those connections. For example, if your tree has only you plus your parents, other trees much have you or your parents in their trees too in order for MyHeritage to be able to connect the dots. Enter as many ancestors as you can into your tree. You can build your tree at MyHeritage or you can upload a GEDCOM file.
  • When MyHeritage offers Smart Matches between a person in your tree and a person in another user’s tree, confirm the Smart Match if it’s accurate. Smart Matching is one of the tools that MyHeritage can utilize to confirm that two people in different trees are actually the same person. You can do three things with Smart Matches.
  1. Confirm the match without doing anything else which does not import any information from the other person’s tree.
  2. Confirm, at which time you will be given the option to import field by field, if you so choose.
  3. Under the Confirm box, click the dropdown and select “Save to Tree” which imports everything from the other person’s tree for that match into your tree. I do NOT recommend this option, certainly not without reviewing what they have in their tree and their sources.
  • Prepare and Wait – After testing or uploading your DNA, work with your matches and Smart Matches to extend your tree so that you’ll be in a prime position to receive Theories of Family Relativity as soon as it’s run again. Soon, it will be automated and running continuously.

Getting Started

If you want to play, you have to test or transfer. Here’s how:

Have fun!!!



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21 thoughts on “MyHeritage Updates Theories of Family Relativity

  1. Thanks for the updates on the news about the update. =D

    You certainly have a lot more theories of family relativity than I do. I have two. My dad has the same two as well. My mom? A healthy 20. I know it’s not a competition, but….I think I just need more Italians to upload to Myheritage and build a tree. Most of them are on Ancestry.

    This is still cool. I checked out the possible paths to a cousin on my dad’s side. It links to the trees I’ve made on Geni and Familysearch and compares it. It called her a possible 2nd cousin twice removed to me and a 2nd cousin once removed to my dad. She’s really a 3rd cousin once removed to me. So close! But, hey. It’s still cool. That’s why they are called theories, right?

    The confidence rating was like 50% for me and 70% for my dad. Like you said it’s a theory. Not gospel. It’s a good idea to put it into practice with actual research!

    Hope I get more on my dad’s side. Probably won’t. But, whatever. I like the update!

  2. Perhaps you answered this in your previous post on TOFR but, if not, can you explain how this process differs from ThurLines? They both seem to take matches and shared matches, any available trees, and run them through their algorithm to come up with likely relationships. As always, the results depend on the accuracy of the trees. GIGO!

    • I have found TOFR to be much more accurate. TOFR shows you the comparative criteria they used in their analysis. They also show you multiples. I use both tools though. You can also view the actual segment data at MyHeritage, although that has nothing to do with the actual TOFR. I do look to see if the DNA is triangulated and that will help to confirm the connection is accurate as well.

    • From what I have been able to tell, the difference is the ThruLines only matches using in-common data, no matching chromosome strings or triangulation, so they are MUCH less accurate. For me, the little green people have all been total horse-poop.

  3. I had 9 Theories until today. Now I have 11.
    Unfortunately, it seems I lost many of the first 9.
    One can say perhaps people removed their trees or otherwise made them unavailable… or MyHeritage revised their accuracy or some other excuse …but I had plenty of time to review the first 9 and most of them looked valid… now they’re gone.
    If one wants to keep theories for future research… I suggest you hurriedly review your theories as they come available and take snapshots or something before MyHeritage ‘updates’ them away… as they work to make updates more automatic.

  4. I just wish there was a way to reject & remove them if they are incorrect, as most of mine are. Somehow, they have come up with 96% confidence that my 2x great grandmother Henrietta Osburne (born & died in Ireland) is the same person as Catherine Blackman (born in Australia 20 years after Henrietta’s daughter). It’s so ridiculous it completely destroys any confidence in the system.

  5. Roberta, thank you for including the “what to do if you don’t have theories” section. Unfortunately, I’m still confused. I can’t drop $200 at once for a subscription, but I can’t seem to find anywhere to pay the $30 to get the premium features.

    Everything that is listed as a premium feature (except for theories) is already in my account anyway, so I continue to be confused.

    • You need to have a big enough tree to generate theories (besides the other requirements listed). I’ve contacted MyHeritage to see if I had the full unlocked features. According to a MyHeritage customer service rep (via email), If you transferred DNA before December 2018 (which I did), then you were ‘upgraded for free’… and …the $29 feature unlock is only available during the DNA upload process when their system recognizes that you are uploading from another provider. Apparently there is no separate link/page for the $29 purchase (I asked twice)… perhaps if you call in to Support, they may help determine your status. MyHeritage contact numbers…

  6. The theories work well if you have a single relationship to a match, but I have a dna match that would be a 6th cousin if I was only related to him once, however in all those generations I am actually related to him 3 more ways. So My Heritage has tried to connect him in a more recent generation and has really gotten it all wrong. Fortunately FamilySearch and Find A Grave have the connections correct.

  7. Dear Roberta,
    I seem to recall you posting a surname form you invented for writing down surnames of DNA or genetic cousins with whom one connects. Could you please post its location again? Thank you! Marge Vallazza:)

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