“Who are you?” British rock band The Who asked in one of their hit songs of the late 1970s. It’s a question that’s been asked since the beginning of time.
While there are countless genealogy services that focus on tracing your family’s history, an Israeli company has now launched a new DNA testing service to help you discover your genetic history.
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The company behind the new DNA test is genealogy giant MyHeritage, which is known for its popular platform for preserving and sharing family ancestry. The company boasts 85 million users worldwide, 2.1 billion family tree profiles, 7 billion historical records and is available in 42 languages. Its global community enjoys access to a vast library of historical records, an internationally diverse collection of family trees and innovative search and matching technologies.
DNA: Uncovering unknown relatives, finding biological parents
The company’s new do-it-yourself DNA kit reveals valuable information about their family history and ethnic origins. DNA can be used to prove or disprove a documented family tree connection, or answer the question of whether two people sharing the same rare last name are actually related.
DNA is also indispensable for overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles in traditional research, as in the case of adoptees searching for their biological family without access to their adoption records. On the other hand, when DNA locates a match between two people who have the same ancestor or ancestors, family trees and historical records are often essential for piecing together the exact relationship path between them.
Do-it-yourself DNA swab: No blood needed
DNA is the hereditary material in the cells of the human body and it carries within it a unique genetic record. The $79 MyHeritage DNA kit consists of a simple inner-cheek swab that takes only a minute to complete, with no need for blood. The sample is then mailed to MyHeritage DNA’s lab for analysis, after which the user can view the results on the MyHeritage website.
In its initial version, MyHeritage DNA provides two main features: detailed ethnicity reports that map the user’s ethnic and geographic origins, and DNA matches for finding relatives. Additional features and capabilities are planned for the future.
25 ethnicities – and counting
MyHeritage DNA results include ethnicity reports, showing the percentage of the user’s DNA that come from different populations around the world. The reports currently include 25 ethnicities, but this should improve dramatically thanks to MyHeritage’s new unique Founder Population project — the largest of its kind ever conducted. More than 5000 participants were handpicked for this project by MyHeritage from its 85 million members, by virtue of their family trees exemplifying consistent ancestry from the same region or ethnicity for many generations.
In the next few months, the project will be completed, resulting in a rich DNA data set of more than 100 ethnicities that the company believes will show ancestral roots with far greater resolution than other services. To this end, the company has been sending its DNA kits to project participants far and wide, from Uzbekistan to Fiji, from Greenland to South Africa, and every corner of the globe. Standard ethnicity reports are currently available, with the expert reports to be released at no additional cost to users following the completion of the Founder Population project.
Complementing family trees and historical records
DNA test results complement MyHeritage’s core offerings, including family trees and historical records — the tools traditionally used by family history enthusiasts. MyHeritage DNA is integrated with the other services provided by MyHeritage on all web and mobile platforms, as well as offered on the new standalone mobile app MyHeritage DNA.
According to the company, thanks to its expertise in family trees and its vibrant community, MyHeritage provides its DNA customers with features not offered by most competing services, such as viewing family trees of the majority of their DNA matches to pinpoint the connection path, and automatically identifying which surnames and geographical locations they have in common.
“The future of family history”
Founded in 2003 by CEO Gilad Japhet, MyHeritage raised $49 million in several funding rounds between 2004 and 2012.
According to the company, the kit is “simple, affordable and offers some of the best ethnicity reports in the world”. The company views the launch of the kit as a major turning point for the DNA industry. “DNA can be a fascinating introduction to the world of family history, and customers who embark on this journey by taking a DNA test can easily use MyHeritage’s tools to further explore what made them what they are,” the company said in a statement.
According to Japhet, “DNA testing is the future of family history. We see DNA as a natural evolution of our business and look forward to harnessing it to reunite families, engage in new pro bono projects, and enrich the lives of millions of users.”
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