Updated 14 April 2021
Would you like another tool to help you with your genetic genealogy? Discover the value of MyHeritage Genetic Groups.
What are Genetic Groups on MyHeritage?
Genetic Groups compare your raw DNA with genetic reference populations and other testers' family trees to define where your ancestors likely lived and when.
You may be thinking that because you don't have any Theories of Family Relativity, this won't work. However, Genetic Groups are doing something similar to the theories but explore your DNA compared to a group instead of a single person.
For instance, your DNA results may discover a migration route or a cluster of people that were from a certain area. Genetic groups won't necessarily pinpoint a certain ancestor.
Genetic Groups appear on your DNA Ethnicity Estimate page (as shown above).
I happen to have 12 Genetic Groups with a high confidence rating. On the map beside my groups, you can see colored regions to represent my ethnicities.
The gray areas are your Genetic Groups. These 2,100 Genetic Groups are loosely linked to certain ethnicities, but you'll see that there's lots of overlap between all these clusters as we go through.
Change Your Genetic Group Confidence Level
MyHeritage allows you to increase or decrease your Genetic Groups' confidence level from high, medium, or low.
MyHeritage has defined more than 2,100 groups all across the world. With their high confidence level selected, the results have a strong indication that you are a member of that Genetic Group. A lower confidence level is less conclusive. However, the lower level doesn't mean that you're not part of that group.
I have two high confidence level Genetic Groups - England 13 and the Mormons in Utah and Idaho.
From my genealogy research, this aligns perfectly. I have ancestors that were Mormons that migrated to Utah and Idaho. And I also have ancestors from England.
How did MyHeritage form the Genetic Groups?
MyHeritage created a giant cluster analysis of all their members. They found these clusters of members that are related to many of the other people in that group. They then looked in the cluster groups' trees to find the common place(s) among their ancestors.
In this case, there are 28,520 people in this big old cluster called England 13. 12,000 of those people have family trees on MyHeritage that trace their heritage to England or remain there.
MyHeritage will also provide a list of common surnames, given names, and ethnicities. As such, if I look at the common surnames for England 13, I see the surnames of Harris, Wright, Baker, Hill, Hall, Clark, Robinson, Green, King, and Turner.
As I look at this list, these surnames might relate to lines that I'm not actively researching. I recognize the surname Wright and Robinson from England lines.
With the common ethnicities, I see England, Scottish, and Welsh, which makes sense. The Lizzard Pennisula of England had a lot of genetic mixture with the isles to the north and Western European countries, which were right across the English Channel.
One thing I should point out is that I noticed a lot of crossover between the groups. For instance, I noticed 10-15 Genetic Groups that are related to this England 3.
What can the Genetic Group Reveal?
As you explore a group, such as my England 13, you can click on the group to learn a little bit about defining characteristics for the group.
England 13 has English and some Scottish and Irish heritage. This group has spread out their descendants in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and Canada.
In short, you can see where people with DNA may have originated and where descendants of the original ancestors spread throughout the world.
MyHeritage shows you a heat map with pinpoints on a map of where different events happened in people's lives. You can change the timeline to see how the events changed over time.
I have a great-grandfather from Cornwall, England, down here in a little corner of England. He immigrated in 1912. We can see as we move the time slider back in time, the Cornwall area starts to have more events happening in this area. Between 1800 - 1850, the area starts to show people migrating away from Cornwall to areas throughout the world.
In short, England 13 features people who lived primarily in Cornwall in the 1700s. By about 1800, migration started to happen away from this area. Migrants went to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the United States, and Canada. The migration from Cornwall lasted for 100 - 150 years to the point where most of the people that were part of this group are no longer living in England.
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Who Should Find The Groups Useful?
I would say the DNA and tree-based ethnic clusters are useful, particularly for people who don't know their parentage, such as adoptees. If you don't know your parentage, then the Theory of Family Relativity will not work at all for you. You need to have a family tree for MyHeritage to link through your family tree and their record collections to create a potential relationship path between you and your match.
The nice thing about Genetic Groups is that you don't have to have a family tree. Remember, when I looked at this England 13, 28,000 people were part of this group, but only 12,500 had trees on MyHeritage. More than half of the people in the group had not attached their tree. And yet, MyHeritage is fairly certain that this group of the tree and no-tree members connect through England.
You can look at the heat map to view your likely ethnicity. But you can also where see where you should probably focus your research.
When I begin my investigation, I will notice the large United States region. Since the individuals are not Native American, they must be immigrant groups. At the same time, I have groups from the Middle East, Finland, England, and Ireland.
With 3.1% Finish and 1.4% Middle Eastern ethnic percentages, I'll ignore those results for now and target my research in the English groups.
Genetic Group Overlap
While MyHeritage has identified 2,100 genetic groups, many of them overlap.
While having more groups is a nice marketing point, I think many of these groups might need to be merged.
For instance, when I look at my eastern US groups, I have two at the high confidence level. When I slide to the low confidence lever, I see eight groups. They all overlap.
In fact, there's really a distinct southern group and a little sliver between Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Missouri. But MyHeritage shows me 8 overlapping groups.
When comparing this to my genealogy research, I recognize a migration path that my ancestors took, starting in Virginia and Maryland and slowly moving westward. As land opened up in Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and eventually California, they kept moving westward.
So I find it interesting that when I'm looking at the overlap, I have a little sliver that almost exactly matches the route my ancestors took across the United States over a 300 year period.
In short, some of these overlaps are almost indistinguishable. When we're just looking at them, such as one from Midwestern and Northeastern United States, it contains English, German, Irish, Scottish, Swiss, Dutch, French, and Scandinavian settlers. That's an awful lot of ethnic groups in on genetic grouping.
Comparing this to another group, Midwestern United States 9, it is almost the same area. It features English, German, Swiss, Dutch, French, Irish, and Scottish settlers.
While each group has different numbers that make up the cluster, it is likely that a large population really belongs to both of these groups because of the intermixing. I suspect the overlap happens because it's really hard to separate out DNA from 100, 200, and 500 years ago.
In the video listed above, I talk more about the overlaps in the MyHeritage Genetic Groups. Be sure to watch the video to listen and view my complete initial analysis.
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One Limitation of the Genetic Groups
Right now, you can't connect to your DNA matches through a Genetic Group. For instance, I don't have a way to filter those 28,000 people in England 13 to see who on my DNA match list is in England 13. That would be really useful.
Maybe in the future, that will change.
To sum up, the MyHeritage Genetic Groups combine DNA ethnicity results and member trees to determine your possible connection to other platform members. You may learn about the migration of individuals from your original place of origin. Use these groups as just another clue to break down your genealogy brick walls.
More Genetic Genealogy Articles
A reference for all blog posts and videos mentioned in the YouTube episode.