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

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:


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

Guide for making the best choices in DNA testing

Updated Sept. 13, 2019

People who want to try DNA testing for genealogy have different reasons and interests. The cost of DNA testing has really gone down since I last bought my first kit 9 years ago for $298.

Even though DNA tests have gotten cheaper, customers still want their waiting time for the results to be well worth it.

Here are my suggestions, based on more than 8 years of DNA testing with the 4 big companies, for those with Russian and/or Ukrainian ancestry to get the best possible results. (Links to reviews of the big four DNA testing companies are listed at the bottom of this post.)

1. I want to confirm my Russian and/or Ukrainian ancestry.

So far, only 23andme has specifically broken down my ethnicity to Russian, with 5 regions where my ancestors could have lived. Only one region has been documented by research. Ancestry has an ethnic group called “Eastern Europe and Russia” but it has not broken down to Russian for me even with my documented and extensive Russian ancestry.

2. I am looking to find DNA relatives who live in Russia and/or Ukraine.

Test with Family Tree DNA or MyHeritage, the only companies of the big four that send DNA tests to Russia and Ukraine.

3. My Russian relatives immigrated to the USA, Canada, England and/or Australia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I am looking for descendants of those relatives.

Test with Ancestry and then transfer your DNA file to Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage. If DNA matches are too distant, give 23andme a chance, too.

4. My family escaped the USSR in the 1940s and 1950s. I don’t know whether my other relatives stayed in the USSR or emigrated. 

Test first with Family Tree DNA or MyHeritage to find matches living in Russia, Ukraine and other former areas of the Russian Empire. Some people from the former USSR are sneaking Ancestry and 23andme  tests out of their countries. There are possibilities for matches from Ancestry and 23andme.

5. I have a relative from my family who wants to confirm that we are related.

Test with Family Tree DNA. I prefer the tools of Family Tree DNA. It will give  you the most details and best tools for your curiosity. I actually did this for my father’s first cousin, who was falsely rumored to be unrelated for decades. All four DNA companies can confirm a relationship, depending on the closeness. Ancestry still doesn’t provide a chromosome browser, unlike the other three companies.

6. I am an adoptee from Russia looking for my birth family.

Test with 23andme  and then transfer to MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA. Then consider Ancestry if close matches don’t appear.

7. I was adopted from Ukraine and wondering whether my siblings, who were adopted by another family, have tested.

Test with AncestryDNA first and then transfer to MyHeritage, Family Tree DNA and Gedmatch. If possible, also test with 23andme.

8. I could have some Jewish ancestry. Which company would give me the best ethnicity breakdown for possible Jewish ancestry?

Test with 23andme, due to its advances in ethnicity breakdown, and then transfer to Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage to get some comparisons.

9. I am a beginner in understanding DNA genealogy testing and need the best tools for figuring out my connections with my matches.

Test with Family Tree DNA, where you can learn the common matches of each person with whom you are matched and can use a chromosome browser to see which matches have the same ancestors. The company also offers great filtering of matches.

10. I am taking one chance with DNA testing. I am looking for the company that gives the most information on matches and have customers who are the most eager to figure out the connections to matches.

Test with Family Tree DNA.

11. I am looking for the database with customers who are the most serious about their genealogy.

Test with Family Tree DNA and then transfer to MyHeritage. A large portion of 23andme customers are interested in health data from their DNA tests. A lot of people on Ancestry DNA do not know much about their ancestry in Russia and Ukraine.

12. I want to take a stab at the largest DNA database that has worldwide reach.

Test with Ancestry.

13. I only can afford to take one test. How can I get matches from people who tested from all four companies?

Test with Ancestry, then download your DNA file and transfer the file to Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage and Gedmatch for free.

14. I am testing a much older relative. Which test could be easier to do for them?

Either Family Tree DNA or MyHeritage would work best. 23andme and Ancestry require spitting into test tubes. The other two have customers swab their inner checks.

15. I am interested in learning about the haplogroups of my mother and father.

Test with 23andme or Family Tree DNA. 23andme gives maternal and paternal haplogroups for its autosomal test. More specific haplogroups can be obtained through Family Tree DNA with its Y-DNA and MtDNA tests but these tests are more expensive. Men can get their paternal and maternal haplogroups. Women only can get their maternal haplogroups.

16. I would like to join projects for my haplogroups and ancestry after I get my results.

Test with Family Tree DNA, the only company that offers projects.

17. I have a bunch of male relatives willing to take the Y-DNA test (paternal line testing) and we want to find matches related directly to our paternal lines.

Get the Y-67 DNA test from Family Tree DNA.

18. I would rather like to make my decision based on the facts, ma’am.

Visit this page for statistics on Ancestry, Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage and 23andme‘s autosomal tests.

Related posts:
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 23andme Autosomal Test
A Russian-American’s insider view of the Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder Test
A Russian-American view into 23andme’s new country regional ethnicity breakdown
FAQ- DNA testing for Russians and Ukrainians

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

Updated July 28, 2017

My curiosity of DNA genealogy testing started about seven years ago. I took the Family Finder test from Family Tree DNA, with hope that I could make some major breakthroughs.

So far, I haven’t made any major breakthroughs but it will take some more time. I have more hope that Family Tree DNA will get me at least one major breakthrough because it is the only company out of the three major testing companies that sends its DNA tests to Russia and Ukraine,  in addition to all areas of the former USSR.

What type of information is provided on matches?

Customers get the following information on their matches: name, e-mail address (a few choose not to post their e-mail addresses), family tree (some don’t post their trees), match date, relationship range, shared centimorgans (specks of DNA shared between matches), longest block of centimorgans, and ancestral surnames (those in bold are shared or sound similar between matches).

