Sneak Preview: FamilyTreeDNA’s myOrigins Version 3.0

FTDNA Paul MyOrigins 3

Thursday afternoon at RootsTech, Dr. Paul Maier, Population Geneticist for Family Tree DNA presented a sneak peek at their ethnicity product, myOrigins 3.0.

I’m glad to be out from under non-disclosure now so I can talk about version 3, as this update promises to be amazing in more ways than one.

Dr. Maier provided the following information.

More Populations

FTDNA MyOrigins 2

MyOrigins 2, the current version utilized 24 different populations.

FTDNA MyOrigins 3 pops

MyOrigins 3, the upcoming version will utilize 90 populations. The coverage has increased dramatically.

FTDNA MyOrigins 3 Americas

For example, the Americas increased from 2 populations in the current version to 9 in the new version.

For me, this is personally very exciting!

Chromosome Ethnicity Painting

FTDNA MyOrigins African American

Another new feature is ethnicity chromosome painting. Paul provided this example of an African-American individual who has both African and European heritage. The pinks represent various regions of Africa, and the blues European regions.

click to enlarge

Drum roll please!!! The slide above is my DNA. I have three native segments identified. I’ve known about the segments on chromosome 1 and 2 for a long time, but the segment on chromosome 13 is new, and not previously identified by any other testing company. Yes, I’ve been part of the beta testing.

Additionally, your segment locations (via a download) will be available to you in order that you can do segment matching.

At Family Tree DNA your matching includes, and will continue to include ethnicity if people opt-in to sharing their ethnicity with matches. The addition of segment information offers another genealogy tool. In other words, if you and a match both have Native ancestry, and both match on a common identified Native segment, that suggests a specific common ancestor from whom that segment descended.

If you triangulate on that same ancestor with multiple people and can identify common ancestors, you may be able to track that segment back several generations and you’ll be able to identify which line! How cool is that!!!

Finally, you can test the appropriate descendants of those ancestors for Y and mitochondrial DNA, or check existing projects to see if someone from that line has already tested in order to positively identify your Native ancestor.

Of course, I’m using “Native” here as an example, because I have minority Native ancestry, but this technique holds for any segments.

Ethnicity chromosome painting and segment matching is another tool in the genetic genealogists’ arsenal.

Dr. Maier didn’t say exactly when the new MyOrigins version 3 would be rolled out, but very soon. Stay tuned.



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118 thoughts on “Sneak Preview: FamilyTreeDNA’s myOrigins Version 3.0

      • There is no way for them to tell which side is maternal and which side is paternal. That’s where your genealogy comes in.

        • Thanks! I’ve been trying to figure out the reason for two strands for each chromosome. That’s what I’m really trying to figure out. What does the two strands represent? I hope that makes sense. I am using my DNA matches with my Genealogy to figure out how I may be related to new cousins.

        • Well, actually it *is* possible to tell which side is which, but only if FTDNA makes use of it — as 23andMe does. Do you know if FTDNA will do “parent phasing” when a tested parent has data at FTDNA?

          I ask because my father also has results there, as do all five of my siblings. So of course — *if* they do phasing in this situation — they *could* tell which chromosome copy is from which parent.

          Have they told you whether they’ll take advantage of this possibility?

          • Hi Gary,

            They are using statistical phasing to assign strands, per chromosome, when possible. The only possibility to assign to mother vs father is indeed if you have at least one parent in the system, and I don’t know if they are doing that with first release. I do know that my daughter’s at 23andMe is incorrect, because her father’s African segment is assigned to her maternal chromosome where I don’t have African.

            Even parentally phased ethnicity doesn’t always work because sometimes the parent’s DNA together “looks like” a particular ethnicity, neither of which either parent has.



  1. Sounds exciting! Will there be any changes to the European Jewish ethnicity cluster in My Origins 3.0? Will ancient origins be updated?

    • Ancient is not being updated now but will be. I believe there are changes to the Jewish cluster but I will check. There will be mire info when it’s actually. released.

