Review – DNA Painter

Tech Tuesday
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.Last fall, Blaine Bettinger mentioned in his Facebook group, “Genetic Genealogy Tips & Techniques” an introduction video was available on YouTube for DNA Painter. I respect Blaine’s opinions, so I knew that I wanted to give it a try. It took a while for me to get to it and I’m glad I finally did. Wow, great program.

DNA Painter helps you understand exactly where your DNA came from. With it you can determine if a segment of your DNA you have may have come from your great grandmother on your maternal grandmother’s side or from another ancestor.  You can paint with common DNA information from GEDMatch, Family Finder (Family Tree DNA), or 23&Me. Sadly, Ancestry doesn’t provide DNA segment matching data, so it can’t be used. However, the raw data from Ancestry may be exported by the DNA owner and then imported into GEDMatch or Family Finder where you may export the data for use in DNA Painter.


The DNA Painter video was great. I only needed to watch it once and I was confident I understood the tool enough to use it for DNA painting. I was right; the tool is very easy to use.

I am fortunate because I have had my mother tested and I have her results. So, if my mother has a DNA Segment and I have it, I know it came from her. All the other DNA that I received from my biological father, who passed away before autosomal DNA testing became available.

I began doing the DNA painting, copying the data about matching segments of DNA from various cousins. When I looked at the matches from my half-aunt and myself, I could see exactly which DNA segments came from my maternal grandfather (and his ancestors). I compared with a known third cousin and saw which DNA came from our common second great-grandparents.

Image of Note: Chromosome 3 has a long DNA segment known to be from Hugh Eugene Roberts
Note: Chromosome 3 (top line) has a long DNA segment known to be from Hugh Eugene Roberts
Image of Chromosome 3 has two DNA segments (in pink) known to be from Asa Roberts and a one segment from an unknown Ancestor, not Asa.
Note: Chromosome 3 (top line) has two DNA segments (in pink) known to be from Asa Roberts and one segment from an unknown Ancestor, not Asa.

I could see where bits of DNA came from.  In another example, I received a nice 141cM chunk of DNA from my father on Chromosome 3. Based upon other DNA matches, of that fragment of DNA a 21cM piece of it and another 17cM piece of was inherited from Asa Roberts. He also had a sizeable 47cM chunk of DNA inherited from another ancestor that apparently was not Asa. I don’t know who it was yet, but additional samples should show its source. It was fun to do, but I couldn’t see a substantial genealogical reason for doing it. How could I use this tool?

Image of DNA Painter - AHW match on C13
DNA Painter shows three DNA segments match on C. 13 for Glennis.

Then, I thought about my half-sister Glennis, so I started a new profile and began painting her DNA. We share a common mother, so, once again, I was able to copy that information into her profile and have all of her maternal DNA. Then, I could focus entirely on her unknown paternal side.  I began finding any of her biological cousins that do not contain our mom’s DNA. That is when I started to see a pattern.  There were segments that were shared by a common ancestor of multiple individuals. That proved, to me, that these segments were from a common ancestor. Their trees indicated that they shared a known ancestor, so I know that Glennis shares either the same common ancestor or an ancestor of that individual. Furthermore, if the individual is more genetically distant than a second cousin, I know that the descendants below the person’s second great-grandparent cannot be a direct line. That can save me considerable research disproving a potential family line.

DNA Painter is a great tool that can help identify likely genetic ancestors and help identify unlikely descendant lines. I like it.

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DISCLAIMER
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Family Tree Maker for Mac 3.1

I’m returning to Family Tree Maker for Mac.

Tech Tuesday

In December 2015, I ranted about how unhappy I was that Family Tree Maker was being dropped by Ancestry as a product. I did consider staying with Family Tree Maker 3 for Mac; however, I kept having problems the synchronization of my tree with Ancestry was corrupting my database. So, I decided to search for alternative products.  I wished that Legacy Family Tree had a Mac version and I wanted Roots Magick 7 to have a real Mac product and not a runtime windows version.  Besides the weird file locations (C: and F: drives), I never could get the fonts correct and details displayed in inconsistent ways. I tried several other products, Mac Family Tree, Reunion, and Heredis.  I settled on Heredis and have used it for the past year but I’ve been having problems with it.  When I zoom into some of my sources, the system crashes, sends a crash report to Apple (who is supposed to send it on to Heredis) and then allows me to restart.  It seems that details that I cut and pasted from a website, which has several different fonts and hyperlinks seem to be the culprits. I finally decided to drop Heredis because of this and use something else for my 2017 research. I decided on using Roots Magic 7, exported my two large research files from Heredis to GED format, importing them into Roots Magic, then began working with them.

