Changing Planet

The Human Family Tree Grows New Branches on Arbor and DNA Day

The Genographic Project, in partnership with Family Tree DNA, announces a new evolutionary tree.

Photo by Tim Laman

Did you know that this year, April 25th is both DNA Day and Arbor Day? In order to join in on the festivities and mark this calendric coincidence, National Geographic’s Genographic Project and Family Tree DNA are announcing the joint creation of the newest, largest, and most refined evolutionary tree of the paternally-inherited Y chromosome. In other words, the 2014 version of the Y-DNA tree is about ready to make an appearance. And the success of the DNA tree is due in great part to the Genographic Project’s GenoChip and the help from the more than 600,000 people that have joined this one-of-a-kind participant science project. From us at the Genographic Project we would like to say, Thank you!

What is the 2014 Y-Tree? The new Y-Tree is a chart of human relatedness showing how all men’s Y-chromosomes stem from an ancient ancestor in Africa more than 100,000 years ago. Since that shared common ancestor, his descendents have journeyed around the world and in the process accumulated mutations in their DNA that make them and their Y-chromosome relatives unique. Each mutation is a genetic event that occurred at a particular time and place in the ancestral journey. Today, all men carry in their Y-chromosomes a set of DNA mutations that charts that series of events. The tree is therefore the global genetic map of all these mutational events, showing how we are all related.

How different is the 2014 Y-tree to the current version used by the Genographic Project? With the new tree the number of branches nearly doubled, from 667 to more than 1200, and new connections have emerged. Haplogroup O, for example, has changed form showing new patterns of relatedness among East Asians and Southeast Asians. In general, the overall structure of the tree remained consistent with past versions, thus not affecting participants’ major haplogroup designations (G, J, R, and so on).

More branches mean greater geographic specificity – narrowing down where your haplogroup is found in the world – and this is where you can play an active role in the scientific process.  If you haven’t done so already, please fill out your profile questionnaire and tell us a little bit about your maternal or paternal genealogy in the Our Story section of the Genographic website.  By doing this, you are helping us to refine our knowledge of human migration patterns, in the process improving your Genographic results and those of other participants.

The Genographic Project's GenoChip
The Genographic Project’s GenoChip (Photo by Becky Hale)

How did my DNA help create the new Tree? By joining the Genographic Project your sample was compared to that of thousands of other participants, and your shared, but also your unique mutations helped us better understand the evolutionary process in which mutations occur, and thus helped us reconstruct the chronological order of mutations. In other words, if you shared 95% of your mutations with someone else, you shared a common ancestor to that point with that person, and your unique 5% marks a branch that distinguishes you from your “relative.”

What does this mean for my current results? Your current results will likely not change. However, if they do they would become more specific, thanks to the increase in our understanding of the branching patterns and the discovery of new branch tips on the tree.

When will Genographic implement the new tree? The Genographic Project team is working closely with Family Tree DNA to implement the new data now. In the next few weeks this process will be complete and announced on the Genographic Project website. Participants will then be able to log in to their results and see the changes.


Dr. Miguel Vilar is the Science Manager for National Geographic's Genographic Project. Miguel is also a molecular anthropologist and a science writer. His fieldwork has taken him to remote places throughout the South Pacific, East Africa, Mesoamerica, and the Caribbean. In the laboratory he researches the modern genetic diversity of human populations from Melanesia, Micronesia, North and Central America, and the Caribbean. Miguel has published in several anthropology and genetics journals, as well as popular science magazines.
  • George Jones

    I am in Y-DNA Haplogroup R1b-L371 which was discovered in 2011 and which has been on the Official ISOGG Y-Tree for more than 3 years. Now FTDNA and National Geographic just showed on their supposed NEW 2.0 Tree me as a L371. Gee whiz … the rational person would say they are 3 years behind the curve … yet they are playing their new Y-Tree for all it is worth. Learn more about this Hg with Welsh origins at: I have just received the results of my Full Y Genome test from FGC and have ~ 82 NEW & NOVEL YSNPS … 14 of which match another L371 person. So, the message is the FTDNA / National Geographic Y-Tree is out of date again. It will probably take them 5 years to update their Y-Tree with my ~14 NEW & NOVEL YSNPs.

