A Sweetheart of a deal… #RootsTech #Genealogy

A Sweetheart of a deal…


As I’ve written during the RootsTech conference, I’ve been hanging around the MyHeritage booth absorbing information. MyHeritage has been making exciting technological advances for several years. Their tech is allowing them to share billions of records, documents, and what they have termed Discoveries with subscribers.

I’m going to go into a lot more detail below about why I’m excited about MyHeritage and the huge potential for Discoveries (code word for ancestors). However, right up front, I have the distinct privilege to offer my readers what I’m calling a sweetheart of a deal. Play on words again. (Did any of you guys forget the flowers?) MyHeritage founder and CEO, Gilad Japhet has given me permission to offer my readers the best deal I’ve ever seen on a MyHeritage subscription. How about $99.95 for a full year of Full Access to MyHeritage – that’s their Premium Plus family site and their Data Plan… Everything!!! For way over half off! We are talking $20 less than the best price offered here at RootsTech, and that was a 50% off deal! Click on this link to purchase Full Access MyHeritage at only $99.95. Do it now, as this price will only be offered through February 24, 2015 – then it ends. Period.

Note that the offer is for Genealogy Newsline Readers. However, since I author and own Genealogy Newsline, I can also offer it to my GenealogyBlog.com readers and folks that read me through social media. The landing screen from the above link says “Genealogy Newsline Readers,” but in this case we’re being even more inclusive.

Most of my readers are already familiar with MyHeritage, and understand that they have huge and rapidly growing family trees – many of them produced in Europe by genealogists just like you, only they might be speaking a different language (Cool…, huh?). Here are a couple impressive numbers… How about 28,000,000 family trees and 2.5 billion tree profiles? What do I bet you have family in there? I’d nearly guarantee it. Here’s why.

I had the privilege to sit down for a half hour or so with Mike Mallin. He was a Keynote speaker here at RootsTech at the opening session Thursday morning. He’s also the chief product officer at MyHeritage. I asked some serious questions and got some serious answers. Mike has dedicated his life to offering “value” to MyHeritage subscribers, and he wants each of us to have Discoveries, not just more documents. Now how’s that?

You may be familiar with the Smart Matching, and Record Matching, where MyHeritage takes your data and matches against other data within their system. Smart Matching allows us to discover unknown relatives and ancestors through family tree matches. Record Matching automatically sends records to us that match people in our family trees. Well, the new Discovery feature that’s about to be launched will take these matching features to a new level. In a month or so, we will see a new button in the upper right-hand corner of the screen saying Discovery. We will be able to click on the button, and get a scroll-down menu of Discoveries – Click on a Discovery, and have the capability of instantly importing a group of people – not lots of people – maybe 30 or 40, but just enough to make the typical person do the “genealogy happy dance.”

MyHeritage is committed to the whole concept of “value,” and the need to offer people instant value that they can relate (play on words here) with. Here’s an astounding stat that Mike Mallin gave me, and is based on real-life product research they’ve done. An average of 60% of individuals who GEDCOM imported or manually entered just 50 people into the MyHeritage Family Tree, and clicked on the Discovery feature that’s about to go live, got over 30 more people automatically added to their family tree. Happy dance time again… This whole Discovery idea is unique and one that I believe will help get more total novices on board the genealogy train. I think it’s going to be of value to many of the rest of us besides.

And here are a few other things about MyHeritage you might be interested in.

  • The site allows you to create your own online family tree, making it private or public.
  • The site has what they call SuperSearch, doing searches of billions of historical records, getting results in seconds.
  • Record Detective – Save time with technology that uncovers new leads and related records for every discovery you make.
  • Mobile App – Build your family tree and research on the go. It’s perfect for family get-togethers. This is available for both Android and iPhone. A new version of the mobile app was launched just last week!
  • Family Tree Builder software for both Windows and Mac computers. Not only can you enter your data, but you can enjoy maps, charts, reports and much more with this award winning software.
  • Mike told me about another new MyHeritage product that’s exciting. It’s a new app called Weavee. It’s an app that captures pictures and integrates stories. The user can select pictures and weave them into a mobile story. The plan is to integrate the mobile pictures, stories, and one’s data from the MyHeritage database into a captivating, and fun mobile story that you can then share on your mobile via social networking or email. Hmmm. Maybe we could send that to cousin Jeannie? Maybe Jeannie will realize that our hobby isn’t so boring after all. Jeannie might start entering her data, her memories, and her pictures. The more family that gets on board, the more the fun multiplies. I’d say exponentially…

Goodness… I have gotten carried away here. As you can tell, I am excited. The future is now. Come join me. Following is that Sweetheart of a deal offer again.

