27th of July 2010 / 16th of Av, 5770 Serving Oregon & Southwest Washington since 1959

MyHeritage connects families in ancestory search

By PAUL HAIST

article created on: 2010-07-15T00:00:00

Daniel Horowitz left Venezuela for Israel when the security and social situations for Jews in that South American nation began to deteriorate.

Where once there was a thriving Jewish community of some 25,000, Horowitz speculates that now there are 9,000.

Horowitz was an elementary school teacher whose technique for teaching Hebrew history set him on a path that allowed him to create a very different career for himself in Israel.

Today, Horowitz is the genealogy and translation manager of MyHeritage Ltd., a software development and online company that provides easy-to-use genealogical research tools and an online “super search engine” with access to 1,500 databases around the world.

“We have a 50-million-member database,” said Horowitz. “We try to connect people researching the same family branches.”

Horowitz stopped in Portland in late June while visiting the U.S. West Coast to attend the annual conference of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies in Los Angeles and the American Jewish Library Association in Seattle.

He came to professional work in genealogy out of a personal interest in genealogical research and after he wrote a curriculum in Hebrew history that called on his students to research their own family histories.

He called the curriculum and the classroom project “Searching for My Roots.”

“The kids researched their own family. We studied—in effect—Jewish history for the last 100 years in a multicultural community.”

The Venezuelan community was richly diverse with strong representation in both Sephardic and Ashkenazi traditions.

MyHeritage began in 2005 as a project of Israeli high-tech entrepreneur Gilad Japhet. Horowitz joined the team in 2006 after he met Japhet at a genealogical convention in New York and was recruited by him.

Fluent in Spanish, English and Hebrew, Horowitz oversees the company’s team of translators. The MyHeritage software is currently available (downloadable for free online) in 36 languages. It is in development in four more languages.

Visitors to MyHeritage.com are greeted by a simple interface that allows them to immediately begin their family research by entering their name and the names of their parents. Next, one can choose between the “Premium” program at $5 per month or continue with the free program.

The system is designed to demystify and simply the process of genealogical research. Connecting with unknown members of your family is facilitated, for example, by searching the databases for your name. What you’ll see is a list of others who have searched your name.

It’s easy to build a family tree and connect with other members of your family. By uploading family photographs, users can take advantage of the system’s face-recognition technology that detects the same person at different stages of their life from among all the photographs various family members may have posted.

“That’s the idea,” said Horowitz, “to make it easier for non-genealogists and everyone to find information.”

MyHeritage.com has partnered with the Museum of the Jewish People (Beit Hatfutsot) in Israel to collect Jewish family trees, according to Horowitz.

Horowitz also revealed that MyHeritage.com has just formed a partnership with JewishGen.com that enables MyHeritage users to upload their family trees there.

“Both organizations (Beit Hatfutsot and JewishGen) are collecting Jewish family trees,” said Horowitz. “People can use MyHeritage tools to research their family histories and MyHeritage will update both organizations.

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