23andMe adds a DNA-based Family Tree feature
23andMe, the DNA testing company that has received investment from Google and GlaxoSmithKline, has added a new string to its genetic bow. Looking to catch up with Ancestry and its excellent family tree-building tools, 23andMe has gone one step further and created an automatically-building family tree.
When it finds DNA matches in the system, they’ll automatically be added to your tree, taking the hard work out of documenting your roots. You can still add your own links manually, mind, and your tree will be anonymous unless you actively opt into the service’s 23andMe DNA relatives tool.
This is quite a big deal, given one of the main criticisms I had of 23andMe in my review was the lack of family tree-building tools. These seemed to have been removed at some undefined time in the past: still referenced in the FAQ, but with no trace in the service’s submenus.
But it’s important not to overstate the importance of the self-building part. It may be an obvious point, but just to make it explicit: DNA tree building is only possible if you have close DNA matches using the same service. Having logged into my account just now, I have none, so the tree building is all down to me. Earlier this year, 23andMe had reportedly sold around nine million kits, which is literally a fraction of the world’s seven billion-strong population (and some way behind Ancestry’s reported 14 million DNA-sharing users, too). The chances are that you’ll be doing a lot of manual adding, at least in the short term.
But then, that’s probably 23andMe’s main purpose here. If you want your tree to autofill, then you’ll need your family to buy kits too, and if they want to build their tree, then they’ll need their family to join the party. As marketing plans go, it’s hard to fault.
And as a service, 23andMe is excellent, too. As I wrote in my review at the time, it “stands alone as the most comprehensive DNA testing kit you can buy.” Now it’s brought back family tree building, that’s truer than ever.
Buy now from 23andMe