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

2015 redefines value of DNA genealogy tests

My hope for finding great matches through DNA testing was set high for this year after reading so many success stories on Facebook. It’s been exactly 5 years since I swabbed my mouth for the Family Finder test from Family Tree DNA.

Since then, I also have tested through Ancestry DNA and 23andme. Right now, I don’t know if my hope just needs to be extended for another year or got crushed by one company.

I naively thought that the majority of 23andme customers who chose to be private would change their minds after the company announced those people will no longer have messaging abilities.

Nope, the majority of my private matches (and the majority of my matches) sit in the land of anonymity. My closest matches, 3rd to 6th matches, are taunting me by refusing to name themselves and their ancestors. When the day comes that I get closer matches, I worry whether they will hide behind “Anonymous Male or Anonymous Female.”

On top of this, 23andme just showed where its heart (or wallet) is invested with the price increase to $199 from $99. AncestryDNA has mainly priced its test at $99 and Family Tree DNA continues to keeps its Family Finder test at $99.

23andme has restarted offering health-related results so it’s focus isn’t genealogy. I understand the importance of learning about health conditions through DNA testing but 23andme has changed so much that it should be the third choice for DNA genealogy.

My disadvantage with these DNA tests has been who I am. Seven of my eight great-grandparents are Russian. One great-grandmother was born in Russia, where it is now Poland, but she had German strong family roots throughout Poland.

Genealogy is getting more popular in the former USSR but the U.S. prices for DNA tests are hard to swallow in Russia and Ukraine. Only Family Tree DNA sends kits there but some Russians and Ukrainians were sneaking in the 23andme test. Forget that until their economies get better.

In the meantime, I am thrilled that Ancestry DNA is now selling its test to United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada and Australia, where Russians and Ukrainians escaped for better lives.

The company also added two features – showing the amount of DNA in common with matches and viewing the shared matches with each match.

Another addition to Ancestry DNA has been DNA Circles, a feature that tries to predict a common ancestor between matches based on DNA and family tree data. That feature has been highly criticized but maybe this feature will help some break down their brickwalls.

There hasn’t been much change at Family Tree DNA, except for better ethnicity breakdowns and the ability to search the database of family trees by name or place. Family Tree DNA has the best tools to analyze matches. The only thing that Family Tree DNA could improve is building up its customer base for the Family Finder Test.

So if you’re like me with lots of Eastern European blood running through your veins,  there is no need to run away from DNA testing for genealogy. Everyone’s experience will be different.

I highly recommend first testing through Ancestry DNA, which is having a sale on its test for $89 until Dec. 21, and then transferring your data to Family Tree DNA for $39. I recommend using 23andme as the third choice, especially for adoptees.

After the first test results arrive, upload your data for free to Gedmatch, which matches you with Ancestry DNA, Family Tree DNA and 23andme customers who chose to do the same. This route will be most wise and affordable.

Related posts:
Guide for making the best choices in DNA testing

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

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

A Russian-American’s insider view of the 23andme Autosomal Test (before the recent changes)

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

My second cousin was only told of her father’s name and military title during WWII. The mother is mum about the mystery father who served in the Soviet Army for the Battle of Berlin.

The daughter of my cousin asked me if I knew anything about her grandfather. Relatives of my grandmother’s generation repeated the same story about this war love story.

The grandmother of my younger cousin got pregnant by a Russian soldier. She disappeared soon afterwards. A Russian soldier came to my great-grandparents’ apartment, begging them to come to communist-controlled East Berlin to pick up their daughter. The soldier told them their daughter was not returned to the USSR by sheer luck.

Too fearful of being forced back to the USSR and killed in the gulags for escaping war-torn Kiev, my great-grandparents stayed home and died not knowing what happened to their daughter and unborn grandchild. Was that visiting soldier the father of my second cousin?

Not only is the grandfather a mystery, but I was quite the surprise for my cousin’s family. I appeared out of nowhere four years ago with the help of the Russian Red Cross. My older cousin didn’t know her mother had a brother and sister.

After getting to know my “new cousins” for a few years, I finally popped the question to my second cousin’s daughter: “Will your mother take a DNA test?” A few weeks later, my cousin said yes with enthusiasm.

The time involved to get the Family Tree DNA test back to the lab in Texas was quite long. The package took two months to arrive in western Russia. Apparently, the horses delivering the mail also were busy with a circus tour.

My cousin got busy with her family life and waited several weeks to mail back the test. Thankfully, it took only less than 3 weeks for the test to arrive at the lab. Family Tree DNA quickly processed the test in a mere 16 days.

I was so hopeful to get close matches for my cousin. Family Tree DNA is the only large company that sends DNA genealogy tests to Russia and Ukraine, making it the best choice for finding relatives living in the former USSR.

My cousin has 27 pages of matches, giving her almost 300 matches. Her closest matches are 18 2nd to 4th cousins and 39 4th to remote cousins. I immediately uploaded her DNA data to Gedmatch to find other matches from Ancestry DNA and 23andme for free.

None of the matches on Family Tree DNA nor Gedmatch are close enough to ask the awkward question: “Do you have a grandfather who served in WWII in Berlin in spring 1945?”

This mystery is going to take more than a DNA test to be solved.

