Discovering More With 23andMe

siaka23andMe results don’t just help you learn important information about your health, your results can also uncover information about yourself that you never knew, as Siaka, one of the actors who worked on our commercial learned.

We wrote about 23andMe airing its first commercials, which featured actors that had each tested. The scripts were also written around their own results. Like a lot of customers Siaka did indeed learn some valuable health information, but in an interview after the shoot he talked about how the results gave him a broader understanding not just about himself but about all mankind.

Take a look at what he said.

His experience is a lot like many customers, who have tested with 23andMe and learned something unexpected. Whether it’s African American customers discovering their European ancestry, or other customers learning that their own ancestry isn’t so black and white, the experience of peering into your DNA can sometimes be profound.


23andMe provides genetic testing services for informational purposes; your results may or may not help you to search for or identify relatives or family members.

  • nthn

    How many blacks and whites have native american ancestry?

  • Oldnavy

    23andme mentions concerning ancestry composition that “The results reflect where your ancestors lived 500 years ago, before the advent of intercontinental travel.”
    I am therefore confused about how valuable these results are for more recent ancestry ties. Any help in understanding this apparent conflict is greatly appreciated.

    • ScottH

      Oldnavy, We look at several aspects of your ancestry. We are looking back at your “deep ancestry” when we report back on your maternal and paternal lines. These are the maternal and paternal haplogroups that go back many, many generations. They tell you about your ancestry before the age of modern migration and give you insight into your ancestral origins. Sometimes these designations can be very helpful, but sometimes they are so broad that they do not give you a lot of information beyond simply knowing that you’re from Europe for instance.
      But we also report on your more recent ancestry. The ancestry composition tool uses 22 reference populations to report back detail about the mix of ancestry you have from both of your parents. In addition we show you your DNA Relatives. These are 23andMe customers who share a common ancestor with you. Sometimes they are close relatives, some times quite distant. But those matches can give you great insight into your ancestry by looking at how they may cluster geographically or whether they are on the maternal or paternal lines.

  • lois

    how come I am getting queries from persons claiming to be 2nd and 3rd cousins when I haven’t received my ancestry composition from 23andme? I’m totally confused as to how these assumptions are arrived at? and what will I be told and how do I interpret it?

    • ScottH

      Lois, I’m not sure why you are receiving queries, but I can address your other questions. You asked about how we find relative matches. The simple answer is that we do this by comparing your DNA with other 23andMe members. When two people share identical segments of DNA, this indicates that they share a recent common ancestor. The length and number of these identical segments is used to predict the relationship between relatives. Here is a link for more detail about the science behind how this is done.

  • lois

    I’m trying to figure out, also, how do I create a new thread on the community page? I can’t find a place to insert my question?

    My question is, however: how close is 2.05% to a true blood relationship? or something. I have no idea what this information means or how to interpret it….Help!

    • ScottH

      Lois, I’ll answer your first question first. If you are talking about a match in DNA Relative in which you and your match share 2.05 percent DNA. That’s pretty close. That’s in the range of a 2nd or 3rd cousin, meaning you share a common ancestor two or three generations back.
      In answer to your first question, to start a thread you must first navigate to the “Groups” page where threads are organized around broader topics (in your case ancestry or DNA Relative). All threads need to belong to a group. To start a new thread, navigate to the group page that best corresponds to the subject of your post and click the Start a new thread button. Enter a thread subject and the content of your post in the text box that appears between the group overview and the list of threads, and click Post to share your thread.

      • lois

        I’d forgotten about the message I’d posted above as I’m scrambling all over the site trying to figure out what info is where and what it means (yes, I continue to be frustrated….probably a ‘family trait’) ScottH maybe you can answer this: Under DNA Relatives, the list of surnames….the breakdown includes ‘count’ and ‘enrichment’; what do these numbers represent and is the number for ‘enrichment’ a percentage…as in 98?
        Thank you; I’ll try to remember to come to this location for your answer; (after so many many years of searching, doors slammed in my face…figuratively, records and lips sealed, even now I’m skeptical as to the reliability of any info/data)

        • ScottH

          Lois, When you go to the Surname list if you hold your mouse over the column heading it will give you a short description of what each heading means. That said, “count” is simply what it says: a total count of all the number of people matched with a specific surname. “Enrichment” shows you how common a specific name is in your matches compared to the entire 23andMe database. This is meant to give you a sense of proportion. For instance you may have a lot of matches that have the surname “Smith” a very common name. This might not be very helpful in your sleuthing of your ancestry. But if you look at the enrichment column this will give you a sense of how common a particular surname is among your matches, compared to the entire 23andMe database. We include this Enrichment value because without taking the baseline frequency of a name into account, most lists are dominated by common surnames. You can think of this list as ranked by “uniqueness” among your matches.

  • Regan

    Hi there. I just got my results and have two questions for you. First, my sister and I have the same parents. Would her ancestry percentages be identical to mine? Second, of the 43% Northern European I received, only 7% is Irish. Does that mean the other 36% Northern European is definitely not Irish or that it just didn’t read as definitively Irish? Thanks!

    • ScottH

      No, although your ancestry compositions will be very similar there will likely be some slight differences. This is because of recombination. So in general you can say you inherit about half of your DNA from your mother and half from your father, each child will likely get a slight different percentage from each. There may indeed be some segments that a sibling has that you don’t and vice versa. On the second question the answer is no. The assignment of Northern European could include Irish ancestry, but we are not able identify more specifically the geographic origins of that ancestry so it’s a much broader designation that include other countries of in Northern Europe.

  • Carl Devine

    The Ancestry Composition Map is providing erroneous information. It shows me as 64.8-percent Ashkenazi Jewish. However, under advanced tools, my declared Ashkenazi is only 0.5-percent. Not declared Ashkenazi is 27.9-percent, which is realistic. Thanks for helping with this anomaly. Carl Devine

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