MyHeritage DNA Matching Update AND a New Chromosome Browser!

We have a MyHeritage DNA matching update! Not only has MyHeritage DNA released a much better matching algorithm, the company that lets you upload your DNA for free has also introduced a chromosome browser. Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard shares the good news—and a quick introduction to her favorite matching tools on MyHeritage DNA.

In my first job as a grocery store clerk, I learned that most customer service issues can be solved if you listen carefully to the customer and do all you can to make it right. This is what MyHeritage has done.

For months after the launch of their in-house DNA testing product in the fall of 2016, their DNA matching algorithm had problems. Even a year later, there were concerning reports of discrepancies between the match lists of parents and children. And yet, the genetic genealogy community was patient—because MyHeritage had so far delivered on every promise they had made to the community. They had delivered a competitive origins (ethnicity) product, adopted a stringent privacy policy, and let everyone upload their DNA for free.

MyHeritage DNA matching update

Now in January of 2018, all that patience has paid off. MyHeritage has updated its matching algorithm and recalibrated all the DNA matches in their system. The result is a much more robust depiction of our relationships with others in the database. Most users are seeing a dramatic increase in the total number of matches, and a significant decrease in the number of false positives, or matches that are on your match list but shouldn’t be.

Additionally, to the delight of many genetic genealogists, MyHeritage has launched a chromosome browser. This tool allows you to see the locations on the DNA that are shared with your match. Many genetic genealogists like to use this tool to help them visualize the shared DNA, and group their DNA matches.

Now that the matching algorithm has improved, I’d like to recommend three great tools you should be using at MyHeritage to help you identify your genetic matches. Yes, one of them is the chromosome browser–but take a look at these others, too. And take note: you won’t find these exact tools at AncestryDNA.

Tool #1: List of possible relationships for your genetic matches

In a recent blog post, I described how you can narrow down your possible relationships to your genetic matches by comparing your total shared DNA to a table developed by genetic genealogy experts. MyHeritage DNA simplifies that process for you with a customized chart for each of your genetic matches. Each chart visually shows you all possible relationships, even taking into account factors like your age and gender.

To access the chart, log in to your MyHeritage account. Under the DNA tab, select “Genetic Matches.” Then click on the little question mark icon next to the relationship suggestions:

Then you’ll see a chart that’s been customized for this relationship by highlighting all your possible relationships to this genetic match:

Tool #2: Longest piece of shared DNA with your genetic matches

In addition to the range of possibilities above, you can also be misled by the total amount of DNA you share with your genetic matches. Yes, you might actually be third cousins. But if your ancestors lived in a community that intermarried a lot because they were isolated geographically or culturally, you might also just share a lot of common DNA. You might be sixth cousins three times over.

The size of the biggest piece of DNA you share with a genetic match is really important for puzzling this out. Let’s say two of your genetic matches each share 30 centimorgans of DNA with you. Both are predicted to be your fourth cousins, but one person’s longest shared piece of DNA is 18 centimorgans long, and the other’s is 9 centimorgans long. The closer match–the one you should pursue first–is the one that shares the longest piece of DNA.

At MyHeritage DNA, you can sort your list of genetic matches by longest shared segment. At the top of your list, under the “All” drop-down menu, select “Largest Segment.” You may see your match list rearrange itself (this is a clue that the total shared DNA doesn’t tell you the whole story about genetic relatedness):

Then, click on your top genetic matches to see more detail about that longest segment:

Tool #3: NEW Chromosome browser

The new chromosome browser at MyHeritage is what they’re calling an “initial release” or first draft that “will be enhanced further soon.” It’s currently embedded in each of your individual match pages. That way, you can compare what areas of genetic material you and each of your matches have in common.

“It’s a free feature that can be used by all users on MyHeritage who have taken the DNA test or uploaded DNA data,” says a company press release. “It shows the shared segments between you and a DNA Match in purple. When you hover your mouse over any shared segment you can see the genomic position of the shared segment, the size of the segment, and the number of SNPs there. Grey segments are not shared with the DNA Match and crisscrossed sections were not analyzed due to the lack of SNPs in those regions.”

I’ll be back soon with more tips and tutorials on getting the most out of the new MyHeritage chromosome browser. I just wanted to alert you that it’s there—one more valuable tool in the MyHeritage DNA matching toolbox.

