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Louis Kessler's Behold Blog

A Tale of Four DNA Tests - 2 days, 2 hrs ago

This morning, I received my DNA test results from AncestryDNA. It completes my quadfecta and now gives me results with the big four: Family Tree DNA, 23andMe, MyHeritage DNA and now Ancestry DNA.

Living DNA has been working recently to turn the big four into a big five, but to date I haven’t tested there mainly because they do not yet provide you with your DNA matches. I did however upload my raw data last Fall as part of their One Family One World project which currently has an estimated completion date of August 6, 2018.

Processing TImes

With regards to the 4 actual tests I’ve personally done, let’s do a summary:


I took the MyHeritage DNA test right at the MyHeritage booth at RootsTech in Salt Lake City in 2017, and they kept it and delivered it to the lab for me, i.e. I didn’t have to mail it in myself.

The AncestryDNA test I took the first time ended with an email sent from the lab to me stating that they were unable to use the sample. They allowed me to order a replacement sample for free, which I did the same day and I call that “Try 2”.

Overall, it took between 29 and 53 days from the date of my mailing the test to getting the results. Leah Larkin maintains interesting statistics about the different testing companies including processing times. Leah notes that time mailing to results average 20 to 40 days. I suspect my results may be a bit higher because I’m in Canada and most of tests were over the Christmas period.

Ethnicity Percentages

For fun, let’s compare the ethnicities that the different tests assign to me. Now as far as I know from my own ancestry research, I am 100% Ashkenazi, and my 4 grandparents and their ancestors as far back as I can trace come from an area within a couple of hundred mile radius that is restricted to northeastern Romania and southwestern Ukraine. Yes. This research is tough slogging since records only go back to the mid 1800’s with the originals all being in languages that I do not read. Compound that by a people that only took their surnames in the early to mid 1800’s, so you have brothers who have different surnames. Before that, it was Joseph son of Hirsch. Do you know how many Joseph son of Hirsch’s there were? But I digress.

Back to the ethnicities. I did compare my Family Tree DNA results with my MyHeritage DNA results a year ago when they first came in. This time I’ll compare all 4 companies I tested with, as well as a two others that I uploaded my data to. This should be a good test because unlike most people, I have an expectation of 100% of one ethnicity. Let’s see how well the companies agree:


The two companies that accept free uploads that give ethnicity reports that I uploaded to and list on the right are DNA Land and Gencove. I only uploaded there because each site also provide a list of DNA relatives you match to, but neither site said they were able to find me any matches.

As far as results go, 23andMe, Family Tree DNA and DNA Land had what I’d call the best ethnicity estimates for me, getting me at 98% to 99.9% which is pretty close to 100%. MyHeritage DNA and AncestryDNA are surprisingly off target with over 11% spurious matches that are including me as Spanish, African, South Asian and even Inuit/Eskimo. The latter I jokingly attribute to my genes mutating after a full life of frigid winters here in central Canada.

What this tells me is that estimate of Ashkenazi ethnicity by the various companies are reasonably good, as long as you don’t take any of those percentages under 10% seriously. I am, of course, most impressed by 23andMe’s 99.2%.

DNA Relatives

Now this is the part I’m interested in, and the part you should be as well. After all, we want to use DNA to help us with our genealogy research and find DNA relatives and in so doing, determine common ancestors and the lines that connect us. As I mentioned above, my own research is hampered by 1850 documentation, surname and language limitations. Conversely, with respect to DNA relatives, the Ashkenazi population has an oddly different problem: We have too many of them.

That’s because the Ashkenazi have what’s called endogamy, which is the practice of marrying within the community. Thus everyone is related to everyone else and it becomes more difficult to identify DNA connections because any relative can be DNA related many ways.

But let’s see what the different companies give me as far as relatives go. At Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage DNA and 23andMe, you can download your match list. At AncestryDNA, you need a 3rd party tool to get your DNA matches downloaded. I used the the DNAGedcom client tool. It took 12 hours for that tool to download my AncestryDNA matches for me. I then re-downloaded my match lists from the other 3 companies so that they’d all be up to date and comparable.


I’m excluding my uncle from the above, who I had done the testing for. Excluding my uncle, not a single match denoted to be closer than a 2nd cousin was found by any company.

Over at Family Tree DNA, I have 15187 DNA relatives. From what I understand, that makes up about 75% of all the Ashkenazi people who have tested there. The number is quite large because they include people who match down to 17 cM and include the totals of small segments, which is also why they classify many of the people as 5th Cousin to Remote. The other companies stop at 4th Cousin to remote. The numbers include a 3rd cousin that I knew prior to getting my test results who had been sharing family information with me for over 10 years. At the time, I was pleasantly surprised to find he had DNA tested. But he is still the only person I know how I’m related to of the over 15 thousand in the list.

