Update: Since the beginning of April 2018, MyHeritage has agreed to send DNA kits to France.

French genetic genealogists cannot transfer their genetic data to MyHeritage.com. At least that's what they think. I'll reveal a trick that allows you to transfer your data. Shhh, it's a secret.

Myheritage.com screenshot: purchasing a DNA kit from France

Myheritage.com screenshot: purchasing a DNA kit from France


Logo de MyHeritage

Logo de MyHeritage

MyHeritage.com is one of the largest genealogical databases in the world. With 91 million users, 40 million family trees, 2 million new profiles created every day and 2 billion documents available online.

Its advanced features, the result of specialised technological development, allow you to use your family tree to find the same ancestors in other online family trees and connect to your genealogical cousins. The same applies to online deeds. You can add a new branch to your family tree with a click. The automatic translation of surnames by country also makes it easier to establish connections between family trees.

In 2016, MyHeritage launched a new feature based on DNA analysis. Users could either purchase a DNA kit (Autosomal Test) or transfer their genetic data to access MyHeritage's database. While we do not have information on the number of people who have only taken their genetic test, their presence in 196 countries allows access to new genetic profiles.

Unfortunately, when we log on to the website, the server identifies our IP address as being located in France and prohibits us from accessing genetic data, whether this is to buy a DNA kit or to upload our own genetic data. You are automatically redirected to MyHeritage.fr.

Why is this unfortunate for us Francophones? Because MyHeritage.com has decided, like Ancestry.com, the largest American genetic database, not to let people living in France access its genetic databases. This is due to a lack of knowledge of French law and their fear of the CNIL (French data-protection regulatory body), subjects examined in detail in my book, DNA, a Genealogical Tool.

Even if we insist and wish to continue using MyHeritage.com, we will not have access to the same features as people in other countries, including being able to transfer our genetic data for free.

And yet, having connected to the website from France, I was able to create my account on MyHeritage.com, transfer my genetic data and access the famous database. Because I have a tip, which I will reveal below.

My ethnicity results on MyHeritage.com

Before I looked at how to upload genetic data, I made a brief comparison with Family Tree DNA and 23andMe.

The first report corresponds to ethnic data. MyHeritage.com proposes a segmentation of 42 regions of possible ethnic origin. One of the particularities of MyHeritage is to have created their reference panel using 5,000 family tree owners from their own database. Based on their data, they selected the most representative members according to their origins.

This approach is more appropriate than those of other genetic databases. Essentially, they use a short questionnaire concerning the birth place of parents and grandparents. However, ethnic origins can come from countries other than France via a more distant ancestor, starting from the great-grandparents. Even if other panels are added that come directly from populations still living on site.

At the same time, this estimate suffers from other flaws and, like all ethnicity estimates, should be treated with caution (see my book on the subject).

As far as my profile is concerned, the results on MyAncestry.com indicate that 55% of my origins are from the Balkans. Indeed, as my father is Serbian this turns out to be true, at least in part. The Balkans are vast and home to many different populations, with many migrations having taken place over time as a result of conflicts and different national constructions. I also have Macedonian origins, from Italy although this detail is not explained. The results therefore lack finesse.

By clicking on the "Balkans" tab, you quickly understand why this result lacks detail. The MyHeritage.com reference panel consists mainly of Slovenians, Romanians, Croats, Bulgarians… but does not include Serbs, Macedonians, Bosnians, Hungarians, Kosovars…

On my mother's side, Reunion Island Creole, my origins are as much European as African and Indian.

While again we find diverse origins, the inadequate reference panel means there is a certain lack of precision. My Malagasy origins, probably from South Africa, are not indicated at all. Similarly, there is no mention of my Indian origins which come under a general Asian origin.

According to MyHeritage.com's database, the map of the percentages of French people's foreign origins

According to MyHeritage.com's database, the map of French users foreign origins

For European origins, French origins are included with Germany.

In general, their ethnicity estimates therefore need to be greatly improved. But let's not forget that their DNA service was only launched in 2016 and will only improve, like those of other genetic laboratories whose results can also be questionable.

My genetic cousins on MyHeritage.com

The number of genetic cousins is steadily increasing in every genetic laboratory database. Depending on which country they live in and their level of knowledge, some people choose a specific genetic laboratory or send a test to several laboratories or a public database.

It's in our interest to be present on the maximum number of databases because every contact is valuable, especially for someone searching for a natural father or an adoptee or person born anonymously looking for their biological family.

For a comparison with other genetic labs, I have more than 130 contacts on Family Tree DNA, 1,350 on 23andMe and 3,850 on Gedcom. Warning: this is not a reflection of your results, each genetic identity is unique and the number of potential contacts differs depending on your origins. Then it's about having ONE contact, but THE right contact, which makes all the difference in your search.

A genetic cousin card (the photo and its identity were hidden) on MyHeritage.com

A genetic cousin card (the photo and its identity were hidden) on MyHeritage.com

In March 2018, I had 230 potential genetic cousins on MyHeritage.

The Indicated Contact actually allows you to access an internal email specific to MyHeritage.com to send a message to them. As with 23andMe, we don't have access to their personal email address. Only Family Tree DNA allows you to have this.

The possible relationship level is then indicated, with the number of shared DNA segments and centimorgans. The "chromosome browser" is a beta version which, unlike Family Tree DNA, does not distinguish pairs of chromosomes. The first chromosome 1 pair will not distinguish the chromosome inherited from the father from the one inherited from the mother.

The undeniable power of MyHeritage.com lies in your cousin's online family tree, accessible on the right, on which you will eventually be able to spot the common ancestor.

Transfer data to MyHeritage.com from France

The screen to upload your genetic data on MyHeritage.com, thanks to the Tor browser

The screen to upload your genetic data on MyHeritage.com, thanks to the Tor browser

While Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) and 23andMe send DNA sample kits to France, this is not the case with MyHeritage.com and Ancestry.com. On the other hand, we can transfer our data from FTDNA, 23andMe and also Ancestry.com.

However, this will not be possible using your browser since the site will identify your IP as being located in France and prohibit access to this feature.

Computer science specialists, which I am not, can create a virtual space on their computer to override this.

For others, there is a much simpler way to anonymise your IP and access this feature, and therefore also indirectly access the results of those who have been tested on Ancestry.com (more than 8 million Americans).

One browser allows you to browse the web anonymously. Your IP transits through the IP of servers around the world and does not appear with its exact origin. Notorious for being used for the Darknet (market place for illicit products), above all it prevents us being registered on the sites we visit. As someone who works in digital marketing, I know the analytical power of tracking tools that analyse your political opinions, your lifestyle and consumption habits, your topics of interest etc., based on your internet browsing.

Using the Tor Browser means you avoid being "tracked" and will enable you to access the much-desired features of MyHeritage.com from France. It can be used like any other browser. Privacy settings (especially for password backup) need to be set up.

And this is how I was able to upload my data to MyHeritage.com from France and access their genetic database.

If you have taken the same step, please share your opinions on MyHeritage.com with other readers of the site in the comments section or on our forums.