Friday, March 11, 2011

23andMe Proposes Improvements to Relative Finder

23andMe is addressing many of our concerns with the functionality of Relative Finder and proposing some very welcome improvements. These changes to Relative Finder will enable the active participants to streamline their experience, while minimizing the frustration of seeing pages and pages of unanswered invitations when a user logs into their account.  These proposed improvements include:

1. Adding fields for genealogically relevant information such as historical family locations, family haplogroups and notes (no GEDCOMS yet).
2, Actively encouraging users to fill out their profile information on their first visit to Relative Finder.
3. Due to the fact that only about 4% of users have made their profile public, they will keep the option to participate anonymously for now, but will prominently place the option to forego the anonymous invitation in the settings dialogue.
4. Those users who fill out their profile will be prominently displayed on the first pages of the List View results.  All close relatives (up to 3rd cousins) will still appear upfront. The rest (those without profiles filled out) will be pushed to the later pages.
5. Profile SmartSearch will search through these matches and automatically highlight any matching profile information.
6. Adding the ability to search and filter matches.
7. Increasing the speed of searches.

23andMe is hoping to improve the Relative Finder experience for those of us who are very active, without scaring off those who may still be on the fence about sharing their genomes. With this in mind, they are looking at ways to better educate their customers in regard to Relative Finder and the privacy concerns associated with it.

This is only meant to be a quick summary since I wanted to share this good news as soon as possible. I will have more specific thoughts on these proposed changes in a later post. I would like to hear your thoughts and suggestions as well. So, please feel free to comment.


  1. Thanks for the update Cece! I cannot follow all the forum threads anymore, it is too time consuming. I am glad to hear that 23andme is listening. I find the sharing of (partial) genomes overrated, especially if one has not tested one's parents, and I believe the aggressive requests for it scare people off sharing anything. (I regularly get requests from strangers to share at extended level even though my profile states clearly I will share with anyone at basic level which is much more than most people will do.) I am more interested in sharing information especially geographical information so Ancestry Finder has been the biggest improvement for me so far. If they could find more ways for people to share information anonymously that would be great.

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  3. Thank you 23andMe for the enhancements and CeCe for bringing them to our attention.

    Two of my biggest Ancestor Finder frustrations are:
    1. not being able to contact matches who have all four grandparents born in the same country that is not a country from which I have known ancestors; and
    2. not being able to contact matches who are in clusters that are formed by members who share essentially the same overlapping segments. I have one case in which I match twenty or more members on segments that begin at essentially the same point and end at essentially the same point. The only member of this group publicly identified knows almost nothing about her ancestors. Also included are individuals who have all 4 grandparents born in Greece and all 4 in Macedonia--areas in which I have yet to document ancestors.

  4. My concern is about whether country of origin of grandparents accurately reflects ancestral homes. I am a Mennonite. My ancestors frequently migrated in search of religious freedom. My paternal grandparents were born in Russia and Prussia, but I know that both families originated in northern Holland. Similarly, my maternal grandparents were both born in the U.S., but I know that both their families originate in Switzerland. Since marrying outside the church was strongly discouraged, I can be reasonably certain that all my ancestors came from these two ancestral homes, but Relative Finder doesn't provide a way to take this into account.

  5. Sorry, I did not mean to start a debate about Ancestry Finder. It may not be perfect but it sure is better than nothing! The more data we have, the more reliable the information will be. Outliers should be taken with a large pinch of salt.

  6. Thanks for letting us know, CeCe. My wish for RF would be the option to allow matches to see if I matched any of their other matches. It would need all three matching people to select the option before something could be shown. But that might help us in focusing research on the more probable family lines for common ancestry.

  7. Thank you for the update. I would like to see AF expanded to include additional generations.

    My grandparents were born in the US, but at least 2 sets of gr-grandparents were not. Showing all 4 grandparents born in the US does not provide a full picture of the genealogy lines I am trying to trace (as I have no Colonial or Native American ancestors).

    I would greatly appreciate being able to filter out those individuals in my RF listing who have no interest in genealogy and/or those who I have sent invites to that have not responded.

    I also agree with one of the previous posters who suggested a better mechanism for identifying matches that are linked together (i.e. the possibility that 3 of us share a common ancestor). It's difficult to determine links between matches unless you use a third party project such as gedmatch.

    Any improvements to the RF match contact and search process would be greatly appreciated.

  8. Great comments! I see value in all of your suggestions and will pass them along to 23andMe.

  9. I would like to echo Amy's statement. It would be helpful if the AF listed great-grandparents instead of grandparents. Some members are quite young with grandparents born early 20th century, more than likely US. Some members are in their 80ies, their great-grandparents may have been born pre-1850 with a possibility of being from outside of US. My grandparents were all born US, but among my great-grandparents is one potato famine Irish.

  10. Lipstick on a pig. Do any of these changes really matter if they don't address the real reason RF is not working? Nothing in those changes will help the response rate. Those that join 23andme look at their results once or twice and are on their way. Those that sign up for the genealogy aspect maybe stay a little longer but ultimately get frustrated and leave too. If you find somebody in your RF list that you would like to share info with (whether they have no surnames or 50 surnames) it is doubtful they will respond. The message simply goes to that persons 23andme inbox (not to their email address) and they never are back to read it and if they do they don't notice it, those are the default settings.

    Using the profile search I found a cousin that shares many of my distant ancestor surnames. They have a generic username so I don't know who it is but I know we are related. By counting the number of surnames in their profile (41 names) I can see they are in my RF list. So they are obviously interested in family history to some extent. Since they didn't have their name in their profile I couldn't send a sharing request from their profile page. So after jumping through hoops I sent an invite and basic share request using RF and a message to their profile page. The invite and message were sent back in November after they had been a member less than a month, do you think I got a response? No. I'm sure the message is in their inbox at 23andme collecting dust maybe with a couple of other people's messages and was never even read.

    Of course people who maybe do read our invites see that we are listed as predicted distant cousins and won't respond either. Over 90% of my cousins are listed as distant. I have colonial American ancestry. I don't see anything in the proposed changes that addresses that problem, although it is said they are working on it. All in all none of it really matters anymore. I've moved on from RF as you will eventually too. You might find success with one or two people (I have too) but eventually you'll get tired of the lack of response (no declines just pending forever) from even those that list surnames in their profile. I respect the privacy they give people and hope that continues, but it is too one-sided to make RF a usable tool.

  11. Benoni and Amy,
    I have encouraged 23andMe to enable contact with Ancestry Finder matches. This would make it possible to communicate this important information. Hopefully, this will be possible.
    I understand your frustration, however I will not give up on Relative Finder or autosomal DNA testing as a whole. I have already been working with it for well over a year and see its great potential for the future. This is just the beginning.

  12. Thanks for the update on the updates.