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MyHeritage is an Israeli-based company established in 2003 and one of the largest genealogy research websites in the world.
For most of the company’s lifetime, their focus has been on collecting genealogical and historical records – marriage certificates, photos, census reports, newspapers, etc. – into a searchable database.
So far, MyHeritage has billions of records, 99 million users worldwide and 43 million family trees.
In 2016 they launched MyHeritage DNA, giving amateur genealogists a powerful new way to connect with family members and research their roots.
For now, MyHeritage only offers Autosomal DNA testing – they have the most affordable autosomal DNA test.
The test will help you discover new family matches and give you an estimate of your ethnicity breakdown.
MyHeritage DNA is still a ways behind other major tests like AncestryDNA and FTDNA, but they grow at a rapid pace.
MyHeritage is outpaced by other companies in many areas of ancestry DNA testing. But there are four areas where they really stand out.
MyHeritage is more similar to AncestryDNA than any other company.
They both started out as genealogical research services, aggregating historical and family records on one platform and making them easily searchable.
They are also similar in that they both offer only autosomal tests. There’s no maternal or paternal tracing with either test.
But AncestryDNA has been at this much longer. They have a bigger database which means more matches and they test for more regions meaning you get a more detailed ethnicity breakdown.
MyHeritage has the advantage of being cheaper, faster and having a chromosome browser.
Additionally, you can access some of their genealogical records and create a limited family tree for free while Ancestry requires a subscription from the get-go.
FTDNA is a comprehensive ancestry DNA testing service that offers all three types of tests (autosomal DNA, mtDNA, and Y-DNA) while MyHeritage offers only one test.
You can trace your mother’s and father’s lineage on FTDNA and even get matches from a specific side of the family.
And if you are doing some pretty serious genealogical research, FTDNA offers more complex tests beyond the basic ones.
MyHeritage DNA is excellent for amateur genealogists while FTDNA caters more to experts.
One thing we like about both tests is that they allow raw data upload from third-party sites.
The most significant difference between these two is that 23andMe offers genetic health screening alongside their Ancestry test. MyHeritage focuses only on Ancestry testing.
While 23andMe has an autosomal test like MyHeritage, theirs is bundled with mtDNA and Y-DNA testing. So you can trace your maternal and paternal haplogroups.
23andMe also has a bigger database, and you are likely to find more matches there.
MyHeritage biggest advantage over 23andMe is that they are cheaper and allow raw data upload from other sites.
Once you order the kit online, it will arrive in your mail in a couple of days.
The kit contains a cheek swab – you don’t need to spit or draw blood.
A cheek swab takes less than 2 minutes to take and is great for kids and the elderly who might have trouble spitting.
Remember to read the instructions before collecting a sample. MyHeritage recommends that you don’t eat, drink, brush teeth or smoke for at least half an hour before taking a cheek swab.
After you are done, put the sample in the included envelope and mail it back to MyHeritage.
Note: You can also order the DNA test as a gift. Just fill in the recipient’s shipping address, and it will be delivered to them. They’ll be able to register the kit in their name and create an account to view results.
MyHeritage extracts and tests your DNA in a CLIA-certified and CAP-accredited lab.
They use an Illumina OmniExpress-24 chip to test about 700,000 SNPs.
Here’s a short video from MyHeritage explaining the lab testing process,
One of the best features of MyHeritage is that they allow you to upload raw data from any other testing website for free.
You’ll have to create an account first before you upload.
Once you upload valid DNA data, you’ll receive the same report as any other person who ordered a DNA kit. But your results will arrive sooner – 1-2 days.
You will receive your results online in 3-4 weeks, which is twice as fast as other companies. Look out for an email with a link where you can view your results online.
You’ll have to log in to your account on MyHeritage.com to securely access the report.
Because MyHeritage only offers an autosomal DNA test, your report is going to have two main sections: your ethnicity breakdown (also called an admixture report) and a list of matches to whom you might be related.
Note that if you have uploaded your data from another site, you’ll still get access to the ethnicity breakdown as well as matches free of charge.