$99.95 for a full year of Full Access to MyHeritage – that’s their Premium Plus Family Site, and their Data Plan… Everything!!! For way over half off! We’re talking $20 less than the best price offered at RootsTech, and that was a 50% off deal! Click on this link to purchase Full Access MyHeritage at only $99.95. Do it now, as this price will only be offered through February 24, 2015.

Again, note that the offer is for Genealogy Newsline readers. However, since I author and own Genealogy Newsline, I can also offer it to my GenealogyBlog.com readers and folks that read me through social media. The landing screen from the above link says “Genealogy Newsline Readers,” but in this case we’re being far more inclusive.

Your search results may not be what they seem.

A while back I got an invitation to a VIP breakfast to be held during RootsTech 2014. The breakfast was to be Friday morning. When I got the invite, I printed it out and put it in a notebook with my other RootsTech paperwork. That was my first mistake. I should have added it to my calendar accessible from my iPhone. Eventually the printout went into my RootsTech bag and then ended up under a table in the FRPC booth. Last night I realized that I didn’t know the event time nor the room number where breakfast was to be held in the Salt Palace – and that email printout from Elaine was in that bag under the table in the locked-up exhibit hall.

No problem… Since Elaine had sent the invitation by email, it would take just a moment to find it in my email, and print out a new copy with the time, and room number. I did a search on Elaine’s name, found an invitation email that said RootsTech and was for a Friday morning VIP breakfast. I noted that the room number was 355. So – I got up early, drove into Salt Lake City, and leisurely found my way to room 355. I took my time, and I was well over 1/2 hour early. Finally arriving at room 355, it was dark and no one was about. I started asking questions of folks and found a man who said that there was a breakfast going on in room 150. Going to room 150, I could quickly see that this was the FamilySearch VIP breakfast alright, but the program was underway, and the room was full of folks. I stood in the doorway a moment, and eventually found a seat. Embarrassed for having come in late, I was thinking that the room number must have changed and that I was the only character at RootsTech that didn’t get the memo. Why, I had an email that clearly stated room #355, and I seemed to be the only person who was hanging out around the door at 355.

I sat down near a young lady who worked for FamilySearch, and we were discussing my situation. She then asked me the question that cleared up what had gone wrong. She asked if I could have printed an old email. I pulled it out, sure that I was going to find that this could not be the case. I looked at the date on the email. Hmmm. 2012. The invite was 2 years old. I had searched my email, found what looked like the info I was looking for, and sure enough… It wasn’t. Embarrassing.

So let this be a learning experience for not only me, but my readers besides. When using the marvelous search capabilities that we have available to use in our email, our hard drives, the various online programs we put data into, and yes – even the cloud storage that most of us use today – be careful that what we pull up is actually what we are looking for – for many documents, emails, and even photos may look alike a first glance.

A Search Program That Will Read Handwritten Text?

Cliff Shaw seems to always be on the cutting edge of genealogy technology, especially as deals with the web. Now he says that it looks like they are close to being able to search on handwritten text. If his company can pull this off, it changes everything…

The following was received last night from Cliff Shaw, with Mocavo.com:

A little over a year ago, Mocavo acquired ReadyMicro and the incredible mind known as Matt Garner. One of Matt’s lifelong passions and curiosities is to enable computers to read historical handwritten documents to bring genealogy search to the next level. It’s well known in the genealogy industry that historical handwriting recognition is the Holy Grail – the single largest technological advancement that would enable more content to become accessible online (except for maybe the invention of the Web). For the past year, we’ve joined with Matt to tackle this very hard problem, and have finally made enough progress that we can begin to report on it.

Let me start by explaining the problem. Ask a computer to read the page below and it will stumble all over place.

Mocovo Illustration 1

OCR (optical character recognition) technology could read some of the typewritten text – but would be confused by the handwriting (and invent typewritten letters that it thinks it sees inside handwritten text). To make matters worse, this page has multiple typewritten font types, including one that looks like cursive handwriting.

