Sunday, 14 January 2018

A chromosome browser and a new matching algorithm at MyHeritage

There was a big update at MyHeritage on Thursday this week. They rolled out their updated matching algorithms and also introduced a new chromosome browser feature. MyHeritage have written an excellent blog post which explains the changes in more detail and also provides a good overview of the technicalities of DNA matching written in easy-to-understand language. You can read the article here:
All MyHeritage customers are currently automatically opted in to DNA matching. If, for any reason, you do not want to be notified of matches you can opt out in the My Privacy DNA settings.
I previously had 49 matches at MyHeritage. The new algorithms have allowed them to drop the threshold and report more distant matches. I now have a grand total of 1474 matches. Before the changeover I found that 72% of my matches did not match either of my parents. Previously I had to go through all my matches one by one and check whether or not they matched my parents. Now, if I click on my matches with my mum and dad, I can see the tally of the matches along with a list of all the matches I share with them. I now share 530 matches with my dad and 473 with my mum. This means that 1003 of my 1474 matches (68%) match my parents. The mismatch rate has been reduced to 32% which is a huge improvement. MyHeritage announced at the end of December that they had tested 1.08 million people so the number of matches is much more in line with what we might expect from such a large database. MyHeritage advised in November that the majority of their customers were in the US but that "sales in Europe are strong".

There are some useful filters which can be used to sort your matches. Currently you can view matches that have family trees, shared surnames and Smart Matches.

I found that 1,255 of my 1474 matches (85%) have uploaded trees. However, no indication is given of the completeness of the trees, and I've noticed that some of the trees only contain a single person.

Two hundred and thirty-one of my matches have shared ancestral surnames. On a brief perusal, many of these are common surnames like Johnson and Williams, and the people I match with these surnames seem to be mostly in America and will likely have no connection with Berkshire or Devon where my ancestors with these surnames are to be found. I would suggest it's best to focus on shared matches with rarer surnames.

I like the way that MyHeritage displays country flags as this makes it much easier to identify people in the countries where you are mostly likely to find recent genetic cousins. Even better, it is possible to filter matches by country, as well as searching for matches by surname and full name. The menu can be found on your DNA Matches page.

Note that the country search box will only accept a single word so if you are searching for matches from Great Britain simply enter the word "Great". Similarly if you're trying to locate matches from New Zealand search for the word "New". I currently have 123 matches from Great Britain, 12 matches from Ireland, 62 matches from Australia, 16 matches from New Zealand, 41 matches from Canada and 867 matches from the USA. Many thanks to Louise Coakley for alerting me to this filter and for the tip about searching for matches from Great Britain and New Zealand.

My Heritage have also added a chromosome browser so that you can see a visual display of your matches. You need to scroll right down to the bottom of the match page to locate the tool. Here's the chromosome browser view of my closest match from the UK.
If I click on the Advanced Options on the top right of the chromosome browser I can download the matching segment data. In this case my match shares three segments of DNA with me which are 13.07 cMs, 6.04 cMs and 6.14 cMs respectively in size.

I recognise the names of some people who match me at other companies. I've not done a proper check but my sense is that the people who match me as 3rd to 5th cousins at MyHeritage are assigned more distant relationships at Ancestry (4th to 6th cousin or 5th to 8th cousins). Given that I'm not able to make the genealogical connections with these people I suspect the AncestryDNA estimates are more appropriate.

There's also a facility to sort matches by shared DNA, largest segment, full name and most recent. Apart from my mum and dad, I currently have no matches closer than third to fifth cousin. My highest match is somebody in America who shares 0.4% (31.9 cMs with me (0.4%) spread across four segments. However, the longest segment is only 12.8 cMs. This match only shares a total of 12.8‎ cMs (0.2%) with my dad. I can see that the remaining three segments this match shares with me that are not shared with my dad are all very small (6.49, 6.03 and 6.62 cMs respectively) so I would guess that these are false positive segments.

Partnership with FTDNA
MyHeritage use the Family Tree DNA labs in Houston, Texas, for their testing. If you've tested at MyHeritage you have the option of taking advantage of the free transfer to Family Tree DNA. The link can be found at the bottom of your DNA results page.
Further details of the transfer programme can be found here.

Similarly, if you've tested at FTDNA you can transfer your results free of charge to MyHeritage using the MyHeritage Upload link. Both companies have different databases and you will find people in both databases who have not tested elsewhere. You never know where you are going to get those all-important breakthrough matches so it's best to "fish in all the ponds".

MyHeritage have done an excellent job overhauling their matching algorithms. It is surprisingly difficult with current technology to identify distant matches, especially when results are being combined across different platforms. I think that MyHeritage are going about the matching in the right way and they are being very responsive to the feedback provided by genetic genealogists. I am sure we will see further improvements in the months and years to come. I look forward to receiving many more matches and to confirming my first relationship at MyHeritage DNA.

