Can You Upload DNA To 23andMe? (A Workaround)

If you’ve DNA tested with another company (e.g. Ancestry), wouldn’t it be great if you could upload your DNA results to 23andMe? Unfortunately, 23andMe doesn’t accept DNA transfers.

However, there is a workaround that lets you research hundreds of DNA relatives who tested with 23andMe. The trick is to upload your DNA to the GEDmatch website for free.

This article explains how to view and research your DNA relatives who transferred to GEDmatch from 23andMe. But first, we’ll look at whether 23andMe will ever accept uploads from other companies.

Can You Upload DNA To 23andMe From Other Companies?

23andMe only processes its own DNA kits and does not accept raw DNA from other companies. In the past, 23andMe allowed DNA transfers from Ancestry for a short period. However, there is no indication that they will repeat this offer in the future.

Ancestry, the other giant in consumer DNA testing, also does not accept uploads based on rival DNA kits. However, several other companies accept raw DNA results from elsewhere. The list includes:

  • MyHeritage
  • FamilyTreeDNA
  • Living DNA
  • GEDmatch

Will 23andMe Ever Accept DNA Transfers Again?

In 2018, 23andMe announced that they would accept raw DNA results based on AncestryDNA kits. This was a very short time-based offer that coincided with DNA Day in April of that year. They did not repeat this offer in subsequent years.

But It’s reasonable to wonder if 23andMe might open their gates again. Is there any competitive advantage for 23andMe to take transfers?

The company is very focused on its health reports. One way of boosting sales would be to accept DNA imports and provide access to genetic relatives and ethnicity estimates for free. The income boost would come from placing a premium on upgrading to health reports.

But I’ve been watching 23andMe’s corporate direction, particularly since they went public in 2021. I don’t see any signs that they’ll open up to DNA transfers.

Using GEDmatch To Assess If 23andMe Could Help Your Research

GEDmatch does not sell its own consumer DNA kits. The website accepts raw DNA results from the other testing companies. The GEDmatch website offers a range of free tools that lets you view and research your DNA matches in their database.

The crucial point is that, unlike the other companies that accept uploads, with GEDmatch you can usually tell where the DNA kit came from.

To explain that with a specific example, I have uploaded my raw Ancestry DNA results to MyHeritage where I see several thousand DNA relatives. I cannot tell with the MyHeritage DNA relatives whether they tested with MyHeritage or whether they uploaded their raw DNA results from elsewhere.

Identifying 23andMe Kits In The GEDmatch Source Display

However, I have also uploaded my Ancestry results to GEDmatch. Here is a condensed excerpt of one of the displays of my DNA relatives there.

I’ve highlighted the right-most column, which is labeled as “Source”. This shows you where the DNA kit came from.

The reason you see three kits from 23andMe is that I’ve sorted the GEDmatch display by this Source column. Of course, the 23andMe sourced uploads are conveniently at the top in alphabetical order.

I see plenty of Ancestry in the next big grouping. In fact, I have more matches labeled as Ancestry than any other grouping. That isn’t a surprise, given that the Utah company has the biggest database of consumer DNA kits compared to all its rivals.

Identifying “older” 23andMe kits

Unfortunately, the identification of 23andMe kits isn’t as simple as using the source label “23andMe”. There is one more convention which you’ll need to take into account.

The GEDmatch website went through a major overhaul a few years ago when they migrated all their customer DNA kits from one database to another. Suffice it to say that you should also include sources with these labels as being from 23andMe:

  • “Migration – V2 – M”
  • “Migration – V3 – M”
  • “Migration – V4 – M”

The Correct Source Identification Isn’t Guaranteed

GEDmatch doesn’t automatically detect the source of the kits provided.

When customers upload DNA results to the website, they are provided with a drop-down list of source companies to choose from. The picture below shows only some of the long list of options.

