Happy Holidays from MyHeritage. The long-awaited Genetic Groups are here!!!
MyHeritage has been working on this product for at least two years. Gilad mentioned it in Oslo two years ago this fall.
This project was massive in scope.
Genetic Groups are built upon the MyHeritage ethnicity estimates, adding another layer of specificity which is greatly improved. Yes, I know, their ethnicity estimates needed improvement and they are working on a 2021 update. However, Genetic Groups adds a great deal of dimension not able to be achieved with ethnicity alone.
I don’t want to give anything away…but MyHeritage absolutely NAILED IT with my Dutch ancestry, identifying a small Province in the Netherlands, Friesland, only about 20 miles by 20 miles.
How is that even possible???
I can’t wait to show you!
Are you ready to take a tour? I suggest reading through this article once first, then utilizing these handy step-by-step instructions after you get the lay of the land.
How Did They Do It?
MyHeritage has the benefit of having more than 92 million members. Of course, not everyone has tested their DNA although I certainly wish they would!
For ethnicity estimates, MyHeritage focused on about 5000 people who have DNA tested and whose ancestors are from specific regions of the world. From those groups, they derived 42 founder populations from which they distilled their ethnicities.
Since then, they have continued to target-test specific populations, such as the Yemenites and people from Greece, among others.
For the record, the ethnicity estimates themselves have not changed today, although they received a facelift, but the new Genetic Groups enhance ethnicity regions substantially.
This is my original ethnicity – the new one is more robust and includes diaspora regions in the US.
Light gray regions are defined regions, but where I have no reported ethnicity.
Ethnicity tells you where your base population DNA is found in the highest frequency.
Genetic Groups Are Different Than Ethnicity
Genetic Groups tell you about how you relate to the people in certain regions, as determined by a combination of DNA PLUS common genealogy that together form Genetic Groups.
99% of people who have DNA tested do have at least one Genetic Group. I have 10.
Genetic Groups were created in two steps:
- MyHeritage ran a massive supercluster of sorts of all of their customers who have taken or transferred DNA tests to create genetic clusters. As you might imagine, all those tests created thousands of clusters.
- Then, MyHeritage used artificial intelligence to search for location commonalities of the direct ancestors in the trees of people in each genetic cluster.
If you are a MyHeritage member, then you’re part of this research!
If you have DNA tested, but not uploaded or created a tree, please do so. Trees help you and others too.
More than 2100 Genetic Groups
One of the reasons Genetic Groups took so long in development is because MyHeritage discovered thousands upon thousands of discrete and overlapping clusters. They whittled that list down to just over 2100 Genetic Groups, both large and small, evaluating the trees of the people in the cluster. If a substantial number showed a direct ancestor with that specific region, then the Genetic Group was “valid” and could be included in the final product.
Every Genetic Group has its own individual story, written after analyzing the group members, their distribution and their trees.
You’ll find your Genetic Groups underneath your Ethnicity Estimate tab.
All Genetic Groups are not created equal, nor are all Genetic Groups large. Confidence bands were assigned to help customers evaluate their Genetic Groups.
You can see that in my case, at the highest confidence level, which is the default, only 4 genetic groups are displayed, but I have a total of 10 genetic groups.
If I move the confidence bar to medium, then low, smaller groups, subgroups or groups with a lower confidence factor are displayed.
Clicking on the information “i” displays this information about confidence levels.
I’m excited to see two Dutch Genetic Groups.
I have several lines from the Netherlands – some from the 1600s into New Netherlands and some from the mid-1800s into Indiana.
Selecting Your Clusters
To find your Genetic Groups, click either on the Genetic Group from the list to the left, beneath your ethnicities, or click on the outlined region on the map.
Before going further, you’ll want to enable Family Tree Events to make the experience much more meaningful to your own genealogy.
Family Tree Events
Enabling family tree events drops pins on the map where a significant event occurred in your ancestors’ lives, based on your tree.
Checking the “events” box on the right side of your map drops pins on the map from your ancestors in your tree both on your ethnicity-only map, and on the Genetic Groups map, separately.
