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Website of the week - DNA Painter

Level – Advanced

Time to read – 3 mins

This week's most memorable website is DNA Painter. The free web-based tool is designed primarily to 'paint' and colour-code DNA segments on your 23 chromosome pairs according to the ancestors from whom they were inherited.

DNA Painter is a third party product, not a DNA-testing business. To use the tool you will need your DNA test results on hand as well as details of at least one and preferably more matches.

Note: Not all testing companies provide a breakdown of shared DNA in terms of cM (centimorgans) or percentages. For example if you used Ancestry's DNA test you will need to upload your report to another tool such as Gedmatch to obtain the necessary information before using DNA Painter. I used DNA matching results from my Gedmatch account to trial the painter.

DNA Painter also comes with a very useful tool which converts the total number of shared cM into a range of possible relationships. For example, when I enter 820 cM the program tells me there is a 95.41% likelihood of the matching person being one of the following relations:

· Great-Grandparent

· Great-Aunt/Uncle

· Half Aunt/Uncle

· First Cousin

· Half Niece/Nephew

· Great-Niece / Nephew

· Great-Grandchild

This is an improvement on DNA testing companies which, beyond parents and siblings, usually predict matches only in terms of cousins.

The shared cM tool is quick and easy to use and can also convert shared cM into the percentage of DNA shared and vice versa. In my test case it converted the 820 cM to 10.99%. This aspect is important for people who used a company to test their DNA which reports matches in percentage terms rather than cM (e.g. 23andMe). In my opinion, this is a worthwhile tool to have in your DNA kit even if you never tackle DNA segment painting.

The main focus of the website is, however, the DNA painting function. I didn’t find it intuitive to use and there was no getting around either reading quite lengthy instructions or watching DNA Painter's You Tube video. I did both before I attempted any segment painting.

I found the tool worked as promised. By triangulating a known first and second cousin I was able to start tracking which segments of my DNA chromosomes I inherited from which ancestors. The program accepts that you may not yet know from which side of the family a DNA match comes and it allows for fine-tuning when more precise information becomes available about your DNA matches.

Having invested time in learning how DNA Painter operates I feel reasonably comfortable using the tool and I will continue to paint more DNA segments as time permits. Like most things DNA-related, the DNA painting tool was neither simple nor straight forward. Nevertheless, it is an interesting program and worth trying if you have more than a passing interest in taking your DNA test results to the next level of analysis.

Have you tried DNA Painter? I would love to hear about your own experience in the Comments section below.


Your Family Genealogist

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