I originally wrote about MyHeritage in February 2017, reflecting matching issues and a broken promise regarding providing ethnicity estimates to people who uploaded their raw DNA file from another vendor. I’m glad to say MyHeritage changed their minds about providing ethnicity results and, today, has honored their original commitment and provided free ethnicity results to uploaders. I feel much better about the DNA aspect of MyHeritage given this decision although their challenges with matching remain.
MyHeritage has also provided updated ethnicity results to people who tested directly at MyHeritage.
In an e-mail received today from Aaron Godfrey, their Director of Marketing, he says:
I wanted to let you know that we’ve just launched MyHeritage’s new and improved Ethnicity Estimate. The new analysis, developed by the company’s science team, provides MyHeritage DNA customers with a percentage-based estimate of their ethnic origins covering 42 ethnic regions, many unique to MyHeritage.
In addition, the new Ethnicity Estimate will be provided for free to users who have already uploaded their DNA data to MyHeritage from other services, or who will upload it in the coming months. Users who upload their DNA data to MyHeritage, already enjoy free DNA Matching, and now they will benefit from the new ethnicity analysis too.
Our Ethnicity Estimate is delivered to users through a captivating “reveal” experience featuring animation and, as of this week, original music composed by MyHeritage. Each of the 42 ethnicities has a distinctive tune, based on the region’s cultural elements; all tunes seamlessly connect to each other. You can view an example here: https://vimeo.com/218348730/51174e0b49
An excerpt from their press release is provided below:
TEL AVIV, Israel & LEHI, Utah, May 30, 2017 – MyHeritage, the leading global destination for family history and DNA testing, and the makers of the successful MyHeritage DNA product, today announced the launch of its new and improved Ethnicity Estimate. The new analysis, developed by the company’s science team, provides MyHeritage DNA customers with a percentage-based estimate of their ethnic origins covering 42 ethnic regions, many available only on MyHeritage, representing the most comprehensive report of its type available on the market. This fascinating report gives users a much better understanding of who they are and where their ancestors came from. The Ethnicity Estimate is presented in an original and engaging format, making it not only interesting but also fun to watch and share.
MyHeritage is unique among the main industry players in allowing users who have tested their DNA already with another service to upload – for free – their data to MyHeritage. Those users receive DNA Matches for free, for finding relatives based on shared DNA. Beginning this week, users who have already uploaded their DNA data to MyHeritage, or who will upload it in the coming months, will receive – for free – the new Ethnicity Estimate. This benefit is not offered by any other major DNA company.
Development of the new Ethnicity Estimate raises the number of ethnic regions covered by MyHeritage DNA from 36 to 42. It was made possible thanks to MyHeritage’s Founder Populations project — one of the largest of its kind ever conducted. For this unique project, more than 5,000 participants were handpicked by MyHeritage from its 90 million strong user base, by virtue of their family trees exemplifying consistent ancestry from the same region or ethnicity for many generations All project participants received complimentary DNA tests and allowed MyHeritage’s science team to develop breakthrough ethnicity models based on the generated data. Thanks to this analysis, MyHeritage DNA has become the only mass-market percentage-based DNA test that reveals ethnicities such as Balkan; Baltic; Eskimo & Inuit; Japanese; Kenyan; Sierra Leonean; Somali; four major Jewish groups – Ethiopian, Yemenite, Sephardic from North Africa and Mizrahi from Iran and Iraq; Indigenous Amazonian; Papuan and many others. In some cases, competing products can identify and report an aggregated region (e.g., Italian & Greek), whereas MyHeritage has better resolution and identifies Greek, Italian and Sardinian ethnicities separately.
MyHeritage’s new Ethnicity Estimate is delivered to users via a captivating “reveal” experience (view example). It features animation and, as of this week, also original music composed by MyHeritage. Each of the 42 ethnicities has a distinctive tune, based on the region’s cultural elements; all tunes seamlessly connect to each other. This makes the report fun to watch and share over social media.
Dr. Yaniv Erlich, Chief Science Officer at MyHeritage, said, “For MyHeritage’s science team, this major update of our Ethnicity Estimate is only an appetizer. There are excellent installments on the way, and users can prepare for a feast! We have detailed plans to increase accuracy, extend our Founder Populations project further, and improve the resolution for ethnicities of great interest to our users from highly diverse origins. Our goal is to use science to further the public good, and to bring the best innovations of our science team to the public.”
If you tested earlier, your results have been updated and your “reveal intro” with music added. Check it out.
If you uploaded previously, you had no ethnicity results, but now you do.
From my results, the regions that MyHeritage supports, meaning the regions they report, are as follows:
The regions above correlate with the regions shown on the map at the beginning of this article.
My Ethnicity Results
I filmed my own reveal to share with you, but viewing their Vimeo clip linked above is much better quality. I particularly enjoyed the music compositions from the locations where my ethnicity is reported.
As with other vendors who offer ethnicity services, I have compared the MyHeritage ethnicity results with my known genealogy, and then as compared to other vendors.
Let’s look at my results.
The first thing I noticed is that the British Isles is broken into two components, English and then Irish/Scottish/Welsh. Of course, looking at the map, they do overlap almost entirely.
The second thing I noticed is that, according to MyHeritage, I’m indigenous Amazonian.
My reaction to that? You’ve got to be kidding.
Now, the good news is that they did detect my Native American, which, by the way, is either from my mother’s side out of Nova Scotia (Acadian), which is proven in several ancestral lines via mtDNA and Y DNA testing, or from my father’s line from near the Virginia/North Carolina border, or both.
The bad news is that they have badly mislabeled my Native finding. What this really means is that their reference population is from the Amazon. Of course, all Native people spring from a few hearty settlers that crossed Beringia from Russia into what is now Canada someplace between (roughly) 12,000 and 15,000 years ago, so it’s not surprising that I do match the people from the Amazon at some level. However, that does not mean my DNA is indigenous Amazonian, or that my ancestors were ever anyplace NEAR the Amazon or even South America.
Ethnicity vs Genealogy Comparison
In the article, Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages, I explained how to calculate your expected ethnicity percentages from your genealogy. As each vendor has introduced ethnicity results, or updated previous results, I’ve added to the cumulative chart.
Let’s see how MyHeritage stacks up against my known genealogy.
MyHeritage uses groupings slightly differently than I grouped my genealogy, so in the British Isles region, I’ve used yellow and green to show like groupings of my genealogy as compared to the MyHeritage results. As you can see, the 44.4% England attributed by MyHeritage is very close to the 43.68% found in my genealogy. The Irish/Scottish/Welsh, not quite so close.
MyHeritage Compared to Other Vendors
Adding MyHeritage to the table with the other vendors’ current results, we find the following:
Please note that you can click to enlarge.
The easiest way to compare apples to apples is to look at the pink region totals. The various vendors separate out the geographic regions differently, so it’s difficult to compare one directly to another.
Uploading or Testing at MyHeritage
You can still upload your data file if you tested with another company, for free, and obtain your matches and your ethnicity. You can add a tree up to 250 people for free, but beyond that, you must subscribe. I have had reports of people receiving phone calls from MyHeritage encouraging them to subscribe after utilizing the free tree, although I cannot confirm this personally as I subscribed when I decided to utilize their trees.
Although you can include a tree, MyHeritage does not provide tree matching for people whose DNA matches, showing common surnames or a common ancestor if one is listed.
You can upload your autosomal DNA results for free here.
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