The first process we had to develop was a way to perfectly separate handwriting from typewritten text. If we could do this, the OCR could read the typewritten text, and Matt’s code could attempt to read the handwritten text. We call this process Handwriting Detection, and we figured that if the system couldn’t detect the presence of handwriting, how on Earth would we hope to decipher the marks into words? In the example below, you can see how our system marks typewritten text in green and handwritten text in red – with blue to denote what it believes are graphics or images. It’s not 100% perfect, but hopefully you agree that it’s headed in the right direction.

Mocovo Illustration 2

Now that we’ve detected where the handwriting is, we can start having some fun. Let’s go back 130 years and change the ink from black to blue.

Mocovo Illustration 3

Now, this is just handwriting detection (where we don’t understand what’s written – we just know that handwriting is there).

Let’s talk recognition.

Historical handwriting recognition is one of the toughest technical challenges to solve. First, penmanship is entirely unique to the individual. Second, because it’s historical handwriting, it’s in cursive. All the letters run together, adding another layer of complexity. Third, the way we wrote cursive in the 1700′s is different than the cursive we write now. There are even variations between decades. Our mind has an incredible capability of seeing through incomplete sets of data (a missing character stroke, poor handwriting, an A that sort of looks like an O, etc). Our brains do all of this for us and we don’t even notice it. When you think about how to describe this to a computer, you begin to lose your mind! I believe some of the greatest problems mankind can solve are those that someone would never have started if they had known how hard the challenge was ahead of time. Matt fooled himself just enough to start on the problem and now he’s making real progress from which we are all going to benefit.

Here’s the exciting part: Our recognition technology is starting to work. With limited vocabularies (potential answers), we’re achieving 90-95% accuracy. Sometimes, the technology is able to read things we’re convinced are unreadable (but after getting the answer back from the computer, you realize what was actually written). We grow closer to the Holy Grail every day and can’t wait until we can use the technology to bring more content online, free forever.

Matt and I will keep you updated on our progress over the coming weeks and months, which should hopefully make for some exciting news in genealogy.

Ryan Hunter & Michael Leclerc Join Mocavo

Mocavo, the Internet’s largest genealogy specific search engine, hires new COO and Chief Genealogist. Read the following article from Enhanced Online News for details.

Mocavo Expands Leadership Team with Industry Veterans

Ryan Hunter Appointed Chief Operating Officer, Michael Leclerc Appointed Chief Genealogist

January 25, 2012 12:21 PM Eastern Time

BOULDER, Colo.–(EON: Enhanced Online News)–Mocavo, the world’s largest free genealogy search engine, today announced the appointment of Ryan Hunter as COO and Michael Leclerc as Chief Genealogist. Hunter joins Mocavo after four years as a Wall Street Analyst preceded by thirteen years of operational experience in the Technology Industry. Leclerc joins Mocavo after fifteen years with the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

“After four years on Wall Street as an armchair quarterback, I am excited to have the opportunity to help build another company”

On Wall Street, Hunter covered software and Internet companies including Ancestry.com (NASDAQ:ACOM). At Mocavo, Hunter will drive customer growth, develop new business relationships and oversee the company’s finances. “Mocavo has seen tremendous growth since our launch last spring,” said Mocavo CEO, Cliff Shaw. “On Wall Street, Ryan’s understanding of our industry was unparalleled amongst his peers. This critical knowledge, coupled with Ryan’s extensive operational experience, prepares us for our next phase of growth.”

Click here to read the full article.

You can also get more information by visiting Mocavo’s Blog; just click the “blog” link from their homepage.


Learning Google Tools for Genealogists

Google is far more than a basic search engine. While it may have started as a basic engine, the additional tools Google provides for free makes Google an excellent, all-around research assistant. Google Alerts for up to the minute web tracking, free email for all through Gmail, iGoogle is a search dashboard for your own system, Google Books, Google News, Google Translate, YouTube, Google Earth, and more. These tools can help the Genealogist improve and expand their research. But, does one learn to use all of these tools? More so, how can these tools be used together for research synergy? The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox is the perfect guidebook to successfully using all the above listed Google tools in your family history research.

