The MyHeritage parties are legendary. That in and of itself is a bit ironic, because Gilad Japhet, the founder and CEO is a rather reserved man. The words Gilad and party just don’t seem to fit together, but he certainly knows how to host an awesome party.
Know what? Genealogists will take time away from records to party, dress up and dance too. We aren’t serious all the time!
The article I wrote yesterday about the DNA announcements was quite hurried.
Now, it’s 4:30 AM, I’m terribly jet lagged so unexplainably awake, and since I can’t sleep, I’m writing this article to catch you up on Day 1 of the conference. Of course, this means that by about noon, I’ll be dying for a nap. You’ll have to watch my live panel discussion at 3:30 PM Oslo time today to see if you can tell I’m running on about 4 hours of sleep. (Don’t forget in the US some places changed to Daylight Savings time overnight.) Here’s the link to my article with the livestream link and the time zone calculator.
Day One in More Detail
Here’s Gilad just before he opened the conference. Everyone was excited. Don’t you love his shoes?
Before I go any further, I want to thank Gilad for the conference invitation and access to him and the team to be able to take these awesome photos and for the information provided.
Now, if you haven’t already done so, please go and read the day 1 announcement article, here.
I’d like to clarify a couple points and expand on that article.
I had dinner last night with Ran Snir, DNA Product Manager, along with fellow colleague Diahan Southard, and we discussed the new upcoming DNA related features. I’d like to clarify some terminology surrounding anticipated features.
Painting – The term “painting” was used yesterday, and in the context of what MyHeritage is doing, it does NOT mean the same thing as DNAPainter painting. I’ve written several articles about how I use DNAPainter, but the introductory article is here.
DNAPainter paints your own chromosomes only, identifying the segments of your ancestors. This is not what MyHeritage meant by painting. MyHeritage is referring to reconstructing your ancestors’ DNA.
Reconstructing Ancestral DNA – When MyHeritage referred to painting yesterday, they meant that several descendants’ DNA segments that they carry identically by descent (IBD) will be combined and “stitched together” to “create” a partial genome of that ancestor. No, they didn’t say exactly how this would be done, and no, they did not discuss how it would be managed. In other words, who controls the profile of the ancestor – and mitigates disputes about what segments should be, and should not be attributed to that ancestor.
For me, this raised several questions, but we’ll have to wait until the new feature is released to see how MyHeritage will deal with the inherent issues of:
- Your most distant autosomal ancestor is actually a couple because you can’t yet divide the DNA into husband and wife.
- The trees of the descendants need to be complete and accurate.
- People descending from the same child of the ancestor will also carry the DNA of the wives in each generation, so they need to be compared to people descended from other children of the ancestor to ascertain that the DNA is of the ancestor – not of wives in downstream generations.
- People tend to marry cousins, siblings, etc., especially when living in the same area. DNA from another line may be unknowingly introduced into two different children’s lines, appearing that the resulting segment comes from the ancestor (or ancestral couple) when in fact, it doesn’t.
These are challenges, not barriers, so let’s continue with Gilad’s presentation.
Extracting DNA from Old Envelopes and Stamps
In the next slides, Gilad discusses extracting DNA from old stamps and envelope seals – the goal being that the resulting file can be uploaded to MyHeritage so that your deceased relative’s DNA can be resurrected through the DNA held in the envelope stamp and seal – which they hopefully licked. This is something we’ve dreamed of (and attempted) since the beginning of DNA testing for genealogy. Apparently Gilad dreamed of it too, because several of his own items are being processed right now.
Gilad provided some examples of other types of stamps and seals that might contain the saliva of our ancestors. Think outside of the box, or in this case, outside of the envelope. No, hair and other items were not discussed. There was a sidebar discussion but at this point, only envelopes and stamps are being utilized.
Theory of Family Relativity
The last session of the day was presented by Maya Lerner, the VP of Product where she discussed, among other things, their new Theory of Family Relativity.
I apologize for the quality of some of these photos. I opted not to bring by larger camera to reduce travel weight, using my cell phone instead. I regret that choice.
The Theory of Family Relativity, currently under development will combine the DNA estimates of where a person is likely to fit into a tree with actual records from the MH database to show the most likely placement of a DNA match.
Today, when we have a match, based on the amount of shared DNA, MyHeritage estimates and illustrates the relationship position that this person holds in our tree, but does not show us on our actual tree itself where this person might fit. That’s up for us as genealogists to figure out.
