23andMe DNA Relatives Now More Accurate

Melanie Mohler

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Your 23andMe DNA Relatives list now has a new algorithm that promises greater accuracy for identifying your relationships to close relatives. Read more about this new update and how it will affect your DNA research at 23andMe.

IMPORTANT NOTE: As of October 2023, 23andMe has temporarily disabled some features within the DNA Relatives tool due to unauthorized access to several million 23andMe accounts. We don’t know how long these features will be unavailable.

If you’ve looked at your list of DNA Relatives on 23andMe, you may have been confused about how they labeled your close relatives. That’s because people often share roughly the same amount of DNA with a half-sibling, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, grandparent or grandchild. 23andMe couldn’t tell the difference between those genetic relationships based only on the amount of shared DNA.

Now 23andMe has updated the way they analyze those relationships, with the result that they have improved the labeling of close relatives such as aunts, uncles, half-siblings, nieces, nephews, grandparents, and grandchildren.

23andMe DNA Relatives: Look at Ages and Generations

23andMe is one of only two companies (the other being MyHeritage) that now takes the self-reported ages of those tested into account when suggesting possible relationships between you and a DNA match. 23andMe has a fascinating bit of software they call Bonsai that helps determine when two people are on the same, or different generations:

  • Same generation people will have an age difference of 0- 17.4 years
  • One generation different will have an age difference of 17.5- 39.3 years
  • Two generations different will have an age difference of 45.3- 67.7 years

Let’s be honest: that doesn’t always work. We all know families where there are exceptions to these age difference ranges. Where aunts or uncles were born just a few years before (or even after) children in the next generation. Where grandparents were either very young or old relative to their grandchildren. And so forth.

23andMe Update Goes Beyond Ages

Recently 23andMe announced an update to their Bonsai software called IDB011 that improves their ability to tell the difference between half siblings, avuncular (aunt/uncle), and grandparent relationships. The improvement comes from harnessing the power of fully-identical regions of DNA that are shared only between full siblings.

23andMe has written an excellent blog post (kudos to their science writer) about this development. I highly recommend you check it out. If you think you have any of these close relationships at 23andMe and you want to see if this algorithm improves their relationship predictions, you can request to have your data updated. Instructions for doing that are at the end of their article.

23andMe has really upped their game with this new algorithm!

Take a Tour of Your 23andMe Results

There’s lots more to learn about your DNA test results at 23andMe. Millions of people have tested there–they have the world’s 2nd-largest testing pool after AncestryDNA–but many don’t fully understood everything 23andMe is telling them. That can be disappointing and even frustrating!

That’s why we created a 23andMe Tour with Your DNA Guide.  It’s an online learning experience with a series of short, easy video tutorials and a colorful, interactive companion workbook. These exercises and activities will help you understand the DNA concepts and apply them to your own results.

When you finish your 23andMe Tour, you’ll FINALLY better understand what your DNA is telling you about your roots. You’ll be more confident in your results and be better able to explain them to others. You’ll even start to see how, over time, your 23andMe test results may continue to help you connect with unknown relatives and ancestors.

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