For additional information and updates to parts of this article, written three months later, please see MyHeritage Ethnicity Results. My concerns about imputed matching, discussed in this original article, remain unchanged, but MyHeritage has honored their original ethnicity report promises for uploaders.
As of July 2019, these issues have been resolved.
Original Article below:
My Heritage, now nine months into their DNA foray, so far has proven to be a disappointment. The problems are twofold.
- MyHeritage has matching issues, combined with absolutely no tools to be able to work with results. Their product certainly doesn’t seem to be ready for prime time.
- Worse yet, MyHeritage has reneged on a promise made to early uploaders that Ethnicity Reports would be free. MyHeritage used the DNA of the early uploaders to build their matching data base, then changed their mind about providing the promised free ethnicity reports.
In May 2016, MyHeritage began encouraging people to upload their DNA kits from other vendors, specifically those who tested at 23andMe, Ancestry and Family Tree DNA and announced that they would provide a free matching service.
Here is what MyHeritage said about ethnicity reports in that announcement:
Initially, I saw no matching benefit to uploading, since I’ve already tested at all 3 vendors and there were no additional possible matches, because everyone that uploaded to MyHeritage would also be in the vendor’s data bases where they had tested, not to mention avid genetic genealogists also upload to GedMatch.
Three months later, in September 2016, when MyHeritage actually began DNA matching, they said this about ethnicity testing:
An “amazing ethnicity report” for free. Ok, I’m sold. I’ll upload so I’m in line for the “amazing ethnicity report.”
Matching Utilizing Imputation
MyHeritage started DNA matching in September, 2016 and frankly, they had a mess, some of which was sorted out by November when they started selling their own DNA tests, but much of which remains today.
MyHeritage facilitates matching between vendors who test on only a small number of overlapping autosomal locations by utilizing a process called imputation. In a nutshell, imputation is the process of an “educated guess” as to what your DNA would look like at locations where you haven’t tested. So, yes, MyHeritage fills in your blanks by estimating what your DNA would look like based on population models.
Here’s what MyHeritage says about imputation.
MyHeritage has created and refined the capability to read the DNA data files that you can export from all main vendors and bring them to the same common ground, a process that is called imputation. Thanks to this capability — which is accomplished with very high accuracy —MyHeritage can, for example, successfully match the DNA of an Ancestry customer (utilizing the recent version 2 chip) with the DNA of a 23andMe customer utilizing 23andMe’s current chip, which is their version 4. We can also match either one of them to any Family Tree DNA customer, or match any customers who have used earlier versions of those chips.
Needless to say, when you’re doing matching to other people – you’re looking for mutations that have occurred in the past few generations, which is after all, what defines genetic cousins. Adding in segments of generic DNA results found in populations is not only incorrect, because it’s not your DNA, it also produces erroneous matches, because it’s not your DNA. Additionally, it can’t report real genealogical mutations in those regions that do match, because it’s not your DNA.
Let’s look at a quick example. Let’s say you and another person are both from a common population, say, Caucasian European. Your values at locations 1-100 are imputed to be all As because you’re a member of the Caucasian European population. The next person, to whom you are NOT related, is also a Caucasian European. Because imputation is being used, their values in locations 1-100 are also imputed to be all As. Voila! A match. Except, it’s not real because it’s based on imputed data.
Selling Their Own DNA Tests
In November, MyHeritage announced that they are selling their own DNA tests and that they were “now out of beta” for DNA matching. The processing lab is Family Tree DNA, so they are testing the same markers, but MyHeritage is providing the analysis and matching. This means that the results you see, as a customer, have nothing in common with the results at Family Tree DNA. The only common factor is the processing lab for the raw DNA data.
Because MyHeritage is a subscription genealogy company that is not America-centric, they have the potential to appeal to testers in Europe that don’t subscribe to Ancestry and perhaps wouldn’t consider DNA testing at all if it wasn’t tied to the company they research through.
Clearly, without the autosomal DNA files of people who uploaded from May to November 2016, MyHeritage would have had no data base to compare their own tests to. Without a matching data base, DNA testing is pointless and useless.