According to author Lisa Louise Cook, this volume is “right up to date,” giving the latest information about using the features of Google. This is a great guidebook, in that it’s heavily illustrated and geared toward showing the genealogist how to use many of the free online “tools” that Google has made available to us. The use of the “tools” is laid out in a step-by-step manner that anyone can follow. The first 5 chapters all deal with Google’s Search abilities, followed by chapters on Google Alerts, Gmail, iGoogle, Books, News Timeline, Translation, YouTube & Video, Google Earth (in all its glory!), Family History Tour Maps, and an amazing “How to” index at the back.


Table of Contents


Chapter 1 — Caffeine & Search Options Column

Chapter 2 — Basic & Advances Search

Chapter 3 — Search Strategies for High-Quality Results

Chapter 4 —Site Search & Resurrecting Web Sites

Chapter 5 — Image Search

Chapter 6 — Google Alerts

Chapter 7 — Gmail

Chapter 8 — iGoogle – Your Personal Genealogy Homepage

Chapter 9 — Google Books

Chapter 10 — Google News Timeline

Chapter 11 — Google Translate & Translation Toolkit

Chapter 12 — YouTube and Google Video

Chapter 13 — Google Earth Overview

Chapter 14 — Google Earth – Ancestral Homes and Locations

Chapter 15 — Google Earth – Organizing, Naming, and Sharing

Chapter 16 — Google Earth – Historic Maps and Images

Chapter 17 — Google Earth – Plotting Your Ancestor’s Homestead

Chapter 18 — Google Earth – Fun with Images and Video

Chapter 19 — Family History Tour Maps

Appendix — Find it Quick: The “How To” Index


Order your own copy of, or give as a gift, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox from Family Root Publishing; Item #: LU01.

Mocavo.com Adds Thousands of New Sites to the World’s Largest Free Genealogy Search Engine, Including More Than 3000 Genealogy Blogs

I wrote about Mocavo.com a few weeks ago when I had a brick-wall breakthrough. Now I see that Cliff Shaw has added the genealogy blogs, as well as other genealogist-suggested sites to be searched by his genealogy search engine. Following is a News Release I received last evening.

Mocavo.com™ (http://www.mocavo.com), the world’s largest free search engine geared toward genealogists, announced the addition of thousands of new sites today. The new content added to Mocavo.com includes more than 3,000 genealogy blogs and thousands of sites submitted by users over the past month, including some new content for Irish and UK researchers.

A very small sampling of the sites now searchable on Mocavo.com:

Users can submit suggestions for new sites to be added at http://www.mocavo.com/suggest. New additions and updates to Mocavo.com will now occur more frequently.

About Mocavo Inc.
Mocavo Inc. operates the world’s largest free genealogy search engine,Mocavo.com, giving genealogists access to the best free genealogy content on the web including billions of names, dates and places. Founded by industry veteran Cliff Shaw, and backed by prominent angel investor, David Cohen, (founder and CEO of TechStars), Mocavo.com seeks to index and make searchable all of the world’s free genealogy information. While Mocavo.com discovers new sites every day, some of the existing sites searchable on Mocavo.com include genealogy message boards, family trees, state and local historical societies, the Library of Congress, National Archives, Ellis Island, Find A Grave, the Internet Archive, various U.S. state archives, and many tens of thousands of genealogy sites built by individuals. For further information, visit http://www.mocavo.com.

Breakthrough! – A Review of Mocavo.com – the Latest in Genealogical Search Engines

I haven’t made a breakthrough on any of my direct-line ancestors in years. All the easy research was done years ago, and most breakthroughs are now made after extensive research. However, prompted by the need to write a review of a new search engine, and with a little flexibility & persistence on my part, I now have the name of a previously unknown fourth great-grandfather, as well as vital record dates, and burial places for family members in Rensselaer County, New York.

mocavo.com I was very pleased when I had the chance a couple weeks ago to play with a new search developed by Cliff Shaw. Cliff is probably best known for bringing us a site called GenCircles.com years ago. His latest project is a free search engine called Mocavo.com.

