Recently, MyHeritage rolled out a major update of their DNA software as well as new features, including:
- Improved Matching
- Chromosome Browser
- Ancestral Surnames
- Shared DNA Matches
- Shared Ethnicity
You can read their blog posting here.
Additionally, they announced that they have over 1 million people in their data base now, with only 20% being transfers.
Let’s take a look at the improvements.
Note: On 2-8-2018 I updated this article where indicated.
My most recent check in my account showed less than 100 matches and many were very inaccurate – by orders of magnitude – in both directions. People I knew that I matched elsewhere, I didn’t match at MyHeritage, and people I didn’t match elsewhere, I did match at MyHeritage.
In the first example I checked initially, MyHeritage showed me matching 8 times as much DNA as did at another vendor to the same match. In other words, 8 cM at the other vendor and 64 cM at MyHeritage. Of course, incorrect matching also leads to incorrect relationship suggestions. Clearly something was very wrong.
MyHeritage definitely needed an overhaul and it looks like that’s exactly what they did. Are their changes all improvements? I’d say yes, for the most part, but some inaccuracies still exist along with a few frustrations. They are still actively making improvements.
For example, my match who went from 8 cM elsewhere to 64 cM at MyHeritage previously is now gone altogether at MyHeritage. It would be nice if there was an indicator at MyHeritage of where your match originally tested (if they are a transfer kit) so you could easily compare, but alas, there isn’t.
Let’s take a look at the changes.
The first thing I noticed is that I have substantially more matches.
Truthfully, I hadn’t been keeping track because their matching was so awful that it didn’t matter. However, given that I had few in late 2017, less than 100, and I now have almost 3300, I’d say it’s certainly possible that my matches increased tenfold.
Of course, results for kits sold during the holidays are being delivered now, so helps bump match numbers too.
Match Quality Comparison
The person who tested at both Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage that matches me most closely in both places is Bonnie, a proven third cousin once removed.
|Estimated Relationship||Total cM||Longest Block||Segments|
|Family Tree DNA||2nd-4th cousin||69||31||3 (includes X)|
|MyHeritage||3rd-5th cousin||52.5||30.5||2 (X not reported)|
At Family Tree DNA, the X chromosome match is not included in the total cM, but is included in the matching.
Comparing my match with Bonnie, both vendors report matches on the same chromosomes, other than the X. While the cM amounts are quite similar, the total SNPs are widely divergent with the SNPs at MyHeritage being roughly 4-5 times higher than at Family Tree DNA.
|FTDNA cM||MH cM||FTDNA SNPs||MH SNPs|
|X Chromosome||49.3||Not reported||1776||Not reported|
In case you’re thinking I made a transcription error on the SNPs above, which are dramatically different between vendors, I really didn’t. I checked three times to be sure.
Comparing my chromosome 13 to my parent (below) shows a total SNP count on chromosome 13 of 27,967 SNPs on the entire chromosome, so there is no way that the MyHeritage segment is roughly half of that total.
Based on this information, I would unquestionably view the MyHeritage SNP count as inaccurate. I wonder if this is a result of imputation. Even though we both have results at Family Tree DNA, I have no way of knowing if my match transferred her FTDNA kit (as I did) or if MyHeritage is imputing portions of our matching segments because she transferred a kit from elsewhere. Still, I would not expect the quadrupling of SNP values to be a result of an imputed match when the cMs seem to be quite accurate.
Update: MyHeritage says this discrepancy is the result of imputation, and that this is actually the accurate count. I compared this same segment at GedMatch with the same results as with Family Tree DNA above. At the current time, simply be aware that SNP county between vendors that include MyHeritage may be quite different.
Please note that Bonnie is a SmartMatch, but this information takes a few second to fill after the page loads, so it’s easy to bypass a SmartMatch by scrolling past it before the page finishes loading. I’m referring to a delay of 10-15 seconds or more. You can see the example below with the View Smart Matches link and the screenshot above without that link for the same match.
Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that in some cases, the same page fails to show the SmartMatches entirely, so this useful feature is not consistent:(
I was paging through my matches one page at a time looking for SmartMatches, but I finally gave up at about page 300 (of 347 pages total) when I realized I was probably missing many due to the page loading issues. Perhaps they can improve this in time. This problem combined with the inability to sort for only kits with SmartMatches makes this really nice feature terribly frustrating, consuming unnecessary hours.
Update: On the MyHeritage DNA Results page, to the right of the search box, you will see a little upside-down key looking thing. It’s supposed to be a funnel representing a filter. If you click on it, you will discover that you can filter by people who have trees, shared surnames or SmartMatches. Hurray!!!
To view detailed information about a match, click on the pink “Review DNA Match” on the lower right hand corner of your match list. Don’t bother clicking on “view tree” here, because you’ll see their tree in a much-preferred pedigree view when you’re reviewing their DNA information. It’s nice to see the number of people in Bonnie’s tree.
There has been some discrepancy about whether people who do not have subscriptions can contact their matches. If you have had issues in the past, try again. In a blog article published yesterday, MyHeritage indicates that contacting matches is now free.
Scrolling down, the next section of my DNA match with Bonnie is called “Smart Matches.” This is quite interesting, because it shows me common individuals in our trees. Please note that THIS DOES NOT MEAN THEY ARE ANCESTORS IN YOUR TREES. In other words, if those people are in your trees and are not your ancestors, they will show in the Smart Matches.
One of my very LEAST FAVORITE things about MyHeritage is that they list women by their husband’s surnames. It’s really quite confusing, so keep that in mind when you’re trying to decipher the SmartMatching.
Update: You can control how married versus birth surnames are shown in your tree, but needless to say, you can’t control other people’s settings.
Individuals in my tree are shown at left and individuals in Bonnie’s tree are shown at right. It’s interesting that they refer to Bonnie as “he” and “his,” given the female avatar, which suggests that someone someplace entered a gender incorrectly perhaps.
Click on “Review Smart Match” in the bottom right corner, which displays additional information.
At the end of the comparison section, MyHeritage shows you both trees and you can accept or reject the match as the same family.
If you accept the match, MyHeritage then gives you the option of extracting data from your matches’ tree into your tree. I never, EVER do this. This is exactly how undocumented misinformation is spread like wildfire through copy/paste trees and unverified information. Now, if I had the opportunity to review any attached documents or records first…then maybe – but that’s not how this feature works today.
Scrolling down, the next section is ancestral surnames, as extracted from both trees.
However, it seems there’s a bug here too, because I clearly DO have a tree, as proven by the fact that SmartMatching found ancestors in both trees. SmartMatching can’t happen without both people having a tree.
Update: I uploaded my tree long ago, and somehow during that process, I got deleted from the tree. Given that I’m the home person, that caused this glitch, which is now fixed.
Unfortunately, MyHeritage prompted me to build a tree, and when I declined, they added a second tree for me anyway with only my node. Some things are just “too helpful” like having a 2 year old in the kitchen!
Shared DNA Matches
Keep scrolling down to see Shared DNA Matches. This section is quite interesting, because it shows a third person who matches both you and your match. In this case, the person matches both me and Bonnie.
The information at left is how Wilma matches me and the information at right is how Wilma matches Bonnie. What this doesn’t tell me is:
- If Wilma, Bonnie and I match on a common segment
- If Wilma, Bonnie and I share a common ancestor in our tree
I can find out both of the above items by looking at my match to Wilma to see if I match her on the same segment where I match Bonnie and by looking at Wilma’s tree, if she has one. What I can’t determine is whether or not Wilma and Bonnie match on the same segment, so this isn’t triangulation, but it’s still a great feature.
Keep scrolling past all of the shared matches to the pedigree chart.
Your pedigree chart will be shown on one tab. Again, mine is missing. However, the tab I’m the most interested in is Bonnie’s pedigree chart. Sure enough, there’s our common ancestral couple.
