FAQ: Participation, Testing, and Results

  1. When will I receive my results?

  2. I’ve had my DNA tested through other genetic testing sites like Ancestry.com and 23andMe. How do my Genographic Project results differ from theirs, and why?

  3. Why has my paternal haplogroup changed?

  4. What is the Geno 2.0 Participation and DNA Ancestry Kit?

  5. What can I expect from the Geno 2.0 test?

  6. How many people can be tested with each kit?

  7. What will my results tell me?

  8. Why would I want to participate?

  9. I purchased the Genographic kit and sent in my samples. What happens next?

  10. My kit arrived without instructions or a consent form. What should I do?

  11. My kit arrived without any swabs included. What should I do?

  12. What is the shelf life of the Geno 2.0 Project Participation and DNA Ancestry Kit?

  13. Are the DNA testing materials in the Genographic kit considered biohazards?

  14. I need to complete a postal form and need to indicate the contents of the package. What should I say?

  15. How much postage is required to mail you my samples in the envelope that came with the Genographic kit?

  16. Are children under the age of 18 permitted to participate in the Genographic Project?

  17. Do you sell Geno 2.0 Project Participation and DNA Ancestry Kits in other languages?

  18. Will you be able to tell me if I carry a problematic gene or if I am at risk of health problems?

  19. Will the Genographic Project conduct health-related analysis on my DNA sample or provide the sample to my physician?

  20. Can this DNA test serve as a paternity test?

  21. Will I have to choose to test either my paternal or maternal DNA?

  22. Should everyone in the family take the test?

  23. How can females learn about their paternal ancestry?

  24. Why do women have to pay the same amount for the kit as males if they do not receive the Y chromosome deep ancestry results?

  25. Why are my results slightly different from my sibling’s results?

  26. How will collected data be stored over the short and long run?

  27. Where are the DNA samples processed?

  28. Will any of the DNA or data be shared between the project and Family Tree DNA or other private genetic testing companies?

  29. Are my DNA analysis results anonymous and confidential?

  30. Will I have the right to remove my genetic profile from the database at some later time?

  31. Are there any risks associated with the test?

  32. How will my results be used for Genographic Project research?

Answers

  1. When will I receive my results?

    We are grateful for the enthusiastic response to our new Geno 2.0 kit and are glad you have joined the journey. Due to the high number of participants, some results may take up to 10 weeks to process from the time they are received at our lab. Thank you for your patience—our sincere apologies for any delay you may experience.

  2. I’ve had my DNA tested through other genetic testing sites like Ancestry.com and 23andMe. How do my Genographic Project results differ from theirs, and why?

    The Genographic Project is a research project of the National Geographic Society, which encompasses work carried out by our scientific team to elucidate new patterns of human migration, as well as public testing through the participation kits. Our testing focuses on deep ancestry from an anthropological perspective. It is not primarily a genealogy testing service, such as that offered by Ancestry.com, although you do have the option of seeing how you are related to other participants in the Our Story section. 23andMe is primarily a medically focused testing company, examining markers that are associated with disease risk. While they do offer some insights into ancestry, that is not their primary focus. The genetic technology we use for our testing is a custom-designed genotyping chip optimized for the study of ancestry, with far more Y-chromosome and mtDNA markers than are available with any other test. Our autosomal markers are similarly optimized for inferring ancestry, rather than medical testing, and we feel that it is the best technology available for this purpose.

  3. Why has my paternal haplogroup changed?

    Your haplogroup hasn’t changed—it has just become more precise as we’ve added new markers to the tree. When there were only a dozen or so sub-branches in the haplogroup R branch of the tree, for instance, using designations such as R1b1a made more sense. Now that there are hundreds of sub-branches in R alone, with more being added regularly as we test more people with the GenoChip, it’s much easier to designate people as being a member of a broad branch, such as R, and then to designate their terminal marker on the current tree.

  4. What is the Geno 2.0 Participation and DNA Ancestry Kit?

    The Genographic Project is an ambitious attempt to help answer fundamental questions about where we came from and how we came to populate the earth. Building on the science from the first phase of the Genographic Project, Geno 2.0 uses sophisticated, cutting-edge technology to build a more complete picture of our collective history. The team, led by population geneticist Dr. Spencer Wells, has created a revolutionary genotyping chip for studying deep ancestry to lead us further on this journey. The Geno 2.0 kit examines a unique collection of nearly 150,000 DNA identifiers, called “markers,” that offer rich ancestry-relevant information.

