What is the Ancestry Chromosome Painter/Browser?

Understanding chromosomes and DNA inheritance are both key to cracking some of the toughest genealogical brick walls. It is not an uncommon thing for people to have a recent ancestor for whom the identity of one or both their parents is not known.

This is why DNA testing is a great way to help make big strides in your family history research. AncestryDNA for example has an ever growing array of DNA tools which can help you determine who you may be related to and descended from.

The latest tool from Ancestry is the Chromosome Painter which is yet another step forward in the company's offerings. In this post we will learn about this new tool, how it’s used and why it can be so helpful.

What Is the Chromosome Painter in Ancestry DNA?

It is important first to point out that some people may confuse this tool with a chromosome browser. Although very similar, the Chromosome Painter does not do the same thing as a chromosome browser. A browser allows you to compare your DNA to your DNA matches but Ancestry as of yet does not have this functionality.

What then is a chromosome painter? Well simply put the chromosome painter focuses on your ethnicity estimate results. It does this by leveraging the data from millions of DNA tests in Ancestry’s database to estimate where your recent ancestors may have originated from.

So unlike a chromosome browser which compares segments of your DNA to individual or multiple matches, the chromosome painter looks at genetic markers that indicate ethnicity estimates.

The chromosome painter works in conjunction with the SideView technology which itself sorts your ethnic DNA into two specific parental groupings. Having sorted our DNA between the two parental groups through SideView this chromosome painter can display this information in relation to which chromosome those ethnic DNA markers can be found.

How to Locate Your Chromosome Painter Results

It should go without saying but just in case, to have this feature you must have taken a DNA test with AncestryDNA. It may seem redundant to say this but we can never assume that everyone knows something.

So assuming you have tested with AncestryDNA and received your results then we can go looking for this feature.

  • Log in to your Ancestry account and go to the home page
  • From the homepage click on the DNA option of the top toolbar this is between “Search” and “Help”
  • In the dropdown menu right at the top you will “Your DNA Results Summary” Click this and go to the next page
  • On the left of the screen you will see DNA Story click this and go to the next page
  • Below the Ethnicity Estimate on the right of the screen you will find the box that says Ethnicity Inheritance. At the bottom of this box should be Chromosome Painter (it should be noted that as of September 5th some users are still waiting for this feature so you may need to be patient)
  • If the option is available click on the Chromosome Painter and you are there

What Are the Functions of The Chromosome Painter?

At present this tool is just a couple of months old so it really only has a few available functions. It is likely Ancestry will make the system more complex over time but for now it is limited.

  1. You can adjust the Chromosome Painter filter to allow you to see specific ethnicities on your chromosomes. This allows you to know which chromosome these ethnic markers are found which can be important for analyzing them
  2. You can filter the results to show both or one parent at a time. This can help you determine more clearly where your ethnicity estimates came from
  3. If you manage multiple DNA tests you can switch between the results of all of the tests from this main screen,

Example of How This Works

Just to give you an example of how this works, when I choose to look at parent 1 and select my small percentage estimates from Sweden & Denmark and Norway I find that chromosomes 12, 17 and 18 show Swedish/Danish DNA.

Chromosome 13 shows DNA from the Norway region which means that parent 1 has passed down the limited amount of Scandinavian ancestry I have in my estimates. When I switch to parent 2 none of these Scandinavian markers are found.

In the way the Chromosome Painter is displayed the top line of the paired chromosomes indicates parent 1 while the bottom one is connected to parent 2. As I already determined using SideView I know Parent 1 is my maternal line and that Parent 2 is my paternal line.

This determination is further supported by Chromosome Painter however by the fact that my majority DNA region Wales shows up only in connection to Parent 2. My Father was at least half Welsh through his father and his mother also had Welsh ancestry. Parent 1, my mother, has no recent Welsh ancestors and shows no Welsh DNA in what she passed to me.

How Easy Is It To Identify Parent 1 and Parent 2?

As mentioned I had already determined which of my parents matched up to which of SideViews two options. It was not too difficult for me because I already knew that my paternal grandfather was born in Wales and his line had been in Wales going back generations.

It can however be more difficult if you are unsure of your parents' specific ethnicities. Unfortunately SideView can not determine which parent is male and which is female based on the DNA.

If you do not know what ethnicities your parents may have passed down to you, you may have to try and build your tree out more. This may lead you to discovering a great grandparent who was born in a region that shows up in your estimate. Whichever parent is descended from that ancestor would likely have passed that DNA to you.

Those who were adopted however may be in for a difficult time when it comes to this however as it’s possible you do not know anything about either parent. Results of other DNA research however may show possible parents from certain regions and this could help you confirm theories.


The Chromosome Painter is an interesting new tool attached to AncestryDNA. At present its functions are limited and although handy for genealogy it is more of a fun addition. It can help us determine which parent may have passed down specific ethnic markers.

I hope this article has been of use and that you get good use out of the Chromosome Painter. Remember that as with all ethnicity estimate tools the results are just estimates and although they may suggest certain things they can not always confirm things.

Neil Edwards

Neil Edwards

Genealogist and family-tree research specialist

Neil was born in Shropshire, England surrounded by centuries of living history. His interest in the past has been a lifelong passion leading to undergraduate degrees in both Economic History & Geography and History & Politics.

This interest in history quickly translated to family history when he moved to the U.S. in 2010. It was here that he began working on his own family tree as well as that of his American wife. That research allowed him to gain a wealth of experience working with both U.S. and European genealogical documents and studying their best uses in researching family history.

Following 9 years of honing his genealogical research skills, Neil was proud to have earned a certificate in Genealogical Research from Boston University in late 2019. Neil also took part in the research process for a Duke University study into the families of 19th Century UK Members of Parliament.

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  • " What is the Ancestry Chromosome Painter/Browser?". NameCensus.com. Accessed on October 1, 2023. https://namecensus.com/blog/what-is-the-ancestry-chromosome-painter-browser/.

  • " What is the Ancestry Chromosome Painter/Browser?". NameCensus.com, https://namecensus.com/blog/what-is-the-ancestry-chromosome-painter-browser/. Accessed 1 October, 2023

  • What is the Ancestry Chromosome Painter/Browser?. NameCensus.com. Retrieved from https://namecensus.com/blog/what-is-the-ancestry-chromosome-painter-browser/.