The great news is that this displays 5 generations in pedigree view. The really bad news is that if your common ancestor is more than 5 generations back, you can’t see the balance of their tree in pedigree view. You must go back to the “view tree” option which only shows the tree in “family view” and it often looks like a big spaghetti mess, leaving the viewer unable to determine how the person searched for connects with the tester or home person in tree. Breadcrumbs or a solid line or something, anything, would be nice! Maybe next version.
Be sure to check your tree settings and permissions at MyHeritage, because one of the options is to allow others, as in all others, to modify your tree. I would strongly recommend against this feature given that there is no ability to restrict this access to specific people.
Update: MyHeritage indicates that this is not exactly the case and that they are have rephrased their verbiage surrounding these settings as follows:
* You and family site members whom you invited (recommended)
* You and family site managers whom you invited and nominated
* Only you
You can also grant permission for others to download your tree.
Keep scrolling. Next, you’ll find the shared ethnicities between Bonnie and me.
If you’re wondering about my South American Amazonian ancestors – well, so am I. I do have proven Native American from Canada. MyHeritage has said that they will be doing an ethnicity update sometime in the future. Still, at least MyHeritage did find my Native segments.
Last, but not least, scroll once again to see your matches’ DNA matched with yours on a chromosome browser.
Fly over the pink segments to view the information about that segment, keeping in mind that the number of SNPs may be highly inflated.
Missing Features and Other Considerations
MyHeritage has made much-needed improvements and added some great features, but some functions are still missing:
- No ability to download matches and match information – this is a significant hindrance. Update: MyHeritage indicates this is coming.
- Chromosome browser does not support multiple comparisons – just one person at a time, but yesterday MyHeritage announced this feature is coming shortly.
- No triangulation, but coming shortly.
- SmartMatch notification does not load consistently or quickly, causing many SmartMatches to be missed. Update: Since you can filter by SmartMatches, this is less important.
- Cannot select the page for viewing matches. This means that if you are on page 100 and you get disconnected from the internet, you can’t just start viewing again at page 100 without clicking through the earlier pages.
- No way to indicate that you’ve “dealt with” a match. A checkbox or some type of icon would be very nice.
- Cannot select pedigree view in their trees. Horribly frustrating.
- Some features are buggy, as noted in the article.
- SNPs are inaccurate (increased 4 to 5 times.) Update: MyHeritage is checking on this but believes they are a result of imputation and are accurate.
- No X matching
- No ethnicity painting
- No parental phasing (attributing matches to parental sides with or without parents having tested.)
As long as I’m making a wish list, I’d also like to search by ancestor for matches. I know that sounds somewhat backwards, but it would help me answer the question of whether or not anyone who has that same ancestor in their tree matches me. I wouldn’t categorize this as missing functionality, because no one else has this feature either.
Given where MyHeritage was a year ago, they’ve really made substantial improvements in their DNA product offering and added a chromosome browser along with other features. I really like the concept of SmartMatching that shows common tree matches with my DNA matches although I would really like for this feature to only show direct line ancestors, not every common person in our trees.
Of course, SmartMatching doesn’t automatically mean the common tree ancestor IS THE ancestor that the matching DNA segment descended from, but it’s a wonderful piece of information and points my research in that direction. Other people with the same ancestor matching on the same segment (especially if they triangulate) adds weight to that evidence.
Yesterday, in a webinar that I have not yet had the opportunity to view in its entirety, MyHeritage announced that they will add the ability to match multiple people in the chromosome browser in addition to triangulation. You can view the 90 minute webinar for free here.
Triangulation combined with SmartMatching of ancestors would be an extremely powerful tool.
MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA are the two DNA testing vendors that provide free autosomal matches, other than GedMatch who is not a testing vendor but also provides free matching. You can read more in the article Autosomal DNA Transfers – Which Companies Accept Which Tests?
If you’re not fishing in all 3 of those ponds by transferring your DNA results, now might be a good time to transfer. You just never know which relative you might catch!
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