  5. What can I expect from the Geno 2.0 test?

    With a simple and painless cheek swab you can sample your own DNA and submit it to our laboratory where we will run one participant test per kit. We will test your mitochondrial DNA, which is passed down each generation from mother to child and reveals your direct maternal deep ancestry, and—if you are male—your Y chromosome, which is passed down from father to son and reveals your direct paternal deep ancestry. These male and female lineages will be scanned for thousands of genetic markers, providing the richest phylogenetic resolution. The new test also scans over 130,000 markers from across your entire genome that were inherited from both your mother and father, revealing insights into those ancestors who are not on a strictly maternal or paternal line.  Included among these markers is a set that will also reveal if you are carrying DNA that came from our hominid cousins, the Neanderthals and Denisovans.  (You can see a selection of sample results on the Buy the Kit page.)

  6. How many people can be tested with each kit?

    Each kit contains supplies for testing one person.

  7. What will my results tell me?

    Your results will place you on a particular branch of the human family tree dating as far back as 200,000 years ago, and will trace the migratory paths of your ancestors up to the more recent past, in some cases as recently as the past 1,000 years. Some anthropological stories are more detailed than others, depending upon the lineage you belong to. For example, if you are of recent African descent, your results will show the initial movements of your ancestors on the African continent, but may not reflect some of the migrations that have occurred within the past few hundred years. Your individual results may confirm your expectations of what you believe your deep ancestry to be, or you may be surprised to learn a new story about your genetic background.

    You will also receive a visual percentage breakdown of your genomic ancestry by regional genetic affiliation. These affiliations are compiled by examining the genetic markers across your entire genome beyond mtDNA and the Y chromosome—and comparing your results with our growing database to reveal the regional affiliations of your ancestry. Your regional genetic affiliations reflect the ancient migratory paths of your ancestors and how they mixed with groups around the world. Included in the analysis are Neanderthal and Denisovan markers, revealing if our hominid cousins left a trace in your DNA and sharing that percentage with you.

  8. Why would I want to participate?

    Ultimately, it is up to you, but participants will discover the migrations paths their ancient ancestors followed thousands of years ago and will learn the details of their ancestral roots—their branch on the family free. It is an opportunity to participate in a real-time scientific research effort and to connect with other participants to see how we are all related. This next generation of the Genographic Project DNA swab kit offers unique scientific information gained from the first phase of the Genographic Project to give participants an in-depth look into their ancestry. Participants can also play an active role in the historic quest to map this genetic journey. You will have the opportunity to register to join the Genographic online community, and to connect with other participants, share experiences, and find common ancestry—helping us to fill in the gaps between your genetic results and what you know about your more recent genealogy. And as a not-for-profit initiative, the Genographic Project will direct a portion of the proceeds from kit sales to project research as well as the Genographic Legacy Fund, which supports community led indigenous conservation and revitalization projects around the world.

  9. I purchased the Genographic kit and sent in my samples. What happens next?

    Once you return your genetic sample, it will be processed at Family Tree DNA, the Genographic Project’s testing partner and a leading genetic genealogy company.

    From the time you return your sample to us, it will take approximately six to eight weeks to test your DNA, analyze the specimens, and upload the results to the Genographic website. (Please note that in some cases, inconclusive data may occasionally require additional testing and might delay posting of results by two to three additional weeks.)

    Approximately ten days after you send in your sample, you can begin tracking where your sample is in the testing process by visiting the Genographic website and selecting “Check Results.” After you log in with your Genographic Project ID (sometimes referred to as a “GPID”), you will be able to see what stage of testing your sample is in, following along step-by-step as your sample is being tested and analyzed. Once your results are ready, you will be able to view them on the website.

    During login, you will also have the option to register your GPID and create an account. If you register, you will receive email updates letting you know when your sample enters each testing phase. Registering will also allow us to retrieve your Genographic Project ID if you ever lose it. Please read more about registration in this FAQ.

  10. My kit arrived without instructions or a consent form. What should I do?

    You can download the Geno 2.0 Quick Start Guide & Consent Form from the Consent Form page of this website.

  11. My kit arrived without any swabs included. What should I do?

    If you find a piece of the kit is missing or damaged, email your customer information and order details—including your order number—to genographic@ngs.org.  A Genographic Project coordinator will send you the missing piece.

  12. What is the shelf life of the Geno 2.0 Project Participation and DNA Ancestry Kit?

    The Geno 2.0 kits do not expire. Participants should check that there is ample fluid in the two vials included in the kit. If there is no fluid, the participant should contact customer service at Genographic@ngs.org to receive a replacement.

  13. Are the DNA testing materials in the Genographic kit considered biohazards?

    No, the testing materials from the Genographic Project kit are not considered biohazards.