I checked the box, and now you can see my family events overlayed over the ethnicity circles.
Here, the same pins, but with both ethnicity and Genetic Groups included.
It’s a good idea to do this periodically and take a look. I discovered an issue – but the issue is mine, not theirs.
If you see something that looks odd, click on the pin. I knew immediately what had happened when I saw the ancestors involved.
These are my Acadian ancestors. Apparently, (my bad,) I had used the term broadly – Acadia – as a location.
While Acadia is a historical location, geo-coding today recognized the current location of Acadia Valley in Saskatchewan, Canada.
I need to clean this up and at least reflect Nova Scotia.
Ok, now I’m ready to drill down in a Genetic Group.
Select A Genetic Group
Keep in mind that Friesland is only about 20 by 20 miles, so a relatively small spot on the globe. Truthfully, I was skeptical that any genetic genealogy company could be this specific – accurately. There’s absolutely no question in my mind that there’s no way to be this specific using ethnicity alone.
I want to view the Genetic Group from the Friesland region of the Netherlands, so I clicked on that group name.
This group is low confidence for some reason, but that doesn’t mean it’s not relevant for me. Let’s take a look. (Remember to click to enlarge images.)
The heat map shows me where people from Friesland have immigrated.
The group information tells me the number of kits used to form the group – 2349, and the DNA kits linked to family trees – 1267. Based on the MyHeritage criteria, I know that many of these do in fact have a family connection to Friesland.
The default timeline displayed is 1900-1950. Each group includes different time periods, and information for each time period on the slider bar to the left.
I want to view the map from 1850-1900 when my Ferverda family immigrated to Indiana.
I didn’t realize that people from Friesland immigrated so widely.
My family event pins don’t mean that all of these people are associated with the Netherlands – they just provide clues to me about what might be a correlation between Friesland immigration and where my ancestors lived.
Genetic Group Information
Within each group, you can take a look at the:
- Top places for each time period
- Common surnames
- Common given names
- Common ethnicities
- Related groups
Let’s take a look at the Friesland information.
Indeed, I do have ancestors from both Leeuwarden and Sneek, about 15 miles apart, plus other places in Friesland.
And yes, I have two of those surnames too.
I think I have all of these given names, but then again, they are quite common, and I have all 3 of those ethnicities.
Scandinavian has always baffled me, but this may actually help solve the riddle of why I continue to have Scandinavian ethnicity results. The Dutch people from this region tend to group with Scandinavians, which does make at least some sense given the location of my ancestors in the maritime Province of Friesland.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Several of my families are from the barrier islands off the coast too, which would be perfect stopovers for sailors and ships from throughout the region.
There’s more than one way to view your results.
Viewing in “All Available Regions”
If you scroll all the way to the bottom of your ethnicity results, below your last Genetic Group, you’ll see “Show all available regions.”
Click on this arrow to display differently, with the Genetic Groups clustered by ethnicity. If you’re wondering how to display your family tree events on your ethnicity-only map, you’ll find that functionality here, again, at the far right of your screen.
You can see my Genetic Groups clustered beneath their corresponding ethnicity.
This allows you to view which Genetic Groups have common ethnicities.
In other words, I can click on Scandinavian ethnicity and see which Genetic Groups fall into that category.
Remember, the first step of forming a Genetic Group is a genetic cluster, followed by confirming family trees. This provides us with the information that many of the people from Friesland have a significant amount of DNA that clusters with Scandinavian.
How does this stack up against my actual genealogy?
Looking at my genealogy, 14% of my ancestry comes from the Netherlands. Of course, we know that our ancestor’s DNA is not passed to us in 50% divisions every generation (except we do inherit 50% of each parents’ autosomal DNA from chromosomes 1-22.) However, I would expect more than 3.5% of my total DNA to be from these ancestors. This could be because the people in Friesland are themselves a mixture of Scandinavian and other regional ethnicities, such as North and West European which might translate to a more specific Genetic Group.
