2021 was an exciting and challenging year. This year we saw private citizens jet off to space, COVID vaccines administered worldwide, major events slated for 2020 that took place a year late, and global supply chain issues that disrupted our lives. Through it all, these past two years have taught us that flexibility and resilience are key.
Here at MyHeritage, we’ve been riding the rollercoaster with you and continuing to do what we do best: innovate to improve your experience on MyHeritage for easier and more successful family history discovery.
We released several new photo features, cementing our position as the prime destination for uploading and sharing family photos. Our groundbreaking Deep Nostalgia feature that animates faces in still photos went completely viral, with millions of animations being created in just the first few days after its release. Thanks to Deep Nostalgia, the MyHeritage mobile app made it to the very top of the App Store, and was the most popular free app in 22 countries! We also added multiple tools for making DNA Matches more useful and easier to work with.
18 years after our founding, MyHeritage was acquired by Francisco Partners, a leading global investment firm. Francisco Partners are perfectly aligned with our mission and together we are working as hard as ever to improve the future of family history.
MyHeritage is committed to adding historical records from around the world to further family history research. In August, we acquired Filae, a leading genealogy service in France. MyHeritage users have already enjoyed access to nearly one billion exclusive French historical records that have been added to MyHeritage as a result of this acquisition.
In 2021, our free, online, live genealogy webinar offerings continued full throttle, including weekly Ask the Expert sessions and hundreds of Facebook Lives in multiple languages. We celebrated the milestone of 150 Facebook Live sessions in English alone since 2020!
Here is a full recap of 2021 at MyHeritage:
Genetic Groups has been one of the most important additions to our DNA test since its launch. In January, only weeks after the first release of the Genetic Groups feature, we announced significant improvements to Genetic Groups: the addition of a Timeline Widget that allows you to follow the migration pattern of a Genetic Group over time, and a more detailed Top Places section, where you can see where members of a Genetic Group have lived during a given time period.
Our first photo tool released in 2021 was Color Restoration, which beautifully restores the colors in faded color photos. It’s ideal for restoring scanned photos from the 1950s to the 1990s that were originally taken in color, but have faded over the years. Since its release, 16.4 million photos have had their colors restored on MyHeritage!
The Photo Storyteller was another hit. This mobile-only feature allows you to record the stories behind your favorite family photos and attach the audio narrative to the photos using the MyHeritage mobile app. Since its release, 692 thousand stories have been recorded.
In February, our DNA users rejoiced when we announced a new update to the Theory of Family Relativity. This game-changing feature provides you with leads that may explain the relationship between you and your DNA Matches, based on data from our entire collection of family trees and historical records.
Ahead of President’s Day in the U.S., MyHeritage released an innovative ad that lets you see Abraham Lincoln like never before, as he explores his family history on MyHeritage. This was a harbinger of MyHeritage’s innovations based on artificial intelligence that would soon usher in a whole new perspective on family history, bringing it to life.
Also in February, we announced some good news for Mac users of Family Tree Builder with the release of a new version of our beloved Family Tree Builder software for macOS Big Sur.
As part of the trend of improving DNA Matching features on MyHeritage, we released a couple of new additions to Shared DNA Matches on MyHeritage making it easier to access essential information about shared matches. These include indications of whether Shared DNA Matches appear in a family tree on MyHeritage, and whether notes have been added to a shared match — both additions requested by our users.
In late February, we announced the winners of our #LoveInFullColor Valentine’s Day competition. We asked our users to share enhanced, colorized, and/or color-restored wedding photos, and we were blown away by all the entries — such stunning photos and fascinating stories from all over the world!
All of this was just a warm-up for what was to come at the end of February, when the release of Deep Nostalgia took the world by storm. We saw record-breaking traffic to our website as millions of people rushed to animate their historical photos and bring the past to life. The remarkable technology for animating photos was licensed by MyHeritage from D-ID, a company specializing in video reenactment using deep learning.
The groundbreaking photo feature that allows you to animate the faces of your loved ones in still photos immediately went viral.
Users responded with wonder and emotion: some were awed to see ancestors they’d never met — some from over 100 years ago — move, blink, and smile, while others were moved to tears witnessing their lost loved ones in motion after so many years with only still photos to remember them by.
Deep Nostalgia continued building viral momentum. As more and more examples of its use were shared from all over the world, we hit the new milestones of 26 million, and then 50 million animations created.
