April 6, 2021
Product Reviews

23andMe Family Tree: How To Use & Great Alternatives

Getting started with 23andMe's Family Tree? Start here to learn all the greatest tips and tricks, as well as great alternatives to explore!
By
Tomohiro Takano
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23andMe’s new Family Tree feature is an awesome tool for DNA newbies looking to create their first family tree and start tracing their genetic genealogy based on a DNA test kit. Based on your genetic testing, this family tree can automatically build a tree past your great grandparents. In this article, we cover all the basics you need to know about the 23andMe Family Tree feature including how to use it, how to edit the tree, and how to add your family’s medical history.


But, you should also know that 23andMe’s family tree software is a relatively new feature and lacks a lot of the great features that some other family tree services can provide. Be sure to check out some of these great alternatives below and see what they have to offer!

23andMe Family Tree Basics

With over 10 million users and the 2nd-largest DNA database in the world, 23andMe has an incredible ability to find your DNA matches and living family members. Until recently, 23andMe lacked a basic Family Tree feature that allowed you to see how all your DNA relatives connect together. But, in true 23andMe style, the company has recently added this function in the most beautiful and user-friendly way imaginable.


When you sign on and view your family tree, you will see a diagram like the one above. Here, you can see the basics of how your family tree works. The colorful circles indicate a person with whom you share a common ancestor. Colorful circles that have a small 23andMe logo attached to them indicate that that person has done DNA testing with 23andMe. This is a great feature because it can show you where all your DNA matches land in your family tree based on how many centimorgans of DNA data they share with you. 


Circles with a profile icon in the middle represent relatives that have not yet been identified by you or the 23andMe database. You can manually add information to these circles, if you have the basic information about them. Any grey circles on your tree represent partners of your relatives that you likely do not share any genetic material with. 


All of the predicted relationships in this tree are automatically assembled using the Family Tree algorithm (such as the half sister it automatically placed). The algorithm considers a person’s age and the amount of shared DNA they have in common with you to determine their place within your family tree. While the algorithm is extremely accurate at tree-building, there is a chance that it can place relatives in the wrong position (such as a second cousin that is actually a first). If you need to change any aspects of your family tree, check out the section below.

How to Use 23andMe’s Family Tree from a DNA Test

The Family Tree from 23andMe is relatively simple to use. First, start by selecting a relative on your tree. The icon will turn blue, and a box with pop up that shows the details of that particular relative. Here, you can edit the relationship, remove the person from your family tree, add basic biographical information, or add a relative under the point you selected. 


This is very useful for adding known relatives that have not taken a 23andMe test. This option allows you to add their name, date of birth, and a photo that you have to make your Family Tree more visually appealing. 


For all your relatives that have taken a 23andMe test (such as your half sibling), your remaining options are limited. Since this information is pulled from their public 23andMe profile, this information is input by them on their 23andMe dashboard. If you notice an error in this information, try contacting your relative directly to have them edit any discrepancies themselves. 


Using the 23andMe Family Health History Tree

One of the impressive and useful functions of the Family Tree is the Health History information that it can help you store. Understanding your family’s health history can be an important part of understanding your own health. Since families not only share genes, but also lifestyles, seeing what diseases your family members have suffered from can help you avoid those diseases and make healthy choices going forward.


On the bottom of your family tree is a bubble labeled “Health History.” Simply click this button to be taken to the Family Health History Tree. This tree, instead of storing basic biographical information about your relatives, stores information about their health history. It works in essentially the same user-friendly way that the normal family tree works. Click on each relative (such as a half brother) to add relevant health information to the tree. When adding a health condition, you will get a list of medical conditions and tell the program when your relative was diagnosed with this condition. Over time, this program can help you track all of the conditions that run in your family and may help your doctor better diagnose any problems you have in the future.


If you need further instruction on how to use the 23andMe Family Tree, check out the step by step process on 23andMe’s website.

Your Family Tree is Private

Unfortunately, your family tree information (both regular and health-related) cannot be shared with any other users. While this does help keep medical information from getting into the wrong hands, it does mean that every member of your family will have to manually enter this information about all of their relatives. Because of the sensitivity of health information, 23andMe also advises that you get the permission of relatives before you add their information to the Health History Tree.

Great Alternatives!

While the 23andMe Family Tree service is coming along nicely, there are many other testing companies out there that can help you out on your journey to discover your Family History:

AncestryDNA

Ancesty.com is the world leader in ancestry DNA testing. With over 18 million users in their database, it is almost guaranteed that you will find a DNA match. Plus, Ancestry has the world’s largest North American historical records database where you can find actual records and historical pictures of your family members. 

MyHeritage

MyHeritage, while it has a much smaller user-base, originated as a software for tracking and maintaining a family tree. They have the world’s largest European historical record base, and most of their users are from European countries. 23andMe customers can upload their raw data to search the database for free.

GEDmatch

GEDmatch is a free site that gives users access to professional-level genealogist tools. Though the site is not as beautiful as 23andMe, it can be much more powerful for tracking down distant family members like 2nd cousins and others who may have taken a DNA test. Plus, it has a chromosome browser, ethnicity estimates, a family finder, and other tools so you can directly compare your DNA to your first cousin or another relative. 

FamilySearch

While FamilySearch does not have any tools to connect your DNA data, they have the world’s largest repository of family tree information. Here, you may be able to find family connections using a more traditional methodology - by searching your family name! This is like a family finder for both close relatives and distant ones who have never heard of DNA testing.

FamilyTreeDNA

Though the name is misleading because the site does not actually offer a family tree builder, it does have one of the best mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and Y-DNA tests on the market. These tests can help you track your haplogroups back hundreds of generations, something an autosomal DNA test cannot do.

If you are interested in learning more about what you can do with those family finder tools, here is our recommendation article about how to find if you are related to anyone famous!


Tomohiro Takano
Tomohiro Takano
Co-Founder and CEO