MyHeritage DNA shows me at 4713 DNA relatives. Apparently they make an adjustment for the endogamy of people who have declared themselves Ashkenazi or I might have had 5 times that number. I don’t know exactly how I’m related to any of these people.

23andMe only includes 1125 DNA relatives. And only 652 of them (58%) opted in for sharing information. But there I found 8 actual cousins who I already had in my family tree who I know are between 2nd Cousins and 3rd Cousins once removed. I’ve since communicated with them and we’ll be sharing information. My Family Tree DNA cousin, and these 8 cousins and my uncle are all on my father’s side, which is from northeast Romania. I’m still looking for someone who is on my mother’s side who has DNA tested from southwest Ukraine.

AncestryDNA gave me 100820 (yes, that’s over one hundred thousand) DNA matches. They are displayed at ancestry.com on 2016 pages of 50 people each plus an additional page with 20 more people = 100820. The closest match is 355 cM which is a much closer match than at any of the other companies. That should be a real 2nd cousin. But I don’t recognize the person’s name. I did send her a message and hopefully she’ll respond and maybe we can see if we can figure out what the connection might be. Since AncestryDNA does not give you its own way to download your match list, I used DNAGedcom Client to download the matches. I started it running at 9 a.m. and it completed at 9 p.m., so it took 12 hours. It created a csv (comma delimited file) 47 MB in size which contained 98869 matches. The people on the last page (page 2017) of my Ancestry match list are listed in the match list download, so I’m not sure why the number is less than the 100820 matches that I calculate. But I won’t sweat over the 2000 that may not have got downloaded. Maybe DNAGedcom Client missed some. Ancestry’s list includes every person who matches on even one segment of 6 cM or more, which is why I have so many in my list. If AncestryDNA has tested 7 million people so far, then my match list contains 1.5% of their test population.

GEDmatch only gives you your 2000 closest matches (less 1 for my uncle). Those take me down to matches of 57 cM. My cousin who tested at Family Tree DNA is among the other 1999. My matches are made up of 882 people from AncestryDNA, 743 from Family Tree DNA, 285 from 23andMe, 67 from MyHeritage DNA and 22 from other testing companies, which you can tell from the prefix of their kit number (A, T, M, H, Z).

They also have a beta test area at GEDmatch called GEDmatch Genesis. That is for the companies that use the new chip which includes 23andMe and Living DNA, but can take other company’s data as well. I had uploaded my 23andMe results there. They provide all matches down to 7 cM resulting in lots of matches. Interestingly, they state that a total match of 7 cM corresponds to a common ancestor averaging 7.4 generations back. My 11700 matches there include 6917 from 23andMe, 1923 from Ancestry DNA, 967 from Family Tree DNA, 490 from Living DNA, 170 from MyHeritage DNA, 132 from Genes for Good and 1100 were from other companies or unspecified.

Also, DNA Land and Gencove, who say they provide matches, both said they had zero matches for me.

Given all those matches from the 4 testing companies and GEDmatch, I’ve so far only found 9 people related to me. And for all 9, I knew beforehand that they were related to me. You’d think I’d find a match who is a new person whose relationship we can determine so that I can add them and their family to my tree. But that hasn’t happened yet.

Lots to do. Stay tuned.

Update: March 22, 2018 – Added info about my GEDmatch Genesis matches.

Join Me for #genchatDNA Tomorrow - Fri, 16 Mar 2018

Both #genchat and #genchatDNA are Twitter chat sessions which meet periodically and gather together genealogists to provide their set of insights about the current topic.

Tomorrow, I am the #genchatDNA featured “Answerer”. If you are a genealogist who is also on Twitter, join me tomorrow, Saturday March 17 for a very fast hour starting at 8 pm GMT. (Check your local time in North America, below.)

The #genchat sessions are once every two weeks on Friday evening. The #genchatDNA sessions are every month on a Saturday afternoon.

The #genchatDNA discussions only began in November last year. Previous chats were:

  • Sat Feb 10, 2018 – DNA, Q&A and “The Chromosome Browser” with special guest Daniel Horowitz of MyHeritage.
  • Sat Jan 13, 2018 – What to Expect When Both Parents Test
  • Dec, 2017 – (no session this month)
  • Sat, Nov 18, 2017 – Where Do I Start?

I try to join in here (and at #genchat) whenever there is a topic of interest to me and I’m available. I pretty well have to be at home and on my computer to make it manageable. Different people do it different ways, often handling the multitude of tweets during the hour with a Twitter client such as TweetChat or Hootsuite. I tried Nurph a couple of years ago, but decided on a simpler way even before Nurph was discontinued.

