Saturday, February 14, 2015

Adventures in genetic genealogy: my progress so far

It's been about a month since I gave up waiting and started "making something happen" on 23andme. I have 983 "DNA Relatives" there, and Gedmatch shows me my top 1000 matches. I've messaged all of the 23andme matches, with mixed results.

First, only about one-third of the cousins have a name or profile that I can see on 23andme. Those people I have messaged by name, and if they have surnames and/or localities listed, I often mention those if they sound interesting or familiar. Many people have nothing listed in their profile but a name. Those folks without a name can be messaged, but it has to be generic. A few of those nameless people have accepted contact, and some "sharing", which is what 23andme calls comparing genomes.

Of course sharing genomes is the whole reason I'm doing this, so it has been a lot of work just to get to starting line. For those who are not interested in doing this work to get matches, my advice is: use FTDNA or Ancestry. 23andme does not make it easy. Even when you have contact information and can use email, finding the common ancestor is work; although more fun than writing endless messages on a crappy message system.

After one month, there are still 203 outgoing invitations, and perhaps 500 messages to nameless persons still sitting in their 23andme inboxes. I have 203 people sharing with me; 15 of those are not matches, which happens when one person administers a group of kits and allows sharing on all of them. Realistically, I expect another 10 to 20 more sharing matches over the next year. On the upside, that is 200 more cousins!

Now the bad news. Perhaps 35 of those 200 are on gedmatch; and most of them already were there before I found them. I've talked only 5 or so people into uploading there. Of course I need to make another push and re-message *all* my sharing matches, whether they are in a shared-segment group or not. And even being on gedmatch is only the first step to finding that common ancestor.

I focused at first on those shared-segment groups because it seemed obvious to me that they would *want* to get onto gedmatch (and hopefully wikitree), but that doesn't seem to be the case. And really, all of my 23andme matches are part of a shared-segment group, even if there are no matches with us on gedmatch, which is highly unlikely. So if I want to play the numbers, I'm going to have to write to all those singletons, and those whom I've not messaged for a month.

After all, when I first sent in my kit, after I spent some time setting up a profile (only to see my tree disappear), it was nearly a year before I checked in again and started figuring out how to use the site. I assume that most people are about the same, and have no clue 1. how or why they should set up a profile and make it public, 2. where they can get and send messages, 3. why and how they should compare genomes, and 4. why they should care at all. Much less know what the next steps might be.

It is too bad that 23andme don't do any of the education of their users, but they seem content to get their money and then leave them alone. Maybe that makes business sense, because the only way they make money on people is when they buy more kits. Ignorance on the part of their customers perhaps makes them the most money?

Whatever. They have given me some matches, and some tools. I need to make the best of what I have. Cousins, cousins, and more cousins! On to Wikitree, research, and finding those common ancestors.

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