MyHeritage: Brand New Theories of Family Relativity

MyHeritage has run their Theories of Family Relativity (abbreviated sometimes as TOFR) software again, refreshing their database, which means more Theories of Family Relativity for DNA testers.

According to the MyHeritage blog:

The number of DNA Matches that include a theory increased by 42.5% from 9,964,321 to 14,201,731.

Sometimes we arrive at a theory through multiple paths, indicating a strong theory and providing additional supporting evidence. After the previous update, there were a total of 115,106,944 paths. This update increased the number of paths by 40.5% to 161,762,761.

The number of MyHeritage users who now have at least one Theory of Family Relativity™ for their DNA Matches has increased by 33.6%.

I’m SOOO glad I added all of those branches to my tree, including all children and grandchildren of my ancestors. Every piece of information is utilized in developing Theories.

I sure hope I have new Theories. Let’s see.

My New Theories

Yay, under DNA Matches, I have the purple banner that indicates there are new Theories waiting for me.

Theories new.png

I can just click on View Theories to see all of the TOFR, including new ones.

Theories 65.png

You can see that clicking on the “View theories” button filters my matches to only those matches who have Theories. I have 65 matches, many of whom will have multiple Theories for me to evaluate. That’s an increase from 52 Theories previously, or a 20% increase.

New Theories result from people who have tested or transferred since TOFR was last run in July 2019. Some will be people who can now connect because someone’s tree or research documents now provide enough information to suggest a common ancestor – which of course is the foundation of Theories for DNA matches.

You can sort by new matches, but there isn’t a way to see only your new Theories of Family Relativity. That’s OK, because I make notes on each person with whom I have a Theory, plus I keep a separate spreadsheet.

Theories notes.png

Matches with notes show up with a purple note box. “No notes” have no color, so it’s easy to click through my TOFR matches pages, looking for TOFR matches with no color. Those are new TOFR matches.

Are the New Theories Accurate?

Theories with DNA matches are formed based on a combination of your tree, your matches tree, other people’s trees, community resource trees like FamilySearch, plus various documents like census records that tie people together.

The reason multiple Theories exist for the same match is because there are different possibilities in terms of how you and your match might be related or how different trees might tie you together. In some cases, Theories will be for different lines that you share with the same person.

Each Theory has a confidence calculation that weighs the reliability of each theory connecting segment based on internal parameters. As you can see below, this connection is given a 50% probability weight of being accurate. You can click on that percentage to review the match and comparative data.

Theories weight.png

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Path 1 of my first new Theory is accurate, even though birth and death dates of Ann McKee’s husband are different at FamilySearch.

Theoreis multiple trees.png

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Looking further down this tree, you can see that my match had only extended their tree through Roxie, but a FamilySearch tree spanned the generations between Roxie and our common couple, Charles Speak and Ann McKee.

My tree didn’t extend down far enough to include Roxie.

Of the other 4 paths/Theories, 3 simply connect at different levels in the same basic trees, meaning that I connect at Margaret Claxton instead of Ann McKee.

The 5th path, however, is ambiguous and I can’t tell if it’s accurate or not. It doesn’t matter though, because I have 4 different solid paths connecting me and my new match.

Theories can connect people with almost no tree. One man had a total of 7 people in his tree, yet through multiple connections, we were connected accurately as 5th cousins.

One accurate Theory combined a total of 6 trees to piece together the Theory.

Working the Theories

I stepped through each match, making notes about each Theory, confirming the genealogy, checking for additional surnames that might indicate a second (or third or fourth) line, as well as SmartMatches.

SmartMatches only occur if the same people are found in both trees. I had no SmartMatches this time, because each of these Theories was more complex and required multiple tree hops to make the connection.

One match was a duplicate upload. After eliminating that from the totals, I have the following results for my newly generated Theories of Family Relativity.

Scorecard

Match Total Theories/Paths Accuracy Comments
1 5 4 yes, 1 ambiguous
2 3 Not exactly, but close Close enough that I could easily discern the common ancestor
3 2 Yes
4 5 Yes
5 1 Not exactly, but close Within 1 generation
6 1 No Acadian, needs additional research
7 5 Yes, but 2 with issues 2 were accurate, 2 with ancestor’s first wife erroneously as mother, and one with private mother
8 2 Not exactly, but close Within 1 generation, also, 2 separate lines
9 2 Yes
10 4 Not exactly, but close Within 1 generation
11 5 Yes One wife shown as unknown
12 3 Not exactly, but close Within 1 generation, also 4 separate common lines in total
Total 38 23 yes, 1 ambiguous, 13 close, 1 no

All of the close matches were extremely easy to figure out, except one in a heavily endogamous population with many “same name” people. That one needs additional research.

I’m not at all unhappy with the Theories that weren’t spot on because Theories are meant to be research hints, and they got me to the end goal of identifying our common ancestor.

I wrote about how to use Theories, in detail, here.

Observations and Commentary

Theories of Family Relativity has been run by MyHeritage for the third time now. It doesn’t run all the time, so new testers and uploaders will need to wait until the next run to see their Theories.

You can expect some Theories to come and go, especially if someone has deleted a tree or changed a piece of data that a Theory utilized.

