Making Connections with Relative Finder

Not all the discoveries made on 23andMe are quite as profound as Neil Schwartzman finding his half-sister and mother, but even when 23andMe’s Relative Finder links distant cousins together those connections can still be electric.

Gerald Lopez, a customer who found a fourth or fifth cousin and information about his mixed ancestry, said it was like discovering “history that’s not written in history books.”

23andMe’s Relative Finder uses genetic data instead of archived records to identify family relationships. Where written paper records fail, genetic information can sometimes fill in the gaps. Pieces of DNA are passed down from generation-to-generation, so that our genetic data is our own repository of information about our ancestry. Comparing any two people’s DNA can also determine whether they are related.

Customers have identified more than 700 previously unknown family relationships discovered through Relative Finder. They’ve found fifth and fourth cousins like Gerald and a few, like Neil, have even found parents and siblings. Among our more than 100,000 customers, Relative Finder has identified 82,000 relationships that are either 4th cousins or closer.

Recently we updated Relative Finder to make it easier to use and search. Now users can show genealogical information — surnames, family locations, etc. This makes it easier for users to sort through potential matches. We also updated Relative Finder so that users can record notes about their matches, and confirm relationships. And the information available is rapidly increasing.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a genealogist, you might be surprised how fulfilling it can be to discover a common connection. You can remain anonymous if you choose, and only information in your profile that you designate as “visible to all 23andMe members” will be shown to your Relative Finder matches, so you can share as little or as much as you like. And if you need help tracing a connection, many experienced Relative Finder “sleuths” are available in the community to offer tips and encouragement.

If there’s something that binds all 23andMe users together, it is a healthy curiosity about themselves and their DNA. So let Relative Finder broaden your horizons and let your DNA give you more to relate to!

If you’ve already discovered something interesting about your family through Relative Finder, do tell. We’re interested in hearing your stories — simply send them along to stories@23andme.com.

Read more 23andMe customer stories >>


  • Anondover

    Please do not encourage anonymous sharing. 23andMe needs to remove anonymous sharing from the list of Relative Finder contact options. Anonymous sharing has no utility for those using 23andMe to research genealogy and, moreover, the feature reduces the value of the service.

    • http://23andme.com Shwu

      Hi Anondover,

      Thanks for your feedback. We are always evaluating ways to improve the service while balancing different needs, such as concerns for privacy and utility for making meaningful genealogical connections. Please be sure to send your comments through the “Send Feedback” link located at the bottom of each Relative Finder page so that your feedback can be properly documented!

  • David Sutherland

    I found a 2nd to 3rd cousin using Relative Finder and send them a message but they never responded.

    Please reconsider the “one one message” request system as I didn’t realize this was the case when I sent the my contact request and didn’t put my best argument forward for contacting me.

    As a result the user has never contacted me — perhaps missed my message completely — and I am left with the disgusting knowledge the 23andme has found an unknown close relative but refuses to help me get in contact with them.

  • Neil Schwartzman

    Let’s update that ‘half’ to full-sister. As of today, we are full siblings, as 23AM found my father, too. Pretty cool beans.

  • Belinda

    Yes, I have an apparent cousin by way of tracking our family names, but we don’t even show up in either persons relative finder. What or why would this happen? We are pretty excited about our find, but would love to see more!
    Thank you.
    Belinda

    P.S. Congratulations Neil Schwartzman!

  • Laura Klure

    Responding to Belinda’s comment about an “apparent cousin,” according to genealogy, not showing shared DNA — this has happened to me also.

    There are a couple of very reasonable ways in which this could happen. In the sorting of DNA that occurs in every generation, in the formation of every embryo, the assortment that one person receives could miss some of the shared DNA. This possibility increases with every generation, which is why 23&Me notes that American Indian ancestry might not show up in your DNA if the Native American ancestor was 5 generations back. So, a 4th, 5th or 6th cousin might not share any DNA at all with you — at least not in the size of sample tested by 23&Me.

    The other main reason why you might not share DNA with a “close” or “distant” cousin could be that there is an error in the genealogical tree. Perhaps you’ve simply identified a relative wrongly. Or perhaps someone had a FATHER other than the person included in your genealogy. Sometimes families have hidded the fact that someone was adopted. Any of these could result in a “cousin” not sharing DNA with you.

    We generally trust that the methods 23&Me uses are accurate, well performed, and without major errors — but, even in the best of labs, errors can happen. If you know that a truly close relative is not shown to share DNA with you, then you should contact the company and ask them to make sure there was no error in your test results.

    Regards, and happy Cousin hunting!

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