  • George Jones

    I would like to know how many academic papers that Spencer Wells (at National Geographic) and others published FIRST on Geno 2.0 & Geno 1.0 Results prior to getting THEIR NEW (Lately Lame) Y-Tree out? They put rank and file Genetic Genealogists (who pay for all these DNA tests) BEHIND their own financial and academic needs. Let Spencer Wells come clean on this … I challenge him and other academics involved in this to engage in a truthful conversation on this subject

  • Thomas Simmons

    Calm down George Jones. The Genographic Project is something that has never been done before. Everyone is learning something here. There are bound to be “growing pains.” So far, every time they have “refined” the data, I have been given more specific information on just where my ancestors came from. I am very happy with the results.

  • Thomas Simmons

    Had a typo on email address

  • Robert Green

    After sending in my DNA swab per the instructions of Geno 2.0 I duly received my results. It noted that there were a few markers that “need further study.” I also transferred results to FTDNA and they spat out the regular DNA alphabet soup for northern Europeans. That is a pretty broad brush. Then comes the news that DNA analysis (yDNA or mtDNA) can place you in a smaller locale. Really? What is the point of the DNA analysis if not to refine the family/tribal movements? If some of the yDNA markers require “further analysis” one wonders if this is a ploy for more money or if the lab didn’t do a complete job the first time. Please be a little more succinct about what you are really capable of doing and why it takes three or more reviews of the same sample to provide the full data.

  • Anna Yoho

    So pleased with the National Geographic & FTDNA partnership in mapping the human story! It is such an enormous undertaking – I am thrilled to be able to pass on this information to my 3 grandsons in a very personal application (what is your link via haplogroups you were born with for example my mtDNA haplogroup U5a1b*) and genetic links to DNA relatives. None of this could have been possible without any aspect of research, Spencer Wells, FTDNA & of course citizen scientists who donate money to be tested and their DNA!
    Thanks again!

  • Gwen

    Only thing is…kit at costs over 5 times more. $1099. Are you advertising for them, George Jones? And they are limited to y-chromosome only. To each his own. But comparing these two kits is a little like comparing apples to pomegranates.

  • L G Mayka

    NG promises that the new Y haplotree will not remove detail, only add it. We must hold them to that promise. FTDNA’s new haplotree removes a crucial branch, N-L550, which NG has been giving to Geno 2.0 customers for years now. NG must make it clear that FTDNA’s haplotree will not be acceptable until N-L550 has been restored.

  • Pete

    I think this great! I hope mine were used for the new tree and courious to know i benefit?

  • Randolph Henry

    Who cares about100.000 years ago. I have had so many DNA tests and they cannot even pin down an ethnic guess. They tell me I came from Western Europe in more recent times like a thousand years ago. I could of told them that. I am a male Caucasian and I knew I was European. These tests are rip offs.

  • Lew

    How will I know if my Ydna has been part of the new tree?

  • Dave Phelps

    Seems to me that you have all missed the point!

    What difference does it make where you are located on the tree whether it is version 1, 2, 3 or n.

    You ARE on the tree and WE are ALL related – every man on the planet is descended from a single male ancestor over 100,000 years ago – that’s the story along with the journey’s taken by that man and his sons and grandsons ….. to populate the whole planet.

    My on-line handle is CousinDNA – perhaps you can phatom why!

  • Bjarne Däcker

    Please tell me where I can find this Y Chromosome tree. And also the latest miticondria tree.
    Best wishes
    Bjarne Däcker

  • Darlene

    So, i just purchased this for myself and my brother. I am not feeling as excited as I was before reading these statements. Is this a waste of monies? Is anyone happy with the NG tests?

  • Lawrence Mayka

    Geno 2.0 is apparently misclassifying members of Y-DNA haplogroup A into other haplogroups. We have noticed this for at least one Geno 2.0 customer who transferred his results to Family Tree DNA; but there may be more. In the one case we know, an A-V25 was misclassified by Geno 2.0 into R-L448.

    Go to the All Stories page of the Geno project, and start paging through the stories. You will find 209 entries for mtDNA haplogroup A; then an entry for Y-DNA haplogroup B. There is not a single entry for Y-DNA haplogroup A, and I think it is because of misclassification.

  • Polly Harvey

    oh my ive had so much fun were dack to 150 ad then i get the book on all that i found its realy so nice to know that they had to do all tfey done to get us as far as weve come polly

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