But it’s not a guarantee that this offer will last forever. MyHeritage may decide to charge for data uploads in the future. So take advantage when you still can.
Your lineage consists of many different ethnicities. As your ancestors migrated from place to place, they mingled with other populations and had children together.
This is called admixture.
Almost everyone on earth has mixed ancestry through the level of admixture varies among different people.
The report from MyHeritage gives you an estimate of which ethnicities make up your ancestry.
Note that this is just an estimate and not a surefire guarantee.
They match your DNA against DNA taken 42 regions around the world. This is not as many as AncestryDNA or 23andMe, but it still makes for a detailed ethnicity breakdown.
The main regions are Africa, America, Europe, Asia, Middle East, and Oceania. Each primary region is then broken down into population clusters such as Central African, Native American, Greek, and Polynesian.
You can see the full list of regions here.
MyHeritage has been making a lot of improvements to their ethnicity report since they launched it.
This includes differentiating between almost genetically similar populations (like British and Irish) for a finer-grained breakdown and adding more regions.
Fortunately, you won’t miss out on any future improvements. MyHeritage constantly updates DNA reports to reflect new regions or remove old ones.
So keep checking now and then for any updates.
Autosomal DNA is passed down from both your mother and father in a roughly 50:50 split.
You then pass on 50% of that DNA to your kids and on it goes through the generations. By the third and fourth generation, the original DNA is split up so much that it’s barely traceable.
By comparing your DNA to the DNA in their database, MyHeritage matches you to people with whom you share significant DNA.
The report lists match up to the 5th cousin – that’s six generations back.
This results in a lot of matches – hundreds and sometimes thousands. But don’t get too excited because a good number of them may not mean much.
Because you share so little DNA with them, you may just have accidentally identical DNA. They could very well be false positives.
Focus on matches up to your 4th cousins. Beyond that, use paper trails and genealogical records to confirm relatedness.
One thing we love about MyHeritage is that they match you not only to people who have taken their DNA test with them but also to people who have uploaded raw data from other sites.
So even though their DNA testing service is still relatively young, you’ll still get a decent number of matches.
And as more and more people take the DNA test or upload their DNA data, your matches list will keep growing.
MyHeritage updates match every week. So keep checking back.
Analyzing a DNA match in your MyHeritage DNA report is easy.
There are two metrics MyHeritage uses to match you to other people:
Shared DNA – the report will indicate the number of centiMorgans (cM) shared as well as the percentage of shared DNA. The higher the percentage, the closer you are related. Siblings share about 50% of DNA.
Shared segments – this is the number of continuous segments that you share with a match. The more segments you share, the closer your relationship. The size of the largest segment (measured in cM) is also an important indicator of the level of relatedness.
Based on these two metrics, MyHeritage will display an estimated relationship.
You can further analyze your shared segments using the free chromosome browser which MyHeritage introduced in early 2018.
You can compare your DNA to as many as other 7 DNA profiles using the browser’s one-to-many comparison.
It’s easy – and free – to contact your DNA matches.
When you send a message to a match, they’ll receive an email from MyHeritage with a link to your message on their account.
They can then choose to reply or ignore the message.
Your email address is not shown to matches nor will you see theirs.
Response rates are fairly good since most people are there to find family members.
Almost all of us have a bit of Neanderthal DNA in us. It was passed down when our ancestors interacted with the Neanderthals just before they went extinct around 40,000 years ago.
You can read my blog post for more information on Neanderthal DNA.
Unfortunately, MyHeritage doesn’t tell you how much Neanderthal DNA you have. 23andMe and the Genographic Project are the only two tests that include it in their reports.
But it’s not a big deal really. Testing for Neanderthal DNA is purely for curiosity sake. It doesn’t help you learn more about your family or ancestry.
Currently, only 23andMe includes genetic health screening alongside their ancestry results.
The report from MyHeritage only focuses on ancestry and DNA matches. They don’t test for genetic health predispositions or mutations that cause conditions like lactose intolerance.
If you are hoping to trace your mother’s or father’s line to a certain population and region hundreds or thousands of years back, this is not the test for you.
MyHeritage does not conduct a Y-DNA or mtDNA test, which means they don’t report maternal or paternal haplogroups.
