Have you found a DNA match but you can’t figure out how you are related? Who is your Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA)? DNA Painter is a fairly new tool that just might solve the puzzle.
DNAPainter.com is a free on-line program that “paints” (pastes, really) your DNA comparison with a match. It uses a chromosome browser from 23andme, MyHeritage or FamilyTreeDNA. It will not work with Ancestry.com DNA as that site does not have a chromosome browser. And you will need permission from your match to share chromosome information.
First of all, read the tutorial which will walk you through the step-by-step process. It takes about an hour to do the tutorial. You don’t need to completely understand the science of what all those numbers mean. Just remember: the greater the number of centiMorgns (cMs) you share with a match, the more closely you are related.
You then begin painting matches into Painter. I recommend starting with a known cousin to use as a control. I chose a known maternal cousin and a known paternal cousin.
When you paste a match into DNA Painter, the shared segments show up as a colored line on various chromosomes. As you paint more and more matches you will see where the segments overlap. It is a very graphic visual that shows those overlapping segments in a very visual pattern.
Using known cousins gives you clues as to which side the unknown matches are on. Once you know which side of the family your match is on, you can then start searching for documentation. Of course, you will be emailing back and forth with your match to exchange more information.
If you don’t have any known cousins, don’t worry, Painter still can help you. Once you have painted several matches you will begin to see patterns. Since several of the DNA testing sites also ask you for your ancestors’ birth places, you can compare that information with your matches. Also, your ethnicity and your matches ethnicity estimates provide clues.
DNA Painter is not the be all and end all of genealogical research. It is a very helpful tool. Give it a try. You just may get hooked!
This is from Barbara Gorham Johnson the WSGS Region 1S representative. Thanks Barbara. You too can have your blog post published here, just contact me firstname.lastname@example.org