As I understand the new feature, the relationship distance, shown above, will be combined with records such as phased DNA, census, birth, death, logical criteria (women don’t bear children at age 7 or 70) and other records which would exclude some relationships in our actual tree, while providing evidence for others.
Aside from the DNA announcements, MyHeritage is also introducing a lot of new non-DNA related features.
City Directories – For example, they are digitizing and indexing city directories. The great thing is that they aren’t just indexing names, but also addresses. As a genealogist, Gilad has personally discovered the usefulness of being able to search for an address in immigration records to view everyone, even with misspelled names, who claimed they were joining family at that specific address. It’s another clue.
European Newspapers – in multiple languages. Digitizing and indexing.
Other New Content – Czeck census, German registration records, Brazil records,
There are so many awesome new features coming, what should you be doing to prepare now?
What You Should Be Doing NOW
- If you’ve tested elsewhere, upload your DNA raw data file to MyHeritage. The upload is FREE and so are all of the features, but ONLY until Dec. 1st. After that, there will be a fee associated with some advanced features. So upload your file and those of your family members (with permission of course) now. I wrote instructions about how to upload to MyHeritage here, to and from Family Tree DNA here, and from Ancestry here.
- If you haven’t tested elsewhere, purchase a kit, or two. The more of your relatives such as parents, siblings (if your parents are gone,) aunts, uncles, cousins that you can test, the more information that can be learned about your genealogy and connections to others. Give DNA kits for the holidays. Take them to family reunions. Thanksgiving is coming. Kits are on sale right now for an amazing $49 each. Click here to purchase.
- Be thinking about envelopes and stamps that your deceased family members have licked. Who else in your family, that you might be seeing over the holidays might have these types of items? The technology for extracting DNA from these prized genetic heirlooms may finally be ripe. We’re waiting for early samples submitted to see how successful this technology will be.
Ok, I know you’ve been patiently waiting for the party pictures.
MyHeritage is sponsoring the EuroVision Song Contest, so we were the lucky beneficiaries.
Two entertainments groups were featured. The first was a Norwegian folk group. The music was awesome, haunting and ethereal. Like nothing I’ve heard before. They actually make some of these sounds with their cheeks.
The second group was a contemporary band and they were amazing too. Did you know that genealogists love to dance? Must be in the genes!
For those of you wondering, yes, I really do have a halo, but it slips from time to time😊 Here’s living proof!
Thanks Gilad, for a great party to celebrate the MyHeritage wonderful new features😊
How exciting to be on the leading edge.
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having followed your wonderful blog for many years it was great seeing you live yesterday. (I am in the UK). I will be watching again today. I am totally with the person on facebook who said ‘when I grow up I want to be Roberta Estes!!!’ It is a pity I am 75 and won’t live to see many of the wonderful advances coming. One niggle. The word is GeneAlogy not GeneOlogy. You are by no means alone in saying this and it always grates with me as it is such a fundamental part of what we do and accuracy is also essential in our work. Many thanks for your blog and have a great 2nd day. Hope you got some sleep!
I think these advances are coming quickly, so I certainly hope you get to enjoy them:).
I can already tell you’re running on 4 hours sleep. We changed OFF of DST overnight. Fall back. Back to normal time. 🙂
I just wish they would stop. I don’t care which way, just pick one and leave the click alone.
I long for the days when Indiana had a little bit of sense.
I’m in love.
There is one issue where you might want to get clarification. As I watched the explanation of painting, it seemed that the ancestor painting would only be offered to someone who had purchased multiple kits for cousins. Nothing was said about those who had already purchased those kits, and whether they would be included in the painting. So if people are interested in that aspect, they might want to wait to test further cousins. (I can’t imagine this would be true… as it would be a bit of a slap in the face to people who had already purchased multiple kits. But that was definitely the impression left.)
Roberta, I have letters which accompany stamped envelopes from my great grandfather written from the battlefield during the Civil War. Does MyHeritage say if they think they can extract DNA from letters that old? Would they be able to extract YDNA or are we talking atDNA? Thank you as always for your blogs.
I have a strand of my mother’s hair I saved from a hair cut. I doubt it contains follicles. But has MH considered using hair clippingclippingss from deceased family?
Hair clippings do not contain autosomal DNA.