This video describes the global phenomenon that Deep Nostalgia has become:
At the end of March, we announced another addition to DNA Matches on MyHeritage: the ability to compare your Genetic Groups to those of DNA Matches on the Review DNA Match page.
In April we hosted the second annual 24-hour genealogy webinar marathon on Legacy Family Tree Webinars. The event was a roaring success. You can watch the recordings anytime with a webinar membership to FamilyTreeWebinars.com, along with all of the year’s classes and many, many other excellent webinars.
We introduced 10 additional animations for Deep Nostalgia, allowing users to animate photos with a wider spectrum of gestures and emotions, such as smile wholeheartedly, blow a kiss, nod approval, and more.
We announced that Francisco Partners, a leading global investment firm that specializes in partnering with technology businesses, had acquired MyHeritage. We are thrilled at the opportunity to accelerate our vision for growth at MyHeritage, enabling us to continue along our path and do what we do best — putting our users first and giving them life-enriching, and sometimes life-changing, experiences.
Another website improvement helped make the navigation bar on MyHeritage more intuitive and easier to use.
For Victory in Europe Day, the MyHeritage Research team found some wonderful V-E Day photos from MyHeritage users and reached out to them to discover those stories. We also colorized and enhanced them using the MyHeritage photo tools.
As the much anticipated Friends TV show reunion episode premiered, after more than 17 years since the last episode aired, the MyHeritage research team delved deep into the cast’s family trees and uncovered that Courteney Cox (Monica) and Matthew Perry (Chandler) are actually 11th cousins! The revelation caused quite a stir in the global media.
In June, we added another photo feature to our photo toolbox and introduced Photo Repair, which allows users to automatically fix scratched and damaged photos on MyHeritage.
Photo Repair automagically fixes scratches, tears, holes, stains, and other damage on historical photos. This marked yet another successful collaboration with DeOldify. Since its release, 1.75 million photos have been repaired on MyHeritage.
In honor of the 4th of July, the MyHeritage Research team found some intriguing historical photos taken as long as 150 years ago. We colorized and enhanced them to produce stunning, full-color, crystal-clear versions, and then set out to learn the stories behind the photos.
We also uncovered the inspiring story of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and found living descendants of both the man who wrote the U.S. national anthem and the woman who made the flag it celebrates.
The major feature update we introduced in July was the ability to confirm or reject a Theory of Family Relativity on MyHeritage, allowing users to systematically review theories and mark those that are no longer relevant to make the new ones more noticeable. This functionality was widely requested by our DNA users, and was very well received.
In August, we announced the exciting news that MyHeritage had signed agreements to acquire Filae, a leading genealogy service in France. The acquisition reinforced MyHeritage’s position as the leading family history service for people with European roots.
We improved the most popular view for family trees on MyHeritage with a new design, making it easier than ever to navigate your family tree and make new discoveries. Along with this update, we introduced a new relationship diagram that makes it easier than ever to trace the paths between yourself and your relatives.
We added a new colorization model for MyHeritage In Color that takes the colorization tool’s results to a whole new level. The new model works especially well on photos that have also been enhanced using the MyHeritage Photo Enhancer.
In September, we introduced several updates to the new, improved family tree view in response to feedback from our users.
We also hosted Webtember on Legacy Family Tree Webinars, offering free webinars on genealogy and DNA that were held each Friday in September, with 30 live and pre-recorded webinars in all.
In October, we launched the new and improved Legacy Family Tree Webinars website. It is now faster, easier to navigate, and more mobile-friendly, and contains several new pages and features. Legacy Family Tree Webinars is a world pioneer in online genealogy education, and one of MyHeritage’s treasured acquisitions. Hosted by Geoff Rasmussen, the site has featured more than 1,600 live and recorded webinars so far, taught by top experts in family history research and enjoyed by genealogists of all skill levels all across the globe.
We also ran another update to the data for the Theory of Family Relativity, which resulted in the addition of 19 million new theories.
In November we announced an exciting partnership with Expedia to help users plan the ultimate heritage trip and follow in their ancestors’ footsteps. We created the Heritage Travel Hub, a website hosted on Expedia, to map a travel itinerary based on MyHeritage family history discoveries.
Also in November, we released the first phase of labels for DNA Matches, providing a convenient way of organizing DNA Matches on MyHeritage. You can now label your DNA Matches by the criteria of your choice with 30 different colors. Each color can be assigned to represent a different group of interest, helping you review them more efficiently and make better progress in your family history research.
Only weeks after the first release of Labels for DNA Matches on MyHeritage, phase two was complete and DNA Match labels were added in 3 places: the top of the Review Match page, Shared DNA Matches, and DNA match exports.