Other reviews

Thursday, 23 November 2017

DNA sales for Black Friday 2017

Black Friday is a concept that's been imported from America. It's the day after the US Thanksgiving holiday and traditionally the day when Americans start their Christmas shopping. The retailers often provide special deals to lure everyone to the shops. Lots of shops and websites are now trying to do the same in the UK and, whether we like or not, Black Friday is here to stay. For genetic genealogists benefit of this gimmick is that the DNA testing companies are jumping onto the bandwagon and offering DNA kits at reduced prices not just for their US customers but for people in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and other countries too.

I was going to do a blog post summarising all the current Black Friday offers but Michelle Leonard has already beaten me to it. If you want to find out about all the special deals make sure you check out Michelle's blog post Black Friday DNA Sales 2017. She will update the page with new offers as they become available. Note that many of these discounts are for a very limited period only and will expire on Monday which is now known as Cyber Monday  the day when many people (though not me!) start their online Christmas shopping.

For full details of all the Family Tree DNA sale prices, including all the discounted upgrades, see my previous post FTDNA's 13th International Genetic Genealogy Conference and the FTDNA sale.

If you've not yet had your DNA tested or want to test additional family members or you want to get your DNA into a different database now is a great time to test.

Monday, 13 November 2017

FTDNA's 13th International Genetic Genealogy Conference and the FTDNA sale

At the weekend Family Tree DNA held their 13th International Genetic Genealogy Conference for group administrators. You can see the full programme here. I've been following the news from the conference on Twitter by checking out the hashtag #FTDNA2017. Thank you to Katherine Borges, Lisa Janine CloudLouis Kessler and Marilyn Souders for all the tweets and photos.

Some of the conference attendees have blogged about the conference. I've provided a list below which I will update if further articles become available.

Conference reports from Jennifer Zinck
Jennifer always writes wonderfully detailed notes from the conference and I recommend reading her articles in their entirety. It's almost like being there in person!
Conference reports from Louis Kessler
Louis Kessler is a first-time conference attendee. He provides an interesting perspective and has also shared a selection of photographs.
Conference report from Judy Russell
Conference report from Rob van Drie
The slides from some of the presentations will be made available to project administrators.

Maurice Gleeson has shared his two conference presentations on his YouTube channel:
FTDNA sale

At the close of the conference FTDNA announced a sale which will run until the end of the year. Upgrades are also included in the sale. Here is a chart showing the sale prices.

Individual Tests Sale price Regular price
Family Finder (FF)     
$59 $89
mtFull Sequence (FMS)
$169 $199
$129 $169
$229 $268
$299 $359
Test Bundles
Sale price Regular price
Family Finder + Y-37
$178 $238
Family Finder + Y-67
$278 $337
FF + mtFull Sequence
$218 $268
FF + Y-67 + mtFull Sequence
$442 $536
Sale price Regular price
mt/mtPlus to FMS                                
$119 $159
Big Y                                   
$475 $575
Y-12 to Y-37             
$69 $109
Y-25 to Y-37              
$35 $59
Y-37 to Y-67
$79 $109
Y-37 to Y-111                                  
$168 $228
Y-67 to Y-111                                    
$99 $129

Note that, in addition to the above prices, FTDNA charges $12.95 for shipping. Kits for customers in the US are sent out by DHL and the cost includes return shipping. Customers in other countries will need to pay the return postage separately.

There is also a 15% discount on SNPs and SNP packs for the sale period.

FTDNA have given existing customers discount codes (coupons) which can be used to get a further reduction on the sale price. You'll need to log into your FTDNA account and click on the Holiday Reward to see your offer. As always, a number of people have taken the initiative to set up collaborative spreadsheets where unused coupons can be shared and exchanged.

A spreadsheet is available from this link that was shared on the Haplogroup Facebook page.

There are also other spreadsheets being maintained by specific groups such as the U106 group on Yahoo.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

23andMe passes three million milestone

I've not been able to find any official announcement but 23andMe now state on the About Us page on their website that they have genotyped over three million customers. This figure is also cited in an article on genealogy tourism published in USA Today on 3rd November 2017.

The 23andMe database stood at two million in April 2017 when it was announced that they had received FDA approval to provide health reports for their US customers. That means they have tested one million people in the last seven months.

It was announced in October that 23andMe had "launched an advertising blitz to dramatically expand its customer base to 10 million people". How long will it be before they reach that goal?

Thanks to Ritchie Hansen for alerting me to the USA Today story in the Genetic Genealogy Tips and Techniques group on Facebook.