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I have been a member of My Heritage MH, since I first started researching my family in 2009. It was the first genealogy site I subscribed to, and even though I have dabbled in Ancestry, Find My Past and Family Search, I have always remained loyal and faithful to MH. It is no surprise then that once I felt it was time to do mine and my husband’s DNA, I also did it with MH. So yes, you can say I am a My Heritage enthusiast. In fact, have been so for years.

A couple of years ago, I noticed they launched a photo restoring and colourising feature on their site. More recently they launched a colour balancing feature as well.

Many have asked about my thoughts on photo colourisation apps and in my opinion, they are ok to use, as you would a filter, and they can give you a rough idea of what a photo may look like in colour, but not more than that. This question was asked so often that in September 2019 I decided to post a video on YouTube.

Last week I was contacted by a former client with the following message:

Hi Claudia, (...) you restored and colourised my great grandfather’s world war 1 portrait (…) I have since started using My Heritage, and realise you may have got the uniform colour wrong as My Heritage shows it as blue and not green like you did (…)he was a pilot and in truth I was surprised to see a green uniform(…) my father was in the RAF and his uniform was blue (…)

I was taken a back by this message and explained to the lady that the colour was indeed olive green and that MH uses an algorithm to select colours which is not really accurate.

English fighter pilot Albert Ball wearing the same uniform worn by my former client's relative.

In order: Original - Colourised by Me - MH Colour

I often see MH colourised images on my social platforms but never took the trouble to read people’s comments until I got this message. Since then, I started looking into it and was shocked to find that there are a vast number of people who genuinely believe what they see on MH is the real thing!

Fast forward to today and a highly respected and extremely knowledgeable name in the Genealogy world shared an image on twitter after using the colour feature on My Heritage and stated the following when asked about if the colours were guesses:

“My Heritage takes the guess work out. I have a membership and I can upload and enhance the photos in seconds.”

On the FAQ session of their platform, My Heritage makes the following statement about the accuracy of the colours:

I decided to carry out an experience. I selected a few of my colourisations which I had been given the authentic colours either by family members or historical records. Here are the comparison results

Based on these findings, my conclusion is that My Heritage’s colourising feature does not select historically accurate or even adequate colours most of the time.

It has an evident black and blue bias for darker colours, and a cream and brown bias for lighter colours. This is why most dark colours comes out blue or black and light colours come out cream or a shade of brown.

Accuracy seems to increase dramatically in greenery, with vegetation colours coming through quite well.

Unfortunately the same does not apply to flowers making for example wedding bouquets look rather dull.

Left to right - Original - My Heritage - Photo Alchemist
Left to right - Original - My Heritage - Photo Alchemist

Should people stop using My Heritage Color Feature?

Absolutely not! It’s a fun feature and if you want to add some warmth to a lot of photos it will be definitely much more cost effective that hiring a professional photo colorist. But perhaps a word a clear disclaimer regarding the accuracy of the colour feature is in need.

When you colourise a photo on the My Heritage platform, this is what you see:

I think a clear disclaimer beneath the photo would be a great addition to this page. My Heritage is one of the giants in genealogy and people trust their message. Albeit inadvertently , the platform could be misleading some of their members to believe the colours produced are completely accurate as not everyone will go looking for their FAQ. Many will just interpret what they see at face value.

As for me, I will continue to use the platform as my main genealogy source. In that arena, they are in my opinion, the best!

I would love to hear your thoughts!

2 commentaires

As someone who specializes in dating and placing family photographs within the historical context of a family’s genealogy, I couldn’t agree with you more. MH colors are not historically accurate and though they have a disclaimer, people often don’t read the fine print. In addition to clothing colors being to the dark blue/black side which is very inaccurate, I also find skin tones to be far too pink or orange. For photographs that are originally sepiatone, inaccurate colorization disguises the original print and makes it much more difficult to accurately date a photograph using the photographic technique and paper and emulsion. BTW, I love your colorizations as an addition to the originals which I find to be best for analysis.

Claudia D'Souza
Claudia D'Souza
25 févr. 2021
En réponse à

Thank you for your comment. Even with restorations I always advise to at least label the copy with where the original is, as, like you say, things like textures, emulsions, etc are key when dating photos which are part of the family history.

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