  14. I need to complete a postal form and need to indicate the contents of the package. What should I say?

    If you are completing a postal form where you must indicate the contents of the package, we recommend you write “cotton swabs.”

  15. How much postage is required to mail you my samples in the envelope that came with the Genographic kit?

    The Genographic kit includes a pre-addressed, but not pre-paid, envelope to return your samples.  Postage is required for a 1-ounce, first-class mail package.  The envelope included in the kit requires at least five stamps if mailing within the U.S.

  16. Are children under the age of 18 permitted to participate in the Genographic Project?

    Yes, but only with a parent’s or guardian’s consent. Children under the age of 18 are not permitted to purchase a Genographic Project Participation and DNA Ancestry Kit themselves, but with the consent of a child’s parent or guardian, the child may have his or her DNA sample analyzed to create a genetic migratory profile. Any person purchasing a kit and supplying it to a child under the age of 18 must obtain consent from the child’s parent or guardian in accordance with applicable law prior to permitting the child to send in the sample for DNA analysis.

  17. Do you sell Geno 2.0 Project Participation and DNA Ancestry Kits in other languages?

    While at one time we did offer the Genographic kit in different languages (such as German, French and Spanish), we determined that the level of demand was not high enough to justify continued production. We do encourage international orders and continue to ship the English language kits outside of the US.

  18. Will you be able to tell me if I carry a problematic gene or if I am at risk of health problems?

    No. We will not be able to determine if you are carrying any genetic markers associated with a disease because we are only testing your DNA to look at markers associated with genetic ancestry.

  19. Will the Genographic Project conduct health-related analysis on my DNA sample or provide the sample to my physician?

    No. The Genographic Project will not conduct any health-related tests on the DNA samples provided by public participants. The DNA analysis conducted by National Geographic is intended to determine what migratory routes your deep ancestors followed, on which branch of the human family tree you belong and your regional genetic affiliation.  The markers analyzed to generate these results do not have any current health-related association.

  20. Can this DNA test serve as a paternity test?

    Our specific purpose is to test for genetic ancestry and NOT for paternity, medical, or criminal purposes. While information about ancestry can be used to make inferences about paternity in some cases, it should not be used to establish paternity. The Genographic Project’s primary test attempts to determine what migratory routes your deep ancestors followed and to which branch of the phylogenetic tree you belong, and regional genetic affiliation, and many people around the world will have the same deep ancestry.

  21. Will I have to choose to test either my paternal or maternal DNA?

    No, participants will only check the consent form to note their gender and give consent for DNA testing. The Geno 2.0 test will run a comprehensive analysis to identify thousands of genetic markers on your mitochondrial DNA, which is passed down each generation from mother to child, to reveal your direct maternal deep ancestry, and more than 12,000 markers on the Y chromosome (male participants only since women do not carry a Y chromosome), which is passed down from father to son, to reveal your direct paternal deep ancestry. In addition, for all participants, we will analyze a collection of more than 130,000 other markers from across your entire genome to reveal the regional affiliations of your ancestry passed on from both of your parents, offering insights into your ancestors who are not on a direct maternal or paternal line.

  22. Should everyone in the family take the test?

    The entire family can learn about their ancestry if one family member takes the test. However, if a parent-child pair take the test there is higher utility in that it will help to reveal which side of your family the regional components came from. If a father and daughter pair take the test then you will have results for maternal mtDNA, paternal Y-chromosome, and paternal mtDNA, as well as half of your regional percentages, allowing you to infer which side of the family they came from. This is the most ideal testing situation to find out the most complete picture of your family’s ancestry.

  23. How can females learn about their paternal ancestry?

    If you are female, your paternal ancestry is reflected in the half of your autosomes or regional percentages that you received from your father. Since you don’t have a Y-chromosome, you’ll need to ask a male first-degree relative (such as your brother or your father) to test as well to learn about your paternal ancestry.

  24. Why do women have to pay the same amount for the kit as males if they do not receive the Y chromosome deep ancestry results?

    The Genographic Project uses the same genotyping chip for everyone regardless of gender.

  25. Why are my results slightly different from my sibling’s results?

    Siblings with the same biological parents will have similar, but not identical, results because 50% of a person’s genetic material is passed on from the mother and 50% is passed on from the father, so the inherited combination of genetic material may differ slightly.

  26. How will collected data be stored over the short and long run?

    The Genographic Project has developed a customized DNA Analysis Repository (DAR), a central database solution that manages electronic DNA data for the project. Housed on the servers of the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C., the DAR leverages IBM information management software to manage DNA data collected from Genographic Project investigators worldwide.

