A Russian-American view into 23andme’s new country regional ethnicity breakdown

I was excited when I heard 23andme is breaking down ethnicity by country regions in eastern Europe. Years of research shows my ancestry is mostly Russian and some German ancestry from Poland.

The results from 23andme were surprising but not in a good way. With so many Russian lines researched back to the 1600s, I only saw one birth region of a great-grandparent- Tartarstan- and the other 4 regions were so far removed from my ancestors’ birthplaces.

One great-grandmother was born in the Russian Empire, but she had extensive German ancestry. Her birthplace now sits in eastern Poland.

23andme did find ancestry from her paternal grandmother’s region and another region was near the birth region of her paternal grandfather.

Due to missing records for the areas of Poland where my German ancestors lived, I cannot do more thorough research on those ancestors. The two other regions 23andme claims as my ancestors’ regions in Poland are so far away from where documents place them.

23andme gives the most specific ethnicity breakdown but it doesn’t match documented research of my ancestors. Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage provide the broadest ethnicity breakdowns. Ancestry has more specific information on ethnicity but it’s not going to break down any walls.

So far, it seems these DNA tests are better at finding relatives than serving as a crystal ball for where Eastern European ancestors once lived.

Related posts:
A Russian-American’s insider view of the 23andme Autosomal Test
A Russian-American’s inside view of the new AncestryDNA test
A Russian-American’s insider view of the MyHeritage DNA test
A Russian-American’s insider view of the Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder Test

A Russian-American’s insider view of the MyHeritage DNA test

The newest game player for DNA testing for genealogy is MyHeritage. Up until Nov. 30, 2018, MyHeritage is allowing free uploads for anyone who has tested with Ancestry, 23andme, Family Tree DNA and Living DNA. Then, anyone who uploads their DNA file on Dec. 1 and later will pay a fee for the tools and ethnicity estimate.

Uploading to MyHeritage is well-worth the wait for the results. Here’s the details on the information and tools that come with the results.

What type of information is provided on matches?

Each match is identified with his or her name, a photo (not everyone), country of residence, age by decade, level of confidence for the match (low, medium and high); name of person managing the DNA kit if it isn’t the person who took the DNA test,  amount of shared DNA,  number of shared DNA segments and largest DNA segment. Also, a link to the available family tree is provided with the number people in their tree. The number of Smart Matches and common surnames appearing in their family tree also are noted.

Then the following information is provided when clicking on a match: a list of ancestral surnames, shared matches with relationship estimates, the shared ethnicities, in addition to a chromosome browser.

How does MyHeritage predict relationships?

MyHeritage lists matches as mother or daughter; father or son;  half-sister, aunt or niece; half-brother, uncle or nephew; great-grandmother or great-granddaughter, great-aunt or great-niece; great-grandfather or great-grandson, great-uncle or great-nephew; 1st cousin – 1st cousin once removed; 1st cousin once removed – 2nd cousin; 3rd – 4th cousin; 1st cousin twice removed – 4th cousin; 3rd – 5th cousin;  and 3rd cousin – distant cousin.

How often do you get matches?

Currently, I have 1,801 matches. I receive matches several times a week. An orange dot appears next to a DNA symbol in the webpage’s top bar when new matches have arrived. MyHeritage sends out an e-mail message about once or twice a month about new matches.

How many of your matches have Russian or Ukrainian ancestry or live in Russia or Ukraine?

I have 33 matches from Russia and 6 matches from Ukraine, in addition to many matches with Russian and Ukrainian surnames from around the world. About 600 matches have Eastern European ancestry.

How close are your matches?

I have 5 2nd and 3rd cousins who I know from Russia and Ukraine. Our estimated relationships are accurate. The other matches are mostly 3rd – 5th cousin and 3rd cousin – distant cousin.

Do you have surnames in-common with your matches? 

I don’t have any shared surnames with my matches but my other relatives whose DNA files I manage have some in-common surnames with their matches.

How friendly are matches in giving information?

Some matches will respond to my e-mail messages about exchanging information.

What tools does MyHeritage offer in searching, sorting, filtering and noting matches?

Matches can be filtered by family tree available, shared surnames, Smart Matches, close family, extended family, distant family, country of residence and ethnicity groups. Matches can be sorted by shared DNA, number of shared segments, largest DNA segment, full name and most recently arrived. MyHeritage also allows matches to be searched by name and ancestral surname. Notes can be added to each match for later reference.