You can see how this looks at the bottom of this page.

How does Family Tree DNA predict chances of being related?

Matches are listed as parent/child; uncle/aunt/nephew/niece; grandparent/grandchild; 1st to 2nd cousin, 2nd to 4th cousin; 3rd to 5th cousin; 4th cousin- remote cousin; and 5th cousin- remote cousin.

How often do you get matches?

Lately, I get at least 10 matches throughout each month.  I have 337 matches from the past six and a half years. Both of my parents’ families came from Russia and Ukraine in the early 1950s to the USA. My mother’s Russian cousin, who has a father with British ancestry, has 685 matches from the past two years.  My father’s Russian cousin, who has a mother with Jewish ancestry, has 1,321  matches from the past 5 and a half years.

How many of your matches have ancestors from Russia or Ukraine?

A high portion of my matches have ancestors from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and Finland. A noticeable portion of my matches live in Russia. The same goes for my mother, aunt, uncle and four Russian cousins.

How close are your matches?

I have 3 matches for 2nd to 4th cousins, 9 matches for 3rd to 5th cousins, 29 4th cousins- remote cousins and the rest are 5th cousins- remote cousins. For my mother, she has 3 matches for 2nd to 4th cousins, 6 matches for 3rd to 5th cousins, 30 matches for 4th cousins- remote cousins and the rest are 5th cousins- remote cousins.

Do you have surnames in common with your matches?

I have a handful of matches with shared surnames of Germanic ancestry but I can’t connect our family trees. I have one match with a shared Russian surname from a great-grandfather but the match isn’t close enough to confirm the relationship.  My father’s cousin has a shared Russian surname from her maternal grandmother with a 4th cousin but my cousin doesn’t have enough information to connect the family trees.

How friendly are matches in giving information?

Everyone but a random few have responded to my e-mail messages about exchanging information.

What tools does Family Tree DNA offer in searching, sorting, filtering and noting matches?

Customers can check whether they have shared matches with each person listed as a match. Also, matches can be sorted by various relationship ranges, X-chromosome matches (from a maternal line), common surnames, known relationship, longest DNA block, DNA shared and date matched. Matches can be searched by name and ancestral surnames. Notes also can be placed on each match.

If parents tested their DNA, their children can have their matches filtered as maternal or paternal matches and matches share by both parents.

Family Tree DNA has two other tools: chromosome browser and matrix. Chromosome browser shows where up to 5 matches have shared DNA on the 22 and X chromosomes. This helps determine the ancestor in common. Matrix allows  up to 10 matches to be compared for their Family Finder relationships in a grid.

Does Family Tree DNA give an ethnicity breakdown?

Yes. It breaks down ancestry from its 24 reference populations and puts it on a global map. Matches with similar ethnicity are listed on the bottom left of the map. A filter is provided to compare other matches, based on their closeness in relationship.

What other information does Family Tree DNA provide?

It gives the three most common ancestral surnames that come from the matches and the number of matches who have those names.

Family Tree DNA also gives percentages of ancient European origins (hunter-gatherers, early farmers, and Metal Age invaders) and a map of the origins.

Does Family Tree DNA have forums to help figure out the DNA test and its results?

Yes. These forums are open to the public and are very helpful in understanding the various tests Family Tree DNA offers and figuring out how to find connections with matches.

Related posts:

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 23andme Autosomal Test

Guide for making the best choices in DNA testing

FAQ- DNA testing for Russians and Ukrainians

Giving DNA genealogy testing a few more chances

I am waiting to hit the jackpot with DNA genealogy testing. I am envious of the stories of great successes I’ve read on forums. My chances of the same success seem pretty low because both of my parents came to the USA in the early 1950s from the USSR.

My mother took a Family Finder test from FamilyTreeDNA in September and her results came back in late October. So far, her matches haven’t given me any breakthroughs. My mother has collected 50 matches and 16 of those are common matches with me.

Meanwhile, I only have 62 matches in three years from the same test. Soon after I did the Family Finder test, I also did the MtDNA test, which searches for matches by going through my mother, her mother, her mother, etc. I have five matches that should be related to me in the past five generations. So far, I’ve had no luck with these matches for my German roots from current day Poland.

I’m giving this DNA testing two more tries. My mother’s brother has agreed to take a Family Finder test from FamilyTreeDNA. I am curious whether a male relative will bring me some luck.

Soon after his first matches come though, I will buy the Y-DNA 12 marker test to see whether matches can be found for my paternal grandfather’s family. Y-DNA tests search for matches by going through father, his father, his father, etc. Only males can take this test. Men and women can take the MtDNA test.

It also would be interesting to find out from the Y-DNA test where my grandfather’s family from Kursk, Russia, came from thousands of years ago, giving me that line’s haplogroup.

Also, I have taken another DNA test. This time through 23andme. I’ve heard complaints that too many 23andme customers are more concerned about medical genetic data.

The FDA pulled the plug on 23andme for releasing customers’ chances of having various health conditions and responding to certain drugs so 23andme is using a large marketing campaign to attract more customers interested in genealogy.

23andme customers also complain on the company’s forum that matches won’t share their genetic data. I’ll see in a few days if I will have the same problem.

The three main companies for DNA genealogy testing are FamilyTree DNA, AncestryDNA and 23andme. I hope to have a better idea on which company is the best when I see my first set of 23andme matches. 23andme is claiming “the largest DNA ancestry service in the world” so I’ll see whether it can provide me with the best matches.