Everyone is talking about DNA Painter, a tool that helps you find connections between your DNA matches. I finally decided to see what it was all about. I believe I am addicted.
How do you use this nifty utility? You enter your match’s chromosome data into into the “painter” and it “paints” the sequence. The more sequences you paint, the more connections you find.
Adding Your Matches into DNA Painter
DNA Painter works with all the genetic testing websites that have chromosome browsers. This includes FTDNA, 23andMe, and MyHeritage DNA. It does not work with AncestryDNA.
It also works with GEDMatch.com.
Adding information to this utility is as easy, but tedious. There’s no option to update raw DNA files. You must copy and paste the chromosome data of each match one by one.
Easier said than done. After working on this for 2 weeks, I have painted 394 segments. I’m on page 7 of 32 in FTDNA. Zoinks!
Some sites are easier that others. I’ve tried with FTDNA, MyHeritage DNA, and GEDMatch. I found FTDNA to be the easiest to copy and paste from.
How Does Chromosome Painting Help You?
This utility is especially helpful when you have matches at multiple websites. You could take notes on where you match people or type them into a spreadsheet, but it’s difficult to sort in an easy to read fashion.
Take a look at this example for my maternal matches on chromosome 2. If I were to enter this into a spreadsheet it would be difficult to make sense of. But, looking at this graphic makes it so much easier to understand. I have a whole heck of a lot of my maternal matches who share the same segment range on chromosome 2. And, I’m not done yet!
Chromosome painting allows you to add in all these different matches and see where exactly on a chromosome they match you.
The more people you add, the more similarities you find. From there, you compare pedigrees and find your common ancestors.
How to Paint Your Chromosomes
This is how I approached this project. I started by adding the 10 people I know my relationship to. For each, I created a category based on the ancestor they are related to.
Once this was done, I added my highest matches. As I added people, I could see patterns emerge.
This is the data that you copy and paste. This example is from FTDNA.
I created new groups when the person provided enough information in their family tree to narrow it down. For instance, one woman’s entire tree is from Ireland, so I created a group “Unknown Maternal Irish”.
It’s very clear which matches are from my Azorean lines. Some fit in with my matches, but others don’t.
You can see how this works. As you learn more information about your matches, you divide segments between categories. As you narrow it down, it will get easier to identify the common link.
This example gives you an idea of how this whole chromosome painting thing works. Notice that people who share the same sequence are grouped together.
There is a toggle to show names. I’ve turned it off for privacy purposes.
This example shows the people who are related to my Botelho da Rocha and Pacheco de Resendes (Pacheco Remigio) line based on the data from my two known cousins who descend from this line.
I can’t necessarily assume all these people are related to me through my Botelho da Rocha line. The reason? My known match is related to me more than once. We are also Pacheco de Resendes and de Braga cousins.
However, if one of those people turns out to only be a Botelho, Pacheco de Resendes, or de Braga descendant, then I will have figured out how the rest connect.
You can see how helpful this could be in sorting matches. It’s easy to read in this format. You can even print out your data if that is easier to work with.
Patterns Emerge as I Enter More Data
As I enter more people, I am seeing patterns emerge. For instance, in this example, I have one match whose entire tree is Portuguese from Brasil. The other two are also Portuguese.
As more people match this segment, I may find that they descend from one of my lines that went to Brasil.
Another Way Of Analyzing Your Genetic Data
If you’ve had your DNA tested, you’ve figured out by now that this stuff ain’t easy! Genetic genealogy has it’s challenges.
DNA Painter is one more tool in the toolbox to help you analyze your matches.
Give it a try! Start with the matches you already know, then work your way through your best matches. Who knows? You might see a pattern you hadn’t noticed before.
Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website, yourislandroutes.com