Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Monday, March 12, 2018

Answering questions about the MyHeritage Tree Sync

I received the following comment from a reader of my recent post about the new Tree Sync feature for LDS users of the Family Tree. I have responsive comments about this on a number of levels. Here is the comment.
What concerns me is that there is no chance to review what changes MyHeritage is going to make to FamilyTree before the synch happens. The synch is apparently automatic and you only get a report of what was changed after the synch is complete. It seems to me it would be much better to require users to individually approve each change to FT before the synch occurs. I have nightmares of MyHeritage making all kinds of changes to FT, many of which users may not have actually intended to make. Then, it's left up to all us FT users to try and fix the mess.
First of all, the Tree Sync feature is not "automatic" in the sense that it "automatically" copies changes from your Tree Sync family tree to the Family Tree. You have to go to the menu and select the function and then let it run for an hour or so to make any changes. But my response to the comment is not quite that simple. The entire idea of having the ability to synchronize information on two different family trees inplies that they will be kept as close to identicle as possible. Right now, I can manually "sync" any of my online family trees by merely comparing the entries and copying and pasting in any changes. That is exactly the problem being addressed by the idea of creating a way to do this without the work of individually transferring changes.

Even before MyHeritage made their announcement, there are at least three different ways to manually, one by one, make synchronization changes from a third party family tree to the Family Tree:, RootsMagic, and Ancestral Quest. In each of these three programs changes are made essentially one item at a time. By the way, this is a really great feature of all three programs. But what we are talking about here with MyHeritage takes this a giant step further. It allows me to have the same information on my portion of the Family Tree and maintain what is close to a mirror copy (without the reverse effect of a real mirror) on MyHeritage. I now have what is essentially a backup of my work on the Family Tree (and everyone else's work too for that matter).

The comment starts out with an inaccurate statement, "What concerns me is that there is no chance to review what changes MyHeritage is going to make to FamilyTree before the synch happens." The only changes made are those you yourself make to your own personal family tree. Yes, if I make a stupid mistake on my MyHeritage family tree, I will likely copy that stupid mistake over the FamilySearch Family Tree, but how is this any different than any other mistake I might make while working on the Family Tree? Again, you initiate any synchronization.

I have been working away on my Tree Sync family tree for some time now. Guess what? I am finding errors in the Family Tree that need to be corrected. For example, I find a whole ancestral line in England that has non-specific birthplaces for my ancestors. MyHeritage automatically gave me a pile of Record Matches that gave me the specific parishes where these ancestors were born. Rather than manually copying those changes over to the Family Tree, I simply synchronized my portion of the Family Tree and all the changes were made and sources added to support the changes. Wow.

Let's think for a minute about the random changes being made to the Family Tree by people who don't know enough to add sources for their changes or who are simply making mistakes, stupid or otherwise. What do I do when someone changes my entire family line by adding a different parent or some other major change? I have to manually go back and make all the revisions. Now, I have a backup copy of my portion of the Family Tree that helps to keep those random changes under control. I can still use the manual method of making changes if I want to do so but I have a copy to use that is not out of date that can support my corrections to random changes in the Family Tree.

The second statement in the comment also begs the issue. You are the only one adding anything or correcting anything on your MyHeritage family tree. You made all the changes to your MyHeritage family tree, if there is a mistake, correct your own mistake. MyHeritage isn't going to make any changes to your portion of the Family Tree, you are. If you make a mess, it is your own mess not some other user on MyHeritage.

What the commetator is really trying to say is what if one of your relatives has a mess on their family tree and uses that to make changes to the Family Tree? Hmm. It seems to me that this is already the case. That is the reason I already get a long list of changes to the people I am watching on the Family Tree. What the commentator doesn't realize, apparently, is that all my corrections to the Family Tree will be copied over to the relative's family tree. Hmm. I just corrected my relative's mistakes. His or her family tree on MyHeritage just got a lot more accurate assuming, of course, that I know what I am doing.

