Information to help you make the most of DNA Painter

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What is DNA Painter?

DNA Painter is a website that you can use to visualize and make notes on your DNA matches. The site is intended for genealogists and family history enthusiasts who have taken a DNA test. We have a natural desire to discover who our matches are and how we’re related to them, but interpreting test results can be a challenge, with unfamiliar names and pages of numbers.

DNA Painter helps by providing a platform where you can:

  • Enter the numerical information provided by the testing company for each match and visualise it on your chromosomes (click here for info on where to find this data)
  • Make notes and indicate how certain you are that you've identified correctly how you are connected to each person

Please read on through this section for more practical and background information, including an FAQ and glossary. If you're interested seeing how the site works in a video, please visit this page.

The site's strapline is 'Map DNA Segments to your ancestors'. When you look at the segments you share with a known relative (for example a 2nd cousin - someone with whom you share a set of Great-Grandparents), you have a strong indication that you inherited these segments from your common ancestors. When you enter these segments into DNA Painter, you can map them to your Great-Grandparents, since unless you're related to your 2nd cousin in more than one way, your Great-Grandparents must have been the source of these segments.

Here's an example of the data you start with, and what it looks like after you paste it into DNA Painter:

Segment data for a DNA match looks like this:

Chr Start Location End Location Centimorgans (cM) SNPs
9116,379,698140,131,59243.84,397

After you paste this into DNA Painter, it will appear mapped onto the appropriate chromosome(s), like this:

Painted Segment

This process is known as chromosome mapping.

Please note: your testing company provides your raw DNA data in a large single zipped text file. This is completely different from the segment data for a DNA match mentioned above. You do not upload your raw DNA to DNA Painter; the only data you need is the segment data!

If at this point you're confused, don't worry! Read on, and if you're still somewhat overwhelmed, it might be worth reading a gentle introduction on what you can do with your results. This is a good one: DNA – What, when, how, why – FAQs for beginners by Donna Rutherford.

Next: Why would you use DNA Painter?