MyHeritage’s Theory of Family Relativity

It seems as if every DNA and genealogy company is unveiling wonderful new features this week at RootsTech 2019 which makes me wish I was there. It will take me many posts to cover all the ones that excite me!

MyHeritage has just unveiled a cool new feature called the “Theory of Family Relativity.” The idea is to look at your tree and other trees in their database to see if the computer can figure out how you are likely to be related. When you click on the big pink View theories button at the top of your DNA matches page it will show you just the DNA matches for whom it thinks it has found the relationship.

What is exciting and different about this offering is that when you click on the “View theory” in the listing for a match it offers you several paths to view a graphical representation of the possible relationship including percentages of accuracy. It also indicates the trees or records the deduction was made from. Here is how it shows that with a known 5th cousin of mine. I had not known that she had tested nor had I been in touch, although I knew her family.


If you go to the match page of a match that has a theory, it will show you a compact view of the expected relationship at the top of the page without the tree names and percentages however it includes a click point to see the full theory.


Many of these theories take three or four trees to come up with the relationship unlike my Klauber cousin above. Here is an example perhaps too small to read (click on it to see a larger version)



My Norwegian father has 32 matches with relationship theories while I have only 13, Five of these I already knew about plus another one of his. Of the other eight, most are accurate except where there are errors in the trees used. I sent several messages asking for corrections already! However it may be several days before I finish working through my Dad’s matches.

The incorrect path usually happens when my ancestors were married more than once and the other tree has the wrong spouse as a parent.

Another problem I have is that my great granddad Henry H Lee, Hans Halvorsen Skjold in Norway, used different birth dates in every record and my 2nd cousin has his brother Halvard’s name listed for our great grandad in his tree which then matches to other trees incorrectly. All because my great grandad used his brother’s birth year. Click here for my blog post about that mystery.

How my great grandad is incorrectly linked to his brother, their parents are the acutal MRCA


Of course once one tree has an error, then more trees pick up that error. I can see that I will be sending many messages in the next few days, first however, I will connect with my new found distant cousins!

UPDATE 28-Feb-2019: This new feature is only available for users who have a site subscription or have uploaded their DNA and then paid the $29 to unlock all the DNA features. Click here for the blog post at MyHeritage which explains that and has more details about this feature.

23 thoughts on “MyHeritage’s Theory of Family Relativity

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  1. Hi,
    I just checked all the dna I manage on MyHeritage and I’m not seeing the big pink box anywhere. Does that mean my tree with 3 dna link to it doesn’t have any or the new tool hasn’t gotten to my account yet?

  2. You will only see something if your tree matches with someone else’s tree and they also had a DNA test. I have 4 relativity matches.

  3. Ancestry has the same feature called ThruLines on your personal DNA results window right under your matches… It works very well ☺️

  4. Not seeing the big pink box yet, either, But it will come.
    (Probably tomorrow, just after I’ve gone to discuss the new features with DNA friends.)

    More importantly I see the name Skjold in one of the tree your showed.
    Some of my ancestral families came to Australia from Hamburg in 1841 on a ship named the Skjold. That was very early in this colony’s life, so lots of my DNA matches have connections back to that ship. I have many sort of “Mayflower moments” from that.

    • Christopher –
      You need a MyHeritage subscription or to have paid the $29 to get the DNA tools.

      Skjold means shield in Norwegian. It is also the name of a town in Rogaland as well as the name of my great grandad’s ancestral farm. A fine name indeed!

  5. I have an account that does not have a subscription and has not paid the $29. It sees four Theory of Family Relativity results. Thank you MyHeritage – shame they are a branch I already knew well.

    Two other similarly unpaid accounts with some of the same matches do not have a single Theory result. All 3 accounts have dna uploaded over a six months ago. Puzzled.

  6. I have a paid account with 5 kits I manage only one of them has the Family Relativity. I selected the filter and applied it to each kit, they all have trees. Any suggestions?

  7. My parents and I all have TOFR links but none of my four aunts and uncles that I manage. I called MyHeritage and was told that this was a known problem they are working on.

  8. I have dozens of theories, and I don’t have a subscription… I uploaded from another company more than a year ago.

    • Me too. I think maybe they are grandfathering-in those of us who helped them amass a larger, more commercially viable database, by uploading our results from elsewhere. Only problem is, I am reluctant to pay for yet another GG subscription so my tree is limited to 250 people, which makes it far less likely I’ll be able to identify previously unknown cousins through the TOR feature.

  9. Theory of Family Relativity 13 out of 13!!
    thrulines 0 out of unknown total. I gave up after finding match after match to my great grandmother’s 2nd husband’s first wife’s parents. I don’t need them. We are not related.
    I have consistently had better matching with MyHeritage. Now if Myheritage would use maiden names in the trees as default I’d be really excited. I’ve asked repeatedly but they won’t. Once you marry you are no longer the person you once were. You are now a new person with a new name. Better than the witness protection program!

  10. I have had major problems with the Theory of Family Relativity feature. First, it falsely identified me as being the same person as a distant relative on another tree, two years older and with a completely different name. MyHeritage tech support told me they fixed the problem but I wouldn’t see that until their next recalculation. I waited several months for that, only to find that all my Theories had vanished! Tech support declined to escalate my issue and blamed me because I uploaded a newer GED file and deleted my previous tree. This is no way to treat a customer who pays them $300 a year for a “Premium Plus” account. At this point, I am extremely dissatisfied.

    • So sorry for your troubles. I wrote to the various people whose trees generated incorrect results for me and now have better results. My own experience with customer support has been quite positive.

  11. This so called theory of family relativity uses faulty statistical calculations. Each time a person on one tree is identified as the same as a person on another tree, this identification is assigned a probability. When there are two or more such links, the overall probabilty of the identification of your relative should be the product of the probabilities of all of the identifications on the path. Instead,
    MyHeritage simply reports the lowest of the individual identification probabilities. A recent example for my case was 73% for one link and 55% for the second link. The overall probability should be 73%x55%=40%, but MyHeritage/23andMe reported 55%.

  12. I had one Theory of Relativity match that had the correct relationship, but we already knew that relationship. However, I have more “theories” now, and THEY ARE ALL WRONG! The people “connecting” the trees are clearly wrong: wrong name, wrong birth year. What’s up with this? It’s a waste of my time to go through them anymore. AND… How many people are going to add the wrong person to their tree now? Not good, not good.

    • Kathy –
      Many people have lots of good theories. When the theories are wrong, it is usually because the trees they are based on are wrong. When that is the case, I contact the person who has that tree as per the theory and explain courteously why what they have is incorrect.
      One problem I see in my own results is that when people were married more than once, the theory is often picking up the wrong spouse and finding a relationship through them. I am in the process of documenting that for a bug report.

  13. The system is “matching” information that does not match: wrong name, wrong years. The problem is not with people’s trees; the problem is with the system that is making the “matches”.

    • Kathy –
      Sometimes that happens, just report it to their support email so that it improves the next time.
      I thought that too but it turned out out a 2nd cousin of mine had a mess of a tree! So he sent me his login so I could fix it

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