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How to Find Your Strongest DNA Matches

So many DNA matches. How can you decide where to start?

DNA tools are on the rise, promising to help us make sense of our growing lists of DNA matches. This week I decided to try out DNA Painter and see why people are raving about it.

My chromosomes, painted with about 35 DNA matches.
My chromosomes, painted with about 35 DNA matches.
The idea is to visualize how much DNA you share with any of your DNA matches. And where they overlap with one another.

DNA Painter uses data you can find on GEDmatch, Family Tree DNA, and 23andme. I used GEDmatch because my free accounts with the other two don't seem to give me the data I need. It's really easy to do with GEDmatch.

Here are the steps:
  1. Create a free account on DNAPainter.com and click "Create a new profile".
  2. Log into GEDmatch and click "One-to-Many DNA Comparison Result" under the DNA Applications heading.
  3. Choose a DNA match with a high number in the "Largest Seg" or "Total cM" column and click the underlined letter A on the left side.
  4. Select "Position Only" beneath the 2 kit numbers and click the Submit button at the bottom.
  5. You'll see a table full of numbers. Use your mouse to select and copy the table.
  6. Back in DNA Painter, click PAINT A NEW MATCH and paste what you copied into the box. Click SAVE MATCH NOW.
  7. Fill out this screen:
    • Choose whether you know how you're connected to this match
    • Put your match's name in the box. I've been putting their name in the next box, too, as a name for the group.
    • If you know the match is on dad's side only or mom's side only, choose that.
    • Click SAVE MATCH.
This graphic will help you through the DNA Painter steps.
This graphic will help you through the DNA Painter steps.
After a while, your chromosome map may be so full you can't find this new match. If so, hover your mouse over the person's color box in the key on the right. You'll see a little eyeball. Click it to hide and show this person. You should be able to find them on your map as you turn their color off and on again.

You're almost there! And when you've done this once, the rest are easy.
You're almost there! And when you've
done this once, the rest are easy.
Following these steps, I've painted 35 DNA matches plus my 2 parents onto my chromosome map so far. For the moment, let's ignore my parents and my first cousin. My first cousin is the lilac color who's on all but TWO of my chromosomes.

I have one DNA match on chromosome 9 with a pretty long block of red color. Let's call him Tony.

Tony was the reason I wanted to try DNA Painter. You see, Ancestry DNA says Tony is a distant cousin (a 5th–8th cousin) to me, my father, and my mother!

I've written 2 articles recently about discovering and trying to find my parents' DNA connection:
I'm working on the more promising branches of my family tree, but I haven't found their link yet. When I found Tony in my DNA match list, and my dad's match list, and my mom's match list, I had to pursue his ancestors.

Tony's tree on Ancestry offered me very little to go on. But I recognized the 4 last names on his grandmother's side of the family. I knew they were from my paternal grandfather's hometown in Italy.

The source of Tony's tree was someone else's tree. That tree had almost no sources, and I was able to prove many of its facts wrong. When that happens to you, use the tree as a guidepost, but don't take any of it for granted. Find the proof.

The linchpin in Tony's tree was his great grandfather, Pietro diPaola. (His tree, and the tree he borrowed from, called him Peter DePaul and said he was from my Grandpa's town. So I knew he was really Pietro diPaola.)

There were 2 Pietro diPaola's in town. I'm related to both, and they're a year apart. I thought Tony's Pietro diPaola was the brother of my 2nd great grandmother. But, as I found more of his children's birth records, I discovered he did not match my Pietro. He was, in fact, my Pietro's 1st cousin. This makes Tony my 4th cousin once removed; my dad's 4th cousin.

I followed members of Tony's family to America. This helped me gather more facts and dates. Finally, I wrote to Tony to show him how enormous his family tree is now that it's tied into mine.

But I'm not finished. I've connected Tony to my father's family through the diPaola name. But where's the connection to my mother? Now I'm trying to find records for Pietro diPaola's wife's family. I know only her parents' names. If I can go further on her branch, will that finally be the key to discovering how my parents are related?

What do you think you might find when you use DNA Painter?


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