23andMe at the Genealogy Jamboree

With assorted schwag in hand, our team of elite 23andMers headed to Burbank last weekend to pass out a few free kits, some t-shirts and mingle with some of the most committed genealogists on the planet.

Mike Macpherson ready to answer a few ancestry questions.

This year’s Southern California Genealogy Jamboree drew more than 1,700 people over three days. There are just a handful of other events around the country that attract such a large number of people who are so knowledgeable and focused on learning about their ancestry. It’s not the first time we’ve been there, but it was the first time we brought a posse.While there, we were lucky to learn a little about what these ancestry experts wanted out of 23andMe’s tools. In turn, we gave them a sneak peek of a host of new ancestry features we’ll be launching in a test format in the coming weeks. Mike Macpherson, one of our scientists, was on hand to answer questions. Mike helped develop this turbo charged package of new ancestry features we’ll soon be launching in a beta test. He was also there to participate on a panel discussion during the event put on by the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG). With him on the panel were 23andMe Ancestry Ambassador CeCe Moore, whose blog is a go-to source for interesting stories and information about the use of genetics in genealogy, as well as Bennett Greenspan from Family Tree DNA, and Katherine Borges, the co-founder and director of ISOGG.During the three days in Burbank, our team found that even among these experts at hunting down family histories – people who’ve focused for decades on assembling the lost stories of their ancestry – there were some folks who were new to the power of genetic genealogy.

Phyllis Kinzle, one of the lucky winners of a free kit at the Jamboree, said, “It’s a good time to start this new adventure!”

With Mike to help answer some of those folks’ questions were creative manager Melissa del Sol, public relations manager Catherine Afarian, and our social media guru Rebecca Wolpinsky. During the conference the team, along with CeCe, hung out and filled in the attendees about what DNA could do to help them fill in the gaps in their ancestry hunts.They let folks know that now with more than 150,000 genotyped customers; we have the world’s largest database for ancestry. With a full range of ancestry tools that take advantage of autosomal DNA as well as yDNA and mitochondrial DNA, 23andMe can give results not just from maternal and paternal lines but from all of your ancestors. And we do all of that, along with providing health results, for one price.
  • Zephyr

    As a genealogist of over 25 years and an autosomal kit purchaser from Family Tree DNA and 23 and me I can only pray that the new ‘features’ make 23 and me as useful for genealogy as ftdna! I have been sorely dissappointed by the fact that you cannot view even the matching data for a match you must hope and pray that they are a. still alive and b.still using the 23 and me site. I have NEVER not received a reply back from an ftdna match, but 23 and me is 50/50 on ever hearing anything and as the only way you can contact someone is through the site itself, i have to wonder if my matches are people whose kit subscriptions lapsed and who have no idea that they can supposedly access their data again now (although some things I’m reading seem to indicate that after x amount of time with no subscription renewal accounts ‘went south’ whatever that means? I fear it means I may never hear from the person who purportedly matches me at a second cousin level, but who I definitely do not know! 🙁 So for now until 23 and me adds gedcom file ability, direct email contact ability (to cover instances where accounts may no longer be utilized-ftdna’s alternate emails also help with this here-two is always better than one, or in 23’s case NONE), and an ability to at least know which chromosome segment/numbers matches occur on so one can possibly figure out the relationship based on other matches with no input from the match, I think ftdna is your best bet for genealogy work…23 is great for the medical side, which is what brought it about..for that the others don’t even touch it, but if genealogy is your focus, until improvements are here, I would only ever consider ftdna. And for those of you even considering ancestry’s new kit-you’re nuts! If a company hoards your dna and won’t even release your raw results to you (23 and ftdna both do this) then I question their true intent (I mean hey, they have a history of marred integrity back from inception!)
    My two cents….

  • Beryl Norris

    Reading all the “exciting” things to come in the future but what will they do for someone searching for their father.