      • Yay to the Jewish, of course, but YAY to FTDNA’s getting more tuned in to to show ethnicity to each other. I cannot tell anyone how much time I have miss-used in having to write to FTDNA matches to ask them if they possibly have a certain ethnicity in order to research the match further. And of course, many do not respond. The science you explain is so exciting, I can only imagine, and wished I’d been there to see your response to it. I am so proud to know of you and how amazing you are in this field of DNAeXplain’ing and sharing discoveries with us! You are a DNA Star, and I hope we get to name a star after you! – A

      • Hi roberta so will this change my sephardic jew? I know my mothers line are from spain portugal I had all my siblings test including nieces mos t of us show sephardic and direct native american ive done the mtdna already showing haplo A2q1 native

  2. My question will be somewhat clumsy, and perhaps include some basic misunderstandings on my part, but that is my entire reason for asking…

    First of all, , Barbara, truly fascinating posting, thank you for sharing!

    >> Did his preview include any discussion of the relationship between AIMS and the population sets? Has the FTDNA proprietary set of AIMS been updated also?

    As background, in my rather pedestrian understanding of “Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms” (SNPs), there are SNPs that have been found to fairly reliable when used as “Ancestry Informative Markers” (AIMS), and each person has their own subset of these AIMS reported within their own atDNA testing results. Accordingly, your personal subset of AIMS is run against the proprietary “populations” to determine the statistical probability of your origins within those reference populations.

    So to summarize, have only reference populations changed (increased dramatically), or have there also been changes in the proprietary AIMS used by FTDNA?

  3. “Ethnicity is only an ESTIMATE” !!!
    I sure hope this next iteration is a better estimate than their last five (I include their previous Population Finder series)
    Enjoy the conference !

  4. The chromosome painting shows a pair of chromosomes, like what we see at 23andme. It would be interesting to see if a small European (Iberian) segment inherited from my father shows up correctly for me and not attributed it to my mother’s European contribution.

    And from that screen shot that you have, it looks like they’re creating a specific POLYNESIA category, finally. 🙂 Which should now cause less confusion for new testees who are of Polynesian background.

  5. Do you know whether ‘Southeast Europe’ will be divided into a Greek/Albanian population and an Italian one, like on ancestry (‘Greece & the Balkans’ and ‘Italy’)?

  6. WOW this is going to be so cool. I’ll bet you’ve been bursting to be able to release this. Compare this to “matches” because a person happens to appear on both trees with no chromosome comparison at all. No contest..

  7. I was confused when you said this…

    “At Family Tree DNA your matching includes, and will continue to include ethnicity if people opt-in to sharing their ethnicity with matches.”

    You see at FTDNA, I am pegged as 100% NW European. I don’t dwell on this.

    However, I’ve never explored that feature. Now I’ve discovered it and remember again my disappointment with FTDNA.

    I have only 714 of 1293 matches who share this ethnicity.

    So if I understand correctly, I match with 579 people who have 0% NW European.

    This stat just underscores the fact that I am NOT 100% NW European.

    In truth I match with people who are predominantly Eastern European or Scandinavian and/or Jewish.

    Even Ancestry gives me a bit more ethnic diversity. (DNALand, MyHeritage and 23andMe all show pretty much all my extra bits… one way or another. You kind of feel validated and you can try to pinpoint which grandparents must lead back to these atypcial ancestors!)

    So if FTDNA does adjust my ethnicity estimates, I’m not impressed… personally.

    However, I see that some people out there will be doing a happy dance. ; )

    • Disregard the ethnicity estimate, and go with your matches and where their locations of ancestry. Ethnicity estimates are the least reliable part of DNA testing for genealogy.

  8. Great news, currently I show as 100% Great Britain. Living DNA shows that distributed across North Wales, Ireland and English areas pretty consistently with my family tree. I hope FTDNA will add some additional insights. Ancestry is in between with detail.

  9. I can’t wait to be updated!

    I want to see how these weird trace DNA region fit with the new version. My father has a weird Oceania component, which I can’t figure out where it comes from. I wonder how it will show up.