Advanced DNA tools for family history research

If you’re ready to get more genealogy information out of your DNA testing experience, consider whether Diahan’s Advanced DNA Bundle might be a good investment for you. These laminated guides are available singly (click on individual titles below) or as a value-priced bundle and can help you with very specific “next steps:”

  • Gedmatch: A Next Step for Your Autosomal DNA Test. Gedmatch is a third‐party tool for use by genetic genealogists seeking to advance their knowledge of their autosomal DNA test. This guide navigates you through the myriad of options and point out only the best tools for your genetic genealogy research.
  • Organizing Your DNA Matches. With millions of people now in the possession of a DNA test–and most with match lists in the thousands–many are wondering how to keep track of all this data and apply it to their family history. This guide provides the foundation for managing DNA matches and correspondence, and for working with forms, spreadsheets, and 3rd party tools.
  • Next Steps: Working With Your Autosomal DNA Matches. This guide outlines what to do next to maximize the power of DNA testing in genealogy. With this guide in hand, genealogists will be prepared to take their DNA testing experience to the next level and make new discoveries about their ancestors and heritage.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

The Author: Diahan Southard

The Author: Diahan Southard

Your DNA Guide

Diahan Southard is Your DNA Guide here at Genealogy Gems! She has worked with the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, and has been in the genetic genealogy industry since it has been an industry. She holds a degree in Microbiology and her creative side helps her break the science up into delicious bite-sized pieces for you. She’s the author of our DNA guides Getting Started: Genetics for Genealogists, and Y Chromosome DNA for Genealogists (click STORE in the menu above)

Understanding DNA Ethnicity Estimates

DNA ethnicity estimates are fun conversation-starters. But the “pie charts” become more meaningful genealogically when you can assign timelines to the places your ancestors were from. Here’s an update to our ongoing conversation about what DNA ethnicity results really mean.

DNA ethnicity estimates

Understanding DNA Ethnicity Estimates

Where did I come from? This is a fundamental human question, and it is driving millions of individuals all over the world to have their DNA tested. Now, we genealogists would like to think that they are being tested to aid their family history efforts, or to connect with us, their cousins. But they aren’t. They are after that pretty pie chart that tells them what percentage of themselves came from where.

Now, I know you have heard me say that these kinds of results are just for fun, and don’t hold much genealogical value. But due to some interesting developments in the world of DNA, my previous assertions of these ethnic origins results being somehow second class to our match list might be changing.

Living DNA and DNA Ethnicity Results

A U.K. company called Living DNA launched their DNA product in the fall of 2016. Right now, all they are focusing on is reporting ethnic origins information. But they are doing it in a manner that changes the way we look at our DNA ethnicity results.

In addition to the standard map that you will see at any genetic genealogy company, Living DNA also offers a tool they call “Through History.” It literally takes you step-by-step back in time to show you how similar your DNA is to others on earth during 11 time periods ranging from 1,000 years ago to 80,000 years ago! In the images shown below, we see a glimpse into my earliest time period, a peek at the middle, and a view of the last. The intensity of the blue on the chart tells you how genetically similar I am to the people in that area.

In the first chart shown here, you can see that since I am 100% European, I share DNA with, well, people from Europe:

DNA ethnicity estimates

But, if we go back not very far, I am sharing DNA with people in the Middle East and Russia, as shown in the second map:

DNA ethnicity estimates

As my DNA marches further back in time I can see that I am sharing that DNA with people in a variety of locations, until we get back to the beginning of man, and I am sharing DNA with literally everyone in the world.

DNA ethnicity estimates

DNA Ethnicity Estimates Over Time

So, how does this work from a DNA standpoint? Well, the fact is, not all DNA markers are created equally. Some markers have developed relatively recently in on our timeline making them helpful for determining recent relationships and modern populations. Others have been around longer, linking us to early settlers of Europe or even Asia. Still others link us together as a human race and help to track our origins back to a single time and place.

Part of the struggle that these DNA testing companies have is trying to figure out the time and place for each of the markers they test. Certainly part of the puzzle is the ability to look not just at modern day populations, but ancient populations.

You may have heard of some recent reports that scientists have completed DNA testing on ancient remains. One example came from Ireland where they were able to determine that one body tested had ancestry in the Middle East, and another had roots in Russia. It is the combined efforts of both ancient DNA testing and your own modern samples that unite to help us improve our understanding of our own personal origins, as well help us understand how humankind developed and evolved.

3 Ways to Better Understand Your DNA Ethnicity Estimates

To get the most out of your genetic genealogy populations report, you may want to:

  1. View your results in the context of a more historical timeline, as opposed to your own genealogical timeline.
  2. Try testing at multiple companies (you can transfer into Family Tree DNA from 23andMe or AncestryDNA for only $19). Click here to see recent updates to Family Tree DNA’s ethnicity categories.
  3. Give the multiple population tools at Gedmatch a try, just to get a better feel for how different companies and tools can provide us a different look at the populations we are carrying around in our DNA. My quick guide for using Gedmatch, shown here, is available as a printed guide or digital download.
The Author: Diahan Southard

The Author: Diahan Southard

Your DNA Guide

Diahan Southard is Your DNA Guide here at Genealogy Gems. She been in the genetic genealogy industry since it has been an industry, having worked with the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation. She holds a degree in Microbiology and her creative side helps her break the science up into delicious bite-sized pieces for you. She’s the author of our popular DNA guide series, which includes Getting Started: Genetics for Genealogists and Y Chromosome DNA for Genealogists (find the full series in the Genealogy Gems Store).

