Sunday, 1 April 2018

Getting to grips with DNA Painter

I've spent a bit of time this week looking further into the use of autosomal DNA for genealogical research, with some interesting results. I tested with AncestryDNA ( some time ago, but finally decided to upload my test results into both MyHeritage ( and FamilyTreeDNA ( On the back of all that I've certainly had a productive experience! Not only have I confirmed a long held theory concerning the sister of my father's grandmother, it would also seem that I am related to none other than well known Australian genealogist Shauna Hicks, which has just about knocked us both for six! (We're now trying to identify the exact connection!).

But the key learning point this week has been over chromosome browsers - offered by both MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA, but not Ancestry. On its site, Ancestry hopes to tell you if you are related to somebody when you have a matching segment of DNA with that person, and if they upload a tree for you to look for a common ancestor. Unfortunately, unlike the other two named DNA companies, it doesn't actually tell you on which chromosomes such matches can be found. Its reasons for doing so seem to include privacy concerns and its belief that 'nobody will use it'. However, I've actually found it fascinating to be able to determine which parts of shared DNA fit into which chromosomes, which to me seems a handy thing to be able to use to try to predict where other folk may be related to you when they don't have an accompanying family tree.

Using results from MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA and GEDmatch (, I've managed to identify a few cousins with common ancestors, who I know are confirmed. Using a free tool called DNA Painter (, as recommended by genealogist Rosemary Morgan, I have been trying to build up my ancestral profile, and in so doing have learned a hell of a lot more about how autosomal DNA is passed on, and things to look out for when trying to interpret results. I'm not just passively waiting to be told when I have a match.

I've read and heard many reasons why Ancestry won't add a chromosome browser - but I can't help feeling now that as a DNA site, it seems somewhat naked without one...


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  1. For details instructions on how to use DNA Painter read this excellent blog post by Roberta Estes.

  2. So true Chris. I encourage all my Ancestry matches to upload for free at Gedmatch or My Heritage. Looking forward to seeing you at the Celtic Connections Conference in August!