MyHeritage DNA Test Review
MyHeritage is a world-renowned genealogy website with over 90 million users. It has been around for many years, and is one of the best sites out there for genealogical research. In recent years, MyHeritage has started to offer DNA testing to support their other research services. By getting DNA testing done through MyHeritage DNA (see latest price), you have the opportunity to connect with relatives you never even knew you had, build an online community, and share research.
DNA testing is just one of the many tools that MyHeritage has to offer, but it can be a powerful one, and one that you don’t want to overlook.
Understanding Different DNA Tests
Modern genealogical testing looks at three different chunks of DNA:
- mtDNA - this gets passed along from mothers to their children with very little change, so it can trace your direct maternal line back a very long way
- YDNA - this gets passed along from fathers to their sons with very little change, so it can map out your direct paternal line for many generations (but only males can use a YDNA test directly)
- Autosomal DNA - this gets passed on from all of your ancestors, both male and female, and gets mixed together with every generation
Autosomal DNA testing is most popular and is the only type offered by MyHeritage DNA.
Autosomal DNA tends to be the most useful for genealogists, because it lets them connect with fairly close relatives who are studying the same set of ancestors.
That means you can find other researchers and share your results, which is a huge benefit over trying to do all that research on your own.
You get half of your autosomal DNA from your mother and half from your father. In turn, they each get half of their autosomal DNA from each of their parents, and so on, and so on.
This mixing makes it harder and harder to accurately detect relatives as you go further back, so don’t count on it working for more than five or six generations most of the time.
But that’s still plenty for you to connect with living third, fourth, and sometimes fifth cousins.
If you do want to have mtDNA and YDNA testing done as well, you’ll have to look to a different company for those (see our recommendations here).
How Does MyHeritage DNA Stack Up?
There are a lot of choices out there when it comes to genealogical DNA testing. So just how does MyHeritage stack up to the competition?
Regardless of who else you look at, MyHeritage is the clear winner when it comes to speed.
You’ll get your results back from MyHeritage in only 3-4 weeks, compared to 6-8 weeks for everyone else.
One huge advantage of the MyHeritage website is that it is available in 40 languages, making it one of the most used sites around the world, perfect for connecting with distant family members outside the U.S.
MyHeritage vs FamilyTreeDNA
MyHeritage DNA only offers autosomal DNA testing, while FamilyTreeDNA offers all three types of testing.
When it comes to autosomal DNA, though, MyHeritage is going to give you more detailed results about the regions your ancestors came from.
It divides the world into 42 regions, more than any other major company, so you may be able to narrow your research down even further.
When it comes to extending your research, both sites offer extensive genealogical records and strong online communities.
MyHeritage vs AncestryDNA
Both companies only offer autosomal DNA testing. Once again, MyHeritage DNA divides the world into a larger number of regions, helping you narrow down your search for ancestors.
Both companies have tons of online genealogical records and strong communities.
However, acessing research on MyHeritage is free, while Ancestry requires a subscription to access most of its records.
MyHeritage vs 23andMe
23andMe bundles all three types of DNA tests into a single test, but they do not go into much detail with the mtDNA and YDNA results.
That means that for the most part, the important results you’re going to get will be from your autosomal DNA, the same test that MyHeritage offers.
One unique feature of 23andMe is that they offer a genetic health screening option that no other company has.
But at the same time, 23andMe has almost no genealogical records and a much smaller community than MyHeritage.
Taking the Test
It’s incredibly easy to get your DNA tested with MyHeritage.
Start by creating a free account on the MyHeritage website if you don’t already have one.
You’ll use your account to link your test kit to your personal information and to access your results.
The kit includes a very simple to follow set of instructions and two cheek swabs.
To use it, all you have to do is swab the inside of your cheek for 45 seconds with each of the swabs. Put them in the vials provided and ship the whole kit off to the lab.
One thing to note here is that MyHeritage does not provide prepaid postage which I found to be annoying.
In order to get accurate results, make sure you don’t drink, eat, chew gum, brush your teeth, or smoke for at least 30 minutes before using the test kit.
The kit includes a pre-paid shipping label so you can mail it directly to the testing lab.
There’s no minimum or maximum age to get tested. Even infants can be tested.
In fact, the cheek swab used by MyHeritage makes it much easier to test infants than the saliva collection method used by many companies.
It is also an easier collection method for many elderly folks, as they may have a hard time producing enough saliva for the other method.
Getting Back Your Results
MyHeritage has the shortest waiting period of any major company, just three to four weeks from when you mail back your kit.
That’s about half the time of other companies. As soon as your results are ready, you’ll get an email letting you know.
You will access your results directly on the MyHeritage website using your secure logon and password.
Naturally, you’ll have to have an email account and some way to log on to the MyHeritage website to see your results.
But come on, if you’re reading this, I’m guessing you already have both.
What the Test Can Tell You
An autosomal DNA test from MyHeritage DNA is going to have two major results.
The first is an ethnicity estimate based on how closely your DNA matches that commonly found in certain parts of the world.
The second is the ability to locate and connect with your living relatives.
Your Ancestral Ethnicity
Most people living in a certain region share a lot of DNA with each other, because their families have intermarried back and forth for generations.
Because of this shared DNA, it is possible to examine your DNA and see if it matches.
If it does, there’s a very good chance your ancestors came from that area.
MyHeritage DNA breaks the world down into 42 different regions and ethnicities, more than any other major genealogical testing company.
They provide a comprehensive ethnicity breakdown, which may include some surprises.
A typical report for example might show that a person is 47.2% Scandinavian, 25.6% Eastern European, 12.9% African, 8.5% Native American, and 5.8% Middle Eastern.
