MyHeritage

MyHeritage is an online genealogy platform with web, mobile, and software products and services. Users of the platform can create family trees, upload and browse through photos, and search billions of global historical records, among other features. As of 2015, the service supports 42 languages and has around 80 million users worldwide. The company is headquartered in Or Yehuda, Israel with additional offices in Tel Aviv, Lehi, Utah, and Burbank, California.

MyHeritage was founded in 2003 by Gilad Japhet (who continues to serve as the company’s CEO). Japhet started the company from his living room in the moshav of Bnei Atarot. For a long stretch of time, the company’s headquarters were located in a family farmhouse in Bnei Atarot. In its infancy, MyHeritage was almost completely self-funded. By 2005, the company had received funds from angel investors. They switched from a strictly free service to a freemium business model.

Early on, MyHeritage required users to upload genealogical information from desktop software. The information could be viewed online, but could not be altered. In 2006, MyHeritage introduced new features including facial recognition software that recognized facial features from a database of photographs to link individuals together. In December 2006, the company acquired Pearl Street Software which was the creator of family tree software (Family Tree Legends) and a family tree submission site (GenCircles) with over 160 million profiles and 400 million public records.

By 2007, MyHeritage had 150,000 family trees, 180 million people profiles, 100 million photos, and 17.2 million users worldwide. The service was available in 17 languages. The company also began offering a new web-based feature that allowed users to upload genealogical information directly to the MyHeritage site. MyHeritage had also received a total of $9 million in investor funding, half of which had come from Accel.

In 2008, MyHeritage raised $15 million from an investment group including Index Ventures and Accel. At that time, the website had grown to 260 million people profiles, 25 million users, 230 million photos, and 25 supported languages. Soon after securing funding, MyHeritage acquired Kindo, a UK-based family tree building service. In 2009, the company released a new version of their free genealogy software, Family Tree Builder, which included the ability to sync between the software and the website.

In 2010, the company acquired Germany-based OSN Group, a family tree website network with 7 genealogy sites under its name. Some websites in the OSN network included Verwandt.de in Germany, Moikrewni.pl in Poland, and Dynastree.com in the United States. The acquisition provided MyHeritage with several new features (including coats of arms, family tree merging, and an option to venture into mobile applications) and a total of 540 million people profiles, 47 million active users, and 13 million family trees. In 2011, those numbers increased to 760 million people profiles and 56 million users after MyHeritage acquired Poland-based Bliscy.pl, another genealogy website.

Other 2011 acquisitions included the Dutch family network, Zooof; BackupMyTree, a backup service designed to protect up to 9 terabytes of offline family history data; and FamilyLink, a developer of family history content sites and owner of a large database of historical records (WorldVitalRecords.com, which included census, birth, death, and marriage records along with an archive of historical newspapers). By the end of 2011, MyHeritage had 60 million users, 900 million people profiles, 21 million family trees, and was available in 38 different languages. The company also released the first version of its mobile app for iOS and Android devices.

In 2012, MyHeritage surpassed 1 billion people profiles and launched several new features including SuperSearch, a search engine for billions of historical records, and Record Matching, a technology that automatically compares MyHeritage’s historical records to the profiles on the site and alerts users whenever a match is found for a relative in their family tree.

In November 2012, MyHeritage acquired one of its primary competitors, Geni.com. The company kept all of Geni’s employees and operated the company as a separate brand in Los Angeles, California. Founded by David Sacks in 2007, Geni is a genealogy website with the goal of „creating a family tree of the whole world.“ The acquisition added 7 million new users to MyHeritage, bringing the total number of members to 72 million. At the time, MyHeritage also had 27 million family trees and 1.5 billion profiles and was available in 40 languages. In addition to the acquisition of Geni, MyHeritage also raised $25 million in a funding round led by Bessemer Venture Partners.

