There are so many reasons to love MyHeritage. There’s the DNA, the worldwide record focus, and the technological advances in photography. I’m a researcher; I love researching, so I want to focus on my favorite part of MyHeritage, the Collection Catalog.
I will focus on 9 must-have databases, but keep in mind that MyHeritage hosts 7,030 collections with over 19 billion records (and growing) as of this writing. So how does a database get designated a “must-have?” After all, what’s a must-have for me might be different than your must-have. Everyone is different, but I wanted to enhance your knowledge of the collections and databases available from MyHeritage and encourage you to explore to find your must-haves.
Let’s start by locating the Collection Catalog. At the top of the MyHeritage website are links for Home, Family Tree, Discoveries, Photos, DNA, and Research. Hover over Research, and in the drop-down menu, choose Collection Catalog.
For our purposes here, we will concentrate on the Collection Catalog, but keep in mind that the Research drop-down menu provides shortcuts to popular databases: Birth, Marriage & Death; Census; Family Trees; Newspapers; and Immigration records.
The Collection Catalog
The Collection Catalog on MyHeritageThere are 3 ways to search or browse the Collection Catalog.
First is the search box at the top right. Use this to search for a collection or by keyword. A keyword can be anything from a location (California or Spain) to a record set (yearbooks or census).
Second, use the left-hand side menu to browse by collection name, location, or years. By narrowing your search by these three perimeters, you can find relevant databases best for your research and discover new-to-you databases. At the bottom of this list is the option to “show only collections with images.”
Lastly, scroll through the middle column of collections. This list of collections can be sorted by 1. Number of Records, 2. Last Updated or 3. Collection Name.
#1 Must-Have Database: Census & Voter Lists
Our first must-have database is actually not a database; it’s a collection, the Census and Voter List Collection. It’s my number one because the census is one of the first record sets most genealogists start with. This collection includes over 200 databases for census and voter records worldwide.
Let’s say I wanted to research my French-Canadian ancestors. I can choose Canada Census in the menu on the web page’s left side. I can then see what Canadian census years are available.
Each database has a home page. On this home page, we can learn more about the database, utilize its specific search engine, and view other related collections at the bottom of the webpage.
Think of the related collections as a hint that when you’re done searching, there are other databases you will want to explore. I like searching from database home pages because when I can’t find something in a larger home page or collection search, it’s easier for me to find it in a smaller database search.
#2 Must-Have Database: Historical Books, Index of Authors and People Mentioned, 1811 to 2003
Historical Books, Index of Authors and People Mentioned, 1811–2003, is in the Books and Publications record category for MyHeritage.
One of the reasons I love this collection is that it provides an easy way to search various resources in one database. Initially, you may think, “I don’t have any authors in my family,” when you see this database title, but remember it’s a database of people mentioned in books. While this database is searchable by name, book title, keyword, and publication year, I suggest starting your search with just a name.
Here’s a result for a woman named Mary Hubbard Chatham, mentioned in the book The One Hundred and 50th Anniversary, 1748 to 1898, Of the Congregational Church of East Hampton, Connecticut (1898).
This church history book could lead to genealogically relevant information. This page includes a link to the book on the Internet Archive. Internet Archive is a website that hosts digitized books, periodicals, images, documents, video and audio recordings.
Notice on the image above, there’s a photo of me and a place to add comments. This option leaves a virtual breadcrumb trail for other relatives. How? Let’s say Mary Hubbard Chatham is one of my ancestors, and I have a photo of her. I can write a comment there and leave that virtual breadcrumb trail so that other researchers can find me. This webpage does more for me than provide an index entry and a link to a book. It gives me the opportunity to connect with other researchers.
#3 Must-Have Database: MyHeritage Photos and Docs
Another database unique to MyHeritage, this is a collection of public photos, videos and documents posted by members. It’s a different way to search the website: instead of just looking for a family tree, it reveals images MyHeritage members have uploaded to their family sites.
Once again, consider how you want to search this database. You can add “photo details,” which include a year and place but remember, the more you put into a search engine, the fewer results you’ll receive. That can be good or bad because you could narrow the relevant hits so much that you won’t find your ancestor.
#4 Must-Have Database: U.S. Property Owners Index and Maps
This must-have is U.S.-specific. If you don’t have U.S. ancestors, remember that MyHeritage has a map collection, and I often find that maps and reference databases are the collections no one uses. That is a shame because they have the information we need to understand our research subjects better.
For all databases, make sure to read the collection description. Click on “read more” in the description to the right. Always, always read the description. It will stop any search frustration you may have when you can’t find what you’re expecting. Why? This collection only contains maps for Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. So an ancestor in California won’t be found here. That might change over time, so check back later.
These maps are from the website Historic Map Works. They are property owner maps, so they include names. These maps also show the names of neighbors, which can explain why certain people married (they lived on adjacent land), where the local school was, the church, and more. They provide context for your ancestor’s life.