All this means is you have a better chance of narrowing down your genealogical research to specific regions once you get your results, or possibly expanding it to include ancestors you never knew about.
Find Your Relatives
One of the biggest advantages of having DNA testing done is it lets you connect with your relatives who are still living, all the way out to third, fourth, or even fifth cousins.
Why is that important?
Because if they’ve also been tested, there’s a good chance they are looking for their family roots, too.
And since they are related to you, they may well be looking into the same family lines as you.
That means they are the perfect resource for sharing research and learning more.
It is optional whether you want to share your results, connect with other people, and let other people connect with you.
But if you don’t, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. And don’t worry about being flooded with spam—these folks are your relatives afterall, and they’re committed enough to their genealogy to pay for a DNA test.
Only the people who have matching DNA results will ever get your contact information, and even then, it’s only your email address.
So be sure to reach out to your relatives, find out where the link is, and see what research you both can share. You’ll be happy you did.
Family search results are also perfect for anyone who has questions about their family.
If you were adopted, or your parents were, this is one of the best ways to find your biological family.
What the Test Can’t Tell You
While you can learn a lot from MyHeritage DNA’s autosomal DNA test, there are a couple of things it can’t tell you.
Native American Ancestry
The test can tell you with good accuracy if you have any Native American ancestors, and can sometimes even narrow them down to certain parts of North or South America.
However, it can’t tell you what tribe they came from, or even what state.
And it can’t be used as proof when it comes to being registered with any Native American tribe. For that, you still have to rely on written records.
See our guide to Native American ancestry here.
Health and Medical Conditions
MyHeritage’s DNA test does not examine your DNA for medical traits, conditions, or predispositions.
In fact, the only company that offers both genealogical DNA testing and health screenings is 23andMe.
How Accurate Are the Results?
Over the past decade or so, many millions of people have had DNA testing done, with more added every day.
By collecting results from specific regions and populations and comparing them to each other, MyHeritage and other companies have built complex and highly accurate ethnicity estimates to provide a breakdown of your ancestry.
Still, people move, and take their genes with them.
Your ancestors may originally be from Scandinavia, but they could have spent a couple of generations living somewhere else before coming to the U.S., or they might have moved two or three times in a single generation.
Your results are just one more part of a very big puzzle.
Is It True That I’m a Neanderthal?
No, not at all.
But you might have a little bit of Neanderthal in your ancestry.
About 40,000 years ago, before the Neanderthals died out, there was a lot of interbreeding with humans. As a result, a lot of folks have a little Neanderthal in them.
Unfortunately, MyHeritage’s test does not include an estimate of your Neanderthal DNA since autosomal tests only go back 4-5 generations.
If that’s really important to you, you’ll have to test elsewhere.
Should I Get My Family Tested, Too?
Except for identical twins (triplets, etc.), no one on earth has exactly the same DNA.
That includes you and your siblings. Your DNA and theirs are both passed on from your parents, but they aren’t identical.
What that means is, once you start looking for genetic matches to find living relatives, your matches and their matches may not be identical, either.
You’ll have the same close relatives, but when it comes to third, fourth, and fifth cousins, your lists will be different.
That’s because the chunks of DNA your brother or sister share with a cousin might be a bit more or a bit less than the chunks you share.
So having the rest of your family tested as well can only improve how useful your results are.
And if you have results from one of your parents, too, that can help narrow down which side of the family those distant cousins come from.
Your children can be tested, too.
No one is too young or too old to have a DNA test done.
The cheek swab method of testing that MyHeritage uses is actually perfect for infants, or anyone else who would have trouble doing a saliva test.
What About Privacy?
MyHeritage takes many steps to ensure that your privacy is protected.
Your personal information is never shared with any other company, and your results are never shared unless you decide to do it yourself.
Even the laboratory that processes your DNA sample never sees your personal information, not even your name.
All they have is the ID number of your test kit, and the only place that ID is linked to you is on the MyHeritage website.
You have the option of sharing parts of your results with others through the MyHeritage website, and you’re missing out if you don’t since that’s the easiest way to find living relatives.
But it’s still your choice, and you can stop sharing again at any time.
Can I Take My Test Results to Other Sites?
MyHeritage gives you the option of downloading your raw results as a text file.
You can then upload that file to other websites if they allow it, giving you access to all of their features as well.
MyHeritage lets you upload raw results from other companies, too, so if you get tested elsewhere, you still have the option of using the MyHeritage website and tools later if you want.
How Much Does All of This Cost?
The list price for MyHeritage DNA’s autosomal DNA test is $99, which includes the kit and the cost of processing at the lab.
Shipping and handling costs about $10, which covers the kit being mailed to you and a pre-paid mailing label to send it to the lab.
There’s no subscription fee or other costs to use the MyHeritage website, so you can use your results for as long as you’d like for free.
Gifts and Discounts
To get the most accurate and extensive results you can, your best bet is to get as much of your family tested as possible.
Fortunately, MyHeritage makes it easy for you to order testing kits as gifts. Just make sure, before you spend the money, that they are willing to do the test.
The kits don’t expire, so you can even buy them a couple months ahead to present whenever you’re ready.
Also, be sure to check out the MyHeritage DNA website for current discounts or specials.
Is It Worth It?
Genealogists have been unearthing their family roots for many years without relying on DNA.
But the recent rush on genealogical DNA testing shows just how useful a tool it can be.
With costs lower now than ever, anyone doing genealogical research today should strongly consider DNA testing.
And once you’ve done your testing through MyHeritage DNA, be sure to take advantage of more than 8 billion online records freely available on their main website as well.
Take a look at their website today to get started.
Questions? Feel free to ask in the comments below.