Navigating Unexpected Relationships

You spit. You waited. And now, you may have discovered something you didn’t anticipate. 23andMe results can reveal new information that has the potential to shift how we think about ourselves and our families.

You're not in this alone.

We hope you’ll find the information on this page helpful as you begin to process your results.

If you are in crisis and require immediate help, contact the Crisis Text Line for free, 24/7, confidential support: Text HOME to 741741

Did you find someone unexpected in your DNA Relatives list?

Someone missing from your tree.

Surprises can bring about a range of emotions, and all of these feelings are equally valid responses.

The people on your DNA Relatives list are your genetic relatives -- people with whom you share a percentage of DNA. These can be either your maternal or paternal relatives (from your mom or your dad’s side of your family tree).

How accurate are 23andMe's relationships predictions?

We’re extremely confident in the percentage of DNA you share with each of your DNA Relatives.

However, the predicted relationship we indicate in your results is just that -- an educated guess based on the information we have. The reason we aren’t always 100% confident in the relationship prediction is that some relationships involve similar percentages of shared DNA. For example, it’s sometimes difficult for us to distinguish between a first cousin and a first cousin, once removed.

Knowledge of your personal family history, conducting additional research, or perhaps starting a dialogue with your relatives may help you determine these relationships with greater certainty. Then, you can edit your relationship in the DNA Relatives feature based on your own knowledge.

23andMe predicted your...

A parent typically shares 50% of their DNA with you.

Different ways that person may be related to you, based on percentage of DNA shared:

  • Parent
  • Child
  • Other relationships may be correct depending on your family history, though this is unlikely.

Our DNA Relatives algorithm predicts relationships based on the length, number of segments, and the percentage of DNA shared. These shared DNA segments are detected by comparing SNP genotypes. When 2 individuals share 1 segment of at least 9 centiMorgans (cM) or 2 or more segments, each at least 5cM, we can be confident that the identical DNA came from a common ancestor.

Not seeing someone who you expected to see on your DNA Relatives list?

Someone missing from your tree.

Remember, DNA Relatives is optional. 23andMe customers can opt in or out of the feature at any time from within their account settings.

  • No customer is required to opt in to DNA Relatives. If you're not seeing a known close relative in your DNA Relatives results, they may not be opted in to the feature.
  • Your DNA Relatives results are based solely on your DNA. Self-reported information that you may have told us, like family names and locations do not impact your results.
  • Remember, people who you may consider as family but you are not genetically related to, like in-laws, step-parents, etc, will not show up in your list of relatives.

Hear from other customers who've learned about unexpected relatives.

Each year, our customers learn surprising things about their families from their DNA test results. Their reactions span every emotion.

“I was in total shock for three days, and I am still dealing with the aftershocks.”
“So my mother found out she was adopted at 87 years of age…”
“I had no idea at all. You don’t expect that and you feel like [you] missed something or left somebody behind.”
Read all customer stories

Still have questions? You're not the only one.

You can directly message any relative appearing in your DNA Relatives results from within your own account! To message a relative you can click on their name from your DNA Relatives (or Your Connections) page and select “Send a message” from the Compare page.

Messaging through your 23andMe account (rather than a personal email, phone number, etc) will help to ensure your privacy is protected. Only the following information is shared with your matches when participating in DNA Relatives: your display name, your profile sex, the percentage of DNA you share with each match, (optional) self-reported information like surnames or ancestor birthplaces, (optional) year of birth, and (optional) ancestry results.

Messaging in DNA Relatives has helped other 23andMe customers to learn more about their relationship with each other, as well as infer information about non-23andMe relatives.

23andMe is only able to confirm your relationship with other 23andMe customers, so if you have relatives who are willing to be tested, their results may help you to confirm or learn more about an unexpected relationship result.

This option may not be the first step many customers wish to take. Speaking to your immediate family may be the quickest/most direct way to get the answers you are looking for.

We understand that finding unexpected close relatives, or learning close relatives don't share a genetic relationship with you, can cause a range of emotions. While 23andMe does not currently employ a therapist who is able to speak with you about your results, we do encourage you to get the help you need to process these results.

We have listed different resources you may find helpful at the bottom of this page. You are also able to visit our Forums where customers who have received unexpected results can discuss their experiences. You can also ask your primary care physician for a recommendation for a local therapist.

Yes, we are very confident in our ability to detect close relative relationships. If you are concerned about your results, we encourage you to contact our Customer Care team.

Additional Resources

The world of genetic testing is relatively new, so resources related to the discovery of unexpected relatives via DNA results are somewhat limited. We recognize and understand the possible impact 23andMe’s genetic results can have on a person and their family, and we’re committed to providing support. 23andMe is not affiliated or otherwise associated with any of the resources below. You may find it helpful to reach out to the following organizations for additional support:

Watershed DNA
Psychology Today