How to Participate

A Message From Dr. Spencer Wells, Project Director

Hi! I’d like to tell you a little more about the Genographic Project and what to expect when you take part in this real-time research effort.

Over the past several years, our scientific team has collaborated with indigenous and traditional peoples around the world in order to learn more about where we came from and how we got to where we live today. We’ve learned some pretty amazing things, from migrations that happened during the very earliest days of our species in Africa, to the impact of recent historical events revealed in our DNA.

Perhaps the most amazing thing, though, is how much interest you—members of the general public—have shown in getting involved in the project. Your curiosity about your own ancestry, and your enthusiasm to add that narrative to the emerging story of the human journey, has been overwhelming. We’ve charted a new course in the effort to understand where we all came from. Together, we’re telling the story of us all.

And now, with revolutionary advances in genetic technology that have happened since we launched the project back in 2005, you can find out even more about your ancestry, and get even more involved in helping us piece together this epic story. Here’s how it works.

About the Test
By contributing a painless saliva sample, you can collect your own DNA and submit it to the lab. We run one test per participation kit. In the lab, we isolate your DNA and scan it for ancestry informative markers across nearly 300,000 positions found throughout your entire genome. As with the first Genographic kit, we test your mitochondrial DNA, which is passed down each generation from mother to child and reveals your direct maternal ancestry. If you are male, we also test your Y chromosome, which is passed down from father to son and reveals your direct paternal ancestry. The test also scans 250,000 markers from across the rest of your 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 are a set that will also reveal if you are carrying DNA that came from our hominid cousins, the Neanderthals [LINK TO WHY AM I NEANDERTHAL].

What to Expect
Your results will place you on a particular branch of the human family tree. 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 thousand 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 percentage breakdown of your genetic background by regional affiliation. These affiliations are compiled by examining the genetic markers from your autosomes and X-chromosome—the rest of your genome beyond mtDNA and the Y-chromosome—and comparing your results to patterns in indigenous populations from around the world. Your regional affiliations reflect the ancient migratory paths of your ancestors and how they mixed with groups around the world. Included in our analysis are Neanderthal markers, revealing if our hominid cousins left a trace in your DNA.

This is not a genealogical study. You will not necessarily learn about your great-grandparents or other recent relatives, and your DNA trail may not lead to your present-day location. Rather, your results will reveal the anthropological story of your ancestors—where they lived and how they migrated around the world over tens of thousands of years. (View a sample results page.) [LINK]

A Real-Time Research Project
Remember, your initial results are just the beginning. They are based on current science and may become more detailed and refined as the ongoing field research yields new information. Be sure to visit this website often to follow along as we post new findings and automatically update your results.

Contribute Your Results to the Confidential Database
Once you receive your results, I encourage you to contribute to the project by including your results in our global database. This process is optional and confidential, but it’s a very important component of the project, and we hope that you will choose to do so. It is also a rare opportunity to take part in a real-time scientific study. Check the box for “Contribute My Results to Science” when you first log in and register, or find this option in the Account Settings tab of the My Profile section.  By filling out My Profile—answering a few quick questions that will help place your results in a cultural context—you will help scientists piece together a global puzzle of migration.

I hope that you are as excited by the Genographic Project as we are, and that you will join us on the journey. This is a unique opportunity to both participate in and contribute to a real-time, landmark research project. Not only will you learn something about your own past, but you will also help us uncover some of the lingering mysteries of our history as one human family.

—Spencer Wells, Founder of the Genographic Project



Return Your Kit
Once you have completed the sampling process, you will secure either the scraper tips (Family Tree DNA lab) or the saliva tube (Helix lab) inside the transport vials, and mail the tubes and DNA consent form (Family Tree DNA lab) off to the lab. We recommend taking the package to your local post office to be weighed and mailed, as failure to provide sufficient postage will cause a delay of several weeks while the lab waits for your package to arrive.

That’s it! In about eight weeks—the time necessary for the laboratory to correctly analyze your DNA—your results will be ready. Note that in some cases inconclusive results require us to do additional testing to determine your haplogroup. This may add several weeks to the process. In the meantime, visit the website to see where your sample is in the analysis process.

Get Your Results
To be clear—these tests are not conventional genealogy. Your results will not provide names for your personal family tree or tell you where your great-grandparents lived. Rather, they will indicate the maternal or paternal genetic markers your ancestors passed on to you and the story that goes with those markers. Once your results are posted, you will be able to learn something about that story and the journey of your ancestors. The genetic profile you receive is more than a static set of data. It is like an ongoing subscription to your genetic history. Your profile might become more detailed as the Genographic Project amasses more data from around the world, so be sure to return to the Genographic Project website often for project updates.

Public participation is critical to the project’s success. By purchasing a Genographic Project Public Participation Kit, you will not only contribute to the impact of this great endeavor, but you also may discover something about your own genetic past.

Note: Females do not possess a Y-chromosome and therefore will not receive the Y-chromosome portion of the test. However, if you are a female and would like to learn about your paternal lineage, then a male relative—such as a father, brother, or paternal blood relative of your father’s (such as his brother)—can test his Y-chromosome DNA. The results will reveal a female’s paternal lineage.

A Note on Privacy
To ensure the privacy of participants, we have built an anonymous analysis process. Your Participation Kit will be mailed with a randomly generated, nonsequential Genographic Project Participant ID number (GPID).  Although we will have mailed a Participation Kit to your address, we do not know the random code included in the kit. When you send in your DNA sample with your consent form, they will only be identified by your GPID. Therefore, your cheek cells will be analyzed completely anonymously.

In order to access your test results, you will need to access the Genographic Project website and enter your GPID, so it is very important that you do not lose your GPID. If you choose to register when you access your results on the website, we will be able to retrieve your GPID for you if you lose it. This is one of the benefits of registering. See the Genographic Project Terms and Conditions [LINK] for more information. Also, be sure to visit our FAQs [LINK].

For International Participants (Outside the United States and Canada)
Public participation may be restricted in some countries where the export of genetic material requires government approval . China is one country that has such restrictions in place. The Genographic Project will work with the relevant authorities to achieve the broadest level of public participation possible.