New Features Trees

DNA Painter Dimensions: a new way to showcase your ancestral line

I am pleased to announce the launch of dimensions, a new feature within ancestral trees at DNA Painter. Ancestral trees allow you to extract and visualise your direct line in a tree, fan chart and text pedigree, all within one searchable page. For more background on ancestral trees, please visit my previous blog post.

DNA Painter Dimensions

DNA Painter Dimensions are custom categories allowing you to create and share different views of your direct line.

Some example dimensions are religion, country or region of birth, but you are not restricted to these. This type of colour coding can make for some compelling visualisations.

The following examples were generated automatically from my imported family tree. I’ll link to some examples below so you can interact with dimensions more closely.

My son's fan chart showing his 'country of birth' DNA Painter dimension
My son’s fan chart showing his ‘country of birth’ dimension

I released this feature quietly for subscribers a few weeks ago and am now pleased to be able to make it accessible to everyone. One user had a great suggestion that I was able to implement: an automatic dimension for ‘age at death’:

Screenshot showing my father's ancestral tree with the 'age at death' dimension'
My father’s ancestral tree showing the ‘Age at death’ dimension. This also helps me spot places in the tree where I haven’t identified the ancestor’s death date.

Accessing DNA Painter Dimensions

All registered DNA Painter users can now create one dimension. Subscribers can create up to five dimensions in each tree.

Adding dimensions

You can add dimensions manually, or alternatively a range of automatic dimensions can be derived from your tree.

First, click into your tree. If you’re creating a new tree, you’ll want to populate it with your ancestors–either manually or via importing a GEDCOM–before proceeding. You’ll see a link to ‘Dimensions’ at the top, with a dropdown menu.

Screenshot showing the Dimensions dropdown within an ancestral tree

After you click ‘Add/edit dimensions’ you’ll see an overlay inviting you to generate an automated dimension or add a new custom dimension.

Automated dimensions

DNA Painter can delve into your tree and generate the following dimensions, some of which are illustrated above:

  • Age at death
    • Where applicable, this extracts the person’s age at death from ‘Birth date’ and ‘Death date’
  • Country of birth
    • Uses information from ‘Birth place’ to extract countries
  • Century of birth
    • Extracts the century each person was born from the ‘Birth date’ field.

Since these are free text fields, some manual correction may be needed afterwards, particularly for the “Country of birth” dimension. Where the data does not explicitly name a country, the site will attempt to identify it anyway.

In addition, the site can add a predefined category to help you log your research: six levels of ancestral profiles for Yvette Hoitink’s level-up challenge (see Yvette’s blog post)


You don’t need to restrict yourself to what can be automated. Perhaps your ancestral background is predominantly from one country and you’d like to focus on regions or towns rather than countries. Perhaps you have specific facts to record that relate to your DNA research. Or perhaps you’re interested in cataloguing the cause of death or religion of your ancestors.

Creating dimensions manually is quite straightforward and efficient, thanks to a checkbox that allows you optionally to propagate values to all ancestors of the person you’re editing.

1. Create the dimension.

Within the “Add/edit dimensions” overlay, you’ll see a link “add new custom dimension” below the automated dimensions:

The add/edit dimensions form for adding a new DNA Painter dimension
The add/edit dimensions form

Once you’ve entered a name (for example, “Religion”) for your dimension and saved it, the dimension will appear in the edit form for everyone in your tree. You can optionally create some ‘starter’ values in advance.

The 'add dimension' form showing the message when a dimension has just been added
The ‘add dimension’ form showing the message when a dimension has just been added

2. Add values to the people in your tree

I was able to create the chart below for my son in a few minutes by editing ancestors in my tree and using the checkbox I mentioned earlier. For example, I hovered over my grandfather in the tree and clicked ‘Edit’:

Screenshot showing hovering over an ancestor in the tree and clicking 'edit'
Hovering over my grandfather in the tree view

I then scrolled down the edit form to my newly created “Religion” dimension and selected “add new”. After I typed ‘Jewish’, I checked the box “Also apply to all known ancestors of this person?”

Screenshot showing the form that lets you add a dimension value to an ancestor
Screenshot showing the form that lets you add a dimension value to an ancestor

Repeating this process where applicable on other branches produced the following chart. While we can’t interview all our ancestors to discuss their beliefs, this provides a useful snapshot!

DNA Painter dimensions view showing the religious background of my son's ancestors as we understand it
My son’s tree showing the religious background of his ancestors as we understand it

Editing dimensions

You can edit any dimension, colour or value individually via the ‘Add/edit dimensions’ overlay. There’s also a handy ‘Regenerate colours’ button that will create a new set of random colours.

Editing a DNA Painter dimension
Editing a DNA Painter dimension

Genealogy Facts

Having visualized different aspects of your tree, you can encapsulate them into a single, sharable summary of genealogy facts. You can access this via the Dimensions menus, or by clicking ‘Facts’ under the key when viewing any dimension.

The genealogy facts overlay for DNA Painter dimensions
The genealogy facts overlay

Sharing DNA Painter Dimensions

Sharing is obviously completely optional, and all information you enter remains completely private by default. However, I’ve tried to make it as easy as possible to share your tree and dimensions:

  • As previously, you can share your tree via the share menu. This generates a link. Anyone with this link will be able to view your tree. Living people will be hidden unless you explicitly choose to show them.
  • You can also generate a link to your Genealogy Facts that you can share on Facebook or Twitter, or via downloading an image.
  • Finally, you can do the same with the dimension view of your fan chart by clicking ‘Share an image’ under the key.
DNA Painter dimensions fan chart share image link
The ‘Share an image’ option on the fan chart dimensions view

Example trees with DNA Painter Dimensions

Here are some examples you can look at:

But the best way to get started would be to log into DNA Painter and create or edit your tree.


You’ll notice the “beta” badge on the Dimensions menu item. This was somewhat complicated to code, and it’s inevitable there will be the odd glitch. If you encounter anything unexpected, please feel free to contact me via the details at the bottom of this page.

The background to DNA Painter Dimensions

If you’re curious, I’ll explain briefly why I built this feature.

In 2015, I had the notion of assigning colours to countries of birth and putting these into a fan chart in order to produce a kind of snapshot of a person’s ancestry. I hadn’t taken a DNA test at this point, and a colourful location chart seemed to me a much more interesting and meaningful summary than some of the DNA result pie charts I’d seen floating around.

I gather I wasn’t the only one who had this idea: a popular craze along similar lines was started by J. Paul Hawthorne back in 2016

Inspired by this visualisation of a coffee flavour wheel, I created a version for myself that I called ‘The Wheel of Fun’.

The Wheel of Fun, an early concept version of DNA Painter dimensions as seen in 2015
The Wheel of Fun as seen in 2015 (complete with mistakes!)

I was not active in the genealogy community at this time, so this idea barely went further than my family. But I always planned to make something similar available to others. It seems to have taken me six years. I’m pleased to finally release it and I hope you like it. My next big release will focus more on DNA and chromosome mapping.

Contact info: @dnapainter /