Friday, September 13, 2013

How to get your 23AndMe Matches to Share Genomes

Photo courtesy of

I read somewhere that you are only allowed to send 3 introduction messages to each match on 23AndMe. I am not sure if this is true or not. I could not find it in the 23AndMe Help Files. Regardless of whether it is true or not, I still try to do two things up front:

  1. Get your matches to share genomes!
  2. Get your matches to share their personal email address with you for further correspondence

One of the biggest complaints customers have about their 23AndMe experience is that usually over half of their 1000+ matches do not respond. There could be tons of reasons for this:

  • They only took the test to learn about their own personal health risk factors
  • They don't understand what all this "genome sharing" is all about
  • They worry about privacy and wonder if "genome sharing" would be violating this
  • They are overwhelmed by the number of requests they are receiving in their inbox from matches
  • They simply don't have the time to work with their matches or to respond to the emails and requests

Keeping all of these factors in mind, I have composed an email that you can send to your matches that addresses most of these issues and might increase your chance of receiving a response and get them to share their genomes with you. It lets them know that their data will remain private, you will do all the work, they don't have to do anything if they don't want to; and it reminds them that you are probably cousins and that your #1 goal is to find a connection and build out your family tree.

You can include this email text in your “introduction” message. Make sure you request to share genomes in your first introduction message.

Dear {enter match name here}

23AndMe has indicated that we are an autosomal DNA match to each other, and therefore cousins of some nature.  If you would accept my request to share genomes, we can see how we are related through our DNA.  You don’t have to do anything after you have accepted the genome share request if you do not want. I am able to validate my match to you, and therefore determine kinship, by triangulating with other known matches

None of your data is made public or shared with anyone by me without your explicit permission.

I hope you will agree to sharing your genomes and working with me on finding a common ancestor between us. I have enclosed my personal email address for your convenience.

I look forward to hearing from you!

{Enter your Name here}

{Enter your email address here}

Good luck!

How do you get your matches to respond? Do you send a customized email to your matches or do you just send the standard email message that 23andMe has composed for you?

Please feel free to share your suggestions in the comments below.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Using 3rd Party Tools to work with my Family Finder DNA Results

DNAGedcom Welcome Page

In order to determine if 3 people have a common ancestor, you need to have the following two requirements:

1. All 3 of them must match each other on the same part of the same chromosome
2. All 3 of them must be in common with each other

I often cannot get my In Common Filter to work on the ftDNA site using the procedure I outlined in my last post. So I switched to using a 3rd party tool designed by Rob Warthen called DNAGEDcom.

In order to use this tool, you must first have all of your match's relationship status assigned. You do so by clicking on the orange "assign" button next to everyone's names.

I assign everyone as “distant cousin.”

In order to determine if everyone is set to a relationship status, I log into my account, change the filter to “Show All Matches” and then I click to download all matches to a CSV file.

Download Matches to CSV

I open the downloaded CSV file in excel. Then I sort by “Known Relationship.” And if there are any names with a blank known relationship, I go back into my Family Finder match list and search for them and then I change their relationship to “distant cousin.” I then download again to make sure they all “took.”

Once you have all your matches assigned, then you can go to the website

And register for an account.

Then click the Family Tree DNA button at the top.

Enter your kit id and password and then click the “Get Data” button. It will probably 15-20 minutes to download it all.

A zip file will be downloaded to your computer. Unzip the file and it will contain 3 files – match list, ICW list, and chromosome browser list.

Open each file and save as an excel file. Now you can check to see if a match is in common with other matches easily. You can also start analyzing your Chromosome data. It is all downloaded for you nicely and you didn't have to download it 5 people at a time!

Many Thanks to Rob for developing this wonderful tool~!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Using the In Common With (ICW) feature for Analyzing Family Finder DNA Results

In order to determine if 3 people have a common ancestor, you need to have the following two requirements:

1. All 3 of them must match each other on the same part of the same chromosome
2. All 3 of them must be in common with each other

I usually get the most responses from my ftDNA Family Finder matches shortly after I've assigned all of my matches a known relationship. You know, that little orange button that says "assign" beside all of your match names?

