Using MyHeritage Chromosome Browser

Diahan Southard

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MyHeritage has a new chromosome browser! Here are three tips for using the MyHeritage chromosome browser effectively.

Just last year if you had asked me if I thought anyone could catch AncestryDNA in their race to own the genetic genealogy market, I would have been skeptical. However, it is clear that MyHeritage intends to be a contender, and they are quickly ramping up their efforts to gain market share—and your confidence.

They began 2018 by making a much-needed change to their matching algorithm. Previously it was full of errors and misinformation, but they were able to adjust and now it is humming right along, telling our second cousins from our fourth with a great deal more accuracy.

Another development, launched in February, is the addition of a chromosome browser.

What is a chromosome browser?

Much like you would browse the library shelves for the perfect book, or browse through the sale rack for a great bargain, you can use a chromosome browser to look through your chromosomes for the pieces of DNA you share with your genetic cousins. Chromosome browsers can be everything from a fun way to review your genetic genealogy results, to a tool to assist in determining how you are related to someone else. Let’s go over three tips to help you make use of this new tool.

Finding the MyHeritage chromosome browser

There are actually two different kinds of chromosome browsers in MyHeritage: one to view only the segments you share with one match (the One-to-One Browser), and a browser where you can see the segments shared with multiple matches (the One-to-Many Browser).

To get to the Personal Browser, head over to your match page and find a cousin for whom you would like to see your shared DNA segments. Click on Review DNA Match, then scroll down past all the individual match information, past the Shared Matches and Shared Ethnicities until you see the Chromosome Browser.

MyHeritage chromosome browswer One-to-One annotated.png

To find the Group Chromosome Browser, you can use the main DNA navigation menu at the top of the MyHeritage homepage. Click on DNA, then on DNA Tools.

Next, select the Chromosome Browser.

The One-to-Many Browser

In the One-to-Many Chromosome Browser you can compare yourself, or any account you manage, to anyone else in your match page. To choose a match to evaluate, just click on their name and they will be added to the queue at the top:

MyHeritage chromosome browser one to many menu.png

Clicking on Compare will then allow you to see the actual segments you share with each person:

MyHeritage chromosome browser Triangulated Segments Large.png

In this One-To-Many view each individual match gets their own line for each chromosome. Since we have added 7 people to the chromosome browser, there are seven lines next to each chromosome number. Each match not only gets their own line, but also their own color. So you can easily match up the lines on the chromosome to the match that shares that piece of DNA with you.

For the majority of people the majority of the time, these chromosome browsers are just another fun way to visualize the connection you have with your DNA match. In the end, it doesn’t matter where you are sharing on the chromosome, just how much DNA you are sharing. You can obtain that information from your main match page, and never look at this chromosome browser image, and still make fantastic genetic genealogy discoveries.

Using the triangulation tool

Another feature of the MyHeritage chromosome browser is the Triangulation tool. To understand how this works, you first need to understand that you actually have two copies of each chromosome. Two copies of chromosome 1, two copies of chromosome 2, etc. One copy is from mom, and the other from dad. However, in the Chromosome Browser image, you see only one line for yourself (in gray).

Therefore, when you see someone matching you on chromosome 14, for example, you don’t know if that person is matching you on the chromosome 14 you got from your mom, or the chromosome 14 you got from your dad. Likewise, if you see two people whose shared piece with you looks to be in the same location on the same chromosome, you can’t tell if they are both sharing on the same copy of that chromosome, or if one match is related to your dad’s family, and the other match is related to your mom’s family. The Triangulation tool tells us if two (or three or four, etc) matches are sharing on the same copy of the same chromosome. 

MyHeritage puts a box around the pieces of DNA that are the same between both of the selected matches. Some genetic genealogists use these triangulated groups as evidence of a shared common ancestor between the triangulated individuals. However, this is not always the case, especially at the very low threshold MyHeritage has set as the default (only 2 cM).

More often that not, you share that DNA not because you share a single recent common ancestor, but because you all share a common population group (like you are all Irish). So please be careful if you decide to use this tool in your family history.

Accessing the MyHeritage Chromosome Browser

Just so you know, though it’s still free to upload your autosomal DNA test results to MyHeritage and get access to your DNA matches for free, the Chromosome Browser isn’t free for anyone who has uploaded DNA since December 16, 2018. To use the Chromosome Browser and other great MyHeritage DNA tools, you’ll need to pay a modest “unlock fee,” which is presently $29. MyHeritage also has a great “Try before you buy” offer if you’re on the fence about the unlock fee; they offer a free 14-day subscription trial which includes the Chromosome Browser and all their other advanced DNA tools.

I think the very best thing that this chromosome browser can do for you is to get you back into your DNA test results, get you working on your match list, and sparking your curiosity about your connections. May I recommend the MyHeritage DNA inexpensive quick reference guide we publish? It will help you get the most out of your DNA research experience there.

Take me to those Quick Guides!

Originally published March 2018 on Updated in May 2019.

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<a href="" target="_self">Diahan Southard</a>

Diahan Southard

As founder and CEO of Your DNA Guide, Diahan Southard has been teaching people how to find family history answers in their DNA for several years, and she's been in the genetic genealogy field since its infancy. Diahan teaches internationally, writes for popular magazines, consults with leading testing companies, is author of Your DNA Guide–The Book, and producer of Your DNA Guide–the Academy, an online learning experience.


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