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SPENCER WELLS: By looking at your particular pattern of genetic markers, we can place you onto a branch of the human family tree, if you will, a branch that unites you and other people that have that same set of genetic markers that you inherited from a common ancestor. SW: Essentially everybody around the world can be broken down into nine ancestral components, and everyone is a mix of those components through the migration paths of our ancestors. CSM: When I compare my percentages of these nine ancestral components (three of which I have), I notice that I'm most similar to modern people from Spain, Greece, Italy, and Great Britain.
SW: You know, the typical Puerto Rican has got about 25 percent African, about 11 percent Native American, the rest is European, in terms of those components. CSM: And that makes perfect sense, because as I did a little more digging, I learned that my ancestors were only in Puerto Rico a short time.
SW: As modern humans were leaving Africa around 60,000 years ago, we seem to have encountered them and we admixed--we interbred with them to a small degree--so non-Africans today are carrying a very small percentage of their genome that traces back to these other hominid species that were already out there.
At the Television Critics Association press tour last month, National Geographic took samples of all of our DNA as part of "The Human Family Tree," a special airing tonight (Sunday, Aug.
The special, narrated by that master of interconnectivity Kevin Bacon, is meant to retrace the deepest roots of the human species, to show how we're all tied together through our genes. Fortunately, leftover food particles seem not to have compromised the sample from my inner cheek, at least not as much as my inability to retain the e-mail with the necessary login information to find the results of my test. I'm told that Haplogroup J2 appears in the highest frequencies in the Middle East, Northern Africa and Ethiopia. The graphic for My Genetic Journey traces my Haplogroup to either Northern Africa (where I have no real sense of lineage) or Italy (where I have no sense of lineage).
He continues, "They were the people present in the Fertile Crescent at the dawn of the Neolithic Revolution, the first farmers.
Wells adds that if I went to Jericho and looked at the archeological sites, I'd get a sense of what life was like for J2 M172 people. In any case, this information probably explains why the tree given to me at FOX's Eco-Casino Party two years ago is still alive, despite my erratic ministrations on its behalf. And that's why I'll be watching (or DVRing), National Geographic's "The Human Family Tree" tonight. Nat Geo Explorer-in-Residence Spencer Wells maps the history of human migration by analyzing the DNA of hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

In fact, it's more of a branching tree, telling the story of our origins in Africa and our migrations throughout the world. It's called the Genographic Project, sponsored by National Geographic, and over half a million people have participated so far. Through this powerful tool, I can look back at where my particular ancestors lived and when. And so looking at your result, for instance, you have three of those components, Mediterranean, northern European, and southwest Asian, and this is very typical of, you know, in people of European descent. And looking at the ratio of Mediterranean and northern European it’s mostly from, you know, Southern Europe, from the Mediterranean region, so you know, Spain and Italy, which makes sense given what we know about the historical migration patterns.
In fact, my mother's mother's mother's mother (I think) came there from the Canary Islands, so she was of Spanish descent. It also describes how molecular machines could be developed in the future to treat cardiovascular conditions as well as genetic abnormalities within cells.
The DNA tests, conducted via mouth swab and taken immediately after a big lunch one day, was meant to show that my mother was a cupcake and my father was a turkey sandwich. In Europe, J2 markers are found generally in the Mediterranean area, particularly in Southern Italy, where 20 percent of males carry the marker, and southern Spain, where 10 percent of men carry the marker. That, I guess, is what makes this kind of DNA testing so funky, because many of us know where we came from, but we think "where we came from" means two or three or five or 10 generations. I come from an agriculturally adept people and I couldn't kill that darned tree if I want to. National Geographic's not-for-profit Genographic Project aims to trace and connect each of our individuals branches to answer questions about how human beings became so genetically diverse.
In fact, DNA analysis can reveal specific markers that tell the rich story of our ancestral migration patters. Apparently, members of my direct lineage were the first people to ever leave Africa and venture north around 60,000 years ago. So you can define people on the basis of those percentages, but not everybody who’s Puerto Rican is going to have that exact mix as you found out. It's enthralling to look at all the reference populations that have been compiled so far and learn about their individual stories.

Want to participate in this global citizen science project and learn about your own journey along the way?
This Random42 animation was developed for a film produced by National Geographic entitled ‘Mysteries of the Unseen World’ which is currently being shown in IMAX theatres around the world.
This Random42 animation was developed for a film produced by National Geographic entitled ‘Mysteries of the Unseen World’ which is currently being shown in IMAX theatres at 40 science museums around the world.
It's hard for me to know what to make of this information, since my knowledge about my ancestry on my father's side has generally been limited to awareness that as far as anybody could keep records, my people were from Lithuania and Eastern Europe.
All of the people alive on the planet today exist as teeny tiny terminal branches on a rich and beautiful tree--the tree of humanity. And in doing so, you can contribute to a wealth of information that's constantly being updated, contributing to the story of all of us. Back in the lab, my DNA was sequenced and compared to the analyses of all the other participants in this global project.
Then they moved east, living for some time in the Nile basin and continuing on to other regions of western Asia. You can see that people from island cultures like Papua New Guinea have very little genetic variation, while Mexican Americans are incredibly diverse, genetically speaking. It has also been the subject of a TED talk, which alone has amassed several million views within the first month that it appeared online. And if you trace those branches backward, you'll find that at our roots, we are all Africans. Later, about 15,000 years ago, after the glaciers that made much of the north uninhabitable melted, they migrated into western Europe.
But I have to tell you, the thing I was most fascinated to learn was that 1.7 percent of my DNA is of Neanderthal origin. He's a geneticist, anthropologist, and Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society.

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