In essence, those of us who uploaded our data files allowed MyHeritage to use our files to build their data base, so they could profitably sell kits with something to compare results to – in exchange for that promised “amazing ethnicity report.” At that time, there was no other draw for uploaders.
We didn’t know, before November, when MyHeritage began selling their own tests, that there would ever be any possibility of matching someone who had not tested at the Big 3. So for early uploaders, the draw wasn’t matching, because that could clearly be done elsewhere, without imputation. The draw was that “amazing ethnicity report” for free.
No Free Ethnicity Reports
In November, when MyHeritage announced that they were selling their own kits, they appeared to be backpedaling on the free ethnicity report for early uploaders and said the following:
Sure enough, today, even for early uploaders who were promised the ethnicity report for free, in order to receive ethnicity estimates, you must purchase a new test. And by the way, I’m a MyHeritage subscriber to the tune of $99.94 in 2016 for a Premium Plus Membership, so it’s not like they aren’t getting anything from me. Irrespective of that, a promise is a promise.
Bait and Renege
When MyHeritage needed our kits to build their data base, they were very accommodating and promised an “amazing ethnicity report” for free. When they actually produced the ethnicity report as part of their product offering, they are requiring those same people whose kits they used to build their data base to purchase a brand new test, from them, for $79.
Frankly, this is unconscionable. It’s not only unethical, their change of direction takes advantage of the good will of the genetic genealogy community. Given that MyHeritage committed to ethnicity reports for transfers, they need to live up to that promise. I guarantee you, had I known the truth, I would never have uploaded my DNA results to allow them to build their data base only to have them rescind that promise after they built that data base. I feel like I’ve been fleeced.
As a basis of comparison, Family Tree DNA, who does NOT make anything off of subscriptions, only charges $19 to unlock ethnicity results for transfers, along with all of their other tools like a chromosome browser which MyHeritage also doesn’t currently have.
Ok, so let’s try to find the silk purse in this sows ear.
So, How’s the Imputed Matching?
I uploaded my Family Tree DNA autosomal file with about 700,000 SNP locations to MyHeritage.
Today, I have a total of 34 matches at MyHeritage, compared to around 2,200 at Family Tree DNA, 1,700 at 23andMe (not all of which share), and thousands at Ancestry. And no, 34 is not a typo. I had 28 matches in December, so matches are being gained at the rate of 3 per month. The MyHeritage data base size is still clearly very small.
MyHeritage has no tree matching and no tools like a chromosome browser today, so I can’t compare actual DNA segments at MyHeritage. There are promises that these types of tools are coming, but based on their track record of promises so far, I wouldn’t hold my breath.
However, I did recognize that my second closest match at MyHeritage is also a match at Ancestry.
My match tested at Ancestry, with about 382,000 common SNPs with a Family Tree DNA test, so MyHeritage would be imputing at least 300,000 SNPs for me – the SNPs that Ancestry tests and Family Tree DNA doesn’t, almost half of the SNPs needed to match to Ancestry files. MyHeritage has to be imputing about that many for my match’s file too, so that we have an equal number of SNPs for comparison. Combined, this would mean that my match and I are comparing 382,000 actual common SNPs that we both tested, and roughly 600,000 SNPs that we did not test and were imputed.
Here’s a rough diagram of how imputation between a Family Tree DNA file and an Ancestry V2 file would work to compare all of the locations in both files to each other.
Please note that for purposes of concept illustration, I have shown all of the common locations, in blue, as contiguous. The common locations are not contiguous, but are scattered across the entire range that each vendor tests.
You can see that the number of imputed locations for matching between two people, shown in tan, is larger than the number of actual matching locations shown in blue. The amount of actual common data being compared is roughly 382,000 of 1,100,000 total locations, or 35%.
Let’s see how the actual matches compare.
Here’s the match at MyHeritage, above, and the same match at Ancestry, below.
In the chart below, you can see the same information at both companies.
Clearly, there’s a significant difference in these results between the same two people at Ancestry and at MyHeritage. Ancestry shows only 13% of the total shared DNA that MyHeritage shows, and only 1 segment as compared to 7.
