My introduction to genetic genealogy was with 23andme.com. I ordered my kit, spit into a little tube, mailed it off and waited impatiently. It takes several weeks for the autosomal results to be complete. I anxiously sign in to start this fantastic journey! Setting up your profile is an integral part of being able to locate other relatives in your relative database. 23andme will automatically enter your ancestral locations, then you can edit this to add where you know your ancestors came from more specifically. If you know where your grandfather was born, enter that in your profile, etc. What I see as the most important part of your profile is the surname list. The larger your list, the more cousins are going to be able to find you when they search. For the surnames you are most seeking, put them in all caps, I’ll tell you why later.
You need to decide whether you are going to allow others to send you “share” requests, or if they must send you a message first and introduce themselves. A share must be accepted before you can compare inherited segments of a chromosome, it does not happen automatically. When I first started I chose the second option, but soon learned that it was not really threatening my privacy at all, and was actually much easier and quicker to get to what I wanted… to identify relatives.
23andme will not share your email address with other users. If you wish to contact a DNA match, you must send a message through the 23andme message option, then if you choose to share your email with them you can do so.
On the home page you will see your Ancestry Composition, options for viewing your DNA Relatives list, Message Boards, how to download your Raw Data, Video tutorials, Surveys and optional Family Tree.
Ancestry Composition tells you where your ancestors came from. It tells me that I am 58.4% British/Irish. Not a big surprise to me as I knew that my grandfather was born in England, and 3rd great grandfather in Ireland. But then it breaks down all the rest of the little segments down to <0.1% East Asian and Native American. Ending up with 99.6% Broadly European. Knowing what I know about my family, I think that of the three companies that I have tested with, 23andme is far more accurate than the others.
You can download your Raw Data for future use on other websites. I have used mine for health reports on promethease.com, gedmatch.com, Genome Mate data base, even transfer data to FamilyTreeDna.com at a reduced cost. I am sure there is more, but this has been my experience so far.
The Video Tutorials are good and will give you a basic introduction to understanding DNA and chromosome analysis. Personally, I think there could be a lot more added to it, and they may do so in the future.
Survey’s really don’t really seem to benefit us much in our search, but I am sure that they help in the long run, and they are kind of interesting.
When I first started with 23andme you could start a family tree here for others to view. I never did plan on doing much with it, since I already had an extensive tree on Ancestry. Before I could get to far with it they changed the format to “My Heritage” and there is an additional fee, comparable to a membership with Ancestry. Since I don’t use it, I can’t really give it a review.
What I would consider the heart of 23andme is the DNA Relative list and chromosome browsers. The list will give you the basic profile of each of your DNA matches. If you have set your profile to private, it will not give the name, otherwise you will see the name, the amount of chromosomes shared, projected relationship, and all the information you put in your profile plus your maternal haplogroup and paternal haplogroup if you are a male. It will give you the option to “Send an invitation” or “send a message.”
To search surnames you can enter them into the search box at the top of the Relatives list, or you can go to Ancestry Tools at the bottom of each page and select Profile Smart Search. This is why you want to put your most desired surnames in caps, because this search engine will zero in on those names and show you everybody in your list that also has those surnames (and others) in their profiles.
Once your invitation has been accepted you can start trying to locate your most recent common ancestor(MRCA). The first of course was comparing surnames, but now you get to dig a little deeper. Go to Family and Friends>Family Traits and it will take you to your first chromosome browser. The is a drop down list and you select yourself, then whoever you are comparing with. This can be turned around if you want to compare two of your DNA matches to each other instead of yourself. This one does only a one to one match and cannot be run on iPad as it needs flash player.
The other browser is found in the Ancestry Tools > Family Inheritance. It allows you to match yourself, or someone else to 5 different people. This is the best way to form family groups, by matching chromosomes overlaps.
To protect the privacy of my matches, I left the spaces open, but these are drop down menus.
All 22 chromosomes are listed in this graph, but not shown here. Each person that you have chosen above will be assigned a color. The green in this graph represents a close relative and the bar indicates how many segments he matches me. If you notice on chromosome 13, there is a long green line with a red line under it. This indicates an overlap in chromosome match, so most likely, green and red are also related. Take a look now at chromosome 8, I have a large match with green, and the small purple line on the left side of the chromosome shows a match to me, but since it does not overlap the green, it is not related to green. There is an area in between these two graphs not shown here because it has identifying information of my matches, but it also lists how many centimorgans (cM), or the size of the match.
There are other fun things in the Ancestry Tools list mentioned earlier. These tools are things that are in the process of development and could be improved or eliminated at any time, so take advantage of them when you can. I have had fun with the DNA medley. They look at your genotype and create a unique melody. Just a fun thing to do in between serious searches.
All of this, and I haven’t even mentioned the message boards. There is just about every topic that you could imagine available for your scientific quest for roots. I hope that this has helped you or sparked your interest in genetic genealogy. 23andme has become the largest DNA testing company with over one million people tested already! All the tools in the world are only as good the amount of people available for comparison, and this one has it!