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Doings in the DNA world

No, it’s not Sunday, but site issues kept this from posting yesterday, so… it’s DNA on Monday instead!

There are new developments in the DNA world this week — one that’s very promising, another one that’s fun and, we can hope, presages more to come — and, oh, yeah, a sale, too!

Let’s start with the sale — since everybody likes to save money.

2016saleThe Family Tree DNA sale launched yesterday at the end of the 2016 Project Administrators’ Conference in Houston — and it’s a doozy.

First off, there are great sale prices: for the Family Finder autosomal test, $59; for the maternal line Mitochondrial (mtDNA) Full Sequence test, $179; for the paternal line YDNA tests, $139 for 37 markers, $229 for 67 markers and $319 for 111 markers; and for bundles, you can get the Family Finder + 37 marker YDNA bundle for $188, the Family Finder + 67 marker YDNA bundle for $278 and the Family Finder + mtDNA Full Sequence test for $228.

Beyond that,everyone who’s already been tested at Family Tree DNA is receiving a coupon code each Monday until Christmas. It’s good for seven days, ranges generally from $10-$20, and can be shared with others. And if you or someone else uses the code, then your next code, the next week, could be higher. In other words, the more you use, the more you save. So check it out at Family Tree DNA.

The very promising development is the announcement from MyHeritage that it’s entering the DNA testing arena with an autosomal test processed at the Gene by Gene lab (the lab of the parent company of Family Tree DNA).1

myheritage-dnaAt an introductory price of $79 plus shipping, test takers get two main features: “DNA Matching for finding relatives, and detailed ethnicity reports that map the user’s ethnic and geographic origins. Additional features and capabilities are planned for the future.”2

It’s essentially the same test on the same computer chip — the same swab collection system — as the Family Tree DNA Family Finder test, and the results are fully compatible with each other (and so transferable from one database to another, and to third-party tools like GedMatch).3

But, MyHeritage notes, “these are two totally different products. We develop our own analysis of the data and our own reports, so the outputs of the two services are different and the pools used for matching users are separate. The chips being the same is in fact an advantage for genealogists, because exported data files from MyHeritage DNA are compatible with those of Family Finder.”4

As a result, matching will be done against those who take the MyHeritage test and those who transfer their data in from the Family Finder test platform. But the ethnicity reports are exclusive to MyHeritage.

So what’s so promising about MyHeritage doing this?

Three things.

First, MyHeritage has one of the biggest followings internationally of any genealogy company. More European subscribers. More Israeli subscribers. More African and Asian subscribers. These are areas where DNA testing has been slow to be adopted by the genealogical community and where Americans with recent immigrant ancestors can hope for the most matches.

Second, MyHeritage has launched what it calls its Founder Population project to try to improve ethnicity estimates:

Founder Populations are modern groups that descend from a few individuals who left one area to settle another for political, religious, or social reasons. Founder populations amplify certain gene variants while maintaining significant stretches of uniformity in other DNA sequences. We have reached out to thousands of MyHeritage users from all around the world who are members of Founder Populations — their family trees exemplify consistent heritage from the same region or ethnicity for many generations. We are very happy that 5000 of those users have confirmed their participation in the project. In the past few months, we have been sending DNA kits to project participants far and wide, from Uzbekistan to Fiji, from Greenland to South Africa, and every corner of the globe. The results of these tests will yield a rich DNA data set of more than 100 ethnicities. The largest study of this kind ever conducted, the Founder Population project will enable us to show you your ancestral roots with far greater resolution than any other DNA service.


Standard ethnicity reports are currently available as part of your MyHeritage DNA test results, with the expert reports to be released at no additional cost following the completion of this project.5

The hope is that this kind of testing and analysis will make ethnicity estimates much more accurate and meaningful. Fingers crossed.

And third, anything that allows for more interchange among DNA databanks should improve matching all the way around — and more matches means more cousins and more genealogical brickwalls falling.

So… welcome to the DNA testing world, MyHeritage!

The fun-and-maybe-promises-more development is the announcement by Family Tree DNA of a new ethnicity report called Ancient Origins. Here’s mine:


There’s a whole explanation on just what each of these means — and we can all have some fun figuring out how much metal age invader we are (the highest in my family group is 20%, the lowest 8%) versus farmer (highest 59%, lowest 39%) and hunter-gatherer (highest 51%, lowest 21%). And except for my African-American cousin, only two members of my family show non-European ancestry. (I’m jealous. My ancestry is so boring…)

Other than its scientific utility, of course, that’s about all it’s good for: having fun. Except… except… except that we all hope this is the first step towards the long-awaited, long-overdue and much-hoped-for update and improvement of the MyOrigins feature: the modern ethnicity estimate feature of Family Tree DNA’s testing.

At least we can hope…


  1. Introducing MyHeritage DNA,” MyHeritage blog, posted 7 Nov 2016 ( : accessed 12 Nov 2016).
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid., “MyHeritage DNA: Your Questions Answered,” posted 9 Nov 2016.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Introducing MyHeritage DNA,” MyHeritage blog, posted 7 Nov 2016 ( : accessed 12 Nov 2016).
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