WATO+ vs BanyanDNA: How Do They Compare?

Diahan Southard

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WATO+ vs BanyanDNA are two new DNA tools. We look at features offered with both tools to see how they compare.

The Holy Grail of genetic genealogy is to find yourself a group of DNA matches who all relate to each other through a common ancestor who is not currently on your tree. The presence of these matches indicates that you are also in some way related to their common ancestor. But how exactly? Ah, this becomes your next quest.

WATO+ vs BanyanDNA

To help us better understand our relationship to a group of matches we have two very powerful tools at our disposal: WATO+, hosted at DNAPainter.com, and BanyanDNA, hosted at BanyanDNA.com. We have posted about WATO+ and BanyanDNA separately, but how do these two similar tools compare?

Remember, the purpose of both tools is to help us decide where we fit into the tree of our matches. At the bottom of this post is a table comparing all of the different features of both tools, but I am going to call out the highlights for you here.

1. Tools offered in both WATO+ and BanyanDNA

You’ll find these tools in both WATO+ and BanyanDNA:

  • Build a tree for your DNA matches and enter the shared amount of DNA you have with each match
  • Offer to import a GEDCOM of your family tree
  • Allow you to ask the data where you fit by adding at least one (but ideally more) hypothesis to the tree you built
  • Report to you a relative probability regarding the likelihood of that particular hypothesis as the best explanation for the data you gave it. “Relative probability” means that the hypotheses you give the tool are all compared to each other and the numbers you get reflect how likely one scenario is over another. So each guess will gain or lose prominence not necessarily based on its own merits, but how much more or less likely it is than the others.

2. Done-For-You features

Currently, WATO+ has a done-for-you feature where it can auto-generate hypotheses. This means that after creating the family tree of your DNA matches in the tool, instead of manually adding the places in the tree where you think you might fit, WATO+ will generate all of those hypotheses for you. If you enter the birth years for people in the tree, WATO+ will use this to calculate their age at the time of the birth and will take this into account when it is generating hypotheses.

Importantly, WATO+ allows you to set up a specific scenario for your unknown ancestor, including the birth year of the person with unknown parentage and the gender of the person you are looking for. Then WATO will auto-populate your line down from that ancestor to help you create the hypothesis.

BanyanDNA will use the shared DNA information you provide between your matches to double check the genetics vs genealogy of the family tree you have entered. This will help you be sure the family tree you have drawn for your DNA matches is genetically accurate. You can do this for multiple DNA kits at the same time. This will help you be sure the family tree you have drawn for your DNA matches is genetically accurate. 

3. Handling complicated family relationships

WATO+ has a feature called Flex-Mode that allows you to indicate if the individuals you have built into your current tree may also be related to you in another way through different shared ancestors. This Flex-Mode alerts the algorithm to that possibility and allows for suggested hypotheses that otherwise might not be valid.

BanyanDNA is all about helping you tackle those difficult family scenarios. It can:

  • Handle family trees where there are multiple relationships. So if you have two brothers who married two sisters, you can enter that data in the tool, as well as the shared cMs of those involved, and the tool will help you figure out your connection to these DNA matches.
  • Correct for non-independence. We like to think of every person who has tested as if they are their own independent testimony of a relationship we may have with their ancestor. But this is not entirely true. Siblings will likely just reflect whatever DNA data their parent had. For example, if the parent was sharing more DNA than average, those two siblings would likely share more as well. See how those two data points are actually just reflecting that one single data point of the parent? Most of the time this doesn’t make a difference, but it can, and so Banyan is taking that into account.

Which DNA tool should you use?

In short, most genetic genealogists will find value in both tools, with those who have known multiple-relationships or pedigree collapse favoring BanyanDNA, and those who do not, finding their value with WATO+.

As you can see, there are so many great innovations and updates in the DNA world. Keep up with them by getting our free monthly email newsletter!

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<a href="https://www.yourdnaguide.com/author/guideyourdnaguide-com" target="_self">Diahan Southard</a>

Diahan Southard

As founder and CEO of Your DNA Guide, Diahan Southard has been teaching people how to find family history answers in their DNA for several years, and she's been in the genetic genealogy field since its infancy. Diahan teaches internationally, writes for popular magazines, consults with leading testing companies, is author of Your DNA Guide–The Book, and producer of Your DNA Guide–the Academy, an online learning experience.


  1. Laura Myers-Meske

    Thanks for the comparison of the two methods. I learned a lot from it.

  2. Gail Burk

    This comparison is super helplful. I’m hoping to find success using either BanyanDNA or WATO+ – – or both! I suspect I’ll be referring back to this post often.

  3. Marilyn Totten

    Sorry I missed Diane’s #5 RootsTech presentation yesterday, March 7th. RootsTech always gave their times as CST times. Diane changed this last presentation to EST, and if one didn’t notice that…..one missed it!!! Very disappointing.

    • Diahan Southard

      Sorry you missed the webinar! We have the recording available here, just put in your name and email address and it will take you to the recording.


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