If you’re a MyHeritage DNA customer, either by taking their DNA test or uploading a file from another vendor, this is an exciting time. MyHeritage has provided new Theories of Family Relativity and updates, so you’ll want to check your account.
Theories of Family Relativity (TOFR) is the marriage of DNA matching with other types of hints, such as:
- Common ancestors and links to ancestors in various public trees such as FamilySearch and Geni
- Common ancestors and links to ancestors in MyHeritage trees
- Supporting documents, such as census records
The results are Theories about how you are related to your matches, and who your common ancestors are.
MyHeritage introduced Theories of Family Relativity (TOFR) In February 2019 and periodically runs the algorithm, adding new Theories to your DNA results page.
After initial introduction, MyHeritage updated customers’ TOFR in July 2019, May 2020, September 2020, February 2021, and October 2021, so there were plenty of new theory candidates just waiting.
I received an email from MyHeritage stating that TOFR has been updated again, with the following information:
In case you’re still unfamiliar with Theory of Family Relativity™, this feature pulls together billions of data points from across all the family tree profiles and historical records on MyHeritage to bring you theories about how your DNA Matches may be related to you. The calculations are run on a periodic basis, and since our last update, countless new DNA kits, family tree profiles, and historical records have been added to MyHeritage.
This means that the number of theories, the number of DNA Matches that include a theory, and the number of kits that have a theory have all increased significantly — and so have your chances of getting a new theory!
As a result of this new update:
- 25,636,711 Theories of Family Relativity™ were added
- 328,439 kits that didn’t have any theories previously now have at least one
- 233,297 additional users will have at least one theory following this update
What Do I Need for a TOFR to Form?
For a Theory to have the opportunity to form, you need the following at MyHeritage:
- Either take a DNA test at MyHeritage, or upload a DNA file from FamilyTreeDNA, Ancestry, or 23andMe for free if you have already tested elsewhere. I wrote easy-to-follow download/upload instructions here and you can upload, here.
- Have a minimal tree (or better) at MyHeritage that includes you through at least your grandparents. The more generations and the more complete your tree for each generation, meaning children, siblings, dates, etc., the better your chances of a TOFR forming.
- Have a Premium or better subscription plan which allows you to access the advanced DNA features, including TOFR.
- Or, if you uploaded your DNA from another site, the one-time unlock fee of $29 also provides access to the advanced DNA tools, including TOFR.
TOFRs Form for DNA Matches
For a TOFR to form, first, you need to be a DNA match.
Second, you need some combination of tree links and records connecting you and your match with a common ancestor.
Those resources can be:
- Public trees, like FamilySearch or Geni
- Private trees within MyHeritage
- Records such as census or other records connecting ancestors and their offsping
Those trees and resources are stitched together to create a Theory that you can review and confirm or reject.
Remember, Theories are just that, theories aka intelligent hints. Accuracy is up to you to confirm.
Let’s step through this process.
How Many New Theories?
How many new Theories do I have, and how do I find them?
In my case, I have a total of 91 theories, which is 9 more than I had the last time Theories was run, representing a 10% increase. Please note that some of the older TOFR may have been updated as well.
However, for now, I don’t want to view the Theories that I’ve already processed, just new ones.
I’ve discovered a way to view only Theories that are new since I processed my TOFR last time.
By processing, I mean
- Reviewing the Theory
- Confirming or rejecting the Theory
- Making notes about my findings
- Painting the segment(s) to DNAPainter
All of these steps are important for different reasons.
Viewing Your New Theories
Sign on to your account and click on DNA at the top, then DNA Matches.
You’ll see a purple banner if you have Theories.
In order to see my newest Theories, I’m going to click on the Filters funnel, then select Tree Details.
Then filter Tree Details by “Has Theory of Family Relativity.”
Now I’m only seeing my matches that have Theories.
Next, I’m going to sort those in the most recent order.
This allows me to see my newest matches first, which are probably the most likely to have TOFR that didn’t have a Theory the last time MyHeritage updated the Theories. It’s also possible that some older matches have new Theories too, but let’s start with these first.
Why Notes Help
I always make notes when I review a match, whether it’s a TOFR or a DNA match without a TOFR.
When you create a note, the note box turns purple.
When a note is present on a match, it’s easy to see and means I have already reviewed that match at least once. Of course, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t take a look again. Notes are a way of talking to myself.
When I see a match without a purple note icon, I know for sure that I do indeed need to review this TOFR because I have not done so previously.
You could use another methodology to indicate already analyzed TOFR, such as the star (favorites) or even a colored match label (square box.)
I can’t wait to review my new Theories.
Wow – Dutch Matches!!!
My first new Theory is with Gerard from the Netherlands. This is a VERY exciting turn of events because my mother is 25% Dutch and we have very few matches on her Dutch lines.
One of MyHeritage’s strengths is that a lot of Europeans test with MyHeritage.
My match to Gerard is through my great-great-grandfather’s sister’s descendants who still live in the Netherlands. The connection was made based on tree connections and records.
