Big Changes in DNA Testing Options for Genealogy May Make Results Available to More People

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Big Changes in DNA Testing Options for Genealogy May Make Results Available to More People


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A new player has entered the DNA testing arena….MyHeritage. This is big news for those interested in genetic genealogy since new offerings in this market are rare, even as updates to existing products continue to draw in new users.

Earlier this year, the large family history company began encouraging existing members and new recruits alike to upload their raw data from other testing companies in an effort to create a new database for genetic genealogy research. Given the focus of MyHeritage on family trees, the offer has appealed to many who are looking for actionable ways to use their DNA results in their family history research.

Now, MyHeritage is offering actual DNA tests themselves. They will compete directly with three other major testing companies — 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA and AncestryDNA. And their entry will certainly have an impact. A huge company with tens of millions of members and a massive database of established family history information, MyHeritage has the power to provide some pretty powerful results to those who take part.

As they state in their own press release:

With 85 million users worldwide, 2.1 billion family tree profiles, 7 billion historical records and availability in 42 languages, MyHeritage’s new DNA service further strengthens its position as a global leader in family history.

In addition to increasing options for researchers, every time a major new genetic testing offering becomes available we see prices respond — and it appears that the currently expected price of $99 for a standard autosomal test is dropping in response.

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MyHeritage is offering its new test for $79 (as an introductory rate) and FamilyTreeDNA, respected as one of the oldest and most trusted brands in testing, seems to have permanently dropped the price for its Family Finder test to $79. Ancestry still sits at $99, but we wonder how long they will be able to maintain that rate in this new market. 23andme, who offers both medical and ethnic testing options, now offers an Ancestry only test for $99 as well – a change from the $199 pricing they have held for some time.

This is all very exciting — but those interested in genetic genealogy will also be asking some hard questions as they explore this new testing option.

  • How will test results and uploaded data be used by MyHeritage now and in the future?
  • Will the information they collect be stored securely?
  • Who owns the DNA that is contributed? What about the research conducted from that DNA?
  • Will MyHeritage attempt to profit from this data via third party relationships as some other companies have done?
  • Will they provide raw data that can be used with free tools like GedMatch?

With growing interest in genetic genealogy and increased awareness of possible privacy pitfalls, these questions come up any time a new company begins handling genetic data. Now that MyHeritage is offering tests themselves, in addition to handling data from other testing companies, these questions are even more relavant.

A review of the terms of use and informed consent documents provided by MyHeritage shows that they are making a strong effort to provide clear data to users and that they have attempted to answer some of these questions directly.

The DNA section of their terms and conditions states:

By submitting DNA samples to MyHeritage, you give permission to MyHeritage to directly or indirectly extract the DNA from the samples, perform genetic analysis on the DNA using methods available now and developed in the future, to disclose the results of the tests performed by way of providing the DNA Reports to you and others that you authorize, and to store the samples for additional genetic testing (i.e., we may be able to provide more detailed and accurate DNA Results, DNA Reports and other outputs by additional genetic testing in the future, subject to your explicit approval) and to allow you to download the DNA Results, in each and every case subject to and in accordance with this Agreement and with the Privacy Policy.

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MyHeritage is offering 2 free weeks of access right now to their extensive collection of 7.2 billion records, as well as their matching technology that instantly connects you with new information. Simply sign up using the link below to start making new discoveries right now.

We do not claim any ownership rights in the DNA samples, the DNA Results and/or the genetic information in the DNA Reports. Any genetic information derived from the DNA samples, the DNA Results and/or appears in the DNA Reports continues to belong to the person from whom the DNA was collected, subject only to the rights granted to MyHeritage in this Agreement. In addition, you understand that by providing DNA samples and/or DNA Results to us, you acquire no rights in any research or commercial products that may be developed by us that may relate to your DNA.

As always, we encourage anyone interested in testing or uploading results to MyHeritage (or any testing or research organization) to read all terms before taking part. Although the family history community is always eager to share data, we must also keep a strong eye on the companies that handle that data to make sure it is being managed appropriately. We can only hope that MyHeritage will prove to be a company that can be trusted in this regard.

So what exactly will MyHeritage actually offer with their new DNA test?

It looks like they have some great stuff in store, including a new Founder Population database — and we’re excited to see it unfold.

MyHeritage DNA results include fascinating ethnicity reports, showing the percentage of the user’s DNA that come from different populations around the world. The initial reports currently include 25 ethnicities, but this will improve dramatically thanks to MyHeritage’s unique Founder Population project unveiled today — the largest of its kind ever conducted. More than 5000 participants have been handpicked for this project by MyHeritage from its 85 million members, by virtue of their family trees exemplifying consistent ancestry from the same region or ethnicity for many generations. In the next few months, the project will be completed, resulting in a rich DNA data set of more than 100 ethnicities that will enable MyHeritage to show users their ancestral roots with far greater resolution than other services. To this end, the company has been sending its DNA kits to project participants far and wide, from Uzbekistan to Fiji, from Greenland to South Africa, and every corner of the globe. Standard ethnicity reports are currently available, with the expert reports to be released at no additional cost to users following the completion of the Founder Population project.

And, for the time being anyway, MyHeritage is still encouraging free uploads of external raw data from users who have already tested elsewhere. More information about all options can be found on their DNA site.

Need help with DNA for genealogy? Our online course offers simple step by step lessons on everything from testing to interpreting results and using those results to grow your family tree.

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2 Comments
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  • Marci Bowman
    November 19, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    Marge – contact the Adoption Angles at DNAadoption. They will help you create a plan and guide you in the steps you need to take.

    Understand that you have very little with Ancestry’s DNA results alone. With out basic tools such as a chromosome browser, your results are interesting but of little value in proving unknown parentage. Fortunately MyHeritage has promised a chromosome browser – good to see a company to pays attention to its customers.

  • Marge Aiello provost
    November 11, 2016 at 9:34 am

    I had my DNA done with Ancestry a few years ago and learned I had Irish and Italian results.I had known I was Italian,the Irish must be from my biological father who I do not know.IMy mother(bio) was not married and never named the father.I am 78 and have lung cancer,and would like to find some link to paternal side.What do you suggest?
    Thank you.

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