Assign Known Relationship Button

Clicking on the "Assign" button brings up a list of relationships you can choose from. If you know for sure what the relationship is between you and your match, then select it from the list. For example, I have had my mom and grandparents tested, so I have set theirs accordingly. But for everyone else, I set to "Distant Cousin." I set this for everyone right off the bat so that I can use the In Common With feature on ftDNA's website. 

Relationship Choices

Using the In Common With Feature: 

To use this feature, go back up to the top and filter by "In Common With." 

In Common With Filter

Then you can select the person you want to run an In Common With Report for. All of the people that you have assigned a known relationship for will appear in the drop down list. It is alphabetized by last name. 

When you select a match to run an In Common With report on, a list of all of their matches will be displayed. This feature is very useful, for example, when you have an actual known relative who has taken the test, like a parent or a brother, and you want to see who all matches to them (or just the opposite, you can use the next option down, which is "Not in common with." 

This feature is also important because being in common with someone is one of the two requirements for finding a common ancestor. The second requirement is sharing matching DNA on the same segment of the same chromosome. 

A last word of caution though. I often have trouble getting my In Common With feature to work properly. Oftentimes I run it for someone and the results come up empty. I have started using a 3rd party tool called DNAGedcom. This tool allows me to download ALL of my In Common With data at one time. The only downsides: I have to set a relationship to every single match which can be time consuming and I have to re-download each time I get new matches. 

Please check out my other posts: 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Using the Chromosome Browser in ftDNA

Here is a quick tutorial on how to use the Chromosome Browser in ftDNA to determine how you match someone on your Family Finder test.

Determining how you match someone is important when you are trying to figure out if you share a common ancestor with someone.

In order to determine if you share a common ancestor with someone, you should first be deemed a match with them from ftDNA. Once you are designated as a match, then you can use the Chromosome Browser to determine HOW you match them.

Go into your ftDNA account, click on the Family Finder button, then click on the chromosome browser link.

Chromosome Browser Screenshot ftDNA

Once you are in the chromosome browser, click the drop down box and then select “name.”

Chromosome Browser Screenshot 2 ftDNA

Then type in the name you are looking for into the box and click the “Find” button. (Don’t hit “enter” or it won’t work). Click on the little box beside their name to add them to the compare list. 
In this example, I am currently logged in to my cousin's account. If I want to see how she compares to me, then I can simply type my name into the Find box. 

Chromosome Browser Screenshot 3 ftDNA

You will see your match light up in the chromosomes on the right. Then click the “Download to excel (CSV Format)” Link at the top to export to excel. Open the downloaded CSV file in Excel to see the chromosomes that you match to that person on. 

You are probably wondering how or why this tool is important. Let's say for example you start emailing with one of your matches - we will call you Person "A" and your match Person "B" - and they ask you if you are a match to a 3rd person "C." If you (Person "A") match to Person "B" and Person "B" matches to Person "C" and you (Person "A") also match to Person "C," then the three of you might have a common ancestor. This is called the "Triangulation" process. 

That all 3 people are a match to each other is not the only requirement though. All 3 people must match each other on the same segment of the same chromosome of DNA. And the only way to know this for sure is if all 3 people share their chromosome data with each other - Chromosome data that is downloaded from their chromosome browser. 

So really, it's not just one name that will be loaded into the chromosome browser - but two. 

So next time one of your matches sends you a strange email asking you if you are a match to a 3rd person (or 4th, 5th, and so on), don't delete it. Just follow the instructions I provided above and send the data to them and I promise it will help you get through your DNA results and find those elusive ancestors! 

Kelly Wheaton has published some excellent tutorials on genetic genealogy. Please give her site a look. I have included the link to Tutorial # 9: working with your matches