After months of procrastinating, I finally began using DNA Painter last month. I am typically not a major procrastinator, but I was convinced to move forward with it after reading a Facebook comment purporting its usefulness in determining the connection to DNA matches. Indeed, it is. This tool is so cool, that web developer Jonny Perl was the grand prize winner in the DNA Innovation Contest at the 2018 RootsTech Conference.
DNA Painter is a relatively simple web-based tool for chromosome mapping – the process of labeling/assigning your chromosome segments to specific ancestors. This is largely accomplished through DNA matches to known relatives. For example, Cousin J.J. and I are third cousins; we share the same great great grandparents. Our great grandmothers were sisters. According to 23andMe, we share 69 cM over 5 chromosome segments. 23andMe, MyHeritage and FamilyTree DNA (FTDNA) provide customers with a chromosome browser and segment data. AncestryDNA does not. I entered our matching segment data into DNA Painter. I then labeled those five segments as originating from our great great grandparents, Edward & Louisa Bobo Danner. I painted those particular segments with the color red. I did this for all of my matching Danner cousins who are DNA-tested.
I painted my chromosomes, as well as my parents’ chromosomes, from our numerous DNA matches to known relatives who had taken the 23andMe, MyHeritage or FTDNA tests or who had taken the AncestryDNA test and uploaded their raw data to MyHeritage, FTDNA, GEDmatch.com or Genesis GEDmatch. To read more about DNA Painter and how it works, just google “DNA Painter” for numerous articles or visit dnapainter.com. Once you’ve painted a number of chromosome segments, a colorful, labeled chromosome diagram shows how we are certainly an amalgamation of our ancestors.
Painting my parents’ chromosomes led me to cool discoveries and confirmations. One of the discoveries is connecting an African DNA cousin to my father’s great great grandmother, BEADY BASS. This genetic cousin’s parents are Igbo from Anambra State in southeastern Nigeria. Born about 1810-1815 in Northampton County, North Carolina, Grandma Beady and her children were transported to Hinds County, Mississippi around 1849. Here’s how this was verified using DNA Painter.
In 23andMe, this Igbo genetic cousin shares 11 cM of DNA on chromosome 18 with me and my father. In the “Relative in Common” section, I saw that she also shares DNA with Cousin Nettie. Cousin Nettie’s mother and my father are 4th cousins; their great great grandmothers, Barsilla “Zilla” Williford of Bertie County, N.C. and Grandma Beady, were sisters who had been forever separated. See family tree diagram below. Cousin Nettie is marked as “Yes” under “Shared DNA.” This means that our Igbo cousin shares the same identical DNA on chromosome 18 with both my father and Cousin Nettie, and it came from a common ancestor.
I clicked on “Yes” to view the chromosomes.
However, I desired to verify that our identical DNA segment on chromosome 18 did in fact originate from Grandma Beady. It’s not uncommon for researchers to discover that a shared DNA segment with a known relative did not come from the expected, genealogical ancestor. How could I verify? This is where DNA Painter came to the rescue.
Grandma Beady also had an older sister named Jemima Mayo, who was taken to Madison County, Tennessee. Two of Aunt Jemima’s great great great grandchildren, Cousin Janice and Cousin Kofi, are DNA matches to me and my father. They both took the AncestryDNA test and uploaded their raw data to GEDmatch. Turns out, they share 15 cM on chromosome 18 with us. I entered their matching segment data into DNA Painter. I labeled their segments as “Beady Bass,” since they are related via Grandma Beady, and painted it navy blue.
Cousin Nettie tested her mother with AncestryDNA and uploaded her raw data to GEDmatch. As anticipated, her mother is a DNA match on chromosome 18, verifying that Cousin Nettie inherited that matching segment on chromosome 18 from her mother. I entered her mother’s matching segment data into DNA Painter. I also labeled her segment as “Beady Bass,” since she is related via Grandma Beady.
Cousin Mary, my father’s second cousin once removed, also tested with AncestryDNA and uploaded her raw data to GEDmatch. She and my father share 181 cM over 8 segments, with 45 cM on chromosome 18. Her great-grandmother, Mariah Bass Robinson, and my father’s maternal grandmother, Angeline Bass Belton, were sisters – the daughters of John “Jack” Bass and Frances Morris Bass of Warren County, Mississippi. Grandma Beady was John’s mother.
Turns out, Cousin Mary also matches Aunt Jemima’s descendants, Cousins Janice and Kofi, on chromosome 18 in the same location where they match my father! They form a DNA triangulation group. This allowed me to label Cousin Mary’s matching segment on chromosome 18 with my father as “Beady Bass.”
I then added our Igbo genetic cousin’s segment data into DNA Painter. Now let’s take a look at my father’s maternal chromosome 18 from DNA Painter.
As you can see in the diagram, Cousin Mary overlaps with Cousin Nettie’s mother. This indicates that they should also share DNA with each other in this region. To be sure, I used the “One-To-One Compare” option in GEDmatch to confirm. This is the result.
Therefore, I can assert with high confidence that the blue region on my father’s maternal chromosome 18 not only originate from Grandma Beady Bass, but an Igbo genetic cousin links it to the Igbo people of Nigeria. Thankfully this Igbo genetic cousin took the 23andMe test, which allowed me to import her matching segment data into DNA Painter to verify the connection to Grandma Beady.
Genetic genealogists recommend that one of the best ways to utilize DNA to get a glimpse of our African roots is through DNA matches to modern-day Africans who have also taken one of the autosomal DNA tests (AncestryDNA, 23andMe, MyHeritage, FTDNA). Autosomal DNA matching with Africans likely reflects a MRCA (Most Recent Common Ancestor) within the last 500 hundred years, a genealogical time frame. However, we should consider that some DNA matches below 10 cM might be “false positives.” For more information about false matches, read Blaine Bettinger’s The Danger of Distant Matches.
Grandma Beady was born on Council Bass’s plantation in Northampton County, North Carolina. According to her sister’s 1914 death certificate, their parents were named Seneca Bass and Rosa Bass. I have documented Grandma Rosa/Rose, my father’s great great great grandmother, from Council Bass’s estate records and other court records. She was born around 1775-1780. A preponderance of evidence from genealogy research also indicates that Grandma Beady had a brother named Seneca Hatcher (born c. 1816), who was likely “Seneca Jr.”
Interestingly, of the nearly 37,000 Africans disembarked in nearby Virginia from Calabar (present-day Nigeria) in the 18th century, approximately 30,000 (81%) of them were Igbo, according to historian Dr. Douglas B. Chambers . He asserts that at least 60% of African Americans, descendants of enslaved Africans brought to America, have at least one Igbo ancestor. Both my father and my mother have several Igbo DNA cousins in AncestryDNA.
To read more about the Igbo’s strong link to Virginia, check out Fonte Felipe’s The Igbo Connection for Virginia & Virginia-Descendants.
 Chambers, Douglas B. Murder at Montpelier: Igbo Africans in Virginia. University Press of Mississippi, March 2005. p. 23. ISBN 1-57806-706-5.