I recommended a couple of days ago that everyone contact their matches at 23andMe and make sure, at least, that they have your e-mail in light of the current situation with the FDA deadline occurring about mid-month. It looks like the genealogy data is safe for the time being, hopefully, but I didn’t know that when I started.
I wrote a nice message, including at least some genealogy information of course, and set out to do the same thing, and it has taken the better part of 4 days. No, I’m not kidding. I have 1030 matches. Let me say, this was not fun.
The most frustrating part for me is that it really doesn’t have to be this difficult. Think of it this way, all of this effort was just to get to the point where you start out with Family Tree DNA matches.
When you receive a match at Family Tree DNA, you can contact them without sending a request to match, and you already have their e-mail (the blue envelope box by the pink graphic, above,) and they already have yours. So the effort expended this past 4 days, just in case 23andMe’s messaging system (i.e. entire website) disappears in light of 23andMe’s FDA issues was spent to get to common ground with Family Tree DNA. Until I had 1030 people to contact, this difference didn’t seem terribly important, but believe me, it is, especially when those 1000 matches are whittled to one third that number by non-responses. At Family Tree DNA, 1000 matches are 1000 matches, not 1000 maybes. As you can see below, at 23andMe, many, many introduction requests go unanswered. Those would be reflected in all of the blank spaces above “male” and “female” where a name shows after an introduction has been accepted, shown below.
If you have already invited people to communicate with you at 23andMe, and they haven’t replied, you have to go through the extra steps of cancelling that first invitation and then re-inviting them. Public Matches? You have to invite them differently. So let’s look at it this way, every invitation is a minimum of 5 clicks, that’s if you don’t have to look at anything else in the process, and 1030 people times 5 clicks is 5150 clicks and then another hundred or so that I have to be uninvited to be invited, so maybe another 500 clicks. Public matches are another 5 clicks, so that’s another 1270 for a total of almost 7000 clicks. Let’s just say this system was never designed with the genealogist in mind, or even with anyone nearby with any genealogical experience. The more I use it, the more I dislike it.
There is, however, a good news aspect. I did contact everyone – which I should have done before, and now they have my e-mail if they want it, now or in the future. The bad news is that the response rate is just painfully low, which is why I got frustrated and stopped contacting people several months ago.
So let’s look at some raw data.
23andMe cuts off your matches at 1000, meaning your lowest matches fall off the list, unless you have outstanding invitations or communications. In that case, those people who would otherwise fall off the list if they weren’t sharing or had some form of communications are preserved. Hence, my 1030 matches instead of 1000.
Of those, 683 matches received first time new invitations, along with about 100 or so re-invitations and 254 Public Match invites. I had last invited new matches in August. It’s worth noting that I had not received any match invitations myself in this timeframe.
When someone receives an invitation, they can do one of 4 things.
- Ignore it and do nothing (this is what most do)
- Decline the invitation (they could simply opt out of genealogy matching instead)
- Accept the invitation for contact, but not share any DNA information
- Accept the invitation with DNA sharing
I only have 4 outright declines, but 14 people accepted the intro, but declined to share any DNA information. Clearly their goals are not connecting through genealogy/genetics.
I currently have 365 people sharing in total. Of those, 254 are public matches, meaning 111 others actually accepted a contact request and are sharing genomes, about 10%.
It appears that Public Matches are already sharing genomes with you, because there is no link to invite them to do so, but they aren’t. You have to invite public matches in an entirely different, and not obvious, way.
To invite a Public Match to share, click on their name, in this case the name is “My Uncle.”.
You will then see their profile page. At the top, you’ll see one of two messages. One is “Why can’t I invite this user to share genomes?” and the other is “Invite My Uncle to share genomes.” If you get the invite message. click and invite. If you get the “why can’t I” message, you’re dead in the water. By the way, the answer to why can’t I is because either you’ve invited them before and the invitation is still outstanding, you’re already sharing (duh) or they have blocked all share requests. Many Public Matches have blocked share requests.
In total, between public matches and those who have opted to accept a share invitation, I can actually send a message to about 35% of my matches, but only hear from or share with less than one third of those, or about 10%..
Of those 365, I’ve actually received a reply message from 91 people, or about 25%. I’m not counting another 10 people or so who are my close cousins, which would bring the total to just over 100. I communicated with them before they tested. In total, that also is about 10% of the total matches.
I sent a different, individual message to each of the people already sharing with me, depending on what we have previously discussed.
Of my 1030 matches, there are about 100 people, 10%, that actually communicated with me after hours and hours of inviting. This includes all communications, from 2009 through today, not just new contacts. This tells me that most people at 23andMe simply are not interested in genealogy and of those who are, most are just minimally interested..
Several people were very nice, but simply said that they didn’t know much about their family or were adopted. I tried to help these folks as much as I could.
I have to laugh, several said they had to ask their mother, and a few more said they had to ask their grandmother. My grandmothers were born in 1874 and 1888, respectively, but I digress…..
The 23and Me crowd is clearly not the normal genealogy crowd, but that’s exactly why we fish in different pools. Maybe we can recruit some new genealogists!
I did have some genealogy success. One woman has done genealogy for 54 years, and although we did not connect our family lines, working with her was a breath of fresh air. I also ran into two seasoned genetic genealogists that are well known in the community who provided information on their family members.
I do have a half dozen positive connections where we were able to identify a common ancestor or a common line, and a few more that I think would be positive if we could nail down their genealogy, based on location. In total, about 1% of the matches with a 2% potential with some added elbow grease. My very endogamous Brethren, Mennonite and Acadian ancestors continue to haunt me by providing me with connections that are traceable to those groups, but not to individual ancestors. That’s what happens when people intermarry for generations and just pass the same DNA around and around. But even so, knowing that much is helpful.
So, is it worth 4 days of time to communicate with 90 people you’re related to, and to try to communicate with another 900+ that you’re related to but who aren’t interested in genealogy? I guess that depends on your goals. For me, yes, because if this opportunity disappears (meaning if the 23andMe database disappears,) I now have as much information, for the most part, that could be retrieved out of this resource at this time. Hopefully it won’t disappear, but if it does, I’m ready, or as ready as I can get under the circumstances. Having said that, 23andMe made the process much more difficult than it had to be and the actual success rate of 1-2% is terribly low for the amount of effort expended.
And maybe, just maybe, since I’m apparently a glutton for punishment, now that I’m finished with this, I’ll go over to Family Tree DNA and send e-mails to the rest of my 490 matches there. That might be useful. At least I don’t have to send invitations first.
Or better yet, I could practice self-flagellation by going over to Ancestry where there is another message system and no genetic tools and try to contact my 5,950 cousins, only six of which are third cousins, none closer, and the rest of which are more distant. Nah…..I think I’d rather clean the bathroom….