My DNA Journey – MyHeritage DNA and Other Tools

As everyone knows there are a ton of companies that do DNA testing now. Prices vary but you can usually get them on sale for around $100.00 after tax.

I started with MyHeritage, then Ancestry and after meeting with the Adoption Disclosure, 23 and me and my mother did Ancestry as well. A lot of people asked me if I was concerned about having my DNA ‘out there’. For people with an adoption story in a province with closed records it is the single best tool in finding out who you are. Also, every time you eat out you give your DNA up for free. It’s on the glass, the fork and any other object you have handled. If someone had a reason to want get it, it wouldn’t be difficult. Most of us have no reason to fear it being out there, we haven’t done anything to worry about and all companies will let you delete it.

I ordered the kit online and it took a few days to arrive. You do a simple swab of the inside of your cheek and send it off. It took about four weeks for the results to come back.

There is a lot of information in your results and honestly it can be a bit overwhelming at first. Where do you start? For me I started with the Ethnicity Estimate, where half of it was completely foreign it made sense to understand that before looking at the matches. Your matches come from all over the world, understanding the migration patterns and reasons for migration of your ancestors explains why your results may be so spread out. It’s also important to remember that before stumbling across what we now know as South and North America, Europeans were highly migratory across their own continent as well. Understanding migration is critical to understanding your ancestry.

I was absolutely astounded to find out that so much of my ancestry was North and West European.

MyHeritage Map

I knew nothing about why the Scots ended up in Nova Scotia and Scandinavian, well that was really surprising – still is. These findings led me to researching Scottish history and the Highland Clearances in particular. What a brutal time to be Scottish, they certainly haven’t had the easiest of histories.

Once I got through that I went to the matches. That is probably the most overwhelming part, there were over 3000 at the beginning. That number has grown to be in excess of 9000 now. What I learned very quickly was to minimize what I wanted to see. I don’t bother with anything beyond third to fifth cousin matches unless I have a specific reason to look. It’s too much if you try to review them all. I employ that same rule for my tree as well, stick to direct line relatives. The tree will become really unmanageable if you try to include everyone.

After that I did a dump of all my data to a spreadsheet and eliminated those I knew for sure were from my fathers side. That left me with some good matches to begin my research. The MyHeritage database was a good starting point but I have to say quickly became my best friend. Headstones are a wealth of information as are obituaries if you can find them. Note: Most newspapers have an archive department that you can request old obituaries if you have the name and approximate death date. You may have to pay a nominal fee, but it is worth it.

Both the headstone and obituary can give you birth and death dates, spouse, children , parents, where they lived and died and so much more. With this information internet searches are much easier, the more information you have the better the results you will get and verify.

I used the Nova Scotia Vital Statistic Genealogy tool a lot as well. The online information is limited by date but you can make written requests for dates that aren’t online. I haven’t done this yet but I do plan to.

NS Genealogy

Also very useful were church records and the Library and Archives Canada site. There is a wealth of information there, for the most part I have been working with the census records.

Using just these tools I was able to map my mother’s maternal birth side back to the mid-1600’s. The paternal side however was still a mystery and it stayed that way for many months. I had some inklings as to the identity of the paternal side but nothing I could say for certain.

At this point we were at a stand still while we waited to meet with Adoption Disclosure, so I decided to do an Ancestry DNA test while we waited. That was the turning point in discovering the birth paternal information.

One thing everyone who does a DNA test should know is that these companies don’t share the results. The only results you see are from others who have tested with the same company. So if you test on Ancestry and I test on MyHeritage and we are related, you won’t see it. We have to use the same company, which is why the Adoption folks recommended we do as many as possible. I have also uploaded our results to GEDMatch, FTDNA, and Geni which are free matching services.

It would be nice if there was a shared database somewhere just for adoptees and relatives searching. One can only wonder how many connections are missed because people don’t understand that information is not shared.

Another note is that a lot data in the data bases is user driven, so if it is entered incorrectly you may not see it. You really need to look and be patient when going through your research results. I personally can get lost in it for hours. You have to get into the details of the records.

I will forever be grateful to MyHeritage for starting me on this journey. I find it the easiest of the three of I have to use. If I hadn’t taken that one step back in 2018 to order the test we would be where we are today. I don’t for a single second regret it. Everyone has a right to know their story, no matter what the government says.

If you are out there and wondering if doing a DNA test will help you, I say yes. Even if you aren’t adopted the results can be interesting. I found out I was related to my sister-in-laws ex-husband and a co-worker. There are fun little things like that in your results as well.


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