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Inadequate MyHeritage DNA Results
Peter Stubbs
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My wife and I have just received the results of our DNA tests.  I can now say that this exercise has been the most disappointing waste of time and effort we can remember. The results lack detail, are unprofessional and are clearly inaccurate. A few colourful 'blobs' on a map of Europe with percentages hardly constitute a satisfactory an comprehensive response to what is undoubtedly a fascinating new field of research. 

Is this ALL?  Or was something missed out?  How were these results arrived at?  Where is the analysis?  No details are provided at all!  And who can one communicate with about the results?  There appear to be no adequate facilities within the MyHeritage website to enquire about or explore the process through which the DNA results were arrived at.

I for one have many North and West European ancestors and can even trace my ancestry back directly to William the Conqueror (my 24th great grandfather!).  And yet there is no 'blob' in that part of the map in my results.  But, stangely enough, there is one East Europe, which is another mystery as that region is not supported by any of the percentages provided alongside the map!  So, what is happening here?  Can anyone explain?

I intended to write this appraisal to MyHeritage but, as a can find no adequate response channel for my email, in desperation I have posted it in this Forum in the hope that others who may have had similar experiences with their DNA kit results may be able to explain how they managed to squeeze any more information out of the system!  Or am I the only one who has been disappointed?!           

Peter Stubbs
South Africa
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RE: Inadequate MyHeritage DNA Results
Yehudah C.
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Dear Peter Stubbs,

Thank you for posting on our Forum.

You can always contact MyHeritage directly on support@myheritage.com, and also you can ring us to our specific phone number to South Africa: ( 27) 0800 980 785 (Sun–Thu, 08:00 – 22:00 SAST & Fri 08:00 – 16:00 SAST). This information could have been easily found by clicking on the 'Help' on the top right corner of the site. 

In some regions of the world there is a unique set of genetic characteristics that are shared between the offspring of native populations. While different populations migrated from one region to another, research has shown that these sets of characteristics make some regions distinct from others, allowing us to establish a genetic model for some regions of the world.

The DNA may be very similar between people in neighboring countries. Where there isn't sufficient statistical difference, we keep the Ethnicity Estimate on a higher regional level. Even when there is a statistical difference between ethnicities, it is true for the population's average. Your DNA will always be slightly different than that of the average population, and may therefore show a small or a significant part of neighboring ethnicities.

Each person receives 50% of their DNA from their mother, and 50% from their father. The percentages of DNA a person receives from their ancestors at the level of grandparents and further back (great-grandparents, etc.) are not necessarily divided evenly in each generation.

If the percentages of DNA a person receives from their ancestors would always be divided evenly between the paternal and the maternal side, the percentages of genes inherited would look as following:

 

50% from the parents, 25% from the grandparents, 12.5 % from the great-grandparent, 6.25% for great-great-grandparents, and so on. The following graph shows percentages of the DNA a person receives from his ancestors up to four generations divided evenly between the paternal and the maternal side. 

 At seven generations back, probably less than 1% of the DNA comes from a direct ancestor.

Because the percentages of DNA a person receives from his ancestors at the level of second generation (grandparents) and further back are not necessarily divided evenly in each generation, it is possible that one great-grandparent may have passed on 3% of his/her DNA to his great-grandchild, while another great-grandparent may have passed on 11%.

This might explain some surprising results in your MyHeritage Ethnicity Estimate. If for example one grandparent is pure Chinese, and the other three grandparents are all pure Italian, the grandchild may be anywhere between 0-50% Chinese, and 50-100% Italian. However, the probability of a person having only one pure ethnicity is very unlikely.

This might explain some surprising results in your MyHeritage Ethnicity Estimate. Please also note that bio-geographical estimates are complicated, especially for countries in Europe. Different researchers analyzing the same DNA of a person can come up with different estimates based on a number of different factors, including the reference populations used for comparison, the algorithm, and more.

The ethnicity “North and West European” includes many countries, for example Germany, France, the Netherlands and more.

 

 

Over the last thousand years, people in (Western) Europe moved around frequently and often mixed with people from neighbouring regions. Over time, the official borders changed and so did the population. It is very difficult to find a reference population with statistical difference between ethnicities in this region and we keep the Ethnicity Estimate on a higher regional level.

Similarly, it is difficult to build a distinct profile for Great Britain and Scandinavian countries, as those are admixed with Western European DNA. Anglo-Saxon people settled the British Isles, and they were comprised of Germanic tribes. This means that their DNA is similar to the DNA of nearby regions. It is therefore possible that you have a family tree with generations of relatives that you have proof that they were born in Germany, but your Ethnicity Estimate shows British Ethnicity instead.