MyHeritage reached another extraordinary milestone to end off the year, surpassing one million annual subscribers! To celebrate the occasion, we decided to pay a surprise visit to our one-millionth subscriber at her home in Belgium and talk with her about her MyHeritage experience. We celebrated with a marching band, balloons, and cake. Watch the video of the surprise visit!
Just one day before the end of the year, MyHeritage’s founder and CEO Gilad Japhet was honored with an invitation to the Israeli President’s home in Jerusalem, where President Isaac Herzog held the second annual presidential Bible meetup. This year’s meetup agenda was dedicated to presentations by Gilad and his mother, Prof. Sara Japhet, 87, who is an Israel Prize laureate in Biblical Studies. The Japhets were introduced by the President to the audience and their respective presentations drew a connection between the importance of family trees in biblical times to their continued importance in modern times. Gilad wowed the audience with demonstrations of the latest technological tools offered by MyHeritage to make family history research fun and exciting today. This inspired the President’s guests to make a New Year’s resolution to explore their family history in 2022.
Fantastic stories from our users
Each user’s experience is unique, and each journey of discovery is special. Over the past year, we featured some incredible stories from our users around the world.
Some described their use of the MyHeritage Photo Tools, such as Christina McKillip from the U.S., whose father became emotional when he saw a photo of his grandmother animated; Doris McQueen, who produced a whole photo album for her husband’s 91-year-old aunt after colorizing and enhancing her family photos; or Eliška Potužníková, who identified relatives in a faded photo thanks to MyHeritage’s photo tools.
MyHeritage DNA helped Gina McClelland find and reconnect with her siblings who live halfway across the world, and Stephanie Gutsys uncover her mystery biological grandfather. Diane Ward discovered the identity of her birth mother, but also a living half-sister living in the United States, thanks to a DNA test that she gave herself a few years ago on Christmas. Debra Biagini’s DNA results led her to meet her biological father and form a strong bond with him in his 90’s. Erna Rusi never gave up hope, and a 3% DNA match led her to find her father.
Linda Schmidt received a Record Match on MyHeritage that led her to a stunningly detailed account of her grandfather’s experiences serving in the U.S. Army during World War I, and it was a Search Connect result that led user Erick Löfdahl to uncover his ancestor’s WWII achievements allowing him to visit the hero’s grave in Belgium for the first time.
There were many stories that really captured our hearts, and made us break out the tissues. Here were a few of them:
Karolina Jurzky’s grandfather had told her that her great-grandfather rescued a pair of sisters from the Nazis, and using MyHeritage, she was able to locate and connect with their descendants. This story was recently featured on CNN and captured international attention, and we could not be more grateful and proud to have been part of it. Kara Miller, who was placed for a closed adoption when she was two days old, received a MyHeritage DNA match that led her to connect with both of her birth parents. Months later, both her birth dad and her adoptive dad were able to walk her down the aisle on her wedding day. Clare Reay’s mother believed she was orphaned in a concentration camp and never knew her biological family. When Clare took a MyHeritage DNA test, she found her mother’s sisters who had been searching for her for more than 50 years! They recently reunited in person, as covered in this Washington Post article.
Here is just a small taste of some of the outstanding collections that were added during 2021:
France, 1901 Census; Census of Corrèze; 1911, Censuses of Hérault; 1836–1936, Censuses of Côtes-d’Armor, 1872–1906; Daily Burial Registers of Parisian Cemeteries; Military Enlistments and Conscripts of Nord; Military Enlistments and Conscripts of Nord; and Military Conscripts of Seine
And the following important collections were updated with new records:
The MyHeritage team
Throughout the year, when COVID permitted, we were able to celebrate certain occasions and continue volunteer activities.
Here are photos from some of our events:
We said thank you to these incredible employees who celebrated a decade working at MyHeritage. They are each an essential part of the MyHeritage family, and we’re looking forward to many more wonderful years together!
2021 was an exciting year at MyHeritage, full of milestones and achievements. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of our users for being along for the ride, and giving us inspiration every step of the way. You are the reason we continue to create and evolve.
We look forward to 2022 with much anticipation — there are so many exciting developments on the way! We are gearing up for a year of new releases, with groundbreaking new features, tools, and updates. We will release billions of historical records from around the world, allowing you to make even more progress with your genealogy research. Stay tuned!
We wish you and your families a very happy holiday season and a healthy and prosperous New Year!
Source: My Heritage