Using X and Mitochondrial DNA Charts by Charting Companion

Charting Companion by Progeny Genealogy interfaces with many genealogy software programs to produce lovely charts and graphs not available within the genealogy software applications themselves. I first installed Charting Companion when I used PAF and was very glad to see that it interfaces with RootsMagic too, the software I switched to when PAF was no longer supported. RIP PAF🙁

Over the past couple years, Charting Companion has implemented DNA focused reports. I covered their first report, the X Ancestor Chart when it was first introduced, but they have since added mtDNA charts, and most recently X Descendant Charts. I love these reports and how useful they are to the genealogist.

It’s important to understand that both your mitochondrial DNA and the X chromosome have special inheritance paths and therefore, special uses for genetic genealogy research. I wrote about the X chromosome here and here.

The article 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy is a brief description of the various kinds of DNA testing available to genetic genealogists, and who can test for which kind.

X Chromosome Inheritance Path

In males, the X chromosome is only inherited from the mother, because the father gives the male a Y chromosome, which is what makes the male, male. In females, the father contributes his X chromosome to his daughter, as does her mother. However, the father only received an X from his mother – so you can see that the inheritance pattern for the X chromosome is not the same as other chromosomes where all children receive 50% of their inherited DNA from each parent.

Because of this unusual inheritance pattern, you can easily tell whether an autosomal match that shares an X chromosome could descend from the ancestor you think they might. If you’re a male and you think an X match comes through your father or one of his ancestors – think again, because it can’t.

Here’s my hand-drawn chart of the ancestors that portions of my X chromosome could have descended from.

X Chart0001

Now that I have Charting Companion, I no longer have to hand draw this chart. Charting Companion does it quickly and easily for me. And it’s much, MUCH neater!

x fan

The X chromosome is tested as part of an autosomal DNA test, but not all vendors report X matches. Ancestry does not provide information about the chromosomes where you match anyone, so at Ancestry, there is no way to know if you match someone on the X chromosome. Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder test does test for and report X chromosome matching and so does GedMatch if you upload your raw data files from any vendor.

Mitochondrial DNA Inheritance Path

Mitochondrial DNA is not passed to the children from males. Females pass their mitochondrial DNA to both genders of their children, but only females pass it on.

This pedigree chart below shows the Y and mitochondrial DNA inheritance path for a brother and sister. Both siblings received their mother’s mtDNA, which reaches back in time directly up the matrilineal line ONLY.

Y and mito

The great news is that since the mitochondrial DNA is never admixed with the father’s DNA, it’s a direct pipeline that informs us about the matrilineal line for hundreds and thousands of years back in time.

The bad news is that in order to find out about the mitochondrial DNA of another ancestor in your tree – meaning all of your ancestors that don’t have red circles in the chart above, you must find someone descended from a female through all females to the current generation, which can be a male. Testing for mitochondrial DNA is available through Family Tree DNA.

Let’s say you want to find out about the mitochondrial DNA of your father’s mother to fill in one of the haplogroups in your DNA pedigree chart. You would need to locate an individual to test who carries your father’s mother’s mitochondrial DNA. Your father can test, if he’s living and willing. If your father is deceased, and he had no siblings, and his mother is deceased with no siblings, you’re going to have to go on back up that tree until you find someone with living descendants who descend through only females to the current generation, which can include males.

Charting Companion makes finding those descendants easy.

Getting Started

You can purchase Charting Companion at this link.

After installing Charting Companion, which is painless (I had to install the latest upgrade for this article), Charting Companion opens the file you indicate, which is typically your production file for your genealogy software. You’ll select the person you want to be reflected as the source or center of your charts or reports in the yellow Name field, shown below. In my case, I selected Barbara Dreschel to be the person around whom the reports will center.

In case you’re wondering, “Babbit” was her nickname and J1c2f is her mitochondrial DNA haplogroup.  The only effective way I’ve discovered to maintain haplogroup information is as a middle name, so that’s what you’re seeing.


Next, you’ll select the type of report that you want to create.

You’ll want to click on the “Charts and Reports” tab and for the X chromosome charts, you’ll want to select either the Ancestor Charts, or the Descendant Charts.

chart companion

Net, you’ll select the X version, which is located under “color” because the proper people are colorized in pink and blue.

Ancestor chart options

Ancestor X Charts

Ancestor charts generally start with you and work their way back in time.   My X version shows which ancestors I inherited my X chromosome from. This can be very helpful when evaluating matches. In some cases, you cannot have a match to a particular person on the X chromosome from the particular line in question.

Ancestor charts come in two flavors, one is a traditional ancestor chart, the fan version shown earlier in this article, and the second version is a pedigree chart.

x pedigree 1

x pedigree 2

These charts make it easy to see who you could have received your X chromosome from – so X matches must be from the pink and blue colored ancestors and cannot be from ancestors whose boxes are not colored.