#5 Must-Have Database: Public Records
This might be a collection you haven’t explored because it’s a collection of (possibly) living people. As genealogists, we like researching dead people. However, sometimes we need to find the living or people who died more recently. The data comes from telephone directories, property tax assessments, credit applications, voter registration lists, and “other records available to the public.”
This collection currently includes only U.S. and Canadian names, but this will change over time.
Here’s an example of what you can find in this collection. I searched the U.S. Public Records Index for Katherine Philibert. She was born in 1920, and I found a result with an address and phone number from 2004. This index entry also includes a possible relative born in 1917. From here, I could search the MyHeritage website to see if there are other results, such as an entry in the Social Security Death Index.
This index result includes an orange link, “Show Neighbors.” That link includes a list of her neighbors, which may consist of nearby family members.
#6 Must-Have Database: Military Deaths
Next on our list is a portion of the Military collection, databases that include death information.
There are a number of these databases, including:
- France, Military Death Index, 1914-1961
- United Kingdom, War Memorials, 1914-1949
- Vietnam Casualties, 1956–1998
- Korean War Casualties, 1950–1957
- Boer War Casualties, 1899–1902
- Ireland’s Memorial Records, 1914–1918
In the Collection Catalog, click on Military in the left-hand side menu; there are 660 collections. These don’t all involve deaths, and those that involve a death may not include the word” death” in the title. For example, there are also pension records; sometimes, pension records indicate a death because a widow is getting that pension.
To find records relevant to your research, start with the military collection, refine it by location, and, if necessary, narrow it down by years. But remember that the years need to reflect more than when a person served, it also needs to consider when a pension or a death occurred.
One last caution is when you refine by location, you may miss out on relevant records. Take, for example, World War I. You may have a U.S. family member who was in the military during the World War I years, but he fought for the Canadian military. There are various reasons for this, but he would not be found in U.S. military records. He would be in Canadian military records.
#7 Must-Have Database: Histories, Memories, and Biographies: The Mayflower
Histories, Memories, and Biographies is a collection of family histories, local and genealogy history. This is a collection of books; different than the ones we’ve discussed previously.
I searched for Mayflower, and as you can see, there were 7 collections or databases in my results. Six are family histories, and one is a local general history. So what if I want to find more than this? I need to be a little more creative with my search.
A next step might be a search for the keyword “Massachusetts” because I’m assuming if you have a Mayflower ancestor, they lived in Massachusetts. A search for Massachusetts results in 274 collections, so that’s a big difference between 7 and 274. I can continue to refine this search to find what I’m looking for, including choosing the categories “Histories, Memories & Biographies;” “Local and Genealogy History;” or “Family Histories” in the left-hand menu.
#8 Must-Have Database: Immigration & Emigration Records
This is a collection of databases that include passenger lists, immigration cards, and registers, to name a few. Though you could search on an individual database in the collection, such as Germans Immigrating to the U.S., it is worthwhile to search the entire collection so that you can review hits within any of the databases in the collection. This is an excellent example of how a search via a collection is a good idea because of all the various databases that might be relevant.
#9 Must-Have Database: Everton Pedigree and Family Group Sheets
If you live in the U.S. and have been researching for several decades, you have most likely heard of Everton’s Genealogical Helper. This now-defunct magazine printed genealogy articles that included how-tos, indexes, reader’s pedigree, and family group sheets. This MyHeritage database is equivalent to today’s online trees. So why is it on my must-have list? Yes, online trees can be filled with errors, but think about what they offer you. They provide clues that should be explored. That’s exactly what this database does.
These are images of pedigree charts and family group sheets that Everton readers submitted. What that means is there are no source citations. Because there are no source citations, the information may be excellent, or it might be terrible. I already know that going in, they simply provide clues. In addition, the information found on these documents may be genealogical “facts” or additional commentary provided by the submitter that goes beyond birth, marriage, and death.
That’s not the only Everton’s collection on MyHeritage. Everton’s magazine included “ads” by readers looking for specific ancestors. The purpose of these ads was to find other researchers. The Everton’s Genealogical Magazine database can help you find mentions of an ancestor.
Where Will You Start?
Hopefully, you now understand that MyHeritage has unique databases to help with your family history research. The website includes censuses, voter lists, the “meat and potatoes” of genealogy, but they also have unique content because it’s member-submitted or a collection they have sought after that you won’t find anywhere else.
The way you find your must-have database is to be curious. Browse the Collection Catalog. Explore the various categories. Yes, you should search the website by an ancestor’s name, date, and place, but you should also take some time to get to know the Collection Catalog to see what you may be missing.
This article was adapted from a webinar I gave on Legacy Family Tree Webinars on January 14, 2020. Watch the full webinar here.