My family members asked me to write a 23andme tutorial, so here it is. Let me know what else I should put here.
The three things most people like best at 23andme are learning about their health issues (currently disabled for new kits because of the FDA ruling), their ancestral places of origin, and finding DNA cousins (my term for people who share DNA that thus, must be related, however distantly). There is a wealth of other fun information available like how much Neanderthal DNA you have in you, but this post will mainly just cover those first three areas.
When you log in to 23andme you will see a page something like this.
You can click on Home in that top bar from any page on the site to return to this page. The ancestry composition box shown mid-page may not yet be ready for your sample if your results are just in.
To edit your profile, click on your name or photo on the far top right to get a menu with that option. If you have any messages the envelope at the top right will get a green background and show the number of messages you have as in the example below. Click on it to read them. I advise switching to email if you start to communicate with someone regularly as there are no tools to search the inbox unless you use chrome and the 23+ addon.
A while back I did a blog post explaining how to navigate the new 23andme (click here to read that). A number of my complaints in that post are now fixed. Most importantly, the ability to search for people to compare on the DNA Relatives > DNA page is there plus a table view which gives the numbers.
I cannot agree with the genetic genealogists who are abandoning 23andme due to the problems with its change over to their new web site, as well as the perceived lack of response to genetic genealogists. 23andme never made a secret of the fact that they are in this to research the genetics of various medical conditions. That is fine with me, as my extended family has many medical issues to look into, most, thankfully quite minor. They did make some nice tools for genealogists to attract more users into their database, but we have never been their primary concern.
While I do recommend Ancestry.com DNA testing for most new testers, many of my cousins want the medical information and so are willing to pay the extra for 23andme. It also has the best ancestry composition of the big three.
Personally though, my main reason for being patient and staying with 23andme is that I have found so many Norwegian and Norwegian-American cousins there (over 30) while only one or two at the other companies. Maybe we Scandinavians just have more genetic health issues. I also like the ability to compare cousins to each other and look at the ancestry composition by chromosome (although that is currently gone on the new site).
While 23andme is changing over to their new system, those of us with kits still on the old system have struggled to contact and share with our new matches. Initially we could not send shares to new matches so had to message them and ask them to send us a share. Thankfully that is fixed.
How do you use autosomal DNA testing to enhance your genealogical research without having to take a PhD level course? This is a question several of my cousins have asked me, so here is my attempt to answer.
- First of all, get as many relatives to test as you can. The more data you have, the easier it is to make useful comparisons and sort new DNA relatives into their related family lines. The closer family members shown in my chromosome map above are all cousins I convinced to test.
- Secondly, make sure you know how to use a spreadsheet: sorting, deleting rows, inserting columns; you only need to know the easy stuff.
- Third, check your understanding of how DNA works. Perhaps read my basics page – http://blog.kittycooper.com/2013/04/the-basics-at-23andme/ – and follow up with whichever lessons, books or videos appeal to you among those that I suggest or that you find listed in the ISOGG wiki – http://www.isogg.org/wiki/Autosomal_DNA
Also lots of beginner questions are answered in the FAQ I keep for the DNA-NEWBIES mailing list on yahoo; a copy is on this blog – http://blog.kittycooper.com/dna-testing/newbie-faq/ – so check there when something is confusing.
- Fourth, bookmark a page with an explanation of all the acronyms – this is a good one: http://www.isogg.org/wiki/Abbreviations – a key term is cM. You do not need to understand the definition of a centimorgan (cM), hardly anyone does; just accept that it is the best measure of the importance of a DNA match, the larger the better.
Now to the practical application of all this, using shared DNA segment data to find relatives, preferably those 3rd and 4th cousins that your family no longer knows of. Click on success stories on this blog to read about some of the cousins I have found with DNA.
When people are shown as matches to you or your relatives, the testing company will make a guess as to how closely related they are. Beyond 3rd cousins, it is not possible for them to make an accurate estimate because of the random nature of DNA inheritance.
Recently I convinced several cousins to test their DNA at 23andme since the price is now only $99 – 23andme is pushing to get one million subscribers. The idea is that by having a large enough database with subscribers that answer their health and trait surveys, correlations can be found with the genes responsible. 23andme has already contributed greatly to the current knowledge of DNA using this technique. So I feel particularly good about being a part of that. Click here for the list of correlations that they have so far.
What they do is not a complete genome sequencing, just the markers that are most likely to be different from one person to the next. Remember we share about 98.5% of our genome with chimpanzees and 99.9% with other humans. These tests use a microchip array that actually tests about .o2% of your genome.