Then I received the notification that Family Tree Maker has been re-released by MacKiev.  The upgrade from FTM 14 for windows and FTM 3 for Mac was free.  I decided to upgrade and give it a try. I exported my two Roots Magic files to GED format then imported them into FTM.

Wow within a seven-point starWow.  I was immediately reminded of how much I liked Family Tree Maker Mac 3 when I reviewed it in December 2013. I began working on one of my projects, Project Drexl, and saw how nice it was to work with.  Clearly designed for Mac, all the features worked. There were many features that Heredis didn’t have that I was really happy to have back, such as a calendar function. (For example, a calendar of all my ancestors who had birthdays in January.) Also, and probably the biggest thing, was that there are templates for sources that follows Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Evidence Explained.  Linking sources to facts is easy. I liked navigation through family members a bit better with Heredis, but the FTM method is fine.

I haven’t tried to upload and sync my FTM files with Ancestry, yet; and I am not certain that I will do so.  I may just upload what I have with FTM and then break the link. In any event, I’m hoping that Ancestry’s on-line tree isn’t the master of all.

So far, I’m very happy that Family Tree Maker is back and I am looking forward to using it over the next year or so. I think they may have gotten me back.

Three approaches to Ancestry Hints

By Don Taylor

We all get them, at least we do if we subscribe to Ancestry.Com and we have a tree on Ancestry. Yes, I’m talking about hints – the beautiful little leaves that let you know that Ancestry thinks it has information that will be of interest to you.  And they are right, I am interested in all those leaves that provide hints to sources and records that probably relate to people in my tree. The problem is I just don’t have enough time to follow all those hints and verify if they really relate to people in my tree that I care about.

I’ll admit, I have a lot of people in my tree I don’t care much about. The first husband of the second wife of my ancestor is such a person.  In my Howell/Darling tree, I have over 4500 hints and in my Roberts/Brown tree; I have over 13,000 hints. There is no way I can look at them all, so I needed to come up with a reasonable plan to relate to Ancestry Hints.

First of all, I recognize that they are Bright Shiny Objects that will take up my time. If I am not careful, they will sap my energy from researching the people that are important to me. So, I fundamentally ignore them. Unless there is a hint regarding an individual that I am currently researching, I ignore Ancestry hints as a matter of normal activity.

screen-shot-2016-10-08-at-3-58-41-pmscreen-shot-2016-10-08-at-3-58-50-pmI do subscribe to receiving alerts about new hints via email.  It is the default setting to receive alerts for new hints, but if you aren’t receiving them, In the upper right-hand corner of your Ancestry account, click on your name, then on Your Alerts. You will then see all the family trees you have access to.  Click “change delivery options” I select to receive New Hints monthly.

Next, in my email program (I use Outlook), I have created a rule that says if the message came from ancestry@ancestry.com and it has the following text in the message, “New Hints in Darling-Huber,” move the message to a Darling-Huber folder in my email system.

When I have a chance to work on my Darling-Huber tree, I go to that Howell-Darling folder and see what I have in the folder. Then I look at the individuals that the emails indicate Ancestry has hints for. As an example, recently it indicated:

John Henry Gensler (1876-1956)

1 new hint

U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007

Then I go to my Genealogical Program, open up my Darling-Huber tree and search for all individuals named Gensler. Are any of the Genslers in my tree a direct ancestor of my root person? Many genealogical programs use a different icon for individuals that are direct line ancestors and descendants of the root person, so it is easy to see. In this case, none of the Genslers in my Darling-Huber research are directly related so I can ignore the email. (In this case, John Henry Gensler is the father-in-law of the nephew of one of my wife’s great-grandmothers.) I haven’t ignored the hint on Ancestry, that is still there if I need to research John Henry Gensler further in the future but it is no longer in my email.


The next hint is about Sally Munsell. Again, a quick search for persons with the surname Munsell lists Sally Ann Munsell – One of my wife’s 3rd great-grandmothers.  Definitely, a person I want to glean the facts from any appropriate hints and someone I would follow the hints immediately.

Finally, another hint I received was about Samuel Swayze. I have many Swayze’s identified in my wife’s family tree – including my wife’s 5th great-grandfather, Amos Swayze. I do not have this particular Samuel Swayze connected to anyone in my tree. However, this Samuel lived in the same place as other relations at the same time; however, I haven’t proven the connection yet. I know he isn’t a direct ancestor, but he is likely a close relative to a direct ancestor.  This would be a person I would want to research more thoroughly in the future.  As such, I would add a task to my research tasks to:

Investigate Ancestry Hints regarding Samuel Swayze (1653-1738) (The dates are to differentiate him from several other Samuel Swayze’s in my tree.) I’ll get to researching these hints, but probably not today. So, they are in my queue.