While I think Ancestry’s Timber strips out too much DNA, there is clearly a HUGE difference in the reported results. I suspect the majority of this issue likely lies with MyHeritage’s imputated DNA data and matching routines.
Regardless of why, and the “why” could be a combination of factors, the matching is not consistent and quite “off.”
Actual match names are used at MyHertiage (unless the user chooses a different display name), and with the exception of MyHeritage’s maddening usage of female married names, it’s easy to search at Family Tree DNA for the same person in your match list. I found three, who, as luck would have it, had also uploaded to GedMatch. Additionally, I also found two at Ancestry. Unfortunately, MyHeritage does not have any download capability, so this is an entirely manual process. Since I only have 34 matches, it’s not overwhelming today.
*We don’t know the matching thresholds at MyHeritage. My smallest cM match at MyHeritage is 12.4 cM. At the other vendors, I have matches equivalent to the actual matching threshold, so I’m guessing that the MyHeritage threshold is someplace near that 12.4. Smaller matches are more plentiful, so I would not expect that it would be under 12cM. Unfortunately, MyHeritage has not provided us with this information. Nor do we know how MyHeritage is counting their total cM, but I suspect it’s total cM over their matching threshold.
For comparison, at Family Tree DNA, I used the chromosome browser default of 5cM and 5cM at GedMatch. This means that if we could truly equalize the matching at 5cM, the MyHeritage totals and number of matching segments might well be higher. Using a 10cM threshold, Family Tree DNA loses Match 3 altogether and GedMatch loses one of the two Match 2 segments.
**I could not find a match for Match 1 at Ancestry, even though based on their kit type uploaded to GedMatch, it’s clear that they tested at Ancestry. Ancestry users often don’t use their name, just their user ID, which may not be readily discernable as their name. It’s also possible that Match 1 is not a match to me at Ancestry.
Any new vendor is going to have birthing pains. Genetic genealogists who have been around the block a couple of times will give the vendors a lot of space to self-correct, fix bugs, etc.
In the case of MyHeritage, I think their choice to use imputation is hindering accurate matching. Social media is reporting additional matching issues that I have not covered here.
I do understand why MyHeritage chose to utilize imputation as opposed to just matching the subset of common DNA for any two matches from disparate vendors. MyHeritage wanted to be able to provide more matches than just that overlapping subset of data would provide. When matching only half of the DNA, because the vendors don’t test the same locations, you’ll likely only have half the matches. Family Tree DNA now imports both the 23andMe V4 file and the Ancestry V2 file, who test just over half the same locations at Family Tree DNA, and Family Tree DNA provides transfer customers with their closest matches. For more distant or speculative matches, you need to test on the same platform.
However, if MyHeritage provides inaccurate matches due to imputation, that’s the worst possible scenario for everyone and could prove especially detrimental to the adoptee/parent search community.
Companies bear the responsibility to do beta testing in house before releasing a product. Once MyHeritage announced they were out of beta testing, the matching results should be reliable. The genetic genealogy community should not be debugging MyHeritage matching on Facebook. Minimally, testers should be informed that their results and matches should still be considered beta and they are part of an experiment. This isn’t a new feature to an existing product, it’s THE product.
I hope MyHeritage rethinks their approach. In the case of matching actual DNA to determine genealogical genetic relationships, quality is far, far more important than quantity. We absolutely must have accuracy. Triangulation and identifying common ancestors based on common matching segments requires that those matching segments be OUR OWN DNA, and the matches be accurate.
I view the matching issues as technical issues that (still) need to be resolved and have been complicated by the introduction of imputation. However, the broken promise relative to ethnicity reports falls into another category entirely – that of willful deception – a choice, not a mistake or birthing pains. While I’m relatively tolerant of what I perceive to be (hopefully) transient matching issues, I’m not at all tolerant of being lied to, especially not with the intention of exploiting my DNA.
Relative to the “amazing ethnicity reports”, breaking promises, meaning bait and switch or simply bait and renege in this case, is completely unacceptable. This lapse of moral judgement will color the community’s perception of MyHeritage. Taking unfair advantage of people is never a good idea. Under these circumstances, I would never recommend MyHeritage.