What does the map for ethnicity breakdown for MyHeritage look like?

What other information does MyHeritage provide?

MyHeritage also gives an overview for the DNA results. The overview provides the ethnicity breakdown by percentages, total of matches, number breakdown of matches as close family, extended family and distant family, number breakdown of matches from 39 countries/islands, and number breakdown of matches who fall into the 30 ethnicity groups.

Related posts:

A Russian-American’s inside view of the new AncestryDNA test

A Russian-American’s insider view of the Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder Test

A Russian-American’s insider view of the 23andme Autosomal Test

Guide for making the best choices in DNA testing

FAQ- DNA testing for Russians and Ukrainians

Marching toward solving a WWII family mystery with Ancestry DNA

I never have been so anxious for DNA results until my mother’s cousin agreed to DNA testing. Finding the mystery WWII soldier who fathered my mother’s cousin and left behind so many questions for three generations is resting on one Ancestry DNA test.

The results came in much quicker than expected, one week after the DNA kit arrived at the lab. I was imagining weeks of staring and yelling at my computer screen, “Just come in! I can’t wait another minute!”

I was expecting two scenarios: all 5th-8th cousin matches who would be completely useless or closer matches who would not answer my messages. I never expected the scenario I am in today.

In the past month since the results have arrived and continue to come in regularly, the closest matches have the tiniest family trees and won’t logged into their Ancestry accounts, in addition to not answering my messages. Now, I am screaming in my head,”Just log into your account and answer my messages!”

zeesmatches

My cousin has one 3rd cousin match,  20 4th-6th cousin matches (one of these is listed as a very high match) and a massive list of 5th-8th cousins that ends on page 54.

Meanwhile, I have 36 pages of matches for the 4 years since I have tested with Ancestry and not one in common with my mother’s cousin. I have 6 in-common matches with her on Family Tree DNA.

Every day, I check for new matches more often than I want to admit and hoping to get more 2nd and 3rd cousin matches to go around matches who don’t have detailed family trees nor an interest in answering my messages.

Right now, I am putting my hope into the people who bought DNA kits for themselves and as gifts this holiday season. The chatter on Facebook sounds as if Ancestry did very well for selling its DNA this holiday.

The golden match will be on Ancestry DNA and that person hopefully will test soon. It is obvious that the mystery father was most likely an American or Canadian soldier. One look at this ethnicity breakdown definitely doesn’t point to a German nor Russian soldier as the father, when the mother is half Russian and East Prussian.

zeesbreakdown

My biggest fear is that an older man living in a nursing home, who is thinking that he never had children, will die not knowing about his daughter. He has two grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and a great-great-grandson.

My great-grandparents died, wondering what happened to their pregnant daughter. She left war-torn Berlin for Soviet Ukraine, hoping for more food and better living in her home country. Five years ago, the American Red Cross and International Tracing Service teamed up successfully to answer that question by finding her.

Now, all hope is on Ancestry DNA to help name the man who fathered my cousin to put in the final piece of this puzzle. It just takes the right person to take the DNA test and make time to answer my messages to make one woman’s dream of finding her father’s family to come true.

Remember to click on the follow button for this blog  on the top right to keep posted on this journey.

Previous posts on this story:
Countdown begins for AncestryDNA to solve a 71-year-old mystery from WWII

A shocking twist gets thrown into finding the mystery birth father from WWII

A DNA test and small paper trail face off to complete a WWII love story

Countdown begins for AncestryDNA to solve a 71-year-old mystery from WWII

I didn’t think I would ever get this close to finally solving a family mystery from WWII. My great-grandparents died in the 1970s, wondering whatever happened to their free-spirited daughter and unborn grandchild.

Five years ago, American Red Cross with the help of International Tracing Service found my missing grand aunt alive after vanishing for 66 years. The incredible news came days before my birthday, a great gift.

Now, I am waiting for Ancestry DNA to come through for my entire family and especially for the daughter of my grand aunt. She, her children and grandchildren don’t know anything about her father.

In the past year her matches on Family Tree DNA haven’t been close enough to answer the question on the mystery father from war-torn Berlin, Germany. Tired of waiting for the golden match, I finally gave into paying for a DNA test through Ancestry DNA.