My Three Approaches.

  1. Investigate hints for known direct-line ancestors.
  2. Queue hints about potential bloodline relatives with direct-line surnames.
  3. Ignore hints about lines that are not direct line surnames.

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Website Review – Lost Cousins

Tech Tuesday – Lost Cousin

Review by Don Taylor

I recently was listening to a podcast about the UK based service Lost Cousins. I had heard of it before, but I hadn’t given it a try nor had I looked at it for what it might be able to do to help folks in their genealogical research.

The primary purpose of LostCousins.Com is to help you find lost cousins so that you may better collaborate in your genealogical research. Most sites that connect you with other researchers do so based upon name and submitted tree information. This leads to many potential connections but few actual relatives. Consequently, many connections are unlikely to respond to your queries because they are too distant, often related by marriage, sometimes by multiple marriages. Lost Cousins does it a bit different; they focus on the quality of matches to other researchers rather than the quantity of matches. They use key census records as the key to finding cousins. You tag an ancestor in a particular census, on a specific page, with a relationship to you. Another person does the same thing. For example, in the 1880 Census, my 2nd Great-Grandfather is listed.  If the same person on the same page of the census is your ancestor too, then we are related.

Signing up is very easy to do. The site has a free level which doesn’t require you to provide a credit card nor detailed personal information.  You only need to subscribe (pay) if you find a lost cousin that you want to contact. (A subscriber may contact you, but you need to be a subscriber to initiate the first contact.) Even then, the service is very inexpensive (£10 per year).

Although Lost Cousins uses eight specific census records, the majority of users enter data into either the 1881 England & Wales Census or the 1880 US Census. The vast majority of my ancestors were in the United States in 1880, so I began entering my ancestors into the system.  For the 1880 Census, they ask you to enter the Roll / Film number, Page / Sheet number and letter, Surname, Forename, Age, and Relationship to you (typically, “blood relative” or “direct ancestor”).  In my case, into the 1880 US Census, I entered Roll 575, Page 374A, Surname Barber, Forename Frank, Age 40, and Direct Descendant. (Note: I entered “Frank” as he was entered into the census and not “Franklin” as was his actual name.) Then, I entered a second person, Asa Roberts and all was well. Neither of them had any cousin matches, but that was okay. I knew I have lots more ancestors to enter.

After only two entries, I ran into MY problem. I realized, particularly in some of my Family Tree Maker corrupted source entries (see Review and Rant), but also, some of my early entries didn’t have all of the information that I should have entered. Sure, I had enough information to find the record again, Name, Place, and Census Year is sufficient to search and find most entries, but it wasn’t the right information to enter into Lost Cousins. So, I need to go back and clean up some of my Census Record citations. That’s okay; I should clean them up regardless. I  entered other direct ancestors into the system, but so far no matches to cousins.

The eight censuses that Lost Cousins uses are:

  • 1841 England & Wales
  • 1880 United States
  • 1881 Canada
  • 1881 England & Wales
  • 1881 Scotland
  • 1911 England & Wales
  • 1911 Ireland
  • 1940 United States

In the two I entered, I did the “Search for Cousins.” No matches.  I’m not surprised. With only two entries in the 1880 US Census, Lost Cousins suggests I only have a match potential of 0.06%.

There are two ways for me to increase the likelihood of finding a lost cousin. First, I need to enter more of my ancestors from any of the above censuses into their system. Second, more cousins need to register and enter their ancestors into the system. I can take care of the first item, but I need you to help out by you to fulfill the second item. So, if you aren’t registered with Lost Cousins, I encourage you to register. Maybe, we are lost cousins, but if you don’t register we may never know.

The process doesn’t take long, and there is a potential for a big hit. Consequently, I think it is time well spent. The process of adding ancestors brought to my attention the need for me to clean up some of the census citations in my records.  Sigh….

Note:  Lost Cousins also produces a newsletter that registered individuals may subscribe to. Past newsletters are searchable, so registration may not only provide leads on lost cousins but may also provide leads regarding other websites and resources.

Reminder to Self:

  • Never take shortcuts in source citations!

My Future Actions:

  • Clean up my sources for the 1880 US Census, the 1881 England & Wales Census, and the 1881 Canadian Census.
  • Enter remaining ancestors with 1880 or 1881 census entries into Lost Cousins.

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