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Finally, a DNA statistic I can almost understand

Did you grow up knowing about the terms centimorgans, DNA segments, autosomal, and genetic genealogy? Me neither. I never had them on a spelling test. I never read about them in biology class. Well, maybe I did. Biology was never my best subject. These days, it seems that I hear these words at least once a day. While the terminology has become commonplace, I'm still working on mastering what they each mean.

Today, while reviewing my new DNA matches at MyHeritage, I was thrilled to see, for the first time ever, a genetic genealogy phrase I easily understood. I didn't need to click on a "what does this mean?" link or a question mark icon. For those who understand centimorgans and exactly how many of them are equivalent to a predicted relationship without looking up the chart - I'm happy for them. But for me, for the first time, I understand how much DNA I inherited from Dad.


And from his Dad:


And from Mom's father:


And from Mom's mother:


My DNA test results are up at to Ancestry, GEDMatch, and MyHeritage. While all three have the technical cM figures, finally someone has translated those figures into a down-to-earth phrase I understand - Shared DNA %. In the past, I've known that I inherited 3,559 cM from Dad, but now I get what that means - I inherited 49.1% of Dad's DNA! Which probably means I inherited 50.9% of Mom's. That will be fun to bring that up at our next family reunion. I've learned from DNA webinars that we inherit approximately 50% from each parent, 25% from each grandparent, and so on. It's fun to see that I have 28% from Grandpa Larsen but only 18.1% from Grandma Larsen.

One of the challenges I have as a neophyte genetic genealogist is the terminology. So, even though they are new to the DNA world, thank you for making this part of DNA a little easier to understand.

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It's important to note that this is only the percentage of the DNA that MyHeritage tests, which again is only a fraction of your total DNA! So it's not really correct that you inherited 49.1% from your Dad - your total DNA from your dad could be different than that.

What the MyHeritage number says is: "OF THE DNA SEGMENTS THAT MYHERITAGE TESTS, you inherited 49.1% from your Dad".

So, yes it should still have an asterisk with that explanation on it :) However, it's probably easier to just show it simply like it does for you - even though that information isn't really correct!

I'll be interested to see what MyHeritage does with the 8 kits I transferred over.

I half half-siblings, half-cousins and all sorts of complex DNA relationships. While I understand that viewing a definite label for something is comforting, I think you will find that the MyHeritage labels quickly fall by the wayside, and you will need to depend on the relationship charts. Always remember that DNA inheritance is NOT set in stone. For example, I have two full brothers that are first cousins to me. One sits at the absolute highest range you will see for a first cousin, the other at almost the lowest range. Every company I have tested or transferred to estimates that they are a different level of relationship to me than what is actually true. Yes, I KNOW they are my first cousins. But DNA disipates quickly and by the time it hits 2nd cousin level, it can be very difficult to look at the companies' percentages and say, "Oh, that's my 2nd cousin, once removed" with any certainty. Add in half-sibling relationships and the ranges broaden even further.

One last thing. Look at the percentages of your grandparents. See how off kilter those percentages already are with your grandparents? ... particularly your grandmother. She obviously has quite a few recessive genes that are being overwritten by dominant ones. I would be very interested to hear the percentages if you compared one of your son's DNA with one of your 1st cousin's children's DNA.; in other words, 2nd cousins within your grandmother's line. I guarantee that unless MyHeritage is taking the actual relationship from your tree, that the relationship level they would guestimate based on DNA would be in the 3rd cousin range or further.

So while there may be gratification in seeing your relationships spelled out, these are the easy matches. If you are serious about using genetic genealogy to break down brick walls, then those predicted relationship charts will become your best friends.


For Meg Staton and others who are transferring autosomal tests to MyHeritage. I transferred my Ancestry test (March 2013) and that test now has percentages shown. However, don't expect the percentages show identified. One cousin (3rd cousin 1x) is shown as 0.8% shared DNA.

I will be interested in seeing the comparison between Ancestry and MyHeritage tests as MyHeritage has finally (after two weeks) resumed completion of my autosomal test. Hope they finally finish.

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