MyHeritage DNA Review: a sleuthing tool to understand our origins

Sometimes we think that our ancestry might not matter, especially in the new everyday life that shapes the reality of many people in the metropolis, far from their roots. However, information about the history of our genes is an accurate source of important events about our lineage and biological characteristics that, thanks to platforms like MyHeritage, we can easily consult.

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$ 79 /mo
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Table of Contents

    MyHeritage DNA Basic Facts:

    • Company Name: MyHeritage DNA
    • Foundation Year: 2016
    • Location: Israel
    • Monthly Visits: unknown
    • Number of Databases: 5.2 million genomes with 642,824 markers
    • Website: https://www.myheritage.com/

    What services/products are included in MyHeritage DNA Test? Rated - 4/5

    A very good staging of what an ancestry test can do. But it loses perhaps in its simplicity.

    • Ethnic estimation

    This service is one of the most outstanding values of this company. They claim to be able to determine very precisely what ethnicity you belong to, as they have developed specific databases with what they call Founding Populations. This allows them to have a greater capacity to discern between 42 ethnicities.

    MyHeritage DNA report example.

    • Founding populations

    To do this successfully, the company uses data drawn from special populations. They have sampled around 5000 people around the globe whose ancestors have remained geographically located in the same place throughout the historical record, where genetic admixture is minimal and only among members of these often isolated communities, such as the Eskimos. By matching your data with these, you will get a better result if you want to know more about your ancestors.

    • Ancestry maps

    The site also offers new mapping methods for your genetic data. These will allow you to intuitively see significant changes in your near and distant family history.

    Availability of Diverse Collection Methods (swab, blood ...) - Rated: 3/5

    MyHeritage relies on the easiest and most effective one, which is an in-cheek swab. They do not have other types of collection methods, although they do not need them for their service either.

    Searching engine inside MyHeritage’s site.

    MyHeritage DNA Customer Support - Rated: 5/5

    Customer service is perhaps one of the best in the industry. It is divided into three categories: help centre, learning centre and contact page. They are extensive and well-written, addressing very frequent problems or queries. Perhaps the only downside is that they do not have a live chat, although it is not lacking because when you register on their page you have an option to request a call back.

    MyHeritage pricing/ Kits cost - Rated: 4.5/5

    Simple, fast and basic: MyHeritage DNA's very affordable pack is a return to the roots

    DNA kit (special offer)

    • Ethnic estimation via founding population database
    • Historical Maps of your philogeny and many more!

    59€ 

    They have more offers, but subscriptions - not kits.

    MyHeritage DNA Database size - Rated: 3.5/5

    The size of the MyHeritage database has multiplied in recent years. Not so long ago it was 2.4 million DNA records, but now we are talking about 5.2 million. This means that they have perhaps somewhat biased information, as they have only collected a lot of data for a few years in the most affluent countries. In addition, it is not the biggest in the market. However, they are quite transparent in this respect.

    Some claims of MyHeritage DNA.

    MyHeritage DNA Free trial  - Rated: 0/5

    They are free to register and get some genealogies, but not with DNA. MyHeritage does not currently offer free-testing services.

    MyHeritage DNA Expected turn-around - Rated: 3.5/5

    MyHeritage DNA has a strong commitment to fast results and we are talking about an almost unbeatable turnaround time. In as little as 3 to 4 weeks you will have your results available, from the time you send in your samples.

    MyHeritage DNA Accuracy - Rated: 4.5/5

    Many might think that a tool that was born as a simple family tree, back in 2003, should not be too accurate. Instead, we find that this spin-off of MyHeritage is very transparent about the molecular biology techniques used to learn about the genetic data of its customers. 

    They use the Illumina OmniExpress-24 chip, with hundreds of thousands of probes strategically selected to capture the greatest amount of genetic variation and facilitate research with the fewest number of erroneous bases. We are talking about an error rate that is typically less than 0.5%, when the standard sequencing reaction is 2%. 