In 2013, MyHeritage entered into a strategic partnership to allow FamilySearch to use its technologies to allow its users to help find ancestors more easily. At the time of the deal, MyHeritage had 75 million registered users and 1.6 billion people profiles. The company also gained access to all United States census records from 1790 to 1940. In April 2013, MyHeritage released Family Tree Builder 7.0 which included new features like sync, Unicode, and Record Matches. MyHeritage also introduced a web feature called Record Detective that automatically makes connections between different historical records.

In 2014, MyHeritage announced partnerships and collaborations with numerous companies and entities. In February 2014, the company partnered with BillionGraves to digitize and document graves and cemeteries worldwide. In October 2014, MyHeritage teamed up with personal DNA service company, 23andMe, to provide personal DNA testing as an option for MyHeritage users. Also in October of that year, the company partnered with EBSCO Information Services to provide educational institutions (libraries, universities, etc.) with free access to MyHeritage’s database of historical records. In December 2014, MyHeritage entered into an agreement with the Danish National Archives to index Census and Parish records from 1646 to 1930 (a total of around 120 million records). The company also surpassed 5 billion historical records in their database in 2014 and launched the Instant Discoveries feature, which enables users to add whole branches of relatives to their family tree at once.

In 2015, MyHeritage reached 6.3 billion historical records, 80 million registered users, and availability in 42 languages. It also released the Global Name Translation technology which automatically translates names from different languages to make searching for ancestors more efficient.

MyHeritage’s products and services exist in the spheres of web, mobile, and downloadable software. The company’s website, MyHeritage.com, works on a freemium business model. It is free to sign up and begin building family trees and making matches. The website will provide excerpts from historical records and newspapers, or from other family trees, but in order to read full versions of those documents, or confirm relationships, the user will have to have a paid subscription. Additionally, only paid users can contact other members.

The MyHeritage online database contains 6.3 billion historical records, including census, birth, marriage, death, military, and immigration documents along with historical newspapers. The SuperSearch feature allows users to search through the site’s entire catalog of historical records to find information about potential family members. Users may also upload photos to their family trees. MyHeritage’s mobile app is available for iOS and Android devices and offers a range of similar features including the ability to view and edit family trees, research historical databases, and capture and share photos.

MyHeritage uses several matching technologies for family history research. These include Smart Matching, Record Matching, Record Detective, Instant Discoveries, Global Name Translation, and Search Connect. Smart Matching is used to cross-reference one user’s family tree with the family trees of all other users. The feature allows users to utilize information about their families from other, possibly related users. Record Matching is similar except that it matches and compares family trees to historical records rather than other family trees.

Record Detective is a technology that links related historical records based on information from one historical record. It also uses existing family trees to make connections between records (for instance, a death certificate and a marriage license). Instant Discoveries is a feature that compares users‘ family trees to other family trees and records, and then instantly shows them a large amount of information about their family found in these sources, packaged as an entire new branch they can add to their trees. Global Name Translation allows users to search for a relative in their preferred language but get historical documents with their relative’s name in other languages.

Search Connect is a feature announced by MyHeritage in July 2015 and released in November that same year. The feature indexes search queries along with their metadata dates, places, relatives, etc. and then displays them in search results when others perform a similar search. The feature allows users performing similar searches to connect with each other for collaboration.

DNA testing is also provided by MyHeritage through partnerships with Family Tree DNA and 23andMe.

Family Tree Builder is free downloadable software that allows users to build family trees, upload photos, view charts and statistics, and more. The software is free to download, but, like the MyHeritage website, uses a freemium model in that users can purchase a Premium package to have more features.

The version 7.0 was released in 2013 and added features like Record Matching, support for Unicode, and a new syncing system. The information on Family Tree Builder can be viewed and updated on the MyHeritage website and the MyHeritage mobile app.

The current version of the software was released in February 2016 with new features for improved performance and data integrity. Unfortunately, user reviews show inconsistencies, bugs and defects in product performance (e.g. blocked syncronisation) and missing support from vendor.

In 2013, MyHeritage was selected by Globes as the most promising Israeli startup for 2013–2014. The company was ranked number one out of a possible 4,800 startups. Also in 2013, Deloitte ranked MyHeritage among the top 10 fastest-growing companies from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) on the Deloitte Fast 500 list.