The comment also overlooks the fact that the MyHeritage family trees are subject to an extensive error correcting feature with a consistency checker on multiple levels. I have already had that feature correct several errors in my own MyHeritage family tree. I would suggest that the commentator use the Consistency Checker before synchronizing his own family tree efforts.

Now a sense of reality please. The number of people actually working on the Family Tree and making changes is realtively small. Presently, only about 6% of the members of the Church make any real effort to work on the Family Tree and of those only a vanishingly small percentage have an active family tree on MyHeritage. The effect of this is those without a family tree on MyHeritage are losing out on finding more Record Matches that will help them be even more accurate. I suggest that only really serious genealogists will make the effort to use MyHeritage's family tree and synchronize their changes. By the way, there are a huge number of "serious" genealogists who wouldn't dream of putting their family tree on either website or anywhere else for that matter. But that is another topic for another day.

This is a win/win situation. We all benefit from more accurate entries in the Family Tree. If you want to know what is happening, I suggest you watch the presentation by Gilad Jephet, the CEO of on YouTube. See "Perspectives on Combining Genealogy and Genetics"

If you have any questions about the Tree Sync feature or anything else you are worrying about. Please make a comment or contact me directly. You can email me. I am also on Facebook, Google+ and almost everywhere else on the internet.


  1. James - You make valid points here but you are missing a major issue with this MyHeritage sync feature. When you sync a person in your MyHeritage tree with the matching person in FS FT MyHeritage takes all the sources in Tree for that person and detatchs them - breaking their links to any source records in FS. It then compares these sources to the sources for the person at MH - lumps all these sources together and deletes any duplicates (based on title I presume). Then it places these sources on both the MH and FS people. Now when you look at the FS person all their sources say they came from MH and NONE of the sources are linked to the records at FS. MyHeritage has in one fell swoop destroyed all your work at using the sources in FamilySearch and you have to start over from scratch sourcing this person. This is a terrible feature as presently constructed.

  2. I've been reading through the getsatisfaction board comments, My Heritage's blog, and your post here. I have not tried anything myself.

    One topic on getsatisfaction started with a Family Tree patron's concerns about William Furlsbury Carter, ID: KWJ4-LY2, having a list of 210 changes from a sync with My Heritage. The assumption is that this sync was done with their new system although I am not sure how to tell if this was the case or not.

    Looking at that Change Log, it appears there are so many changes because the sync removed every piece of information from Family Tree then immediately replaced it with the same information with a few notable exceptions. This makes it look like massive changes took place in Family Tree when that did not really happen. It also makes it fairly impossible to tell when looking at the tree from the Family Tree side what really happened or what was really changed.

    Two things I did see in the change log that look concerning. First of all, the Life Sketch in Family Tree was removed and not replaced. Of course, the My Heritage user may have deleted it on purpose in My Heritage before syncing although in reading the Life Sketch in the Change Log I can't imagine why they would.

    Secondly, when all the FamilySearch system sources were removed then replaced, they were changed from FamilySearch system sources (Tree Icon) to manually created sources (Globe Icon) and the source citation was deleted, leaving just the title and URL link.

    Besides the problem of the citations being deleted, this raises the question as to whether the Family Tree hinting system will recognize these sources as being attached or if it will start presenting all these as sources that need to be attached.

    To illustrate what the Change Log looks like, here are two brief excerpts from this person's change log which are separated there by dozens of entries:

    Occupation Added
    11 March 2018
    Preacher, missionary, blacksmith, wagon-maker, mechanic and carpenter

    Occupation Removed
    11 March 2018
    Preacher, missionary, blacksmith, wagon-maker, mechanic and carpenter
    Reason for Deleting This Information
    Deleted on MyHeritage

    (The deletion occurred first, then the information was added back.)

    I also note that none of the information "Deleted on MyHeritage," such as the life sketch, has a restore button next to it as is standard otherwise. This is not significant when the information was not really changed, but is a significant flaw for information that really was changed or deleted.

