MyHeritage Genetic Groups | DNA Ethnicity

Diahan Southard

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MyHeritage DNA’s 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 ethnicity estimate is more powerful for genealogists.

MyHeritage DNA Genetic Groups IO.pngMyHeritage 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.

12.23 MH Update 1.png

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.

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This process has worked fantastically for me.

DiscoverWithDima, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

DiscoverWithDima, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

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.

12.23 MH 3.pngIn 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.

12.23 MH 5.pngOne 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. It is also available to those who transferred their DNA test to MyHeritage from another company before December 16, 2018, or who have transferred and then paid the $29 fee to unlock the DNA advanced features. If you have transferred but not yet paid the $29 fee, you can do that now and then your ethnicity estimate will be updated within 24 hours.

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

MyHeritage DNA test kit.jpg1) Take a MyHeritage DNA test.* They often run fantastic sales—check current prices here. (If you’ve already tested, go look at your results. They will update.)

2) Upload your autosomal DNA test results to MyHeritage from 23andMe, AncestryDNA, Living DNA, or Family Tree DNA (Family Finder test). It’s free to upload—and then a relatively small fee to unlock their exclusive DNA tools, including the ethnicity result. 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.

For a similar feature at AncestryDNA: read about their Genetic Communities.

Ready to learn more about your DNA Ethnicity results? Check out our free guide!

Tell Me More about My Ethnicity Results!
<a href="https://www.yourdnaguide.com/author/guideyourdnaguide-com" 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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12 Comments

  1. Cher

    Greetings. My first Genetic Cluster group estimated as “high” is grossly inaccurate. I have no ancestors from any of the regions identified and the few cousin matches I have from those regions are likely false positives given the small amount of shared DNA (i.e., 8 cM on average). The second Cluster Group estimated as “medium” confidence level is accurate and my last Cluster Group at the “low” confidence level is accurate. I will definitely write to MyHeritage so that they can correct the inaccuracies.

    Reply
  2. Phristan De Wolvenkoning

    Your so called accurate update 😛 you estimated I was 43% irish english .. now that changed to 2,7% and 12% scandinavian .. and 33 % west europa .. so dutch french german .. that number was first 7%.. 🤷🏾‍♂️…. Like whut

    Reply
    • Diahan Southard

      Remember, we are not MyHeritage, just a website that provides information about DNA testing and various companies. But you are right, updates ARE confusing sometimes. Just keep in mind that your results are based on lots of factors, and are an estimate. Did you get any groups with your new update? Usually these are more accurate.

      Reply
  3. Marie Kathy Morrissey

    My results appear accurate. Although, as the information keeps getting updated, it has changed and added a group I can not find any related persons in.

    Reply
    • Diahan Southard

      If you have a group you don’t recognize, and a missing ancestor, often those two go together!

      Reply
  4. Massimiliano Fedel

    Hello I would as you about my DNA results (MH-YKA476!), it shows I´m 36,4%   northern italian, 24,4%   Balkan and 39,2%   other (north and west Europe, Iberian, Ashkenazi Jew, Eastern European). My father is northern Italian, but I would like to ask you mainly about Balkan group, from my mothers origin I know for sure my great grand mother was from Greece, but I have 0% greek origin how could that be? Is it possible? Is it possible my Balcan results contain also my greek origin while not showing it as Greek?  My mothers origin is also from Slovakia and Hungary which I found can be in your Balkan group even these countries are not in Balkan penninsula. Can you please explain me more about it, because i´ve expected also few greek origin, since my great grand mother was sure from there, I think from northern Greece (I´m not sure) which is close to “more” balcan countries.Thank you very much for your answer.

    Reply
    • Diahan Southard

      All great questions. The short answer is that these estimates are based on reference populations. If your particular population isn’t in their reference set, then they won’t be able to tell you that you are from there. I would wager your Greek is in that Balkan category. You can learn more about your ethnicity results here: https://www.yourdnaguide.com/ethnicity-estimate

      Reply
      • Massimiliano Fedel

        Thank you! So you think they are not able to identify my greek origin even if there is one group called Greek?

        Reply
  5. travelling sisters

    Hi there! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and tell you I really enjoy reading through your blog posts. Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that go over the same topics? Thank you!

    Reply
    • Danielle Francis

      Hi! I would recommend looking through the different presenters at RootsTech (https://www.familysearch.org/rootstech/). You can search by topic of what you’re interested in. You can find many of our talented colleagues in the industry there.

      Reply
  6. Lorice Wakker

    Hi 👋 I wanted to know if I uploaded my mother’s dna results will that update my ethnicity results in the system?

    I think 23andme does that and just wanted to know if myheritage does it too.

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Diahan Southard

      Hi Lorice. Good question. Your ethnicity will not be effected by having your mother’s DNA in the system right away. But possibly the next time they do an update of their ethnicity, you may see that your results change – but that could be due to a bunch of factors.

      Reply

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