    But the chromosome browser is really a dream come true. It makes it easier to link regional DNA to matches and then ancestors.

      • My first though was it was from his Penobscot ancestress, but after comparing him with Kennewick man and Anzick boy on gedmatch, my father score more Oceania than any of the ancient Americans. So, even if he inherited every last bit of Oceania from his ancestress Dame Mathilde, it’s still too high for full blood Native American.

        Therefore, I need to first, know if there’s a solid segment somewhere in the genome or if it’s little bits here and there. If the former, I need to trace from which ancestor this comes from.

  10. Hello, is Ashkenazi now being included in the European category or is it still grouped with Sephardi and other Jewish groups under Jewish diaspora?

          • Okay, thank you so much for responding. I really appreciate it. What are the names of the new Jewish groups being added?

          • That’s what I don’t know other than the 2 you mentioned. I don’t know if he didn’t say or I don’t recall.

    • Why would Ashkenazi be placed in European rather than Jewish diaspora? Ashkenazi Jews are almost genetically identical to Sephardi Jews.

      • I was just wondering if the format or categorization changed considering how big this update is. You just never know. This is a big update. I wonder if FTDNA will grow to be larger than any other DNA company within 1-2 years…

        • Okay, but placing them anywhere outside of Jewish Diaspora would make no sense unless they eliminated this category.

          If this were the case, then both Ashkenazi and Sephardi would be placed in Europe since this is where both groups emerged as distinct ethnic subgroups despite deriving most of their ancestry from the Middle East and East Mediterranean.

          • Well, that is what I was trying to ask. Ashkenazim and Sephardim may be very closely related to each other, but Yemeni and some other Middle Eastern Jews tend to be more related to other Middle Eastern peoples than to European Jewish diaspora populations.

            If they categorize it by genetic similarity, a Jewish diaspora category wouldn’t work for all those groups since Ashkenazim and Sephardim are somewhere between Europe and the Middle East and Mizrahi and Yemeni Jews are Middle Eastern.

            It might be correct to have two distinct ones and say Ashkenazi and Sephardi Diaspora and then Mizrahi and Yemeni Jewish Diaspora.

          • True, I mean that’s fair I suppose, but Yemenite and Mizrahi Jews are themselves two completely distinct groups.

            There could be multiple Jewish genetic groups: Western (Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Italki, Romaniote, Maghrebi, and Syrian), Mizrahi (Iraqi, Iranian, Bukhari, Mountain, Kurdish, Georgian), Yemenite, and Ethiopian. Yemenite and Ethiopian Jews more closely-resemble their neighbors while Western and Mizrahi Jews are two distinct population groups.

            I think that putting them all in “Jewish Diaspora” is best for cultural and social reasons. Regardless, the vast majority of today’s Jews are Western Jews (specifically Ashkenazi, Sephardi, and Maghrebi) and most of the rest are Mizrahi. Putting Ashkenazi or any other major group in any category other than Jewish Diaspora makes no sense unless you got rid of the entire category.

            Personally, I wish other companies would include a Jewish Diaspora category instead of lumping Jews in wherever they lived because that often leads to confusion.

          • I totally agree with the classification you wrote down below. I think how you separated them makes the most sense too. I also happen to like the diaspora categorization.

        • Okay, and why would that change whether Ashkenazi Jews are placed in the Jewish Diaspora? The only reason they would be moved would be if the entire category were removed. This would be a mistake since this is one feature that makes FTDNA much better than other companies in their classification of Jews.

          Contrary to what some people seem to think, Ashkenazi Jews are 90% identical to Sephardi Jews and 70-80% identical to North African and Syrian Jews. Companies that do place Ashkenazi Jews in Europe always very clearly state that Ashkenazi Jews genetically resemble other Jews and not Europeans.

  11. Pingback: RootsTech 2020: It’s a Wrap | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  12. Good News but unfortunately comparing between 2.0 and 3.0 I didn’t see any update for north Africa 🙁

  13. Roberta,

    As a Beta-tester for FTDNA, have you been asked to do this, or is this an option for anyone that has tested with FTDNA?