    1. Thanks Gordon, When I checked out what had happened, it looks like the MyHeritage user deleted all the sources. People erase or detach all my sources on the FamilySearch Family Tree from time to time and I just put them back from my backup.

    2. It was nice to see that people were quickly reassured by official sources that the problem was an unexpected bug cause by an unrecognized interaction with Family Tree Builder and that My Heritage immediately disabled syncing for any tree that has ever been touched by Family Tree Builder.

      The My Heritage user confirmed that he did not delete the sources. The sync routine changed the sources in an unexpected way.

      Yes, beta testing can have unexpected results, but do the math. Assume a full eight generations were affected with five children and twenty five grandchildren per direct ancestor couple, with just two FamilySearch system sources per person. that could be over 30,000 FamilySearch system sources converted to manual sources in one blow that would have to be reattached through the Source Linker to restore them since there is no restore button.

      Fortunately, since this was noticed quickly, potentially only this one unlucky FamilyTree user will have to suffer through reattaching these. If he is really lucky, the My Heritage programmers will see away to do this automatically for him.

  3. Might I suggest going to the get satisfaction posting I started about a month ago and see some of the issues it is creating.

    1. Might I suggest that you remember that the program is in BETA testing mode and that it will be changing even after it is finally released. By the way, MyHeritage Tree Sync does not make any changes to the Family Tree that the users haven't made. There is no huge MyHeritage family tree out there changing the Family Tree. Nearly all of the complaints on GetSatisfaction seem to be from people who don't know where the changes are coming from.

    2. I would prefer to have a one to one sync like other programs are required to do... for seasoned researchers it might not be a problem to have a full sync with accurate information being added.

      It doesn't appear there are any minimum standards for adding persons. I attempted a dding a fake person with the name of "MyHeritage Test Person 1" as the first name and "Kirtland" as the last name, with "not a person" as the birth place. This person magically appeared as the father of the individual in question. Garbage in and garbage out.

      My trees get changed often enough with one to one sync from Ancestry with people who don't look at my notes, discussion and memories currently before adding back in the incorrect parents. However, the computer full sync will never look at those things prior to syncing the incorrect information back into FamilySearch. I have a set of parents who have been associated incorrectly with my family for decades and show on 100's of online trees incorrectly. I see this perpetuating the situation...because it's too easy.

      I am also not happy that My Heritage has taken all photos, documents and audio associated with those 8 generations and pulling them all into MyHeritage as if I have uploaded them myself. All show in a family photo album as added by me. That's not fair to those persons who actually uploaded them to Family Search- and I'm not sure those folks would be happy knowing their photos and information have been added to My Heritage's site without their permission. I know I am not happy with the addition of some audios that I uploaded.

    3. Your comment raises the standard issues raised by many users of the FamilySearch Family Tree regarding "ownership" and changes. For example, you added "false" information to the Family Tree from MyHeritage and then fault MyHeritage for the false information. You added the false information to your own family tree on MyHeritage that information did not originate with anything done by MyHeritage. Then, on purpose, you added the false information to the Family Tree. You do not need to use MyHeritage to add false information to the Family Tree. You could have added the information directly to the Family Tree. I get notice of hundreds of "changes" to the Family Tree every week to the people I am watching. How is that different?

      Your last paragraph is just the standard issue of ownership. I suggest you read or reread the terms and conditions of use of the website. You give FamilySearch an unlimited license to everything you add to the website. Think about that before you put a photo on FamilySearch. By the way, all those photos are completely visible and searchable on Google. Are all those people unhappy about that?

      I will continue to comment on my blog, but right now, there are a whole catalog of issues that I have been writing about for years, so it must be time to repeat what I have been writing about.

  4. I am showing 2 errors on the sync report in regards to photos that they say were not uploaded but are there. This is extremely annoying and my sync will not complete without me continually clicking ok. I would like to know how I can delete the entire sync report. I have contacted tech support to no avail.