Monday, March 5, 2018

DNA Resources at DNA Painter Website

DNA Painter is a very cool website with a couple of different tools that can be used by people who have tested their DNA. Thank you to Jonny Perl who has put together these wonderful tools! In fact, he just won the RootsTech DNA Innovation Contest. See fellow geneablogger, Jill Ball, interview him at her YouTube channel.

To use the DNA Painter feature, testers have to have results from a company that provides a chromosome browser (FamilyTreeDNA, 23andMe, MyHeritage) or have uploaded their AncestryDNA results to the free The goal of using DNA Painter is to know from which ancestor a particular segment came from. Then, when an unknown DNA match approaches me wondering how we are related, I can look at the chromosome(s) where we match and narrow down which ancestral line I should be looking at to find our common ancestor.

Having known second and third cousins in your match lists at these DNA websites is very helpful for this project.

This is the home page of DNA Painter, showing an example of seven (of 23) chromosomes and how the user "mapped" his chromosomes to different ancestors, using the tools at the website and data from one of the above-mentioned websites. Look at all those names and colors!

The following screenshot shows 19 of my 23 chromosomes. Sadly, I have many fewer names and colors. The key in the lower right hand corner is hard to read:
Pale blue: Frances Adelaide McAlpin (my paternal great-grandmother)
Blue: Charles McAlpin Pyle, Sr. (my paternal grandfather, and son of Frances Adelaide)
Green: Lowell Townsend Copeland (my maternal grandfather)

The several small pieces of blue appear because I have several second cousins on my paternal grandfather's side (Pyle-McAlpin) who have tested. I might match one cousin on chromosomes 2, 11, and 15, and another cousin on chromosomes 1, 3, and 19; the color shows where we match, not necessarily the entire segment that I inherited from my paternal grandfather.

The light blue comes from match to a McAlpin second cousin 1x removed and a third cousin. This DNA came from my great-grandmother to me through my grandfather, Charles McAlpin Pyle, but the light blue shows that it came from his mother, Frances Adelaide, rather than from his father, James Tolman Pyle. The green segments come from a first cousin of my mother's.

If you decide you want to try this, be sure to first watch Blaine Bettinger's video explaining it.

Because I have two full siblings, visual phasing helps me get a lot further with chromosome painting, but it takes a lot longer to do the analysis (see DNA ~ Visual Phasing to read about my use of this technique). I still need more second cousins who have tested at AncestryDNA (which does not have a chromosome browser) to upload their raw data to GEDmatch to help me paint my chromosomes and to complete my Visual Phasing analysis.


The other helpful tool at this website is the interactive version of the Shared cM Project (See Blaine Bettinger's The Genetic Genealogist for an explanation.) (Version 3.0 is the current one.) When you see that you match a certain number of centimorgans (cM) with a DNA match, you can enter that number in the box and see the list of possible relationships that you and your match might have.

AncestryDNA does tell you how many total cM you share with your matches and I have many matches there who match me at about 30 cM. Following is the list of relationship probabilities.

With the very good probability that I am a fifth or sixth or seventh cousin to these many matches, our common ancestor likely lived in the 18th century, and with three of my four grandparents having ancestors who lived in New England in the 18th century, it's quite a challenge to determine how we're related. Viewing these matches on a chromosome browser where I have identified which grandparent or great-grandparent I have gotten that DNA from (using the DNA Painter tool or the Visual Phasing strategy) helps narrow down which ancestral line I should be looking at.


  1. Thank you for going into such detail on this new tool. I've heard a lot about it but haven't yet tried it--looks like I need to set aside a block of time to concentrate on learning how it works and testing it on my DNA matches.

    1. Marian, yes, it's a neat website. I'm sharing this explanation here to encourage my known cousins who have tested at AncestryDNA (no chromosome browser) to upload to a website with a chromosome browser. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience. I started using DNAPainter a few weeks ago. I thought I would be able to fill in more segments than I did. But, I will keep working on it! It did "cause" me to contact more of my Ancestry matches and ask them to transfer to GEDMatch!

    1. Dana, I had the same thought - that I should be able to fill in more segments, but working with it made me realize that I need to figure out how to encourage my AncestryDNA matches to transfer to GEDmatch, same as you.
      Thanks for reading and commenting.

    2. Elizabeth, I did realize if I added my dad's and his brother's DNA, and now a maternal aunt who has tested, I'd at least be able to see what DNA is paternal and which is maternal! That would be a big help, too!

      You commented on my first ever genealogy presentation and asked for suggestions. I'd suggest starting with a smaller, local group, and just giving it a try! I have been a teacher, but I still get "stage fright" - but I didn't with this group. Both because I know some of them and I was really prepared. I am giving the talk again tonight to the same group, but the nighttime crowd. I will know the 2 leaders, but no one else. Anyway, I'm trying to decide "what's next?"

      Let me know if you decide to give it a try!

    3. Dana, I do have a local genealogy group that I may try speaking to. I think if I do it once, I'll be fine. I'm sure I'll share something about it when I do. Thanks for your support!

  3. Oh this is very interesting. I've heard a little about this but didn't understand the purpose. I took an Ancestry test years ago but decided to also test at 23andMe. My children and siblings also tested (great Christmas gifts!) so once we get all of the results in, it will be interesting to give DNA Painter a whirl.

    1. Debi, all these DNA tools are fun, but connecting with DNA cousins takes time. I look forward to a blog post from you once you get into DNA!

    2. Just last week I connected with siblings - their great grandfather was the brother of my great grandmother. I have a LONG ways to go, though.