It’s been an 11-month ordeal. The first Ancestry DNA kit was returned to my cousin. It’s illegal to send spit-filled test tubes through the Russian postal service abroad.

Thankfully, Ancestry DNA agreed to send me a second kit at no charge. I created a new plan to get around Russian laws. I found a contact to get the DNA kit out of Russia while they travelled abroad.

I told my cousin of the plan and the importance of immediately getting her mother to do the test so everything would line up properly. I started to sweat two weeks before my contact would travel.

My cousin didn’t answer my message about whether she mailed the DNA test until 6 days before my contact would travel. She told me she mailed the package that day. I got even more nervous.

The distance the package had to travel was close to the distance between Toronto, Canada, and New York City. How could the Russian postal service deliver the package in time?

I was devastated when I learned that the package arrived in my contact’s city a day after the traveling contact left Russia. Then, it took another 4 days to get through the city and into the local post office.

The next time the contact would travel abroad was scheduled months away. I was one step away from getting my hands on the package and done with waiting.

Thanks to a distant cousin from Russia on Ancestry DNA, I got advice for getting the package out of Russia. My contact followed my directions and I had the package in my hands 6 days later.

I couldn’t be happier to finally touch this package. I saw that U.S. customs cut open the package inside to inspect the contents. They didn’t care the customs form didn’t declare the actual object inside because DNA kits aren’t illegal in U.S. postal mail.

I immediately put the DNA test in the return shipping box at the post office. It took a week for Ancestry to list the kit as arrived.

Now, the waiting game begins. Will the matches again be too distant to find the father’s family? Will close matches refuse to answer my messages?

Let’s hope for a holiday miracle and finally say mystery solved.

Read the previous posts on this journey:

A shocking twist gets thrown into finding the mystery birth father from WWII
A DNA test and small paper trail face off to complete a WWII love story

The drama a DNA test brings to a family tree

Four years ago, I thought it only would be a dream to know the maiden name of my paternal grandfather’s mother. He didn’t even know her maiden name.

So I was beyond thrilled when a researcher solved the mystery by digging through census and birth records. She was successful with just having her first and middle names, birth year and general area where she was born.

I posted on genealogy forums looking for relatives of my great-grandmother. Some distant cousin must be out there researching the same family when she was one of 9 kids.

It took two years for a cousin to contact me after seeing my posts. His great-great-grandfather was brother of my great-grandmother.

The enthusiasm for finding each other has hardly died down two years later. We continue to exchange family information and write to each other on a regular basis.

A few months ago, I finally asked the DNA test question. He wanted to do a test but couldn’t afford one. With the Russian ruble crashing, spending money on a DNA test was a luxury.

Thanks to the $69 Family Finder test sale at Family Tree DNA over the summer, it was the perfect time to confirm our relationship.  I counted down every day for a month until the results were expected.

The first day the results were expected, the status changed to a delay of two to four weeks. I checked the next day whether the status had changed again. The matches were available. I was excited and nervous.

My cousin had 259 matches, compared to my 209 I’ve accumulated over 5 years. I wasn’t sure about how our relationship would be identified.  I wasn’t the closest match as I had expected.

With that shock, I didn’t have the patience to scroll through 9 pages of matches. I searched for myself by my last name and our common surname.

I was nowhere to be found. This had to be a mistake. To my annoyance, it took until the next morning to get his raw data file. I immediately uploaded his file to Gedmatch to get a second opinion on this DNA testing disaster.

Not one pinch of us matched by DNA, disappointing on so many levels. But I should have known better with doing DNA genealogy for 5 years.

changes-of-finding-a-match

Image from Family Tree DNA

Family Tree Maker designates us as 3rd cousins 2 times removed. I could have increased the chances of matching with his family by having his father take the test.

The most annoying part of this experience was the message from Family Tree DNA that the results were available. The message was sent 27 times. Apparently, this is supposed to be the haha moment.

I am not worried that my cousin isn’t my cousin. A researcher documented the family tree and my cousin has an old family tree that is backed up by family documents.

DNA doesn’t have the precision of documents. As DNA data gets passed down to each generation, there isn’t a magical formula to guarantee certain DNA from each ancestor. Documents don’t change over time, just fade.

Previous related posts:
New Russian cousins found again!
Wondering if my family tree is about to grow