I love the circular confidence links at each join so you can see exactly how that connection was made and the confidence level at each joining connection.
This particular theory is created from one community tree and three MyHeritage trees, plus records documentation.
My own tree is one of those trees and so is the FamilySearch Tree. Two other trees are MyHeritage user trees, plus two additional documents.
This is an accurate Theory.
Be sure to confirm or reject each Theory so that MyHeritage can refine their TOFR formation process and update your Theories in the future.
Of course, Theories are only one aspect of matching. You’ll need to review the entire match for more information.
Review The Entire Match
Each DNA match comes with a significant amount of information.
Click on Review DNA Match.
The first piece of information that you’ll see is how you and your match are related to your common ancestor.
Next, you’ll see “Shared Matches” which can prove especially helpful.
In my case, because I uploaded my mother’s DNA file to MyHeritage, I can immediately see if Gerard, my Dutch TOFR match, shares DNA with my mother. If it’s a valid match, he will match Mother of course. If my mother’s DNA wasn’t available, I could look for a match with a sibling, aunt, cousin, or another close relative on my mother’s relevant side.
I can also see that we triangulate by the presence of the little purple triangulation widget which would be expected with my mother if the match is valid and not identical by chance.
I wrote about Triangulation in Action at MyHeritage, here.
We do triangulate, of course.
Triangulating with my mother isn’t terribly remarkable because I received half of her DNA, and triangulation with Mom only means that we’ve confirmed that the match with Gerard is valid.
Since we’ve confirmed that this is a legitimate match, let’s look at other aspects of my match with Gerard.
I can also see ethnicities and Genetic Communities that Gerard and I share.
We share three ethnicities and two Genetic Groups.
The Genetic Groups are spot on.
Scrolling on down, I see where Gerard and I match on our chromosomes.
We match on two segments. One smaller segment is on chromosome 12, and a larger segment on chromosome 13.
Of course, we saw that segment when clicking on my mother’s triangulation widget, but that’s a three-way match. This match is just between me and Gerard.
I’ll be harvesting this segment information to paint at DNA Painter where I gather all of my segments from each vendor and compile them into one chromosome map. This allows me to identify specific segments and walk each one back in time to earlier ancestors.
For example, before this match, I knew the segment above was assigned to the Ferverda side, but now I know it descends from one (or both) of my 3X great-grandparents. This match pushed my knowledge about that segment back three generations in time.
What Can You Do to Get More Theories?
You won’t be able to get new Theories immediately, but you can certainly set yourself up to receive additional TOFR in the next run. I wrote about this process in detail, here, but in summary, you can:
- Encourage cousins to take a DNA test or upload their DNA files (for free) if they have tested elsewhere.
- Encourage matches, especially close matches at other vendors to upload their DNA file to MyHeritage.
- If you or your family members uploaded your DNA from elsewhere, unlock the advanced features (including TOFR) for $29.
- Expand your tree to include your ancestor’s children and descendants, in addition to your direct ancestor. Each person you add acts like a little handle for another tree to hook onto and join with to form a new TOFR. I started by expanding every ancestor through their grandchildren, where possible.
- Be sure to link your DNA, and the DNA of any other tests that you manage, to their proper profile person in your tree.
- Make sure your tree is public so MyHeritage can connect you to other people by utilizing people in your tree.
- Confirm, or reject, both Smart Matches and Record Matches for each person in your tree.
- Maintain a MyHeritage subscription (Premium or above,) as noted earlier, so that you have access to and receive all available genealogical and record information.
What Else Can I Do?
Now that you’ve evaluated your new Theories and made notes, what else can you do to obtain even more information?
By clicking on “Review DNA Matches,” I can see who I match in common with Gerard.
I see that I have 62 shared matches, meaning other people that Gerard and I both match. Scrolling down the list reveals several people who have Dutch names or live in the Netherlands. Sixteen triangulate with me and Gerard, meaning we share the same DNA.
Reviewing these matches individually may reveal whether matching segments are from the Ferverda/Ferwerda or the Camstra line.
MyHeritage includes AutoClusters under DNA Tools.
You can order an AutoCluster report. Your TOFR matches and/or Shared Matches may be included in AutoClusters. Membership in a cluster suggests that each person in the cluster shares an ancestral line with all the other people in the cluster.
All of these tools, working together, will help you understand how you are related to your matches, identify your common ancestors, and which ancestors contributed specific DNA segments to you.
I wrote about using AutoClusters at MyHeritage to analyze DNA matches, here.
What About You?
How many new Theories did you receive with this update?
Were any of your existing Theories revised?
Did you discover something fun?
Do you have relatives or matches who tested elsewhere that might be willing to upload their DNA for matching?
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DNA Purchases and Free Uploads
- FamilyTreeDNA – Y, mitochondrial and autosomal DNA testing
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- Newspapers.com – Search newspapers for your ancestors
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- DNA for Native American Genealogy – by Roberta Estes, for those ordering the e-book from anyplace, or paperback within the United States
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- Genealogical.com – Lots of wonderful genealogy research books
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