If you’re thinking of transferring your Ancestry DNA to MyHeritage, then you should consider these questions:
- How do you transfer your Ancestry DNA to MyHeritage?
- How big is the MyHeritage DNA database compared to others?
- What are the advantages of having your DNA on MyHeritage?
- How much do the DNA features cost with MyHeritage?
- How safe is your DNA with MyHeritage?
- Are there any downsides to using MyHeritage?
This article answers each question in-depth and gives you how-to guides and advice on uploading your DNA to MyHeritage.
How to Transfer Your Ancestry DNA to MyHeritage
These are the basic steps, which we’ll walk through in detail.
- Download your raw DNA from your Ancestry account to your local computer
- Create a (free) account on the MyHeritage website
- Upload your Ancestry DNA to your MyHeritage account
If you’d prefer a video walkthrough, here you go:
Step 1: Download your Raw DNA from Ancestry
Log into your Ancestry account and click on the Settings button on the DNA page.
Scroll to the end of the DNA Settings page, where you’ll see the option to download your raw DNA.
Once you’ve given your Ancestry password, you need to wait for Ancestry to send an email to the address associated with your account. For me, this arrived within 10 minutes. It’s certainly not instant.
So, this is a two-step security process. You click the download button in the email, which will take you back to the Ancestry website. Now, you get to download your data. It’s a 5.6 MB zipped file, which will come down to your local downloads folder.
Keep your DNA file secure
Do think about the security of your DNA file. You’ll have it on your local computer to upload it to other DNA sites. But once you’re done with transfers, you could move it to a password-protected folder on a secure platform (e.g. DropBox or OneDrive) or an external hard drive in a safe place.
What does your raw DNA look like?
Go ahead and take a peek. The zip file contains a simple text file that is human-readable. Just be sure not to make any edits to the file. My data looks like this:
If you’re thinking that those letters seem familiar, it’s probably flashbacks to high school biology class. If you’re interested in diving into chromosomes and alleles, I recommend Blaine Bettinger’s book on genetic genealogy. We have a full review of the book here.
Step 2: Create a Free Account on MyHeritage
You can get great value from your DNA with a free account on MyHeritage. A later section goes into what comes for free, and what you can get with additional costs. For now, just start with a free account.
During the sign-up process, you may be presented with a trial sign-up screen where you can enter your credit card details. There is no need to sign up for this trial. Exit out of the screen, and you will have your free account.
Step 3: Upload your Ancestry DNA to MyHeritage
Log into your MyHeritage account and expand the DNA section on the top menu bar.
The option to “Upload DNA Data” is near the bottom of the expanded menu. You will be taken to a series of questions that confirm you adhere to the terms and conditions of MyHeritage.
Assuming this to be the case, you will upload the zip file that you received in Step 1.
You will need to wait a few days for your DNA matches to appear in your match list. There is a bit of data processing and re-indexing that takes some time to complete. Check your match list in one to two days, and you should see at least a few thousand DNA matches.
How Big is the MyHeritage DNA Database?
My Estimates of MyHeritage Size versus Other DNA Databases
Some companies don’t report their numbers, and others give details at different times during the year. I’ve reviewed the most recent numbers available at time of writing, and some estimates from other sources. The rest of this section details the sources – but here are my estimates as of September 2020.
|DNA Testing Company||DNA Database Size|
|Family Tree DNA||1.8+ million|
MyHeritage Database Size
MyHeritage has been in business since 2003, providing online services for family tree research. However, they are a relative newcomer to the DNA side of genealogy, compared to Ancestry and 23andMe. They started offering a DNA testing service in 2016.
At the time of writing in 2020, MyHeritage publicizes that they have 50+ million users, 52 million family trees, and 12.5 billion historical records. But if you’re looking at their DNA services, then you are probably most interested in the size of their DNA database. This, of course, will set your expectations for the number of DNA matches you are likely to get.
MyHeritage Database Size versus Ancestry and 23andMe
I’m pulling the numbers for the other sites as of September 2020, a few months after the MyHeritage publication. But we’re talking in millions, so it’s a reasonable comparison.
Both Ancestry and 23andMe update their DNA database size reports at least quarterly on their corporate pages. Their September 2020 numbers are 18+ million and 12+ million customers respectively. I should point out that customers can opt-out of matching so these numbers aren’t exact figures of an available pool of potential DNA matches. But they give a good idea of the proportions across the companies.
Comparing MyHeritage Size with Family Tree DNA
Family Tree DNA claim to have the world’s “most comprehensive” database of DNA tests – but they offer Y-DNA and mtDNA tests alongside the more common autosomal DNA tests. This article is only interested in comparing autosomal DNA tests conducted across the major sites: autosomal DNA.