Determining one’s ethnicity based on DNA is a relatively new field in genetics. Great advancements have been made in the past years, but there is much more to discover. MyHeritage will continue to work on adding new ethnicities and improving the Ethnicity Estimate, based on new scientific research and discoveries.

Furthermore, allow me to cite the The National Genealogical Society (NGS) which states the following in their publication Genetic Genealogy in Practice” written by Blaine T. Bettinger and Debbie Parker Wayne:

Populations that were not sufficiently isolated will be too genetically similar to neighboring populations to be identifiable. The best populations for ethnicity estimation, therefore, are those that have been perfectly isolated for centuries or millennia - and who are willing to undergo DNA testing to create a reference population. Unfortunately, there are very few, if any, populations that have been perfectly isolated for centuries and millennia. Throughout history, DNA has been exchanged between neighboring towns, counties, and countries by migrants, travelers, invaders, and others. There is no perfectly isolated population and no perfect reference population.

I hope this could shed some light to your inquiry. Please contact us directly on support@myheritage.com, if you have further questions or would like any of the concepts explained above detailed in a more palatable manner and I will be glad to continue this conversation with you. 

Best regards,

Yehudah C.
Israel
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RE: Inadequate MyHeritage DNA Results
Bruce Wampler
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Their ethnicity estimates are flat out wrong.  My husband is mostly German, but is mostly English and Scandanavian according to MyHeritage.  I am mostly English/Irish, but according to MyHeritage, I am 32% Italian.  The ethnicity we are being given are wrong and are totally different from our Ancestry.com DNA results.  In addition some of my DNA "matches", were not actually a match at all after we compared our DNA on gedmatch.  So, in our experience if you want to know your ethnicity or have useful DNA matches, use Ancestry.com.  -Trina Haines
Bruce Wampler
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RE: Inadequate MyHeritage DNA Results [2]
Yehudah C.
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Dear Trina Haines,

Thank you for your comment.

I understand you would like to know why the Ethnicity Estimate results differ between the MyHeritage DNA test and a DNA test you took with another company.

The results you receive in the MyHeritage Ethnicity Estimate are based on an autosomal DNA test. This test analyzes DNA inherited from both your parents, giving you a range of information about where your ancestors lived before a few hundred years ago.

To estimate your ancestral ethnicity, MyHeritage compares your DNA with the DNA of people around the globe whose genetic ethnicity is known. We call these people the Founder Populations. Currently our genetic models are based on 42 ethnic groups around the world. But this will improve thanks to our Founder Population project, the largest study of this kind ever conducted. More than 5000 participants have been handpicked to serve as references for this project by virtue of their family trees exemplifying consistent ancestry from the same region or ethnicity for many generations. The results of these tests will yield a rich DNA data set.

Please note that bio-geographical estimates are complex. Different companies analyzing the DNA of the same person can come up with different Ethnicity Estimates based on various factors, such as the reference populations used for comparison and the algorithms used.

With the MyHeritage test, as with some other autosomal tests, we cover about 700,000 SNPs. However, this does not mean that each test necessarily covers the exact same SNPs. This means that although the DNA sample could be the same, we simply tested different bits of it, which could result in a different outcome.

Both DNA tests, the MyHeritage DNA test and the DNA test you took with a different company, are based on different DNA samples. Although the DNA samples are taken by the same person, there can be a very slight difference of chemical nature and processing of algorithms. Therefore both DNA tests might result in slightly different processing based on different DNA raw data provided by two separate tests. Although the difference is so small and can almost be neglected, it could have an impact on how the algorithms processes the raw DNA data.

According to publication “Genetic Genealogy in Practice” by Blaine T. Bettinger and Debbie Parker Wayne from The National Genealogical Society (NGS):

There are several reasons why these estimates vary from company to company, including but not limited to the following:

Different reference populations. Each company has its own database of reference populations, which can have a significant impact on ethnicity assignments. Reference population databases have been refined several times by the testing companies, and this is expected to continue.

Phased versus unphased raw data. Phasing the raw data - assigning the DNA into one of two different chromosomes (one from each parent) - can have an impact on ethnicity assingments, although not as significant as different reference populations. Some companies do not phage the raw data before performing the ethnicity analysis.

Confidence levels. The ethnicity estimate for every DNA segment is associated with a probability of the confidence in that assignment. Depending on the confidence-level threshold selected by the company, some ethnicities may not be reported to the test-taker. For example, an ethnicity estimate with a confidence level of 85 percent will not be reported if the company has decided to show only ethnicity estimates above a 95 percent confidence level.  

 

I hope this could clarify your inquiry. If you have further questions, please contact us directly on support@myheritage.com and I will be more than glad to continue discussing this matter with you. 

Have a great day!

 

Best regards, 

Yehudah C.
Israel
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