Finding your long lost relatives through 23andMe

The direct-to-consumer personal genomics company 23andme is open beta testing a new service called Relative Finder. Based on the number and extent of shared segments, Relative Finder aims to detect long lost relatives.

The interface is clean and simple. Users are presented with two view options, a sortable “List View” and a graphical “Discovery View”.

The List View shows a Predicted Relationship (ie 2nd cousin), a Relationship Range, select Personal Details of the possible match (ie country of origin, maternal and paternal haplogroups, geographical ancestry), %DNA shared, and number of segments shared. The list can be filtered to include only users who have chose to share their genome or to show new connections in the last seven or thirty days. This last feature is certain to be handy as the service moves out of beta testing.

The Discovery View distills this information into a graphical representation showing the number of possible matches a different geneological distances: cousins, 2nd cousins, and so on.

Contacting matches is a snap. Messaging is first handled through 23andme’s site and feels a bit like on-line dating. Once connected, you can choose to share your data should you see fit.
Currently, only users who have opted in to the system can be contacted (in the Detailed View above these are users with cartoon bubbles over their heads).

To date, Relative Finder has connected me to 128 possible relatives, most distant. Last night I got a 2nd and 3rd cousin possible match. Unfortunately, neither of these individuals are participating in the program so their identity remains unknown.

I am my own model organism: getting genotyped (Part I)

I’ve given in.

I’ve decided to take a closer look at my own genome through 23AndMe’s genotyping service.

Just some cursory observations so far. The experience from a consumer standpoint is stellar. In fact, it’s a bit like the Apple Experience: a great website, fast service, interesting packaging, and the anticipation of what’s inside.

I’ve been fortunate enough to experience first hand the transformation of DNA sequencing and array technology. Dating back to my time as a grad student sequencing alleles on long-running double-loaded polyacrylamide gels, reading the sequence on actual film (RainX is your friend), to the rise of institutional sequencing facilities, to full-scale genome sequencing and annotation projects.

And after almost 20 years working with molecular biology, genetics, and genomics data, I think I’m most amazed that the technology for personal discovery is starting to arrive. And what’s more, that it’s arriving in a little box sent through the mail.

After all these years of staring at the sequence of other species, it’s going to be interesting to take a peek at my own.