Family Tree DNA are a little coy about their actual numbers. The MIT Technology Review reported in February 2019 that the company told them they had 2+ million people, but that doesn’t break out the different types of tests that the company offers. The autosomal tests will be a subset of this figure. Apologies if the link to this article is behind a paywall – but you should get three free views.
Can we get a bit more recent, if only early 2020? Well, Martin McDowell estimated their autosomal database size based on how they use prefixes as part of DNA kit names. It’s a clever piece of analysis. His estimated total for January 2020 is 1.7+ million autosomal DNA tests.
Comparing MyHeritage Size with Living DNA
Living DNA shares one trait with Family Tree DNA: both companies don’t publicize their testing numbers. But Living DNA says they are “one of the top 5 global DNA testing firms”. Which means they must come in fifth. I can’t get a feel for their numbers, so I’ve left them out of these comparisons. I also had cause to raise my eyebrows at reports of a BBC investigation into a company called Universal Medicine.
What DNA Features Do You Get Free with MyHeritage?
When you upload your DNA to a free MyHeritage account, you get the ability to see your DNA matches and to make contact within the MyHeritage messaging system. You can also export your list of DNA matches. This is a feature that is not provided by Ancestry at any level of subscription.
You can create or upload a family tree within a certain size. You will get to see ancestral surnames that you share with your DNA matches. In summary, these are the free DNA features:
- View DNA matches
- Export DNA matches
- Contact DNA matches
- View shared ancestral surnames
What are the Paid DNA Features with MyHeritage?
Some of the paid DNA features provide superior features than available on Ancestry.
Access to Shared Matches is the single paid feature that stands out to me as being almost mandatory for your genetic genealogy research. And the MyHeritage version is superior to the Ancestry version (although you will have far more DNA matches on Ancestry). MyHeritage shows you how much centimorgans that your shared matches have in common with each other. 23andMe also provides this information, but Ancestry does not.
Recently, I was examining a DNA match with a disappointingly tiny tree. Checking our shared matches, I saw that the highest on the list was estimated to be first cousin to my small-tree match. And that shared match had a tree going back enough generations that I could see the intersection with my own. That’s gold, right there.
MyHeritage Chromosome Browser
The paid features also include several tools that are on the more advanced side of genetic genealogy.
MyHeritage has a Chromosome Browser, which is one of the most lamented absences from Ancestry. The Chromosome Browser is a tool that visualizes the shared segments between you and your DNA matches.
More recently, MyHeritage introduced a clustering feature. Their AutoClusters tool organizes your matches into groups of interlinked shared matches. It’s possible to do this manually with spreadsheets, but it can take days of work. The AutoClustering tool takes minutes.
If you’re transferring DNA from Ancestry, you are bound to notice differences between the ethnicity estimates of both companies. Remember…both are estimates.
Other Paid Features
There is also something called “Theory of Family Relativity”. Personally, I don’t seem to have any theories (theorems?). This feature seems to be akin to Ancestry’s Thrulines so I may not be missing much.
MyHeritage Payment Options – Unlock or Subscribe (or Wait for Offers)?
At any time after you’ve uploaded your DNA to MyHeritage, you have the option to pay a one-time fee to unlock the additional paid features. This fee has tended to be about 30 bucks.
The alternative is to take a paid subscription to one of their other services that include the DNA features. These tend to chop and change, so check out their website for the latest plans.
You may also choose to watch out for special offers that unlock the DNA features. In December 2019, they allocated a week during which you got all DNA features if you uploaded your DNA. In June of 2020, there was a similar offer – but this time it was a coupon code for people who had already uploaded their DNA and wanted to upgrade to get all the DNA features. Of course, I don’t have a crystal ball that tells me this will happen again!
Is it Safe to Upload DNA to MyHeritage?
I’ve kept my own DNA on MyHeritage since 2017. You may worry because there are a number of smaller DNA companies that will take your Ancestry DNA – and some have been flagged by researchers as not having adequate security measures around their online platform.
In contrast, MyHeritage is a long-established and respected company with an online presence since 2003. Yes, it started in the founder’s living room – but it has grown into a significant international enterprise. Yet, it hasn’t been without security issues.
MyHeritage Security Breaches
The company experienced a security breach in 2017 that resulted in customer email addresses being sold on the dark web. (The breach was discovered and reported in 2018). Credit card details and DNA data were not compromised.
