DNA and a brick wall

Click on the image to expand it.

Recently I’ve been playing around with DNA Painter. It is a colorful, easy-to-use tool for understanding the chromosome segments you received from an ancestor. This free program lets you map DNA segments and assign or “paint” them various colors on your different chromosomes.

I created the chromosome map above by first determining a common ancestral couple between myself and a match. Then I download our shared segments and added them to DNA Painter. You can do this for any results found on 23AndMe, FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, or GEDMatch. For each match I assigned them a color based on our most recent common ancestors.

So far, I have only painted about 9% of my DNA and most of that is from my maternal line. But once you begin to build up your chromosome map you can use it to help figure out the relationship between you and other matches that you are unsure about.

For example, I have assigned the maternal DNA from my great-great-grandparents Carl and Christina (Beier) Behnke a deep purple color. If I find a maternal match on any of these purple segments, then I know we are related through this Behnke and Beier line. Sometimes these matches have shallow trees but once I know where we are related I can do a little research and build out their tree to intersect mine.

If I find a maternal match on any of these purple segments, then I know we are related through this Behnke and Beier line.

I also have a major brickwall I hope DNA Painter can help me with. My great-great-great-grandfather was Michael Yeagle. According to his obituary, he was born in 1810 in Centre County, Pennsylvania. He married Sarah Kreilick from Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, sometime in the mid-1830s, and they moved to Sandusky County, Ohio, about 1839. I know a lot about Michael and Sarah in Ohio. But I know nothing about the Yeagle family from Pennsylvania except they were of German heritage.

However, I’ve recently discovered a group on DNA Painter that might help. On chromosome 17 I noticed I had a cluster of five matches who also had a lot of Pennsylvania German lines in their family trees. I assigned them the color yellow and they are my new FAN (friends, associates and neighbors) club for Michael and Sarah (Kreilick) Yeagle. Although we haven’t figured out how we are related yet, I hope further research will provide some clues about my Yeagle family.

About Pam Holland

Pam is a certificate holder from the Boston University Genealogical Research program and has researched family history for over 14 years. She has attended numerous genealogical institutes, including Samford University Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR) and Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG). She also has a B.A. from the College of Wooster and a M.S. from Northeastern University. Her areas of interest include New England, New York (both city and state), Ireland, Germany, Social History, and DNA.

4 thoughts on “DNA and a brick wall

  1. I love DNAPainter. Thanks for this article. The video introduction is very helpful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyjcJxywTZI

    User tip: If you have a living parent, get them an autosomal DNA test too. When you paint their DNA segments on your map, you can instantly see which segments come from your mother and which segments come from your father. Any later additions will be much easier to see if they are a match on your paternal side or a match on your maternal side.

  2. Similar reasoning can be used with the shared matches lists available for AncestryDNA matches. Ancestry recently announced that more than 7 million people have tested with AncestryDNA. If all of these people submitted their results to GEDmatch (or to FamilyTreeDNA) then one could use the DNA painter with the AncestryDNA shared matches. Meanwhile the AncestryDNA shared matches lists provide the next best alternative for finding descendants of an unknown ancestor among AncestryDNA matches.

  3. A fine example of where spelling changes to match pronunciation can stump you. That name started with a J in Germany; I would bet good money on it. The first vowel might be ö, pronounced as a long a (as in say). The g might be a ch, and we finish with an el rather than an le. Let’s hear it for soundex!

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