The growth of DNA testing companies has also led to the growth in DNA visualisation companies.
Visualisation companies take the raw data from your DNA results and use imaging and mapping software to present it in user friendly, and informative ways.
DNA Painter is one of many visualisation companies that focuses on helping genealogists and daily tree enthusiasts to make sense of their results.
It’s a nifty service with some great tools but before you go ahead and upload your results, here are 5 things you should know.
Who are DNA Painters?
DNA Painter was created by Jonny Perl, a web developer and family tree enthusiast from London.
The service was created out of Perl’s wish to analyse his DNA results and compare them to relative’s results. He wanted to be able to see exactly which parts of his DNA came from which relative.
This desire first created a spreadsheet and later a website to handle the results better. Perl’s web development skills allowed him to create the handy tools and features found within the service.
Perl is the entirety of the development tool and freely admits that the tools aren’t quite perfect yet. He does, however, graciously accept feedback to continue to improve the tools.
What can you do with DNA Painter?
The primary aim of DNA Painter is to allow you to create a visual family tree of your DNA. It allows you to use what you already know about your family tree and combine it with the data in your DNA to provide a clearer picture of your DNA relatives.
They have 5 tools that you can use to figure out how you are related to DNA relatives and which parts of your DNA you share.
The first tool is the shared cM tool. This takes the number of centimorgans you share with a relative and turns it into a diagram that shows your potential relationship.
It is a free tool that you can use without creating a tree if you’re curious. You can also use it to work out where in your tree a DNA match might fit.
In terms of ease of use, this tool is simple. You just enter the percentage of your DNA shared with a DNA match. You find this data in the results from the DNA testing company. Some companies present this as a percentage, others as a cM number. The website accepts both.
Reading the diagram is a bit more confusing, but there is plenty of information on the site to help you out.
The next tool is the ‘What are the odds’ tool. This only works when you have a number of confirmed relatives with DNA results.
You can use the tool to work out how a target is related to known relatives by looking at the DNA markers that are shared.
For example, you might have a suspected cousin but don’t know which side of the family they are from. By creating a family tree and uploading your cM numbers for each person, you can add detail to your tree.
The tool lets you enter a hypothesis and then works out the probability of that hypothesis. You might want to know how likely it is that this cousin is a nephew of your grandmother, for example. The results come back as percentages.
The Cluster Auto Painter (CAP) tool displays your DNA as a map of clusters. It allows you to see what parts of your DNA come from your maternal or paternal sides.
To use this tool you do need to create an account and upload some of the DNA data you got from your test.
The CAP tool can be used in conjunction with the cluster formatter tool which reduces the cluster data to CVS. You can use this data however you want with whatever programme you choose.
There is also a match filter tool which can be used to remove DNA matches that are below a certain cM level. This can help you focus on closer relatives.
These tools are a nice addition to the family tree tool and the chromosome mapping tool. They are specifically designed to help you understand your DNA match relationships.
There isn’t a huge amount of reviews out there for DNA Painter. It is still a relatively small company compared to the DNA giants like Ancestry and 23andMe.
The reviews that are available on Facebook and Reddit are very positive. Users love the simplicity of the tool and the fact that it is mostly free!
The other thing that users seem to love is the visualisations. It does make your DNA results more accessible, particularly if you are a visual learner.
The explanations of the images are also highly rated. According to customers, the way the website explains rather technical information in layman terms is excellent.
There are a lot of blog posts and tutorials on the site that helps you wrap your head around the results. Customers like the fact that the site links to other similar websites and services. They feel like this creates transparency like the site is truly dedicated to helping you get the most out of your DNA results.
For such a simple tool, the information provided has plenty of depth and research applications. Customers are usually pleasantly surprised by the amount of information they can get just through entering a few cM numbers.
Privacy and Security
One of the key differences between DNA Painter and its competitors is that you never upload the raw DNA data. Most of the tools simply ask you to enter a number. There is no personal information attached to this number so you can’t be tracked or traced.
If you do create a profile on the site, your information is locked to your personal account. Nobody can access this information unless you give them your password.
There is an option to share your profile which allows you to send a link to others. Only people with this link can access your profile so you still have control.
The website is encrypted so any communication between you and the website is checked and authenticated. It’s not foolproof but no site is.
The biggest security process is the fact that you don’t upload your raw DNA. Even if the site or your profile is hacked, the only thing hackers would see is where on your chromosome you match with someone else.
The great thing about this site is that most of the tools are free to use!
There are two membership layers available on DNA Painter. The first is the free membership.
With a free membership, you have access to the tools listed above. Most of these work in your browser without the need for a profile. It is literally a tool rather than a service.
You are also able to create a profile and make a family tree or map your chromosomes. With the free membership, you can only have one tree and one chromosome profile.
In terms of the family tree, you can import your tree from other websites and services up to your 4th great-grandparents.
The free membership is perfectly fine for someone who just wants to investigate their own results.
If you want to use results from additional family members, or if you want to use the tool as part of a genealogy service you provide, you’ll need to become a subscriber.
The subscriber membership costs £30 for six months or £55 for a year. Depending on the exchange rate, a six-month membership will cost around £23 and a year membership will be £42.
With the subscriber membership, you still have access to the tools, but you can have 50 family trees and 50 chromosome mapping profiles.
You also have access to the bulk import function. This allows you to add lots of family members from a tree hosted on another site at once.
There is no generational limit on your family trees with the subscriber membership which lets you investigate much further back.
DNA Painter offers fantastic tools and visualisations for nothing. It’s hard to beat that!
It may not be the slickest site but it is simple to use and the tools work. It offers you a new perspective of DNA results which can help you solve some family mysteries.
What is so good about DNA Printer is the fact that it is designed to help customers not just to make money or collect data.
It is a service that you can trust to give you answers to even the deepest DNA questions.