For example, if I match a descendant of John Y. Estes, located at the top of the pedigree chart, above, on the X chromosome, I know the common ancestor that I received the X DNA from is NOT John Y. Estes, because I couldn’t have inherited any X DNA from him. That’s easy to discern, because there is no coloration in John Y.’s box. So an X match to a descendant of John Y. Estes is not FROM John Y. Estes. It’s either a false match or the matching X chromosome is from another common ancestor. Of course, that doesn’t mean we both aren’t descended from John Y. Estes – it only means that our X match is not from John Y.  I wrote about false matches here.

When I receive an X match to someone and we’re trying to find a common ancestor, I suggest that my match print this same chart for themselves and that will help them determine which ancestors or ancestral lines we might potentially have in common.

Descendant X Charts

Recently Charting Companion announced a new tool, Descendant X Charts. On these charts, the ancestor is the focus and the descendants who inherited their X chromosome are colored either pink or blue. Part of the Descendant X Chart for Barbara Drechsel is shown below. You can click on any graphic to enlarge.


Descendant Charts look a little different than Ancestor Charts. Don’t be confused by the white box between Elnora Kirsch and her daughters. That’s just her husband, Curtis Benjamin Lore. While he contributes an X chromosome (with daughters) or doesn’t (with sons,) it’s not HIS X chromosome we’re tracking in this chart, it’s the X chromosome of Barbara Drechsel. Curtis would be shown either on his own ancestor chart, or you can create a Descendant X Chart for Curtis.

You might notice in this diagram that this family is particularly prone to not having children. Trying to find ANY DNA participants has been very challenging. However, when I do find them (fingers crossed) I’ll know immediately if they (and I) could possibly carry the X chromosome of Barbara Drechsel by looking at these charts. I’m someplace to the left on this chart, but off the edge of the graphic above.

My favorite Charting Companion charts are still the fan charts though, shown below, because they are compact and succinct and you can see everything on one chart on one page.


Mitochondrial DNA Charts

To find descendants who carry the mitochondrial DNA of any female, select the person whose mtDNA-carrying descendants you want to find. Then click on the Charts and Reports tab and select the Descendant Chart. You’ll then see various options at the top, where you’ll want to click on the Contents tab.


Select Mitochondrial DNA. Note that you can also select the Y chromosome DNA, but that’s much more evident if you’re looking for a male, because the surname stays the same, so DNA testing candidates are generally rather obvious.


On the mtDNA Descendants Chart above, the people in pink and blue carry the mtDNA of Barbara Drechsel. The blue people, males, won’t pass it on to their offspring, but the pink people, females, will if they have offspring. You can see that many females in this family did not have children, so there are several dead ends for Barbara’s mtDNA, including one more daughter who is off of the right hand side of the page. On your computer, you can scroll and the printed reports allow you to overlap.

The Mitochondrial DNA Chart is a great tool to find out who carries the mitochondrial DNA of any ancestor.


I love tools that help people understand their DNA and how it’s useful to their genealogy. The X charts make seeing the X inheritance path so much easier than trying to explain in verbiage (or drawing by hand) – and provides an easy visual to quickly identify whether a particular ancestor could potentially be responsible for an X DNA match.

For mitochondrial DNA, the charting tool makes the task of finding appropriate descendants to test much easier. It can also work in reverse. If you want to know if a particular person is a candidate for testing for a specific ancestor’s mtDNA, it’s easy to see immediately if their box is colored pink or blue.

I especially love tools that are ubiquitous and run with almost any software package and that don’t require special plugins. Furthermore, I’m particularly enamored with vendors who listen to and take suggestions to heart from their customer base. No, this suggestion wasn’t mine, but the X Descendant Chart was implemented within a week of when it was suggested by a customer. Two weeks later, it was in production – and now all Charting Companion customers benefit. A big thank you to Pierre Clouthier at Progeny Genealogy.



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27 thoughts on “Using X and Mitochondrial DNA Charts by Charting Companion

  1. Is it possible to choose which file to use when opening Charting Companion? I have dozens of separate family trees because I created two one-name-study type projects and don’t want to mix everything in one genealogy file. Additionally, a couple of my own direct lines have been traced back more than 30 generations which would make the original data file way too large, cumbersome and slow if all lines were in the same file.

  2. Hi Roberta. Thank you so much for all your blogs. I have learned a lot from them. I have a question I am sure you can answer. My dad and I (his son) are showing up as X-matches, which shouldn’t be the case. How would I determine whether this is a false match or somehow he and my mother share an ancestor. I ran the “Are my parents related” app, and it said no. I have also traced both families very far back and have not found a common ancestor. My father is from New England, and my mother is from the deep south. I haven’t been able to find an answer to this question. Thanks in advance.

    • You have done what I would suggest. If the segment is small, it maybe false. There is really no way to tell unless you can find that same segment attributed to other matches where you can identify the common ancestor.

      • I had 11 X matches at FTDNA that did not match my mother (either phasing or ICW). Out of 24 X matches total. I was baffled by this. Although they were small.