Thanks to the crafty and knowledgeable forum members on All Russia Family Tree, I learned about the only man who could have been the mystery Russian soldier. More than two dozen men with the same name served in the war but only one served in the Battle of Berlin.

The main Russian military archives released a boatload of information on the soldier at no charge- the soldier’s birth year, birth place, place of residence in 1987,  wife’s name and her birth year and their daughters’ names and birth years.

So here starts my personal challenge to see whether the DNA test or the small paper trail will help find the birth father’s family 70 years later.

Related post:

Guide for making the best choices in DNA testing

DNA testing finally proves its value in finding 16th century documents

It’s been almost 4 years since I decided to try DNA testing for genealogy. Lately, it has been a bust of distant cousins who rarely share one common surname.

So out of boredom, I started e-mailing my supposed distant cousins who have common ethnicity. I totally forgot I already e-mailed one match my standard message asking whether he has ancestors from the same places by chance. That was the best mistake I could have made.

My fourth cousin reminded me that I sent the same message twice but offered me something I never got from my other thousands of DNA distant cousins. He acquired records from Russian State Archives of Ancient Documents on our common ancestors from the 1590s-1600s.

I forgot that we had a common surname from the same Russian region. My cousin researched his ancestry as far back as possible and determined existing records can only connect us back to the 1600s while I had given up hope on connecting our families.

A great researcher in Kursk, central Russia, Evgeniy Karpuk, researched my Trunov family back to Peter the Great time, leaving the door open a few years later for this cousin to unload records on me as far back as 1594.

Just 5 years ago, I discovered my great-grandfather’s birth village of the late 19th century written on a German immigration record. I found a great Russian genealogy forum to figure out where this village exists on a map. On that forum, a not-so-friendly man from Belarus who cursed me out for America’s involvement in the Bosnian War gave me Karpuk’s contact information.

All my genealogy ducks lined up and today I have seen records dated from 1594-1646 from a cousin living in Siberia. It did come at the price of $150 US dollars  for 22 scans but that is much less than Russian State Archives of Ancient Documents would have charged me.

Thanks to these scans, I know the names of my 11th- and 12-great-grandfathers and the village where they lived in the 1600s.

So, DNA testing is worth the cheap price of tests today. I paid $289 for my Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder test, which is now $99. Just one e-mail message to a cousin who seemed too distantly related helped me discover more ancestors because I made the effort to reach out.

Here is a sample of these old Russian records:

ancietcopy

Ancestry.com shakes off the fluff in my DNA matches

I was giggling when I heard Ancestry.com would readjust its criteria for determining DNA matches. The announcement came that some people would lose a lot of their matches.

Ancestry.com must have been talking about me.  I had close to 5,000 matches yesterday.  Today, (let’s all giggle together) I have 387 matches. Do the math and you’ll see I have lost 92 percent of my “matches”.

I am not surprised. After all, Ancestry.com’s database only includes Americans.  It doesn’t sell DNA tests abroad. I am pretty unique as an American.

My parents were born in Russia and Ukraine and all of my great-grandparents were born in Russia. One great-grandmother was born in Russia, where it is now eastern Poland, but her roots were German from current day Poland.

I hardly fit the profile of a typical Ancestry DNA customer. I can easily guess that most customers have ancestry from western Europe and British Isles.

So surprise, surprise I don’t have any matches closer than 5th to 8th cousins. I have 7 matches with high confidence, 93 matches with good confidence and 287 matches with moderate confidence to people predicted as my 5th to 8th cousins.

Before Ancestry DNA’s readjustments in making matches more accurate, I had mostly 5th to 8th cousin matches with low and very low confidence levels. I also had so many more “matches” to people with Russian and Ukrainian ancestry.

My 100 matches to people with Russian and Ukrainian ancestry has been knocked down to 29 matches to those with Russian ancestors and 12 matches to people with Ukrainian ancestors.

I should be happy to have almost 400 matches but then I took a closer look at my matches’ trees- 66 matches have locked their trees, 94 matches haven’t linked their accounts to trees and 49 matches have trees with less than 50 people.

Ancestry.com knows many of its customers are annoyed with a noticeable number of DNA members not posting trees or having locked trees. It has introduced a new tool.

Straight from Ancestry.com’s website: “DNA Circles are the latest way to discover who you’re related to—even if you aren’t DNA matches. Each DNA Circle you’re part of is based on one of your direct-line ancestors. It will include everyone who has that ancestor in their family tree and has DNA evidence that links them to you or someone else in the circle. In other words, a circle includes all the identified genetic descendants of a particular person. It’s a great way to discover cousins you never knew you had.”

We’ll see if this will have an impact on making closed off customers to share their trees.

After these changes to Ancestry DNA, I am happy I got the Ancestry DNA test for free three years ago as part of the beta group. I have gained nothing from the Ancestry DNA test.

I still believe it is worthwhile to get the test if you are looking for American cousins or your Russian or Ukrainian relatives came to the USA no later than the early 1900s. I don’t have much hope in this test for people such as me who are descendants of people who came to America during World War II and the 1950s and have family mostly abroad.

Anyone looking for Russian and Ukrainian cousins whose family never left their homeland or immigrated to other European countries, Australia, Canada and USA should try the Family Finder test at Family Tree DNA. If only Ancestry.com sold its DNA test abroad, the potential for people such as me would grow daily like a weed in a rain forest.

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