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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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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