  • Catherine

    I am amazed at what 23&me can do and how they are helping many people. I gave my adopted daughter a kit in hopes she’d find her birth family. She and her child need it for medical reasons…Nothing yet, but we’re waiting…with anticipation. This is the best idea I’ve ever heard about! THANKS!

  • christopher hines

    My results only said I am 100% European. I thought it would be more specific , such as I had similar DNA as English, Irish (which is all I know I decend from)maybe French. When I watched the PBS show with Lewis Gates it said his white ancestors were Irish & Dutch–why was that so specific? Robert Downey Jr. said he was 100% European, when he is .25% Jewish.I don’t understand why Barbara Walters is 92% middle eastern & only 8% european? Was more extensive DNA testing done on B.W. then Robert Downey Jr.?
    Why when they have African Americans are they able to pinpoint the area their DNA is from?

  • ansarac

    Of which I was aware, haplotyping was far too broad for researching surnames. If I may use your service to narrow down my results, please explain how.

  • Pat C.

    I agree with Christopher, the results should be more specific. I am also “100% European”, but I would like to know what areas of Europe are represented in my DNA, Scandinavia, Ireland, France? Surely that can be determined and identified.

    • ScottH

      Pat, Thank you for your comments. We actually are in the process of updating our ancestry features. Those features will include a new version of our Ancestry Painting tool. This will give people a much finer resolution of their ancestry. We’ll be drawing results from 20 different world regions to create better details of a person’s genetic ancestry. In the case of people with European ancestry, we’ll be able to break down the areas within Europe that contribute to their genetic ancestry.

  • PatAnn

    PBS/Louis Gates series was a bit misleading and could have been more specific as to their sources/resources. Bibliography, limitations/scope of DNA testing,… I failed to ask more questions of 23andme.

  • Rodger

    I did an autosome STR test and it showed where I have substantial genetic ancestry with the Belgae-Celtic tribes of southern England by matching me with people of Belgium and not the Netherlands.If I had Germanic ancestry it would have matched the Netherlands but it only matched Belgium and nowhere else instead.My family origins are from southwest England as are many famlies from the southern USE with English ancestry so it makes sense that my dna is consistant with a populaion from that local.Its amazing how they can match that ven thouhg my family came to America like 300 years ago.With dna test and geneology and surname studies and historical knowlegde I was able t narrow down where my family originf are in England from 300 years ago,when they came to America to Viriginia and into Tenn.

  • Rodger

    to respond to Christopher Hines queatin as to why they can pinpoint where in Africa,African-Americans come from on the PBS show.You can also do the exact same thing with European ancestry.Because on the PBS show with Mr Gates they test the Y-dna of the African AMericans so with when you teste European Y-dna you can pinpoint not only where in EUroe your dna came from but alot more specifially.If you have Celtic y-dnas they can pinpoint it to Ireland or Scotland or Wales or France or whereever.My Y-dna was pinpointed as a Celtic type from Strathclyde,Scotland in the southwest of Scotland and it mathces the Scotch-Irish ancestry of my father.If you have Irish Celtic y-dna it shows if ti came from the North of Ireland or the south or the west or if it originated in Britian then migrated t Ireland later.They can do that for ALL Y-dna,so even with White-Europeans your y-dna or mtdna can be pinpointed to exactly where your direct line originated from and where ir ended up and it’s the most specific results of any other dna test there is.They can tell more info about your y-dna or your mtdna than any other type of dna test that is possible it can definatley show exactly where in Europe your direct lines come from.EVen for Scandinavian ancestry it can show if you come from Denmark and Northern Germany or if you come fromNorway or Iceland.It can narrow it down that much and more.It can show if your y-dna is if Saxon or Norman type if from England also.

  • DLWasler

    Can you please comment on this article “Scientists demonstrate how hackers could unlock your genetic secrets” publish 1/17/2013

    URL provided below


    Thank you

    • ScottH

      We did post a response on our Facebook page and in our community. Here’s the link if you’re interested.