    In collaboration with National Geographic, IBM developed a field-collection solution, which comprises a remote system used by Genographic Project scientists worldwide to record phenotypic data regarding the physical DNA samples gathered in the field. The information technology infrastructure provides secure transmission, storage, and management of hundreds of thousands of DNA records and effective communication with the general public through the Web infrastructure.

  27. Where are the DNA samples processed?

    Public participant cheek-swab samples are processed by National Geographic’s lab in Houston, Texas.  Indigenous and traditional participants’ samples that were collected, or are being analyzed by scientists associated with the Genographic Project’s university research centers, are processed in-country in one of the project’s research centers or by associate researchers.

  28. Will any of the DNA or data be shared between the project and Family Tree DNA or other private genetic testing companies?

    As a partner in the project, Family Tree DNA does have access to some of the DNA and data to assist in the analytical research. However, the DNA belongs to participants, and Family Tree DNA has signed a contract with National Geographic legally committing that it will not use the DNA for any other purposes.  Other than a service provider carefully selected by National Geographic, such as Family Tree DNA, no other private genetic testing company would have access to any of the DNA and non-public data.

  29. Are my DNA analysis results anonymous and confidential?

    National Geographic does not link any of your personally identifiable information to the Geno 2.0 test kit or the DNA sample you send to us without your consent. Because National Geographic does not retain a participant’s randomly generated code unless a participant registers an online Genographic profile, National Geographic cannot associate a participant’s results with contact information the participant may have provided when ordering, such as a name or shipping address if a participant has not registered online. Your results are confidential to you and anonymous to National Geographic.

    Once we have completed the analysis of the DNA sample you provide when you mail in your kit, you will be able to access your personal results revealing comprehensive ancestry information and regional ancestral affiliations by anonymously logging onto a secure website using the Genographic Project Participant ID provided to you in your kit.

    When you log in to the website to access your results, you will be given the opportunity to participate in a major global effort to collect population genetic data from hundreds of thousands of individuals from around the world.  If you agree to contribute your results to science, the genetic data from your test and the answers you provide in an online profile—including some personal information such as your zip code—will be included in our database of global genetic information for research purposes and linked to your Genographic Participant ID. Participation in the global database is your choice and is not necessary in order to access your individual test results.

    During the online log in process, we also will offer you an opportunity to register your Genographic Participant ID.  If you choose to register, your personally identifiable information will be linked to your Genographic Participant ID, and your genetic information in our database will no longer be anonymous to National Geographic. By registering, you are allowing National Geographic to link the DNA sample you sent to us and the genetic tests we have performed to any personally identifiable information that you choose to provide to us.  Future use and disclosure of this information will be subject to the Genographic Project’s Privacy Policy and any future permissions that you give us. In addition, National Geographic may disclose participant information when doing so is required by law.

    Registration is not required for you to access your results. It is your option to more actively participate in enhanced activities offered in Geno 2.0. It will allow us to recover your Genographic Participant ID if you ever lose it, send you email alerts about the status of your results, and communicate to you any important new information.

    If a participant chooses to request further genetic testing from National Geographic’s partner, Family Tree DNA, for purposes other than the Genographic Project, the participant will use his or her Genographic Participant ID to permit Family Tree DNA to access the sample of cheek cells they provided. Family Tree DNA has committed to National Geographic that it will protect the confidentiality of every Genographic Participant ID and that it will safeguard and use the Genographic Participant ID only for purposes of further testing that the participant has requested or as otherwise may be required by law.

  30. Will I have the right to remove my genetic profile from the database at some later time?

    Yes. If you decide that you want your data deleted from the database, you will have the opportunity to do so by sending an email to genographic@ngs.org.

  31. Are there any risks associated with the test?

    We do not know of any risk to you from taking the cheek-scraper sample or having your DNA sample analyzed to determine your genetic ancestry.

  32. How will my results be used for Genographic Project research?

    If you are interested in contributing your results to Genographic Project research, please be sure to select this option when you log in to the website to access your results. If you agree to contribute your results, the genetic data from your test and the answers you provide in an online profile—including some personal information such as your zip code—will be included in our database of global genetic information for research purposes and linked to your Genographic Participant ID. Participation in the global database is your choice and is not necessary in order to access your individual test results.

    If you do choose to opt in and contribute your results, your results will be entered into the Genographic Project database and may be used in our real-time research project. By contributing your results you will help us answer important questions relating to how our ancestors came to populate the world.

    If you do not choose to contribute your results to Genographic Project research, your results will in no way be used in our efforts to fill in the gaps of human migration. You results will remain only accessible to you with your Genographic ID.

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