For that, Family Tree DNA is the best option. 23andMe and Living DNA also offer maternal and paternal tracing though it is not as comprehensive as FTDNA’s.
MyHeritage runs occasional surveys to help them research the relationship between genetics and various aspects such as diet, physical traits, and sleep.
The surveys are totally optional. And even when you opt to take part in one, you don’t have to answer all questions.
Based on MyHeritage’s strict privacy policies (see below) no personally identifiable information is included.
All the data is aggregated and names removed to protect your privacy.
If MyHeritage ever makes any interesting discoveries, they promise to share it with their customers.
If you feel iffy about handing over any potentially personal information, you can ignore the surveys. But it’s a great opportunity to contribute to scientific research.
Here are some of the most important nuggets from the fine print.
By default, MyHeritage displays some of your personal information including name, ethnic estimate and country of residence to your matches.
But you can modify these settings in your account.
As you can see in the screenshot above, you can select whether to enable DNA matching, allow matches to see your admixture report and other settings.
You can also invite someone else to view your DNA results and manage your account. But you’ll have to contact MyHeritage to do that.
Like most other sites, MyHeritage allows you to download your raw DNA data just in case you want to upload it somewhere else like FTDNA or GEDmatch.
Just remember that once you download the file, its privacy and protection is now your responsibility.
The price – The tests currently costs $59 plus a few bucks for shipping. We couldn’t find a cheaper autosomal DNA test anywhere. The closest one is FTDNA’s Family Finder test which costs $79. If you are looking for an affordable ancestry DNA test, MyHeritage is the best. The low price may not be there forever. I have a feeling they are doing it to attract more customers. So get it while you still can.
Quick turnaround time – Waiting to find out whether you have an unknown close family member is (unsurprisingly) nerve-racking. Luckily, MyHeritage doesn’t let you wait too long – just 3-4 weeks compared to the 6-8 weeks of other companies.
A quickly growing database – MyHeritage has one of the fastest growing databases with current estimates putting it at around 1.7 million DNA profiles. Even if you don’t get as many matches as other sites, you’ll keep uncovering more matches as the database grows.
Chromosome browser – You don’t have to believe what MyHeritage tells you blindly. You can use the free chromosome browser to confirm that you have shared segments with your matches. With some advanced analysis, you can determine how closely you are related and what side of the family they are from.
Billions of genealogical records – If you are interested in going beyond your DNA results, MyHeritage offers an easy way to search their billions of records and create a family tree. You can access some of the extra features for free. But to enjoy them fully, you’ll have to pay for a full year’s subscription.
Solid privacy policies – MyHeritage doesn’t mince words with ambiguous legalese. Your data’s privacy is guaranteed. We also love the various privacy settings we can tweak as we like to change how much information our matches can see.
No maternal or paternal lineage tracing – would have been cool to see our paternal and maternal roots.
It’s a work in progress – MyHeritage is still refining their algorithms, technology, and features. Some of their estimates are not always reliable. But at least your report will keep getting updated as they get better.
Too few regions – They match your DNA against 42 regions. 23andMe uses 150 regions while AncestryDNA has more than 350. Your ethnicity breakdown will not be as detailed as it would be on other sites. But this is not a complete deal breaker since they’ll update your report once they add more regions.
Subscription – Want to build a family tree and search their billions of records? You have to pay a full year’s subscription which starts at $110/year. The ‘historical records’ package – which you’ll need to search their records – goes for $175/year.
If you are looking for in-depth DNA information, MyHeritage is not the best option. I recommend FTDNA instead.
But for those who just want to find unknown family members and discover their ethnicity breakdown without spending too much money, MyHeritage is one of the best DNA testing services.
The best part is that you can always go further by leveraging their huge repository of genealogical records and 43 million existing family trees to find even more family members.
I'm just another amateur genealogist investigating my American-Scots-Irish lineage. I built MyFamilyDNATest.com after buying all of the leading DNA tests to discover everything I could about my family history. Hopefully, this site will save you time and demystify the emerging science of DNA-based genealogy, for your family project.