    MyHeritage Interface - Rated: 4/5

    The MyHeritage interface provides enough visual tools for the viewer to intuitively understand its results, so that they are satisfied with what they have learned while looking at the screen.

    MyHeritage’s interface is simple and effective.

    MyHeritage Privacy - Rated: 5/5

    Although the company has suffered a leak in 2018, genetic profiles were not part of this information spread. It is a company that is very committed to handling personal data and claims to have the capacity to take good care of it, as this unfortunate incident seems to demonstrate.  It is just a perfect example of maximum effort to put your data in a secure place.

    MyHeritage Innovation - Rated: 5/5

    Although they make no reference to it, perhaps for direct marketing reasons, the fact is that MyHeritage is managed by several scientists, including Tal Shor, with 7 peer reviewed publications and many citations, which is an added value because you will know that you are helping to advance human knowledge and that your data help to draw genetic conclusions. Moreover, it is a truly pioneering company that has received many awards and distinctions not only for its scientific work, but also for the social transmission and dissemination of academic technology to improve people's lives.

    MyHeritage DNA Rate and quality of updates - Rated: 3.5/5

    There are no regular or known updates, but rather large annual upgrades of databases or even functionalities. However, premium subscriptions could have advantages over other users, in which the price is very high and is an additional cost.

    Best Alternatives To MyHeritage DNA

    This is a very interesting alternative. If there is one thing that MyHeritage DNA lacks, it is the variety of services, as well as the variety of techniques used, which only comprise autosomal DNA analysis. Family Tree DNA is stronger on these points.

    Ancestry DNA is perhaps the largest and most reliable platform for this type of test. However, it has shortcomings such as not offering its services to all countries at the moment. 

    This other alternative is perhaps the most versatile of all, as it is not only focused on ancestry. It explores other genomic possibilities such as the wellbeing associated with your code. This is possible through various algorithms that compare your data with predispositions to diseases or resistances, etc.

    Summary

    We can sum it all up in three simple words: experience, purpose and price. MyHeritage DNA is a safe bet for those who fall within its target. It has specific ethnicity tools that you probably won't find in any other competitor. If you could design an archetypal minimal but comprehensive ancestry DNA testing service, you might come to the same conclusion that the people behind MyHeritage DNA came to. 

    Pros and Cons

    Pros

    • Easy to collect your sample and send it back
    • Get your results in as little as four weeks after samples are received
    • Compare DNA records from other tests you’ve taken to get a better picture of your ancestry
    • Affordable tests and discounts make it a great value
    • Match with possible relatives from across the globe
    • Huge updated database of records
    • Intuitive family tree views, including a new interactive fan view
    • Colorize older photos with MyHeritage In Color™ for Free

    Cons

    • MyHeritage only offers autosomal DNA tests 
    • Its database is still not on par with the largest companies on the market

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) 

    How is it possible that a DNA test can hold so much information about past events, such as migrations?

    In fact, all the biological information we pass on vertically to our offspring is recorded in very obvious ways, if we know how to read it. For example, if certain mutations are present in a population that has had no contact with other peoples and are very characteristic of that population, the probability of finding them spontaneously in other populations is negligible

    We are talking about combinations of thousands of mutated nucleotides, which, like a fingerprint pattern, form a unique spatio-temporal entity, allowing us to precisely identify these movements.

    Is it possible that the read error rate allows my DNA to be linked to incorrect ancestors?

    It is possible, but unlikely. The error rate of the sequencing reaction is usually not sufficient for the genome information to be so impaired that it cannot be classified. If it so happens that the mutations that allow us to identify a fingerprint correspond to those read errors that will necessarily occur, only then could we be wrong.

    What is the point of knowing more about the history of your genetic code?

    There are two main reasons: the first is curiosity, an intrinsic human characteristic that is as natural as breathing. Who doesn't want to know more about who we are? The second is for scientific or sociological studies. Knowing the evolution of human populations and families could help shed light on the unknown parts of history and our ontogenic record.