What I do is keep 4 browser windows open to the Twitter site:

  1. My primary window will be open to a search of #genchat or #genchatDNA with “Latest” selected. That shows all posts with the tag in it from newest to oldest. Every minute or so, it updates with a message that says “nn new tweets” and when I’m ready I can click on that and read the latest. The other nice thing about this window is when I click on the Tweet button, the “Compose New Tweet” form already has the search term #genchatDNA in the box for me so I won’t forget to add it.
  2. My 2nd window contains my Twitter notifications, so I can see any reactions to any of my tweets and respond if I get a question or comment.
  3. I keep one window open with my own tweets and replies, just so I can refer back to what I had said earlier.
  4. My 4th window has my own Twitter feed. That way, if anyone I follow forgets to add the genchat hash tag, I’ll still see it.

    There is a webpage home for #genchat at:  www.genealogygenchat.com. There, you will find a schedule of future #genchat session. Amy Johnson Crow will be the guest on March 30th in “Learning the Write Stuff”.

    Some of the #genchat-ers got together at RootsTech last month holding their #GenChat cutout that they were using to promote the chat sessions:

    I believe there is also a #genchatDE, but that one is all in German, so I for one would have trouble following and participating.

    Another genealogy chat session seen on Twitter is #AncestryHour which appears to be very popular and is on every Tuesday at 7 pm GMT. It is more a free-for-all, with no specific topic and no moderator asking pre-set questions.

    And I believe there is an #iamnextgen chat. I am very familiar with the NextGen Genealogy Network made up of some of our brightest young new genealogists between the ages of 18 and 50, but I haven’t participated there because I think I’d be classified as #iamprevgen.

    DMT Now Reads @MyHeritage DNA Segment Match Files - Wed, 7 Mar 2018

    I’ve just released version 2.1 of DMT which includes support for MyHeritage DNA’s new segment download files.

    MyHeritage DNA made some big announcements last week at #RootsTech, and included among those was the ability to download your match list and your segment match list.

    Double Match Triangulator reads two or more segment match files and shows you all triangulations between the people involved. It can read segment match files from Family Tree DNA, 23andMe, GEDmatch and now MyHeritage DNA. Note that Ancestry DNA still does not allow you to download or even display your segment match data, so DMT (and many other DNA tools) cannot use Ancestry DNA data.

    For MyHeritage DNA, the procedure to download your segment match data is simple. Go to your DNA matches page, click on the “Advanced options” download, and select “Export shared DNA segment info for all DNA Matches”.


    Once you do that, your data will be downloaded into a file with a name that looks like:  nnnnnn DNA Matches shared segments dddddd.csv

    Where: nnnnnn is the name of the DNA tester, dddddd is the date, and .csv means the type of file is comma delimited text. The file looks like this:


    and when you open that with Excel or another spreadsheet program, you get:


    When you use one of these MyHeritage files as Person A, and a second file as Person B (e.g. my uncle), Double Match Triangulator will find all the double matches and triangulations both Person A and Person B have in common with all their other matches and will present them both numerically and graphically in a spreadsheet for you. DMT also does it’s best to delineate triangulation groups and puts boxes around them. The goal of all this is to help you analyze segments of your DNA and quickly give you data you can use to try to find common ancestors and determine which segments of DNA they passed down to you.


    I was very excited to hear that MyHeritage DNA was enabling data downloads and I immediately started using it for my own DNA analysis.

    If you’re a MyHeritage DNA customer, you can now use DMT to help you analyze your matches. One of other exciting announcements by MyHeritage DNA at RootsTech was that they enhanced their Chromosome Browser and it now can show you segments that triangulate. It actually will check that the segments of yourself and up to 7 people match each other and if so, it will show a box around the parts that do triangulate.

    DMT provides you great information to help you find those triangulations. For example, if I take myself, my uncle, and the first 7 people with those long green X’s in the above output from DMT and enter them into the MyHeritage DNA Chromosome Browser, I immediately get:


    and I know these people are all in one triangulation group on my father’s side (since my uncle, Person B, is my father’s brother).

    If I knew who any of those seven people were, I might be able to identify the grandparent or great-grandparent (or maybe even further back) that was the ancestor who passed this segment down to me.

    The next step then would be to go to the bottom of the MyHeritage DNA Chromosome Browser page where there’s the Shared DNA segments info:


    That tells me the exact locations where these people all triangulate. Of course, I could also get that from Double Match Triangulator which gives me a more complete list of the 97 people that triangulate over a slightly larger range.  DMT tells me the full triangulating group is from locations 4,440,598 to 18,528,026

    Then the next step would be to go to Jonny Perl’s wonderful tool DNA Painter, which won the RootsTech DNA Innovation Contest last week, and to add that segment and specify that it belongs to the ancestor I’ve identified.


    You can see that the hashed grey line under the “SHARED OR BOTH” label fits in nicely to the blue segment belonging to my father and is likely on my paternal grandmother’s side because it starts just after that short black line belonging to my paternal grandfather.

    We’ve got exciting times coming with the use of all these tools together.