Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) For Genealogy (Part One)

The above photo was created using DALL·E, giving the prompt to “create an image that represents genealogy and AI.”

About a year ago, I learned about the site ChatGPT. I played around with the free version a bit and signed up for a group on Facebook called Genealogy and Artificial Intelligence (AI). As of this date, the group has over 5.8K members.

That was about as far as it went. I’d look at the posts in the FB group, and it looked interesting, but it felt like it might be just another BSO (bright, shiny object) for me to go down a rabbit hole about, and if you know me then you know I have more than a lifetime worth of things I’d still need to do. As I write this statement and use Grammarly, I realize I’ve been using AI for much longer; I just hadn’t given it that name.

In more recent months, I became aware that there was a newer version of ChatGPT, which cost $20/month. I also started seeing more sophisticated art coming out of DALL·E. That seemed interesting…“get back, back, I say, you devil of BSO.”

Then, on December 26, MyHeritage provided two new tools using artificial intelligence. AI Record Finder™ and AI Biographer™. I finally surrendered, and I had to look.

The rest of this article will be about MyHeritage AI Biographer. Part Two of this article will discuss using ChatGPT (the subscription version. Yes, I broke down and put myself on the waiting list for ChatGPT, and once accepted, I was in.

AI Biographer is available in the tree view on MyHeritage. A limited number of biographies can be created with a free account, but with a MyHeritage Complete subscription, you can make 100 biographies.

When you’re in the tree view at MyHeritage, clicking on a person will open a profile box (as seen below). Here, you’ll see “Create AI Biography”. Note that my image shows “view” because I’ve created the biography already, but it will show create if you haven’t made one yet.

Once I click Create up pops a box that asks me how I’d like to see the biography, standard or enhanced. I chose enhanced because I thought I’d like to get the additional information just to see what it looked like. The system tells me I can view it when it’s ready, and a copy will be sent to my email.

The report was generated relatively quickly. The first page gave the details of her date of birth, marriage, and death and the names of her parents, siblings, husband, and children.

The second and third pages contain her biography and photos I’ve uploaded to MyHeritage. To be noted is that her biography mentioned one of the inconsistencies that I’d never noticed… that being that there was a source that stated she’d died in 1974 when, in fact, she died on September 28, 1978.

The following pages gave historical context for the times and places that my great-grandmother lived. I especially liked that it mentioned that she had sailed on the Empress of Ireland just a few weeks after the Titanic sank. This was a note that I’d added to the immigration information I had in her bio.

It gives some general thoughts, such as the one about marriage being based on economic considerations, which were far from the case with my great-grandmother and great-grandfather. My great-grandmother always talked about him with such love and admiration for him that it was the reason I named one of my sons Jesse. I figured if he could be even a bit like his 2x great-grandfather, that would be great.

Next came some information about the origin of Elizabeth’s maiden name and her married name. Below that are any consistency issues. As you can see, one of the consistency issues is that there is some concern about the mention of three daughters versus two and, of course, the one that’s mentioned in the biography about her death year.

Finally, the report ends with the citation for the report. It doesn’t get into the citations for the documents included in the tree, just the tree itself.

I like the idea of the report, and it makes me want to go back and add more detail so that the report might be better and, of course, correct the consistency issues it found.

I’m starting to think that with the help of artificial intelligence, I’ll be able to get some of my family tree book completed a bit quicker. So maybe it’s not a BSO but a path to being more effective and efficient. Not that I’ll have AI do all the work, but it can do some of the mundane work, and then I can take it from there.

Watch for my next article about how I used ChatGPT to get a bit further in telling my family story.

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  • Nuala says:

    This was a fascinating article to me as I am very interested in the topic. I was especially curious to see what AI would write in the “Historical Context” section. I was disappointed.
    The “Titanic” sank on the 14 April 1912, not 1911 as stated. The “Empress of Ireland” itself sank in the Gulf of St. Lawrence (Canada) on the 29 May 1914 with the loss of over 1,000 lives.
    The statement “Immigration was encourage by the Canadian authorities” is superficial and should have documented some facts on the subsidies offered to certain immigrants at that time.
    I’m sure it will improve with time and the concept is exciting.

    • Nuala, You’re right.. that was one thing that I didn’t mention that of course you have to check for error on ChatGPT or any other AI application. Thanks for pointing that out. Happy hunting

  • Susan Koelble says:

    Ancestry has been such a pain recently that I thought I mught try MyHeritage, just waiting for a discount. Thanks for the information, I’ll give it a try.

  • Loved the article about AI for Genealogy, especially the info about functionality on MyHeritage to build a biography. I have an extensive family tree on MyHeritage but didn’t know about this feature. I will certainly give it a try. I look forward to your next article about AI for Genealogy!!