I haven’t heard of many of the providers. However, 23andMe is right there at the top, and Ancestry and FTDNA (FamilyTreeDNA) are up there close to it.

When I examine my own display, I see a few labels that aren’t on the prepared list. These include:

  • 23andMe V3
  • 23andMe V5
  • 123andMe

Don’t worry about custom labels and mistakes

What’s going on there? GEDmatch gives the option to type in your own label if you don’t see what you want in the list. It’s free format, so people can enter what they want.

It’s clear that some GEDmatch users like to label their 23andMe kit with the version of the test chip. That’s what we’re seeing with V3 and V5 (the latter is the most recent chip). Okay, that makes sense.

But what about “123andMe”? That must be a typo. I’m not sure why someone decided to type in the entry when 23andMe is top of the dropdown list. But we have to allow for human error.

I’ll point out that there is only one relative in my display that has a source of “23andMe V3”, while three chose to enter “23andMe V5”. And there is one solitary example with the label of “123andMe”.

So these deviations aren’t frequent enough to worry about.

How Many 23andMe Relatives Could You Match With On GEDmatch (For Free)?

I can’t predict what you’ll get, but I’ll give you my own numbers.

It’s very easy to copy the GEDmatch DNA relatives display into a spreadsheet and use spreadsheet filtering to analyze the results.

When I review my top one thousand DNA matches on GEDmatch, 217 have identified their source as 23andMe. That includes the older labels I mentioned in a previous section.

When I do a similar filtering exercise for Ancestry (include the older label of “Migration – F2 – A”), I find it represents 605 of my top 1000 DNA matches on GEDmatch.

Why are Ancestry matches more frequent?

That’s interesting because although Ancestry has a larger DNA database than 23andMe, it’s not three times bigger! Why does it seem like a higher percentage of Ancestry customers are transferring their DNA to GEDmatch?

One reason may be due to Ancestry’s lack of extra DNA features. Ancestry doesn’t provide a chromosome browser, and it doesn’t allow you to download your DNA matches. 23andMe provides both such features.

Another reason may be that Ancestry customers are more interested in genealogy and further DNA matches than the average 23andMe customer. After all, 23andMe has a heavy emphasis on its health and traits reports.

Multiply By Three For Free

I restricted my view of DNA relatives to the top one thousand. On the free tier, I can bump that up to three thousand in total. So, I’d be looking at about 600+ DNA matches sourced from 23andMe.

Bear in mind that the higher the number of matches, the lower the centimorgans are included.

For me, my top thousand matches go down to about 10 cM. I tend not to look at more distant relatives than that. But you may find you have many more DNA matches on GEDmatch than I have.

Paid Tier

If you want to go big and pay ten bucks for the paid tier, you’ll get to see a total of 100K matches (if you have that many).

If the percentages stay the same, that could give you about 200K 23andMe matches. However, I don’t have that many matches on GEDmatch. And realistically, once you get into the large volume, most will be down in the low centimorgan range.

Over two hundred extra 23andMe matches above 10 cM is a good result for me

Personally, I’ve tested with both Ancestry and 23andMe. As an adopted adult, I was interested in fishing in every pond.

But 23andMe kits aren’t cheap, and I was never interested in the health and traits reports.

If I hadn’t tested with 23andMe, I’d be happy with getting over 200 extra 23andMe matches above 10 cM for free.

How To Transfer Your DNA Results To GEDmatch

We have tutorials that walk you through transferring your DNA results. We have both pictorial guides and video walkthroughs.

Broadly speaking, there are two main steps. First, you download your raw DNA results from where you tested. Then you upload that file to GEDmatch.

You’ve probably tested with Ancestry, so check our article on how to download your Ancestry DNA. You can follow the steps in the article, or watch the embedded video.

Once you have your DNA file, you can follow the steps in our guide to upload your DNA to GEDmatch.

I do advise that you read up on the security and privacy policies of any website to which you upload your DNA. The article gives you lots of background to help you make up your mind.

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