I’ve previously detailed a phishing scam in July 2020 that targeted MyHeritage customers. In that article, I praise MyHeritage for its vigilance in investigating the phishing attempt and helping its customers.
As it stands, I do not think there is particular reason to worry about your DNA on MyHeritage. You should be wary of phishing attempts i.e. fake emails reporting to come from MyHeritage or any other genealogy website. Unfortunately, the hackers managed to fool at least some people, so these nefarious attempts may continue to target genealogy enthusiasts.
MyHeritage and Law Enforcement
I first uploaded my DNA to MyHeritage back in 2017. When I was testing the process for this article, I spotted a condition that I don’t think was included back then. You must agree to this statement:
“I confirm that the DNA data I’m uploading is not related to any law enforcement or forensic investigation.”
What’s going on here is that at least one DNA site (GEDmatch) allows law enforcement agencies to upload DNA that may be related to a crime. Forensic investigators can examine DNA matches and attempt to build a family tree that will lead to the identification of the DNA source. This is how the Golden State Killer was apprehended.
Following on from the publicity of that case, other DNA testing companies have had to take a position on their co-operation with law enforcement.
MyHeritage is being clear here. They do not want criminal investigators to fish in their DNA match database. More specifically, their privacy terms state unequivocally: “It is our policy to resist law enforcement inquiries to protect the privacy of our customers.”
You Can Never Know for Sure
MyHeritage is, of course, subject to international and local laws (and court orders). Their H.Q. is in Israel, but I believe that their labs are in the United States. It would be interesting to follow a handover request from, for example, the F.B.I.
But the bottom line is this: if you are not a fan of your DNA being available to law enforcement, don’t upload your DNA to GEDmatch and then opt-in to their law enforcement agreement. In contrast, you don’t have to jump through any extra hoops with MyHeritage.
And if you have stark concerns, do not submit your DNA anywhere!
Can You Upload DNA from MyHeritage to Ancestry?
Does this work the other way? Can you transfer your DNA from MyHeritage to Ancestry? The answer is no. Ancestry has never offered the facility to accept DNA from other test sites. There is no indication that this would happen in the future.
Similarly, 23andMe does not accept DNA uploads. The three biggest DNA sites that accept DNA are MyHeritage, Family Tree DNA, and GEDmatch.
Who Owns MyHeritage?
The founder, Gilad Japhet, started the company in Israel in 2003. Japhet is still CEO of MyHeritage. The company has raised investment from various business partners over the years.
MyHeritage bought out Geni.com in 2012, a rival genealogy website. The two companies operate as separate entities. It has also acquired the Legacy Family Tree software and webinars. As an aside, MyHeritage has its own desktop family tree software, called Family Tree Builder.
MyHeritage has deals and collaborations with a number of other genealogy sites to facilitate record searching. These include FamilySearch and BillionGraves.
Are there Downsides to Using MyHeritage?
This is from my personal experience. Here’s some background…
I had a free account with MyHeritage for three years. As an early uploader of DNA, I was one of many who were upgraded gratis to the paid DNA features. Then, I paid for an annual subscription in 2020 to get access to premium features around their record collections.
I don’t hesitate to advise people to transfer their DNA from Ancestry to MyHeritage. It’s a particular benefit for adoptees researching their genetic heritage. With the free account, why not? You don’t have anything to lose, and you may strike lucky with that single DNA cousin who can unlock some of your mysteries.
If you do some extensive internet searches, you will see some complaints from people who cancelled their subscription but were subsequently charged. This has happened to me with other online sites, and my credit card company has always dealt with it. I haven’t had this problem with MyHeritage, but I haven’t cancelled a subscription yet.
But I do have a small number of gripes.
Default Settings for Tree Privacy
I also copied my public tree from Ancestry to MyHeritage. And I didn’t do a thorough investigation of how public trees work with MyHeritage. So, it was my own fault that my tree was set up in a way that did not suit me.
But I also think that the privacy settings with MyHeritage could be easier to manage. I’ve got an entire article on the subject of MyHeritage Tree Privacy. If you’re thinking of copying your tree from Ancestry (and you probably should), then I suggest you read this article first.
Unless I’ve missed an entire section of the website, MyHeritage does not offer a ticketing system or an email for customer issues. My preferred support method with any online company is a ticketing system.
MyHeritage say that they offer 24/7 telephone support on toll-free numbers from Monday to Saturday. I was hanging on the line in September 2020 (“next in the queue…[cheery music]”) for 24 minutes and then the line disconnected. So that’s my experience.
Looking for more articles and tutorials?
How About Some Video Tutorials?
Check out our MyHeritage playlist on the DataMiningDNA YouTube channel.