I would hope that this is not the way MyHeritage plans to do business in the genetic genealogy arena and that they will see fit to reconsider and do right by the people whose uploaded tests they used as a foundation for their DNA business with a promise of a future “amazing ethnicity report.”
I don’t know if the ethnicity report is actually amazing, because I guarantee you, I won’t be paying $79, or any price, for something that was promised for free. It’s a matter of principle.
If MyHeritage does decide to reconsider, honor their promise and provide ethnicity reports to uploaders, I’ll be glad to share its relative amazingness with you.
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They renewed my subscription without notification!I have two different DNA results. I e mailed twice. I called for help. No ans. I am very sorry I got messed up with this company. I also had two other companies test my DNA & they did not present what myheritage did . Come on, DNA is DNA.
Mom, Dad and I tested at my family. I uploaded to My Heritage. Mom was 85% Italian and I was 45% @ my family. My Heritage said mom was 50% Greek and was 10% Italian. Go figure.
MyHeritage.com is completely inaccurate. My Grandpa was Scandinavian yet this test showed 0%. Also My father was 100% Polish Slavic yet the test showed I was only 32%.
Yeah, many Poles come up 40% Balkan, when they have no ancestry from the region. I have also seen Poles coming up with 50% English, even though they have only Slavic ancestors. They must have very poor population samples.
I uploaded my 23andme results to myheritage a week ago. It said, that my results would be processed in 1-2 days.
A few days later the ‘ 1-2 days’ has vanished and it says, that my “Dna results are not available yet “.
I have emailed them twice asking if they could tell me when my results, but
I have had no reply from a staff member.
I’ll let you know when they do reply.
Myheritage contacted me on the 7th Feb. – and they apologized for the delayed reply due to a backlog they had.
We agreed, that I would re-upload my raw data file. My 23andme raw data file is V2 – I tested 10 years ago.
Hopefully, the process will complete this time.
Myheritage asked me to re-upload my 23andme V2 file for the 3rd time.
I deleted my kit for the second and last time and have asked them to delete all my details from their database.
Unfortunately, a very bad experience dealing with them.
I sent in my DNA to 23andme in late November, or early December. My kit comes to me with MyHeritageDNA written on the box. I assumed they were working with 23andme. Some how Myheritage intercepts my DNA kit from somewhere. I cannot get a hold of them. 23andme does not have my activation code # on my box, in their system. Who is ripping off the people here??
Is there anyone honest out there??
Did you by chance order from both? They are not affiliated and you need to give the vendors a call to get it straightened out. You might check credit card statements.
Every one of my direct ancestors for the past 150 to 300 years has immigrated from Prussia/Germany, not 1 or 2 but everyone, both male and female. The DNA results show that I am 0% German. How is this possible. My original thoughts are that I was adopted (NOT), that myHeritage mixed up the samples (not likely) or that their data base is flat out wrong.
I can prove that all 16 of my Great Grandparents either immigrated from Prussia or they are decedents of German immigrants. Yet my DNA results show 0% in any part of Central Europe. This results is not possible by any measure, biologically, statistically .
My only conclusion is that myHeritage DNA is fraudulent and I will be seeking a full refund.
I’m quite interested in your surname. Have you tested at Family Tree DNA. I have a Koehler male cousin who has taken the Y DNA test there. My line is from Germany as well. The Mutterstadt area. Where is yours from.
I have just received my results back and low and behold I am 60.7% Scandinavian 1.5% Ashkenazi Jewish and some % Italian BUT NOT ENGLISH 0% how is that possible when I can trace both sides of my parents trees to England, Ireland and Scotland four generations back. This has to be a fraud and no I am not adopted both Ancestry and 23and me recognized myself and my siblings even though we live in different countries and have different names. Oh and yes they listed me as 54% and 48% english!!!!!. I don’t expect perfection but seriously 0%.
I uploaded a family member’s results and got such nonsense, I didn’t bother looking further at DNA matching, etc. There were such broad strokes on ethnicity, with zero supporting detail or context: yes, the white, blond lady is 100% European – thanks for the hot tip. lol
(Don’t bother with My Heritage – a waste of time.)