It’s worth a look to see what other groups might be found in this region, even if I’m not identified as a member. (Yes, I know I do have a second Dutch Genetic Group – I’m showing this as a research example.) Worst case, you’ve learned something about how ethnicities and Genetic Groups interact, even if they aren’t yours.
Exploring Genetic Groups Within Ethnicity Regions
By mousing over each Genetic Group, you can see the outline of the genetic group overlayed onto the map, along with the ethnicity.
You can see that the “Germany (Lower Saxony), Sweden, Denmark and Netherlands” Genetic Group overlaps with both the Scandinavian ethnicity blue region, and where my ancestors are found in the Netherlands. I think I’d like to explore that a little more.
Select the genetic group of your choice by clicking on the group name.
Let’s check on those ancestors who immigrated from Friesland to Indiana in the 1860s.
The first thing you’ll see is information about the group itself. Remember, this is not a group assigned to me by MyHeritage, but additional spelunking I’m doing on my own.
257 DNA kits were used to form this group, and of those, 103 have trees linked to this Genetic Group’s region, meaning “Germany (Lower Saxony), Sweden, Denmark and Netherlands.”
For each location, you will see a dropdown box of time periods. In this case, we’re looking at 1900-1950, but there are other time ranges available.
Timelines and Additional Information
All Genetic Groups have a timeline. By dropping down and looking at the timeline, you can view the heat map migration patterns observed in the timeframe for the ancestors of people in that particular group.
While these places “fit,” they aren’t nearly as close as the Friesland Genetic Group. Anderson is the English version of one of my surnames from the 1600s into the New Netherlands.
I do have some of these surnames, but these have been Anglicized and mine aren’t.
Scrolling on down shows related Genetic Groups.
This group seems to be very closely affiliated genetically with Scandinavia.
Music and Description
While you’re visiting your ethnicity, be sure to take time to read the description about your ethnicity regions and listen to a music sample.
In my case, the Dutch are conveniently located adjacent Scandinavia, the North Sea and share borders with Germany, so it makes sense that I would have both Scandinavian, Germanic and Northwest Europe ethnic heritage.
Furthermore, these regions overlap. Of course, people have migrated and milled around Europe for millennia.
Matches and More
While you can’t match to other people by Genetic Group, at least not yet (hint, hint MyHeritage,) you can sort your matches by a combination of both the tester’s location and ethnicity, combined.
I have a total of 12,838 matches.
If I filter my results by my Scandinavian ethnicity, I have 5,138 matches.
However, if I add a location filter of the Netherlands, I now have a total of 210 matches which is a lot more manageable and relevant.
Remember that the location is the current location of the tester themselves, not the location of their ancestors in their tree. I would love to be able to filter by ancestral location too (another hint, MyHeritage😊.)
Comparing those 210 matches against my mother and known maternal line cousins tells me immediately if this match is valid, and on which side.
I can tell you without looking further that this is a Ferverda line match, and yes, from Bauke Hendrik Ferverda (Ferwerda) who immigrated with his second wife and children in the 1860s, settling in northern Indiana. His first wife, my ancestor, Geertje Harmens de Jong had died in the Netherlands.
Of course, now I want to know how these matches match me and from which ancestor upsteam of Bauke and Geertje.
I do have one Theory of Family Relativity triangulated match with a 5th cousin and our common ancestors are indeed from Friesland.
I think I’ll run an AutoCluster now and see if known cousins and any of these matches are included in clusters which would provide additional hints for me to work with.
Genetic Groups and You
The transfer is free, but you will need to pay the $29 unlock fee for the advanced tools. Transferring is cheaper than retesting, provides immediate gratification (hours as compared to weeks) and you can start right now.
Have fun and let me know what you find!
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DNA Purchases and Free Transfers
- FamilyTreeDNA – Y, mitochondrial and autosomal DNA testing
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Genealogy Products and Services
- MyHeritage FREE Tree Builder – genealogy software for your computer
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- Charting Companion – Charts and Reports to use with your genealogy software or FamilySearch
- Legacy Tree Genealogists – professional genealogy research
- com – lots of wonderful genealogy research books