Sunday, 4 March 2018

MyHeritage DNA updates announced at Rootstech

There has been a lot of exciting news from MyHeritage DNA at Rootstech in the last few days.

For genetic genealogists the most important announcement is the launch of a major upgrade to the chromosome browser and the ability to download our match lists and matching segment data.

MyHeritage very helpfully provides a country flag so that you can see where the person lives and this information is included in the downloaded match list. This will be a very useful way of filtering our matches so that we can focus on the matches who live in the countries where we stand the best chance of finding the genealogical connections. I currently have 2157 matches at MyHeritage. 1214 of those matches are in the US. However, I'm very encouraged to see that I have 232 matches from Great Britain, 72 from Australia, 14 from Ireland and 27 from New Zealand. More surprisingly, however, I also have matches from people living in countries where I wouldn't expect to have genealogical connections, such as Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway,  Portugal, Spain and Switzerland.

Many of the low confidence matches are likely to be false matches. Of my my 2063 matches at MyHeritage 768 match my dad and 699 match my mum. This means that 71% of my matches match one of my parents, but conversely 29% of my matches don't match either of my parents and are therefore not likely to be true matches.

Of the matches that are real, I suspect that the vast majority of matches with Americans and continental Europeans are likely to be very distant and a reflection of our shared European ancestry within the last one thousand years rather than having any genealogical significance.

The upgraded chromosome browser now allows us to compare up to seven people at a time. The browser includes a feature that allows us to see which segments triangulate with each other. This is what is known as true triangulation. For segments to truly triangulate they must not just overlap in the browser but each person in the group must also match each other.

Here's a screenshot of the new one-to-many chromosome browser feature. I am the focus person and I'm doing a comparison with my top match at MyHeritage and my dad.

If I scroll down and look at the match in the chromosome browser I can see the regions of each chromosome that we share in common, along with details of the amount of sharing.

You can add additional people to the group to see if they also triangulate on the same segment but you need to add people one at a time and check each triangulation individually because everyone in the group has to match each other. If just one person in the group doesn't match the others then the circle around the segment will not appear.

In my initial exploration of the new MyHeritage features I've noticed that a lot of my matches all seem to pile up on the same segment. A number of us have noticed big pile-ups at the start of chromosome 15 (see this discussion in the Genetic Genealogy Tips and Techniques group on Facebook). I've found that, while some of the people who appear to match on chromosome 15 don't triangulate and the matches are probably not real because of the low SNP count, there are other matches that do triangulate. I'm not certain at present if these matches will be worth pursuing.

I've also got another problematic area on chromosome 3 where 15 people triangulate on the same segment. Seven of these people triangulate with me and my dad on a 14.6 segment which contains 5162 SNPs.

The remaining eight people in this group triangulate on a smaller portion of this segment. One person in this triangulated group is in the Netherlands and the remaining 14 people are all in the US. As all my ancestry is from the British Isles this is clearly not a genealogically relevant match.

We will need to be very careful when drawing conclusions about triangulated segments viewed in the chromosome browser. It's not just the seven matches you can see in the chromosome browser that you need to consider but also how many other people share the segment. The more frequent the segment is in the population the less likely it is to fall within a meaningful genealogical timeframe. I hope that MyHeritage might consider adding an algorithm along the lines of AncestryDNA's Timber algorithm which would downweight matches on portions of the genome which are prone to over-matching.

For background reading on the subject of triangulation see my two previous blog posts:
For more details of the upgraded chromosome browser feature see the official blog post from MyHeritage DNA:

Other news from MyHeritage

MyHeritage has announced the launch of DNA Quest, an initiative which will provide 15,000 free DNA kits to adoptees. DNA Quest is an expansion of a previous project which provided free kits to reunite adoptees from the Israeli Yemenite community. The programme is currently restricted to US residents, but I'm hoping that it will one day be possible to expand the programme to other countries in need such as Ireland.
MyHeritage has also announced the release of a number of new data collections including the 1939 Register, which is an important resource for tracing twentieth century ancestors in England and Wales and serves as a census substitute. The 1939 Register was previously only available on Findmypast. It is available at MyHeritage with a data subscription.
MyHeritage scientists have published a groundbreaking paper in the prestigious journal Science. They used public family trees at to explore migrations and longevity.
MyHeritage's Chief Scientific Officer Yaniv Erlich gave a very interesting presentation at Rootstech about the MyHeritage DNA test. The recording is now available on the Rootstech website:
101 is an American term for a lecture aimed at beginners but this was actually quite a technical lecture looking at how the MyHeritage matching process works and included useful explanations about phasing, imputation and stitching.

MyHeritage have been very responsive to feedback from the genetic genealogy community. I'm excited to see all these new developments and I look forward to many more updates in the coming year. If you're not yet in the MyHeritage DNA database but you've tested elsewhere you can currently do a free transfer using this link.

Update 6th March 2018
The lunchtime talk given by Gilad Japhet at Rootstech Perspectives on combining genealogy and genetics on  is now available on the Legacy Family Tree webinar website.


Judy MH said...

Is this operational yet or is it coming soon? Is a subscription to MyHeritage required to use these tools? I don't see it on kits that I've uploaded to MyHeritage. Thanks!!

Unknown said...

Good info, Debbie. Is this operational yet or is it coming soon? Is a subscription to MyHeritage required to use these tools? I don't see it on kits that I've uploaded to MyHeritage. Thanks!!

RL said...

You might also mention the new downloads available for the Matches list and the chromosome mapping - allows you to download a CSV with all your data.

Debbie Kennett said...

The feature is live now. If you log into your MyHeritage account and click on the DNA tab at the top you'll see chromosome browser listed in the dropdown menu

I did mention the ability to download the matches and segment at the very beginning of the blog post.