Monday, January 19, 2015

How to win at 23andme

It took me a year to really start using 23andme. I think it was because it is hard to know what to do.

Recently I got tired of waiting for something to happen, and decided to just wade in and make it happen. As of now, I have over 85 people I'm sharing with, with another 252 invitations to share. Altogether, tonight I have finished contacting all 962 matches that they report, unless I skipped someone inadvertently.

The page where you can make this happen too is This page links every match up to 1000, and you can sort it various ways. What I did first was sort it this way and that, randomly messaging people, with very few responses. When I got serious, instead I made a little text:
We may be related according to 23&me. I've been doing genealogy research for quite awhile, and my old GEDCOM is online at Rootsweb: And GEDMATCH: kit # M186808

Main surnames are Baysinger, Booth, Cowan, Disney, Goosic, McBee, McPhail, McPherson, McQueen, Walters. I have a genealogy blog:

Email:, and I'm on G+, Facebook, Twitter, etc. -

All the best,

Make your own, and use it! I ended up with this text because I can paste it both as an introduction, and in invitations. Many people don't know how to use the site, and don't make themselves publicly available. However, if you take the time to introduce yourself, many of them will share genomes and their information, if they have any. So while you are watching tv, or listening to music, just go down the relfinder page, click the Introduction link, paste your text after the boilerplate, and click send. And on to the next. The link changes so you can keep track.

People who have names I treat a bit differently: click the name and you'll be taken to their profile. Click the Invite to share genomes link, and then customize. These folks I address by name, and then paste in the text and send. If they are not accepting invitations to share genomes, I write them a note anyway. Maybe they will change their mind about that at some point. You can close their profile, and you'll be back on relfinder. It is a bit harder to keep track of those with names, but if everything is working well, you'll be warned that you can't send another invitation to share.

As people accept my invitations, I check them out and I've made a little text file with all the chromosomes listed to keep track of my matches. There might be a better way to do this, but it's working so far. I'll explain the parts of a sample entry below:

John Samplename(X): 65% down X [sample@email](Sample surname list)

  • The bar above John's name means he matches with the person above him. If there is no bar, I've not found another person who matches us yet. Sometimes I make a note about his match with the other person if necessary.
  • The (X) is all the chromosomes we match on; in this case only X. I list all the chromosome matches so I can scroll to the other matches with them easily.
  • 65% down X is how I describe the match. Add more words if necessary. If I get a group of matches, I label their email address 65% down X for instance. I put the matches in order down the chromosome, which makes it easier to spot groups. I test the possible group matches against one another before messaging them about the match.
  • I try to get email addresses for every matching person in every group of matches. The messaging system at 23&me is less than optimal. Be sure to set up a filter in your email though, so you don't miss any. As I get emails of people, I add them to that filtered group.
  • Some people list surnames on their profiles, some send them to you later if they know any, and I also link to their public trees, their gedmatch if they  have one, etc.
One note about testing matches against one another: first, this is done here: To quickly find the name you want to compare, type the first letter of the name and use the arrow keys to scroll up and down. You can alternate sides to compare yourself to one match, then that match to another person. It's quite interesting; play with it.

Once you get an accepted invitation, what do you do with it? 23&me doesn't make it obvious. If the person isn't sharing genomes, I respond with some more information, for instance about next steps in figuring out our common ancestor, and ask again about sharing genomes. This is really the basic step needed for progress.

If they have accepted sharing, you'll be able to find them on this page: Here you find all persons sharing genomes with you, and a link to their page. Right-click on their link and open in a new tab, and you can quickly message all members of a group. I make a generic message I can paste to all of them, such as:
Our match on Chromosome X

Same message to Person1, Person2, Person3:

Thanks for sharing, cousin. We all share the same segment on X. From your profile I see Suspicious Surname/ Interesting Locality which we may all share. My own Surname/Locality blah blah.

I notice that some of you match more closely with one another than me/some of you don't match with everyone in the group, even though you match with me.

Shall we take this to email?

Valorie, valories@email

My text file makes it easy to keep track of everyone, so I don't give out bad information, or confuse people. But I try to get everyone to email as soon as possible.

Now, GEDmatch. I think this site is essential, since it allows uploads of genome test data from 23&me, Ancestry and FTdna. So you can compare your genome no matter where people tested. This is only autosomal DNA, and the X and Y chromosomes are not included, sadly.

Also, you can upload your gedcom and compare that with others! This is a step I've not taken yet, as my gedcom is so old and small. But once I get it buffed up again, I will surely do this. So many people only have trees on Ancestry which are not available publicly. And their search is horrible, even if you get an invite. Even on Rootsweb, it is difficult to find a common ancestor. So GEDmatch! Even if you match only on X or Y with someone.

 So, 23&me users, what have I forgotten, or gotten wrong? Please feel free to complain about 23&me, or better yet, share your success stories in the comments. Taking these steps has made me feel that the hundred dollars spent is a bargain!

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At 11:00 PM, Blogger Valorie Zimmerman said...

Some of the site doesn't work the way I described, now. However, I found a post describing how to allow "Open Sharing" which makes it much more likely that your matches will contact you:

If you are using 23andme for genealogy, please do this!

Another think you can do is have a tree on MyHeritage/Geni, and you can also upload a GEDCOM to Gedmatch. is another site where you can do some analysis of your data and perhaps find some matches, although it's rather new.


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