DNA ethnicity estimates

DNA Testing News: 2017 Year in Review

Plenty of DNA testing news crossed our desks in 2017! Advances in genetic genealogy include an AncestryDNA database that doubled in size, new options for participants, more health-related information and a new global genetic tree. Catch up on these developments before 2018 brings us even more DNA news!

dna testing year in review

DNA Testing News in 2017

The genetic genealogy industry is growing at a break-neck pace. Ancestry.com has amassed the largest DNA database by doubling its testing pool in 2017. Over 6 million people have now tested there. This is great news for those seeking genetic connections. As these databases grow larger, it’s also clear that genetic data–correlated with genealogical data–has tremendous ability to provide us with other answers about ourselves.

In November, MyHeritage announced an effort by their scientific team to “study the relationship between genetics and behavior, personal characteristics, and culture.” These studies are not new, as 23andMe is in open hot pursuit of the connections between genetics and our health, and always has been.

Increased options for your DNA testing experience

All of our genetic genealogy companies are involved in research on one level or another and every person who swabs or spits has the opportunity to participate in other research projects (click here to read up on the consent policies at each company). At the time of testing, you have the option to opt in or out of this research, and the ability to alter that decision at any time after you test, by accessing your settings. According to an article in Fast Company, it seems we as a community are very interested in helping with research: 23andMe reports an over 80% opt-in-to-research rate among their customers. And I’ve got some breaking news for you: Family Tree DNA recently ran a consumer awareness campaign to reinforce the message that they will never sell your genetic data.

DNA testing news

Health data and research

All our genetic genealogy companies realize that you might want to do more with your data than just look for your ancestors. This year Family Tree DNA has partnered with Vitagene in an effort to provide insight into your health via your genetic genealogy test results. Of course 23andMe is the leader in health testing when we look at our top genetic genealogy companies. This year 23andMe finally succeeded in passing several of their health tests through the FDA, a huge leap forward in their efforts to provide health testing directly to consumers.

While health testing has certainly seen an explosion of interest this year, it is not the only way that our companies are using the data they have amassed. AncestryDNA took the DNA and pedigree charts of two million customers who consented to research and, using some really fancy science, were able to provide amazing insight into our recent ancestral past with the creation of their genetic communities. These genetic communities enhance our understanding of our heritage by showing us where our ancestors may have been between 1750 and 1850, the genealogical “sweet spot” that most of us are trying to fill in.

A global genetic family tree

Living DNA, a relative newcomer to the genetic genealogy arena, announced in October of 2017 their intention to use their database to help create a One World Family Tree. To do so, they are collecting DNA samples from all over the world, specifically those who four grandparents lived in close proximity to each other. Along with this announcement, Living DNA is allowing individuals who have results from other companies and want to help with this project, to transfer into their database.

So it seems that with growing databases come growing options, whether to opt-in to research, to pursue health information from your DNA test results, or to help build global databases for health or genealogy purposes. Recognizing the growing appeal to non-genealogists as well, AncestryDNA added to their list of options the ability to opt-out of the match page, and there are rumors that Living DNA will soon be adding the option to opt-in to matching (they do not currently have a cousin-matching feature as part of their offering).

DNA testing news

Keep up with DNA testing news

It can be tricky to keep up with the seemingly relentless flood of DNA advances, so follow us here at Genealogy Gems, where I report on the most important DNA testing news for your genealogy research. You can stay up-to-date by following us on Facebooksubscribing to our free weekly e-mail newsletter and tuning in to the free Genealogy Gems Podcast.

The Author: Diahan Southard

The Author: Diahan Southard

Your DNA Guide

Diahan Southard is Your DNA Guide here at Genealogy Gems! She has worked with the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, and has been in the genetic genealogy industry since it has been an industry. She holds a degree in Microbiology and her creative side helps her break the science up into delicious bite-sized pieces for you. She’s the author of our DNA guides Getting Started: Genetics for Genealogists, and Y Chromosome DNA for Genealogists (click STORE in the menu above)

REGISTER NOW – Free Webinar “Reveal Your Unique Story through DNA and Family History”

free webinar

What to reveal more about your family’s unique story through DNA and genealogy? Grab your seat in our upcoming free webinar:

Date: Sat. Sept. 23, 2017
Time: 11:00 AM Eastern
Length: 90 minutes including Live Q&A

Here’s what you’ll learn:

Your DNA Guide will dispel the myth that there’s just one DNA test
There are more options, and possible outcomes, than you might think! Diahan will walk you through the choices.

