15 May 2011

Triangulate to find more meaningful matches using both Family Tree DNA and 23andMe

Updated May 8, 2013 with new 23andMe website navigation and match figures:

The allure and potential of the latest generation of autosomal DNA testing is great for genealogists.  It instantly builds your family tree for you!  Uh, just joking.  But there are several real benefits of this type of DNA test:

  • it helps you confirm genealogical paper trails across ALL of your family lines (not just the paternal and maternal lines as yDNA and mtDNA tests do)
  • it helps you expand your family trees by finding "genetic cousins" and other relatives (for the sake of simplicity, I'll call these people Matches in this write-up)
  • it works especially well for the most recent five or so generations
  • both men and women can take the test
  • it only requires 6 pints of your blood (sorry, I couldn't resist.  No, the test doesn't involve blood, just spit)

Most of us who have taken Family Tree DNA's Family Finder test or 23andMe's DNA Relatives test have lots of Matches to work with.  Those Matches are typically lots of potential cousins that you may be able to connect with and share information in order to help each other both validate and expand your family trees.  So what's the problem?

Strangely, it's often that there are lots of Matches to work with.

I've tested with both companies, and I have 302 Family Finder Matches and 1,021 DNA Relatives Matches!  So, what's a decent strategy for narrowing this large number down to something more manageable?  Or at least for prioritizing the list so as to not get buyer's remorse after lots of non-responses and even more unfound connections.  And how can both company's test results be used together to find more Meaningful Matches?

Here's what I've done...