MyHeritage Genetic Groups now reveal locations in which your ancestors lived within the past 400 years—based on their genetic migratory clusters. Here’s why this kind of DNA ethnicity estimate is more powerful for genealogists.
MyHeritage DNA has been teasing us with an update to their ethnicity results since MyHeritage LIVE in Oslo in the fall in 2018. I was in the front row, hanging on every word as founder Gilad Japhet explained that soon we would have many many more details about where our ancestors lived and traveled.
Now, all that waiting has paid off.
MyHeritage DNA Genetic Groups: Beyond Ethnicity Estimates
For many MyHeritage users, their somewhat one-dimensional DNA ethnicity results have now turned into a 3D experience that more closely resembles what they know about their ancestral past. How can they do this? Well, it is really about harnessing the power of DNA matching. You see, traditional ethnicity results that report how you are 25% Italian and 47% English rely on a methodology based on reference populations. So the science team gathers a bunch of people from England, identifies the DNA they have in common, and then makes that the standard by which others are included or excluded from that club.
The result of that technology is nothing to sneeze at. It can give you very interesting and even accurate information about where your family is from. The big problem really is timing. When were your ancestors in that place? Maybe recently, but just as likely, they could have been there thousands of years ago. That means that you will see locations in your ethnicity results that don’t reflect your current knowledge of your family. And the truth is, your connection to that place may be so long ago that you will never find the ancestor who connects you to that place.
With their new Genetic Groups, MyHeritage is offering a peek into the ancestral locations that are likely found in your recent heritage in the last 400 years or so. These genetic groups are based not on reference populations, but on DNA matching.
The science team starts out by looking purely at the genetics of the database and works to whittle them down into smaller and smaller genetic clusters so that only those that are most alike genetically are gathered in a cluster. From there, they review the family trees of those who are part of the same cluster and look for patterns in their locations. It is this combination of genetics and genealogy that allows them to place you in a cluster. It is important to review the number of individuals that were used to form your cluster.
This process has worked fantastically for me.
MyHeritage was able to find my connection to my mom’s biological family. The Thomas and Wetzstein families were what are known as German speaking Russians. They lived in Odessa, Ukraine, right on the Black Sea. You can see that reflected here in my DNA. Guys, it is almost magical to see this very, very specific place show up on my DNA test results. I have not seen this at any other company.
In addition to these genetic groups, you can use the timeline dropdown at the top to adjust the time period you are looking at to see where in the world individuals belonging to this group were living. This has all kinds of implications for us as we are trying to go back in time to find our ancestors, as well as move forward in time to identify descendants of our lines. I am looking forward to playing with this feature more.
If you have imported your tree into MyHeritage you can choose to overlay the locations of your ancestors into the map.
One more thing to mention before I let you go explore on your own is the confidence interval slider at the top of the page. This lets you play scientist (YAY!). In general, those locations still listed at the highest confidence are those you can expect to see in your family tree.
This enhanced view is available to anyone who has taken a MyHeritage DNA test, or who transfers their DNA results from another company and pays a $29 unlock fee (which we totally think is worth it–here’s why).
All in all, as I said, I think this update was worth waiting for. But that is just MY experience! What do you think? What changed for you?
2 Ways to Get the Updated MyHeritage DNA Ethnicity Reports
2) Upload your autosomal DNA test results to MyHeritage from 23andMe, AncestryDNA, Living DNA, or Family Tree DNA (Family Finder test) and then pay the $29 unlock fee. Even if you’ve already tested elsewhere, like I have, you might find that MyHeritage uniquely identifies an important ancestral place, as they have for me.
Free Guide to DNA Ethnicity
Got more questions about DNA ethnicity? Get answers–and a free guide to DNA ethnicity.