Finding Cousins at 23andme

There are a number of posts on this blog which can help you navigate 23andme (click here) but as always in life, things change. Now there are many new features and ways of finding information that are not covered by those articles. Plus the tests sold during the holiday sales are coming in and I have lots of new cousins.

The Family & Friends page – red arrows show what to click to get to the DNA relatives list from either top menu or this page

The key to using your 23andme test for finding new cousins is to navigate to the DNA relatives page and then click on each name of interest to go to the page with information about that match. The contents of that page are well covered in my previous blog post (click here)

Most importantly, you can get to the version of the chromosome browser that shows the actual segment locations and sizes from that match page. Here is why that is important.

When a new tester matched me, my dad, and several distant cousins for 33cM on a specific location on the X, I knew she was related via the Fatland farm family from Halsnøy island, Hordaland, Norway, because I had previously identified the ancestral source of that segment from the 1700s (click here to read about that). It took me a little over an an hour using Ancestry’s possible parent clues to build her a tree and find her descent from that family. It helped that I knew what I was looking for and only one of her Norwegian lines was from the Hordaland region.

23andme does not do tree matching for you like Ancestry does, but it does provide a chromosome browser. This means that sometimes you can tell from the segment that a cousin matches you on who the likely common ancestor is. When you keep a large master spreadsheet of all your matches from all the companies, this can sometimes be quick and easy (click here to read about using spreadsheets for DNA ).

I beseech all of you 23andme testers to add a link to your online tree to help the rest of us. Click here for the blog post that explains how to do that. Like the description and other information that your matches see on your profile, you have to use the “Manage Preferences” button on the top right of the relatives list page to enter or update that information.

The relative list is sorted by how close the relationship is. You can change the ordering to the most recent testers, which is useful once you have worked through the best matches a few times and only want to see your newest relatives. I find that recent testers are more likely to respond to messages.


Speaking of messages, I find that system annoying. Be sure to set your preferences in settings in the drop down menu under your picture on the top right to get emails when a message is sent to you. That way you can click on the reply to this message in the email rather than hunting for it on the site. The place that these messages are found is on the match page to that person in the right hand column. [UPDATE 23 JUN 2019: Messages are no longer shown on the match page. Click on the little bell icon on the very top right of the page next to your image and name then click on the blue See all messages to get to your messages. Apparently only accepted invitaions show in the drop down there.]

Looking at the list of relatives on the DNA relatives page there are some nice filtering features in the right hand column. The search function works great for finding a specific person or surname but did you know that in Notifications you can see every match that has come in since you last logged in? Plus the new requests might be useful but since I usually click to messages or requests from the email I never have any of those.

The list of birthplaces for my Dad’s DNA relatives

The ancestor birthplaces is really fun. If you click on a country it filters your list to people reporting at least one grandparent from that country. Plus it gives you the option of filtering further by the number of grandparents born there. Maybe that part is not that useful but the numbers are interesting.

The surname list has the top 20 most frequent surnames among your matches. You can check the boxes next to them to filter your results by those names. This is not very helpful for those of us whose ancestors did not have fixed surnames until fairly recently or if you match many common surnames like Johnson or Miller.

If you have a parent tested, being able to select by Mom or Dad’s side is great. Warning, if you only have one parent tested, people who match both sides will only appear on the side of the tested parent. My brother disappears when I select Not father’s side since only Dad is tested!

One more warning, don’t forget to click the blue reset when you are done with one of these filters! Else your relative list may be much shorter than expected.

This article is for you my new cousins, Nichole and Renee, have fun!


8 thoughts on “Finding Cousins at 23andme

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  1. Very timely, thank you! Added my WikiTree tree link.

    Where does the tree link show up on 23andMe for my matches? Apparently, none of my matches have a tree link or I can’t find the link.

    Thanks — Randy

    • Good work Randy!
      The tree information is currently shown below the common matches and above the image of the chromosomes on the match page. Sadly, most people have not added one.

  2. My least go too site because of no trees, but on the plus side just located my daughters father this past Saturday thanks too a first cousin match!! Please Please attach a tree!

    • Sandra,
      That could just be because your maternal cousins have not tested there. Try uploading your DNA results to more sites: Gedmatch, MyHeritage, Family Tree DNA. You might also test at Ancestry which does not take uploads from eslewhere.

  3. Thank you for this update! I’m new at this, but I’ve been frustrated with the 4+year-old articles and youtube videos mentioned in the facebook DNA newbie sites. Question–at the top of this blog, where it says you have 11 close relatives, mine says one, but I don’t seem to have relatives with more than 2.5% shared DNA on 23andMe. Is the picture (and number of relatives) just random, or is there a secret close relative that I can’t see?

    • The secret is to talk your close family into testing! I find that my 2nd cousins are the most useful for figuring out where a new match fits in. My dad, aunts and first cousins are all great to have too

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