Mocavo.com searches genealogy-related websites for terms that you type into the search-box found on the home page of the site. According to the website, Mocavo searches free genealogy content on the web. The search includes “genealogy message boards, family trees, state and local historical societies, the Library of Congress, National Archives, Ellis Island, Find A Grave, the Internet Archive, various U.S. state archives, and many tens of thousands of genealogy sites built by individuals. Similar to other search engines, Mocavo.com honors site owners by linking directly to their content.” I noted right-off that it was also searching digitized data at BYU servers, as well as digitized data from the Allen County Public Library. Many of the sources available to use today haven’t been around all that long, so an exacting search engine, combined with fresh content makes breakthroughs seem all that much more possible.

When Cliff initially sent me the link, and asked me to try the site out, but keep my mouth shut, I spent maybe a half hour trying various searches. I was impressed, and told him so. However, I’ve been very busy with a rapidly growing Family Roots Publishing Company business, and couldn’t get back to doing anything in depth until Friday. About noon I started searching for two of my my brick-wall ancestors. After searching for information on Timothy Titus (of New Perth, Washington County, NY), and coming up with the same things I already had, I moved on to Ebenezer Stephens, who died in Rensselaer County, New York in 1825. Ebenezer was my 5th great-grandfather, the father of Sally Anthony, and grand-father of Maria Anthony, who married William Canfield. William was the father of William Henry Canfield, about whom I wrote just a few days ago. I spent several hours searching, using Mocavo.com, and getting hits, but most often finding items that I’d posted online, or data I’d seen before.

According to his will, dated 28 April 1825, and probated in Rensselaer County, Ebenezer Stephens had left his “mansion house” to his wife, Elizabeth, and granted his mocovo.com search resultsdaughters, Harriet Stephens, and Sally Anthony the right to live in the family home with their mother. His son, Ebenezer Stephens, was given the real estate and personal estate not otherwise disposed of. Upon the death of Elizabeth, cash was to be distributed to Betsy Raynor, Sally Anthony, John Stephens, Harriet Stephens, Susan Rheubottom, and George Stephens (relationships not given). The will was probated 3 November 1825. So I had an approximate death date and a few names to work with. I had proof that Sally Anthony was a fourth great-grandmother, but didn’t know her husband’s name. I found that Ebenezer Stephens was her father when the Rensselaer County Probate abstracts were published in book form a few years ago. They can now be found on the web. Over the years I’ve searched for the Stephens without much luck. I wasn’t having any luck with Mocavo.com either. So I got to thinking that maybe I should be searching on the surname of Stevens instead. I’ve done this in the past with no luck, but as I tell folks when speaking on brick-walls, sometimes we just have to wait until the data we need gets posted and is searchable before we find what we’re looking for. So I searched for <"Ebenezer Stevens" Rensselaer> using Mocavo.com. I got 199 hits, which seemed like a lot… I started checking each hit, going to the website, and using Control F and the term “Ebenezer Stephens” to search the entire page. I was on the 6th page (with 10 pages per hit), when I ran across a page from the “Interments in Rensselaer Co.” Searching on the page specifically for Ebenezer Stevens, I got two hits. The database was such that I found it easier to read by grabbing the lower right-hand corner, and dragging it out over nearly 35 inches of computer screen (2 monitors). The second Ebenezer Stephens was listed as the father of Sally Stephens, who died 30 January 1829 at age 48. Her husband was Tillinghast Anthony, and she was buried in Buckley #1 Cemetery in Schaghticoke, Rensselaer Co., NY. I then found Ebenezer Stevens burial in the same cemetery, having died 5 May 1825 at age 72. I also found other family members buried in Buckley #1, or other Rensselaer County cemeteries. Breakthrough!
Tillinghast Anthony, husband of Sally Stevens, who died 30 Jan 1829, age 48. Father was Ebenezer Stevens, buried in Buckley #1, Schaghticoke, Rensselaer Co., NY

How long this massive USGenweb database has been posted I really don’t know. It seems to have about 92,000 entries currently. If I’d searched the Rensselaer County GenWeb site earlier, I most likely would have found the data before now, but that goes for all genealogical data. It’s often just setting out there waiting for us. Because Cliff Shaw built a fine and dandy new search for us, I found a new dead ancestor. Thanks, Cliff.

Now go try out Mocavo.com yourself.

Disclaimer – I have no affiliation whatsoever to Mocavo.com. I’m just a user, like the rest of you.