Friday, September 13, 2013

How to get your 23AndMe Matches to Share Genomes

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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.


  1. I do not use 23andMe's standard greeting. Mine is:

    ***Genealogy Inquiry and Request***
    Hello. We share a small amount of identical DNA. Would you be interested in comparing genomes and corresponding to explore common ancestral lines? Thank you.
    --Jody Lutter
    GedMatch M002842

    If the match shares more DNA than usual (greater than 0.5%), I mention this in the introductory letter.

    I stopped including my email address in the original letter because people were neglecting to share genomes and instead emailing me directly. I have almost 20 family members tested, so it is really a waste of time to pontificate where the relation may be when I could check a DNA cousin's genome against my multiple family members and significantly narrow down the possible branches that hold the common ancestor.

    1. Hi Jody, thanks so much for sharing your email text and for the suggestion about not including your email in the text. That makes a lot of sense!

  2. Thanks for sharing, I've been searching for over 35 year's. I even have my O.B.C. No luck, as when I was born, not much was on my b.c. I have two, names of my birth parents, the beautiful people who adopted this baby (myself) who was born with a severe club foot. The g.p. said birth Mom concealed her pregnancy, due to the 3 other kid's. At my birth, she was 23 year's old. Birth Fad 31. They both are probably gone. I do have half siblings, however she took her secret to her grave. I'm lost, however anymore I don't care
    I have my family, a wonderful husband, a son& a beautiful Grand daughter. Her loss
    Good luck to you. I'll never know. Wishing you the best of everything
    Blessing's, Maureen