23andme in Genealogy Research

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23andme was founded in April 2006 and is based in Sunnyvale, California. They sell autosomal DNA kits with two options. Ancestry + Traits (base price $99) and Health + Ancestry (base price $149). The latter includes everything in the former plus health reports. They also sell memberships for $29 which grant access to additional features. The main benefit of the membership for genealogists is that it allows you to see your top 5000 matches whereas without it, you can only see your top 1500.


For genealogists, the biggest strength of 23andme is their chromosome browser. Unlike the chromosome browswers provided by FtDNA and MyHeritage, 23andme will show you if you share X-DNA with a match. This can help you more easily determine how you are related to a genetic match by eliminating several lines. Also unlike FtDNA and MyHeritage, 23andme's chromosome browswer allows you to compare any two of your matches against each other whereas both FtDNA and MyHeritage only allows you to compare them against yourself. This means you can more easily determine if two matches are closely related such as mother-son, siblings, or second cousins. The difference can be important as you try to use DNA to prove your descent from a common ancestor.


Another advantage to 23andme is they predict your paternal and maternal haplogroups meaning they predict what branches of the human family your Y-DNA and mtDNA belong in. They do not provide match lists for these parts of your DNA but you can check to see if your haplogroups match another test taker when trying to find the common ancestor.


23andme has a unique tree feature. Instead of uploading your tree, 23andme compares your DNA against everyone else in the database and tries to construct a genetic tree for you and predicts where your top matches belong in your tree. The initial tree is usually not perfect, but is fairly accurate. This generated tree can be adjusted meaning more people can be added and people can be moved from there predicted locations to their true ones. The tree is more of a tool to show how you are related to your other matches than a traditional pedigree.


The biggest disadvantage to 23andme is their tree feature only lets you add up to 300 relatives and only 5 other people can have permission to view it at a time. They do have a place where you can provide a link to your tree somewhere else like Ancestry or MyHeritage, but most test takers have not included one or they have linked to their FamilySearch tree, not realizing only they can see it because they are living and therefore marked as private in FamilyTree.