      • In the project admin section of the website, they said they have enough testers for now. That’s who they reached out to.

        • Hi Roberta,

          In your opinion, what is the best commercial DNA test overall for general consumer use? Like which one do you think has the best ancestry composition report currently>

        • Hi Roberta,

          The question I have now that wasn’t in that article you re-directed me to is in your opinion, what DNA testing company has the most accurate ancestry reports. If you don’t want to generalize, which one was the best for you?

          • I wrote about the various ethnicity tests, here:

            I want to be very clear that ethnicity testing in ONLY an estimate. It’s normally accurate at the continental level, but much less so within continents. Your results will vary at all 4 of the major companies. Everyone has their own opinion about who is most accurate.

            For me, the new Family Tree DNA V3 results, still in beta, are the most accurate. 23andMe is next. Ancestry and MyHeritage both miss by Native American. Other people have different results.

          • My Heritage had had a Legacy Family Tree webinar scheduled in March to review their updated ethnicity estimates. However, I noticed recently that that webinar was rescheduled recently: The New Ethnicity Estimates by Ran Snir
            Tue, Oct 27, 2020.

          • Okay, are you allowed to post a screenshot of a list of all the new ethnicities from the BETA?

          • I don’t have that information. Just my own results and what Dr. Maier showed in his presentation.

  14. So much to be excited about…but it’s overshadowed by my sadness that Portugal and Spain are still attached. Ancestry has separated them, and I haven’t tested with 23&Me, but no company I can upload to has separated them. GEDmatch oracle (for certain algorithms) can distinguish them from each other and show me as roughly 25% of each, but I don’t feel like the chromosome painting there helps much with my distant cousins who are mixed as much or more than I am. As Portuguese is from my mother and Spanish is from my father, separating them would have made differentiating between Iberian descendants on either side easier. Trying to get my mom with Alzheimer’s tested in another country when I have no means to travel is a feat I may never be able to accomplish. I guess I’ll have to wait for the next update.

    • Depending on the circumstances with your mother, you could send a swab kit. Those are relatively easy for someone to help administer and they don’t have to spit. Both MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA use swab kits.

      • Yes. I did that a couple years ago, but she was too afraid to take it herself. She said she was afraid she wouldn’t do it properly. I told her not to worry about that too much, but it kept her from ever doing it. This time I’ve sent it to my best friend but with the coronavirus being there now too and everyone being told to stay inside as much as possible, it’s kind of up in the air. Only time will tell if we can get it done.

  15. Hello,

    Nice overview.

    I’ve got a question: Do they also improve their algorithm?

    I ask this because my FTDNA autosomal transfer from 23andme resulted in an weird ancestry composition.
    E.g. FTDNA MyOrigins v2 assigned me only one origin (+ 1 trace) although MyHeritage and 23andme gave me more than 6 distinct origins in line with my known heritage.

  16. Roberta, thank you for keeping communication open! My question might be easier to answer: Will “ancientOrigins” be affected by the myOrigins update?

      • Some of my other labs have removed my Italian and Spanish even in the map. My H1ba mtDNA names are mostly Italian followed by Spanish and Central European. It will be interesting, for those of us who tested in more than one venue, to follow those results. I noticed my Ancient Origins and Migration descriptions changed as well. Thanks always for your updates and articles, Roberta! Today’s was an amazing search story!

  17. If the algorithm changes does it mean the raw datas are changing too? I mean if i’ve already done a test will the raw datas that i already downloaded be outdated?

  18. Perhaps now that it’s been nearly three months since this was publicly announced, it would be appropriate to give a clear update on their progress? “Very Soon” has had me haunting my account for the last four weeks.

