DNA Painter is a very easy-to-use website where you can use “chromosome painting” to visualize exactly which DNA segments on each chromosome can be attributed to your specific ancestors. Once you have a good understanding of where all of your ancestors lie on your chromosomes, you can then use this information to easily determine how a DNA match is related to you based on the segments that you share.
I’m so excited about painting my chromosomes, since I know it is really going to take my research to the next level.
The concept of DNA Painter might sound really complicated and technical, but I promise you that it is not. In this post, I’ll explain a little bit more about what it actually does, answer a few common questions, and give you some ideas about how you can use it for your research.
Note: Ancestry DNA users will need to upload their DNA to other sites in order to have enough information to use DNA Painter. It’s worth the effort, I promise.
What is chromosome painting?
We all have 22 numbered chromosomes, and we get one copy of each numbered chromosome from each of our parents. Simply explained, our chromosomes contain DNA segments, large and small, which our parents inherited from their ancestors.
In genetic genealogy, we use the term “chromosome painting” to describe “painting” each chromosome with a different color that corresponds to a DNA segment inherited by a particular ancestor. It’s a great way to visualize your DNA segments. Don’t worry if you don’t consider yourself creative – DNA Painter paints your segments automatically based on information that you copy and paste into the site. You can choose the colors, or the site can choose them automatically. Super simple!
I’ve just recently started working on my profile. You can see from the image below that some portions of some of my chromosomes have been “painted” – meaning that I have identified which ancestor I inherited those segments from. As you can see, I have a lot more painting to do!
Even with just 20% of my segments painted, I can already easily isolate how I am related to many of my DNA matches. (See example below)
What can you do with DNA Painter?
As I mentioned above, the idea is that you “paint” individual DNA segments onto the paternal or maternal copy of a particular chromosome. Once you have a particular segment painted, you then know that if you match someone else on your paternal or maternal side on that same chromosome in the same location, then you are related to that match through the same line of your family.
See the image below as an example. I was able to determine that a DNA match is related to me through my Ellsworth line, which is on my dad’s side of the family. I easily copied and pasted the information from Gedmatch One-to-One results comparing my kit with my match’s kit, and the segment was automatically “painted”:
When you click on the little orange/brown segment, it shows that the start and end location for that segment on that chromosome was inherited from my Ellsworth ancestor and his wife. If I get a new match that matches me at that same location on that same chromosome from my dad’s side of the family, I can be sure that my new match is either descended from that Ellsworth ancestor, or a previous Ellsworth ancestor.
Once I get more matches painted in, it can help me feel more confident about my assumptions about segments. I’ll also be able to easily view groups of matches all sharing the same segment with me – basically, triangulation groups.
Basically, it can help me know where to focus my efforts to find the exact connection.
Does DNA Painter store my DNA information?
Your DNA information or file is not stored on DNA Painter. In fact, you never upload your DNA file or any other file that contains sensitive information. All of the information stored on the site is entered by you and only contains the data that you enter in relation to particular DNA segments or ethnicity regions (for 23 and Me users).
How does DNA Painter work?
In order to use DNA Painter, the first step is to create a profile, which will generally be of the person who took the DNA test. I have profiles for myself, my mother, my father, and my paternal grandmother.
Once you have created profiles, you then choose a relatively close cousin match to “paint” into your profile. It’s best if you already know which side of the family a few cousins match you on to help you figure out which copies of your chromosomes are paternal and maternal. You just copy and paste the information into the “paint” tool (in the image below, the information was copied and pasted from Gedmatch):
How much does DNA Painter cost?
As of right now, DNA Painter is a totally free tool. I highly recommend taking advantage of this very easy-to-use DNA analysis tool. It’s much more efficient than scrolling through family trees, looking for surnames, and getting lost – trust me!
I hope that this post gave you a quick overview of DNA Painter as a tool for painting your DNA segments on your chromosomes. I am considering doing a more complete “how-to” tutorial on the topic, if there is interest. If you have any questions, comments, or would like to share your experience with DNA Painter, I would love to hear from you below.
Thank you for stopping by!