        Three of the eleven were also at GedMatch. I was able to compare them via X One to One, and they did in fact match my mother’s X. It was misleading because I also have a larger (>7 cM) autosomal match that is paternal.

        (I dont know if my parents were related. Not that I know of. They did share common geography since the 1600s. So maybe 7th or 8th?)

  3. This looks fantastic. I followed the link and noticed they don’t sell an Apple MAC version. They refer MAC users to emulator programs such as Apple “Boot Camp”, “Parallels”, “VMware Fusion”, and “Virtual PC” for MAC. Has anyone used these with this software and Reunion family tree software?
    Thanks so much. Jill

    • I’m sorry to see that it doesn’t work with Reunion for Mac. My husband used “Virtual PC” on his Macbook and it really slowed the computer down in both platforms, Mac and PC. I’m biased, but if you have a Mac why on earth would you want to turn it into a PC?

      • To try Charting Companion on a Mac (without “turning it into a PC”), I used a trial version of a program called Crossover, which will allow you to run Windows software on a Mac without installing Windows. It does not work with all programs, but claims to be compatible with over 13,000 Windows apps. I was able to open and use a trial of Charting Companion. The only problem was that the interface looked somewhat worse than what was shown in Roberta’s post, as if it was from Windows 3.1 or something (if anyone remembers using that!). I suppose it was mostly the fonts, but it was somewhat klutzy to use as well.

        I don’t mean this to be a plug, but it’s just my experience: I use Reunion for Mac for my genealogy software, and although it does not currently provide the option for automatic specific coloring for X, Y or mtDNA charts, it otherwise makes really nice charts, especially the new options for fan charts in the latest version 12. I intend to experiment and see if I can create an X chart without too much fuss. I’m hoping Reunion will introduce similar selections for DNA-related charts in the next update.

    • I have run Charting Companion my MacBook Pro (High Sierra OS) using the free Wineskin Emulator. It seems to work well so that I have just bought it from Progeny. I find Windows programs never look very good when run on a Mac using an emulator, but it’s certainly acceptable and the printouts are fine.

      So thanks, Roberta, for bringing this to my attention

      Only problem when using Wineskin under High Sierra is addressed here – simple and effective:

      There is a problem in Wineskin GPU detection code with High Sierra changes.
      By default your wrappers may crash or fail to launch.
      Currently you can work around this by launching, going to Set Screen Options, and uncheck the Auto Detect GPU for Direct 3D option, and the wrapper should work normally.

      • Just a bit more on my previous post – Wineskin doesn’t turn your Mac into a PC. It just puts a wrapper around the Windows software to direct the calls to the right place. When you are not running the program, then the emulator isn’t running. Has zero effect on Mac performance. I use it for a handful of invaluable things: Surname Atlas, GenSmarts, and now, Charting Companion. It’s free and it works fine with these. I never could make my old Windows software, The Master Genealogist, work with it but then they went out of business, so I made the break to native Mac software. A plug – GeditCom. Have never regretted it.

  4. Roberta, yes, it is unfortunate Ancestry does not report the X (and especially for those people not uploaded to Gedmatch) because sometimes they are not getting the whole story.

    I.e., I have a DNA cousin at Ancestry and they report we share 12 cMs. So that is not very exciting, until I go to Gedmatch and find out in addition, that my cousin and I share a whopping 66.3 CMs on the X. Now that is a game changer!

  5. Very interesting that although some people would be very interested in these charts, they would not be inclined to purchase this software, but they would be very happy to PAY someone to provide them with a fan chart, etc.

    So where is that young entrepreneurial spirit who wants to capture this niche?

  6. I actually made the recommendation for the team at BYU Family History Technology Lab to add a feature that highlights potential X-Chromosome Contributors in their OnePageGenealogy tool Just Click on “Colors” and then click on X Chromosome Contributors.

    Of course you need your tree in since it pulls from that.

  7. I’d never considered marking x-chromosome-carrying ancestors but the charts (particularly the fan chart) look so helpful! I’ll definitely look into it. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    • I’m sorry, but it isn’t that simple, and the X is even more complex. Many X matches at that level are identical by chance. You would need to look for a triangulation group of people who share a common ancestor who match on that segment to verify that it’s authentic.

  8. Pingback: X Matching and Mitochondrial DNA is Not the Same Thing | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

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  10. What would be the best way to find out who the father is of a new 1st cousin. She is a pretty close match to all the 1st cousins. What we know, there were 8 boys in my father’s family, they lived down the street to LC, she became pregnant when her father was in the service. This was during World War 2, all our parents and their siblings are deceased. We just have the 1st cousins and no one knows which it could be. They were all lovers and handsome. 6 were in the service at the same time. But not when LC was conceived.

    • Depending on the situation, you may or may not be able to. But this falls into consulting with lots of variables. I can’t do that reliable via blog comments.

  11. Pingback: Charting Companion Creates Easy, Quick Last-Minute Gifts | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

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