What Are the Odds? Plus (WATO+): A New Upgrade to the Classic Tool

Katie Crichton

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What Are the Odds? plus (WATO+) is a new tool from DNA Painter with new features available. Learn about WATO+’s new features and subscription options.

This week DNA Painter announced the launch of its new tool, What Are the Odds? plus (WATO+), and Your DNA Guide couldn’t wait to get our hands on it! Keep reading to learn more about all the features that WATO+ offers.

What Are the Odds? plus (WATO+) tool

You may already be familiar with the original WATO tool, a web-based tool designed by genetic genealogist and web developer extraordinaire Jonny Perl that helps you explore how a DNA tester might fit into a known family tree. WATO+ is a new tool designed by Jonny that’s now available with more features! Whether you seek to identify your unknown biological father or unravel deeper family mysteries, WATO+ can help.

What’s new with WATO+?

The changes with WATO+ begin with the new, updated research question format. On the original tool, you were prompted to fill in the name of the tester and his or her birthdate. Optionally, you could add a freeform, typewritten research question, primarily to remind yourself of your goals.

Original WATO research question form

With WATO+, this information is no longer optional. Additionally, the tester is no longer required to be the target of the research question. Instead, you can fill in the name and birth year of the tester, their parent, their grandparent, or another direct ancestor up to the 2x great-grandparent level.

New WATO+ research question form

A major benefit of this change is that you can focus your attention entirely on the subject of your research question. Rather than repeatedly adding multiple hypothetical descendant generations and marking the tester as a hypothesis, you simply select a candidate for the unknown biological parent and WATO+ automatically populates the child, the tester, and any intervening generations.

Actions and settings menu

The action buttons and settings menu, previously accessed separately, are now combined into one easy-to-use dropdown menu. The design often eliminates the need for scrolling and multiple clicks. Whereas before, the save button offered multiple options—saving an image, downloading the data for a WATO tree, duplicating the WATO tree—each of these options is now instantly available.

The new actions and settings menu

Advanced WATO+ users may wish to further explore the options in this menu, which allow an increased level of control over the tool’s calculations. Users can choose to:

  • Select which set of probabilities to use, those described in AncestryDNA’s 2016 White Paper or those compiled in 2020 with the help of Dr. Leah Larkin.
  • Stop WATO+ from adding unknown people to the tree below the shared ancestral couple.
  • Allow WATO+ to add siblings of the shared ancestor or ancestors identified in the tree.
  • Adjust the tool’s assumptions about the minimum age to be a parent and maximum ages for both male and female parents. Default settings are 14, 74, and 54.
  • Implement Flex Mode, which allows WATO+ to consider relationships with more DNA shared than would normally be expected – potentially useful for families experiencing endogamy or pedigree collapse.

Those familiar with the original tool should take note: unlike the previous version of WATO, the default setting is for WATO+ not to add generations before or at the same level as the earliest common ancestor built into the tree. Both this setting and the option to restrict the addition of people at lower generations should be used with caution. While these selections could be helpful in limiting the size of the tree, both also reduce the number of hypotheses generated. Choosing to avoid overwhelm may cause you to miss a key relationship option.

Increased comfort and navigability

WATO+ also introduces two new features that, though simple, greatly increase ease of use:

  • The option to switch between dark and light modes.
  • A navigation pane on the right margin, allowing users to jump quickly between sections. Want to view the score calculations? No more scrolling!

How to use WATO+

In the following example, I am trying to confirm the identity of my grandmother’s biological father. My hypothesis states that I would like to identify the biological father of Dorothy Marple, born in the year 1913, using the DNA matches of her granddaughter (me!).


I clicked just twice, adding both Bruce Dunlap and Oliver Marple as hypotheses, and nodes for me, my father, and my grandmother appeared in multiple places on the tree, as shown below:

The new WATO+ tool showing two hypotheses, Bruce Dunlap or Oliver Marple, as the biological father of Dorothy Marple, Katie’s grandmother.

If you’ve used the classic WATO tool, you know what a time-savings this represents!

As with the original tool, WATO+ can also auto-generate hypotheses for you. With the upgraded version, these hypotheses take into account both the birth year of the child and the gender of the unknown parent. You also have the option to use age-based probabilities to further refine these hypotheses. Currently, these calculations are based solely on records created in the United States. However, plans are in the works to expand the data set to include additional countries.

The information in this data set includes the number of men in different age groups fathering children by women of varying ages. As a result, in WATO+, you can specify the year of birth of the known biological parent and find those candidates most likely to have had a child with a person of his or her age.

Also in the research question form are new options:

  • Identify which testing company the matches were sourced from
  • Add a title to the tree

Both sets of information are added to the research question in the header of the WATO+ tree, as shown below.

WATO+ subscription options

During the initial launch, all users can experience WATO+ for free. After the trial period, certain functions will no longer be available to non-subscribers. These include the upload of text files, commonly used to save and share WATO trees, and access to age-based probabilities. Free accountholders are also limited to one WATO+ tree, but with a subscription you can have up to 50 trees.

If you already have a DNA Painter subscription, you’ll have access to WATO+ and other tools, including a button at the top of the regular WATO tool that will copy your WATO tree directly to WATO+. Currently, an annual subscription to DNA Painter costs $55. Subscribers to DNA Painter receive additional benefits, listed in the table below:

DNA Painter subscription and free member features

With all of these new features, those of us here at Your DNA Guide can’t wait to get started building trees in WATO+ and learning more about all the tool’s new features! Not sure where to start? Download our free guide for the four next steps for your DNA to identify unknown ancestors.

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<a href="https://www.yourdnaguide.com/author/katie-crichton" target="_self">Katie Crichton</a>

Katie Crichton

Katie Critchton is an Academy Assistant at Your DNA Guide. Katie has over 20 years of genealogy experience. She holds a certificate in genealogical research from Boston University and has completed the ProGen Study Groups program, as well as numerous institute courses. Katie specializes in British and Irish research and the colonial U.S. South. She also enjoys applying her background in molecular biology to solve challenging genetic genealogy problems. She is currently an Advanced Researcher at Legacy Tree Genealogists and has served as the secretary of ProGen Study Groups since 2021.

1 Comment

  1. Gail Burk

    Thank you for this post about WATO+. I’m determined to find success with WATO this year.


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