I did not go back and recheck my earlier Theories because I had already ascertained the common ancestor.

I have a total of 65 matches with whom I have TOFR, one of which is a duplicate.

I have a total of 99 paths, or Theories, for those 64 matches.

Of my 64 non-duplicate matches, only 5 don’t have at least one correct Theory. Of those 5, all incorrect Theories are a result of an incorrect tree or name confusion that I was able to easily resolve. Only one needs more research.

Reviewing the match for additional surnames often reveals multiple lines of descent beyond the Theories presented.

Previously, I only had 11 matches with multiple Theories, but of my 12 new matches, only 2 don’t have multiple paths. Multiple Theories are a function of more matches, more trees, and more resources. I’m grateful for all the hints I can get.

Remember, Theories are just that – theories that point you in a research direction. They require confirmation. Good thing we’re genealogists!

Next, DNAPainter

Of course, the good news is that I could paint my new matches at DNAPainter, having assigned them to our common ancestor, thanks to Theories. DNAPainter is a great sanity check. If you have the same reasonably sized segment attributed to multiple ancestors, something is wrong, someplace.

That something could be:

  • That the segment is identical by chance in some matches
  • Someone’s genealogy is inaccurate
  • Imputation added invalid data
  • You’re related in more ways, on more lines, that you know
  • There’s an unknown parentage event in a line someplace
  • That your ancestors were related

What About You?

Do you have new Theories of Family Relativity waiting for you?

Sign on and take a look.

If you haven’t tested at or transferred your DNA to MyHeritage, you can order a test, here. Tests are currently on sale for $39.

MyHeritage offers free transfers from the DNA testing companies whose step-by-step upload instruction articles are listed below.

Instructions for uploading TO MyHeritage are found here:

If you test at MyHeritage, all DNA features, functions, and tools are free.

If you transfer your DNA file to My Heritage, DNA matching is free, but Theories of Family Relativity requires either a site data subscription to access genealogical records, which you can try for free, here, or a one time $29 unlock fee for the advanced DNA tools which include:

  • Theories of Relativity
  • Chromosome browser
  • Triangulation
  • Ethnicity estimates

Have fun!

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16 thoughts on “MyHeritage: Brand New Theories of Family Relativity

  1. I have 365 DNA matches with theories but I don’t know how many are new. When I’ve looked at them in the past, most appeared to be accurate.

  2. Thanks, Roberta, for another very helpful article. When I looked for my new TOFR matches I was disappointed to see that the 29 matches from the previous run of the TOFR software had disappeared with nothing in their place! Do you have any thoughts as to what might have happened? My tree now is more extensive than it was for the previous run.

  3. Very timely! I also just received an email from MH announcing I had new matches… so I logged on and checked out the tools you discuss. Thanks for the tips!

  4. This is the first time I have gotten any Theories. I have 21 new ones, but only have reviewed the first 10 (page 1). They appear to be pretty good, with 2 new cousins.
    Interesting the different paths, usually the 1st path is very direct and well known. The other paths give me new family trees, with potentially new cousins.

    Have fun, and don’t stay up too late.
    Larry

  5. Thanks for this Blog Post. I uploaded a BIG Tree about 2 months ago but I still had NO Smart Matches or Theories. A couple of days ago I suddenly got 30 Theories !! I did not realize that My Heritage only occasionally runs the program to find theories.

    Of the 30 theories, I only had one that was obviously and completely wrong, caused by bad tree information that I have seen on a number of sites. I contacted the person with that “BAD LINK” and explained why it could not be true with source information. I got a nice note back saying they would correct it.

    A number of relatives go right through one of my Brick Walls. The “Unknown Parents”. I now have several cousins with Theory Links for different lines that go through this wall. This gives me lots of clues and even names of the parents. I am just not sure these “parents” are correct. They may be. However, while we all may be correctly linked ( I’ve already started checking for triangulation and it appears we have it ); that does not mean the parents are correct. There is no supporting documentation anywhere that I can find. But who knows, with all these cousins on the other side of the wall, maybe I can find paper clues that also bridge through the brick wall.

    • This is EXACTLY why theories are so important. You’re doing the right thing by researching, not accepting.

  6. How do I “add all of those branches to my tree, including all children and grandchildren of my ancestors? Or just post the link where you address this process. Thank you!

  7. Hi Roberta

    Would you happen to know how often My Heritage run updates for their Theories of Family Relativity? I just uploaded a GEDCOM from Ancestry which has my complete tree and have now realized (after reading your blog) it may not be of immediate benefit to me as far as the Theories of Family Relativity tool goes.

    regards
    Kim

  8. This is somewhat off topic as it has to do with MH reporting matches. Frequently, when MH gives me a new match, the match will be correct and I will verify it. I am told that I can now add 40 new relatives to my tree. I am not about to add 40 people to my tree without verifying them and I see no way to get information on them, at least, from MH. Am I missing something?

  9. I noticed the new theories too – I went from 3 to 9 – only one of which I hadn’t already sorted out on my own (is a relatively new match). This is despite having an extensive tree on one side of my family, and a decent amount of info on the other. Apparently, I have more npe’s than I already knew about. I always wondered how many of those theories other people tended to have.

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