Any idea what it will cost us to get a dna file from a stamp or envelope? Does time passed and environment effect the sample?
A price has not yet been announced. Yes, time and environment are the factors in degrading DNA.
Thank you for the excellent blog posts about the conference. I haven’t watched any of the livestream because of other life challenges – like getting some sleep (they start at 1 a.m. here in California), a society presentation and church today.
The photos from the cell phone are fine – thank you for taking them. I’m looking forward to the Big Tree. did they give a timeline for it?
Have a good sleepy trip home and recover. Flying to Europe and back is hard.
I have so many relatives who have already done DNA tests for genealogy, but at FTDNA. Some have passed away since, and many of the others I had to cajole and pay for the testing. With still others, it will be hard to convince them to upload to MyHeritage for all the new features.
What hope do you see for FTDNA to up their game and introduce comparable features? I know that FTDNA has postponed their annual conference to next year; can we expect any interesting developments?
Thanks for all the wonderful reports from Oslo!
I hope so. Still, try to convince them to upload because every vendor has people in their data base that others don’t.
During Saturday’s panel discussion something was said about being against the law in some countries to search for a living person. What did that refer to?
In some European countries, it’s against the law to search for a living person. I know that’s true for the Netherlands, but I don’t know about the rest of the countries specifically.
I’ve been trying to find my ancestor link to my Native/Indigenous ancestors in upper Michigan/Canada and hit a roadblock. My 3 remaining (of 12 siblings) octogenarian aunts/uncles are hesitant to have a DNA test. Some cousins have warned against doing DNA tests because there is no HIPPA requirements and they have no control over what their DNA is used for.
They sent me A Consumer Guide from the Council for Responsible Genetics that was written in 2017. It is full of what-ifs and basically says that genetic ancestry testing results are often flawed and that there are no safeguards for the consumer who purchases the kits.
I need help fighting the nay-sayers! Got any suggestions? I appreciate your time and anything you can do to help me. Marianne
My experience is that the nay-sayers will often raise a new concern every time you address an existing one. I’m not familiar with the Council for Responsible Genetics. If they are saying that consumer testing isn’t always accurate for medical testing, they are right. That’s not what this testing is designed for. This testing is not inaccurate for genealogy. Not inaccurate for cousin matching. Ethnicity is only an estimate. I would suggest that you read the terms and conditions of each company well and decide for yourself how much control you have over your data. Both Ancestry and 23andMe do have research partnerships that you can select or de-select. Please read their websites. In 2018, with the advent of GDPR, the terms and conditions changed at many companies and the 2017 document clearly can’t reflect anything new. HIPPA has to do with health insurance and has nothing to do with DNA testing for genealogy. Every vendor has stringent privacy practices. I would suggest that you familiarize yourself with all of them so that you can address any specific questions they might have.
That document and the others my concerned cousin sent me seemed to be most concerned with three things:
1. No matter what they tell you now, they could sell the company at a later time and the new owners may do anything with your DNA info. There are no “rules” like HIPPA that they have to follow so you are just taking your chances that the privacy policies will stay the same and also be upheld by the new owners with regard to your info.
2. Most of the companies that do this genealogy DNA testing have a policy that your DNA becomes their property and that they can use it for whatever they want, including selling the info from it. You have no control over what is your unique personal property.
3. Research companies out there can use your genes to make a fortune on some new “magic cure” and you would get nothing for it; in fact, you have to pay for the privilege of making them rich just to buy the kit in the first place.
The only one of those that concerns me at all is the first one, that a company can be sold to less scrupulous people who do not adhere to your wishes. I guess that is true with just about anything in life, though, so we each have to weigh the costs vs benefits and decide if we are willing to take the risks.
Thanks for your help.
That’s not entirely true. The GDPR laws carry heavy fines, up to 40 Million Euro – so a company would be crazy to breach those privacy laws. The data base is the same for Europeans as for Americans. So we benefit from GDPR in that way. Also, the Privacy policies changed with GDPR. Look at them now. That’s an old article. Yes, the research companies can find a magic cure and make money. However, if you don’t test and participate, you won’t find your ancestors. I’m more interested in that, personally.
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Happy to hear more about the envelope and stamp possibilities!
This is maybe not political correct of me since it’s a 3rd part company but since someone here asked about the price of getting DNA from an envelope I post a link to this company who already do this and were you can find some price examples.
A few people have samples there waiting for results. It will be interesting.
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