    • Vendors never give dates. None of them. Because if they miss them, people are upset. Sometimes I’m told a couple days in advance, but I don’t know anything about this. Remember, the pandemic has them working from home too

  19. Could someone please explain to me what the situation for the North Slavic regions will look like with the new update? On the map showing the 90 new populations, I see a green circle which appears to represent Poland, a pink cluster around the East Slavs, but there is also a yellow cluster stretching all the way from Eastern Germany and Czechia on the west moving east to include Belarus and parts of Ukraine. Is that something like a ”Broadly Eastern European” category, or is it a Jewish cluster? I would appreciate more details on that, please.

    Thank you in advance.

  20. Would it be possible to have a list with the names of the 90 new populations, please? Thank you very much.

  21. Hi Roberta,

    Family tree DNA website is down. It might be for the new update whether it’s for the ethnicity or any other features or even regular maintenance.

    • There has to be enough people test and differentiation to be able to identify the DNA specifically.

      • Hi Roberta,

        Do you have any idea why 23&me and FTDNA categorize Ashkenazi Jewish? Why does Ashekanzi contribute to European at 23&me but not at FTDNA?

        The second question is, do you know why 23&me groups East Asian & Native American together? Do they group ethnicities by genetic similarity at 23&me rather than by gerographical means?


  22. Hi Roberta,

    Do you have any idea why 23&me and FTDNA categorize Ashkenazi Jewish? Why does Ashekanzi contribute to European at 23&me but not at FTDNA?

    The second question is, do you know why 23&me groups East Asian & Native American together? Do they group ethnicities by genetic similarity at 23&me rather than by gerographical means?


  23. What exactly do you mean by not sharing their internal algorithms? In any case, what do you have to say regarding how they categorize ethnicities?

      • Is that because they don’t people questioning everything? What’s your take on how they categorize ethnicities?

        23&me told me they do it by genetic similarity.

      • I know a little bit about how Jewish ethnicity is estimated. The average Ashkenazi Jew has approximately 50% Eastern Mediterranean (includes Middle Eastern) and 50% European ethnicity. Also, because Jews were endogamous for so many generations, the algorithms also pick up the unique chromosomal patterns that help distinguish them from, lets say, Arabs and non-Jewish Eastern Europeans. When I tested at all the major companies, my ethnicity estimates were very consistent with just minor variations.

        • Ashkenazi Jews are about 50% Middle Eastern and 50% European, both of which overlap with East Mediterranean.

          In total, they’re about 70% Middle Eastern and East Mediterranean, while the remaining 30% is a mix of North European (Germanic and Slavic) and Southwest European (North Italian, Iberian, Southern French).

        • Getting estimates if you have distant Jewish ancestry can be quite inconsistent. It’s even less likely to be evident from estimates if you have Sephardic Jewish ancestry… in my case, the patterns of matches, especially among lots of folks in Netherlands/England helps. I have wondered more and more why I match people who are 100% Ashkenazi Jewish. I think they have trouble “drawing a line” to distinguish AJ, MJ, SJ ethnicity. The other day I had an interesting match with an American guy with parents with two very different ethnic backgrounds. He has 2 grandparents who were born in Syria and likely were Jewish (family names, historical context, shared matches and… because he had a mix of MJ, SJ, and Middle Eastern in his own ethnicity estimates… adding to half… mom was English stock.) Oddly, he ALSO had a bit AJ… about 5%. Someone with a European line ended up on his family tree or maybe it’s this problem with trying to sort people by ethnicity?

          • Determining if the March phased with your parents is important too.

  24. When will FTDNA release v3 as Ancestry just released a 2020 update. MyHeritage apparently is releasing a 2020 update in the next month or so with 2000 to 3000 groups. An update with 90 populations is way behind the competition as Ancestry is 1100 groups and Myheritage saying their 2020 update will have 2000 to 3000 groups.

  25. What is the difference in the geographical boundaries of the ‘Northern India’ and ‘Indus Valley’ population clusters (Version 3.0) of the Indian Sub-Continent? To me they seem to be largely the same.

    • How would a person verify Roma ancestry?

      On another topic – the Sephardic ethnicity region seems to be improved. Do you use North Africa or Ottoman Empire for your reference populations👏?

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