Their ethnicity is poor, but they have fixed (for the most part) the matching issues.
Am a bit confused with MyHeritage when I come across a DNA match with a shared segment of 26.9 cm yet no shared ethnicities…
I would suggest that you call their support.
Their support was not any help other than to tell me nearly all western Europeans would show as Scandinavian! after their test shows me 60.7% Scandinavian even though 4 sets of grandparents on both sides are documented born in great Britain. Both Ancestry and 23 and me match but differ completely from My Heritage.
I would only look at ethnicity as interesting and nothing more, in this case.
4 months ago I uploaded my Dna free to My Heritage. I found my great uncle as a match. He’s listed as only sharing 37.5 centimorgans with me. He appears as a 3rd to 5th I thought great full uncles share at least 800 Centimorgans. Are the amount of centimorgans I share with my great uncle off?
It’s impossible to know. You could both be transfers from elsewhere on incompatible chips.
I did 23 & me and heritage. 23 & me had me with 50% german Heritage 0%. What! Even looking at the breakdown nope no german for heritage. Plus another aspect quickly I am 99.9 percent European in 23 & me no African markers. Heritage has me with 9.8% African of that 1.1% Nigerian ah. Even tho I would think this is kewl it is a huge difference just in these. no faith in heritage at this point.
I did my entire family on Heritage.com. my real sister came back as a half sister and my father matched her and 0% me? Something is amiss here? Do not believe this at all……
I would suggest that you contact the company, test elsewhere or purchase a quick consult. I don’t comment on anything this personal publicly. If you are interested in the Quick Consult, here’s the link. http://www.dnaxplain.com/shop/features.aspx
in light of the announcement of their free kits to be sent to govt agencies and intending to “reunite families separated at the border,” do you trst MyHeritage to have a large enough pool of DNA to make these crucial assertions to a vulnerable subset of the population?
I think so, yes. It’s also possible to transfer into two other databases, Family Tree DNA and GedMatch, both of whom have significant data bases as well. MyHeritage has over a million records, the same as GedMatch and probably Family Tree DNA, although they don’t make their numbers public. The fact that MyHeritage is making these kits available without charge to a vulnerable population whose very family may depend on it says volumes. There are many genetic genealogists who will assist for free – and I’m one of them. It’s not difficult to tell whether or not two people are related at the parent/child level – and that’s the purpose of these tests, not genealogy per se.
It is a nice idea to help adopted people find their families but if you can’t trust the quality of the results whats the point!. In my case the test says I am over 60% Scandinavian when all other test results dispute it including all the relatives I am linked through as well as those I know. Then the tests are not probably going to help them.
Ethnicity and matching are two entirely different things. Ethnicity is never more than an estimate.
Yes but 70% ethnicity takes it too far when you can go back over four generations in both directions for your parents being British and My Heritage has me at 0% !!!!!!
I don’t disagree and that’s a huge difference. My point was though that confidence in ethnicity and confidence in segment matching are unrelated.
I would agree with that normally
I just received my MyHeritage DNA test results yesterday. They got the 24% Finnish and (most likely) the 62% English part right at least. These match my full sister (35% match anyway). But the rest: 7.5% Eastern Europe, 4.8% N. African, & 1.7% Nigerian? No. Nope. My sister paid $80 for each of our kits. Don’t waste your money.
There’s a lot more benefit to DNA testing than ethnicity. Have you looked st your matches. Are you doing genealogy?
My husband bought me a kit in 2017. I received my results just fine. The other day i tried to sign back on to look some info up and my results have been removed from the site. It now asks me to buy a new kit and also keeps asking me to sign up for a monthly subscription for $15. I tried to call and ask but the phone system knows i don’t pay monthly for my account so it will not connect me with a rep to ask where my results are that we paid for. I tried emailing them twice and no response. I assume they wont read emails linked to accounts that don’t pay a monthly fee. Use any other DNA company other than My Heritage DNA!
Try their Facebook page.
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I done a dna kit. On my heritage.in October last year. I have not sheared black from them. I want to no why
Please contact the company and ask for assistance.