Creative ideas for filling in the gaps in your family’s story
Lisa will show you online tools that go well beyond names and dates. Then we’ll expand your story in unexpected ways by finding DNA connections.

Share the story you’ve uncovered through awesome video
Lisa & Beth will show you how easy it is to tell your story like a pro!

Please share this free webinar with your friends

Please share this free webinar with your friends and genealogy society. Here’s the link to the registration page to share on social media:

https://events.genndi.com/register/169105139238464863/a65a2c57c6 

Why Do DNA Testing for Family History If You Already “Know” Your Tree

“I don’t need DNA testing for family history: my pedigree is full!” I still hear this occasionally. But here’s why everyone doing their family history should take at least one DNA test.

Full tree You still need DNA testing

Teenagers (including my own) are always talking about the things that “everyone else has,” a phenomenon that Malcolm Gladwell describes as the “tipping point.” He says that the tipping point is “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point” for change in human behavior. For my kids, it’s everything from the point at which a party becomes fun to doing everything humanly possible to procure a fidget-spinner (if you don’t know what that is, ask the nearest 11-year-old).

In DNA testing for family history in the United States, that tipping point is now. We have reached the point where most genealogists at least have the passing notion that genetics can be useful in genealogy. Most genealogists (I would guess 85%) who attend the lectures I give have already had at least one DNA test completed.

Let’s stop for just one minute and recognize how incredible that is! Not too long ago I was still trying to convince people that this was a good idea and that you didn’t have to dig up your ancestors to do it. But now we have scores of genealogists who have not only tested themselves, but have convinced half their family to test as well!

“I don’t need DNA testing for family history.” Really?

This got me thinking though: who are those people who haven’t tested? And why not? One category of people sans DNA test is those who have full pedigree charts. I have heard many of them say that they don’t see the need to do DNA testing since they have most of their lines “way back.”

To those with the blessing of ancestors who kept better records than mine, I am offering four reasons why you should RSVP anyway to your invitation to DNA test.

1. To create and preserve a unique record. First and foremost, your DNA is a record. Just as you have obtained birth certificates and marriage licenses for your ancestors, your DNA is a unique record. It does represent you and your family in a way that no other record can. It is a document of your genetic history and should be preserved. Further, while you may doubt the ability of your DNA to shed light on your current genealogy, don’t underestimate the contribution it might make in the future.

2. Because you have second cousins. And third cousins, and fourth cousins, etc. Having your DNA tested means you can see a biological connection between you and other relatives that have had tested. For many, the idea of meeting or forming relationships with distant cousins is not appealing. But even if you have no intention of attending DNA family reunions or even in corresponding with these relatives, there is something reassuring about seeing them there on your match list. There is a certain thrill that comes with recognizing the connection between you and someone else. A connection that may not add any new names to your tree, but it helps you feel a deeper connection to your ancestor, and a greater appreciation for your biology.

Genetic vs Genealogcial Cousins3. To verify what’s on your tree. Which brings me to the next point. Seeing these cousins on your list can actually help verify the genealogy you have already collected and documented. It helps to reassure you that you have made the right steps along the way, and may help you gain additional resources about your relative through their descendants that you find on your match list. Resources that can help turn that ancestor from a name on a chart to a story and a life worth preserving.

Verifying what’s on your tree brings with it a certain amount of uncertainty, it’s true. In fact, in the process of verifying your tree, you may discover new genetic truths about it. You may find that some who you thought biologically related actually aren’t, and you may discover new biological relatives you didn’t know about. Not everyone is prepared for this, especially if they’re pretty sure they know everything about their ancestry. But increasingly, I’m finding, people do want to know about a second cousin who was adopted out of the family or their grandpa’s secret half-sibling–and these connections may never emerge unless you participate in DNA testing for family history.

Remember, your genealogical pedigree is not the same as your genetic pedigree! Click here to read about different things you may learn from each one.

4. To help someone else build their tree. The last reason to go ahead and have your DNA tested is to help others. If you have been lucky enough to fill in most of the blanks on your tree, you can help others do the same by simply having your DNA tested. Your DNA provides a link to your tree that might be just what someone needs to overcome a brick wall in their family history.

So, if you have been hanging out on the outskirts of DNA testing because you feel like your tree is full enough without it, remember to RSVP to your invitation to be DNA tested, and join the party!

Test DNA for Family HistoryClick here to get started with DNA testing for family history. You’ll learn who to test, why to test, what tests you can take and where to purchase them. You can watch a short video about getting started and see additional resources that will help you get the most out of your testing experience all along the way.

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