National Geographic

The Genographic Project unveils the ancient ancestry of New Zealand, the world’s last settled islands

The Genographic Project results are in from 100 Kiwis (or New Zealanders). The results were revealed to an excited crowd of participants, which included New Zealand’s own Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae.


Earlier this year, a team from National Geographic’s Genographic Project was invited by the Allan Wilson Centre to North Island, New Zealand to shed light on their genetic journey and collective past. Genographic scientist based in New Zealand, Dr. Lisa Matisoo-Smith joined Project Director Spencer Wells to discuss the project and lead the event.  Celebrating traditional Maori history, 100 excited participants interested in tracing their own ancient ancestry were brought together in the nation’s capital, Wellington. New Zealand’s Governor-General, Sir Jerry Mateparae was among the participants.

New Zealand: The world’s last settlements

How does New Zealand fit into the larger human family tree? New Zealand’s two islands were among the last discovered by humans just 800 years ago, and also one of the last places colonized by Europeans just 200 years ago. And like Americans, Kiwis are an admixed* group, yet the genetic mixture is younger, and thus easier to piece apart. And it can’t go without mentioning; Wellington is the last (southern-most geographically) of the world’s capitals, and almost the last one alphabetically, too. No thanks to Zagreb, Croatia.

Results revealed

Well, you lasted this long, so here are the Genographic Project results:

Map of maternal lineages in New Zealand

Among the participants, nearly all European maternal haplogroups (branches of the human family tree) were accounted for, yet only three Asian lineages and two Oceanic, or Pacific Island lineages were detected. And among the European haplogroups, Northern Europe accounted for more than half of the groups, while Mediterranean haplogroups accounted for about a quarter of participants’ results.

Map of paternal lineages in New Zealand

Two distinct maternal Oceanic haplogroups were found in the DNA of six participants. These groups are commonly seen in Polynesia especially among the Maori people, New Zealand’s indigenous population. However, only one Oceanic paternal haplogroup was found  among the male participants. This special honor belonged to the Governor General himself, who is only the second person of Maori ancestry to be appointed leader of the country.  Sir Jerry Mateparae had the most Oceanic DNA overall (23%) among those present. By contrast, only ten other participants had at least 1% native Pacific Island ancestry. Although Mateparae was not overly surprised by this, he was more surprised by something else: “I’ve got a Mediterranean heritage. And gosh, I’d like to find out more about that”.

Do you have any genetic ties to this region of the world? Join the Genographic Project and uncover deep secrets about your past. Don’t be the last of your group to participate!

*What is an admixed group? 

By this we mean, a group with a mixture from different genetic backgrounds and geographical locations. You can learn more about reference populations here.


  1. Hubert Wells
    Hamilton, New Zealand
    2:29 am

    The only kind of DNA info you’re going to get in Wellington is self-righteous hipster. Auckland / Waikato regions would have given a far better indication of the real New Zealand.

  2. Wayne Kurtz
    Pennsylvania, USA
    September 9, 9:47 pm

    Was this a self selected group? By what criteria does it represent New Zealanders in general? I hope the details are in the full study.

  3. Miljenko Cvjeticanin
    Zagreb, Croatia
    September 8, 3:58 am

    I have been working in genetical studies of my patients more
    than 30 year. I’m Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and
    Rheumatology specialist (HLA antigens and dermatoglyphics). I’am very interesting to participate in any kind of research of

  4. Craig
    September 7, 4:44 am

    That privileged group of people who were tested at the Royal Society meeting in Wellington were anything but representative of the New Zealand population…. The only indigenous participant appears to have been the Governor General.

  5. Gosh
    New zealand
    September 2, 11:12 pm

    “indigenous” means from that place or land. You cant come here by boat and then be indigenous..

  6. Nancybell Beattie
    United Kingdom
    August 31, 3:56 pm

    I have Scots, German, English, and French Canadian, and native Canadian Metis tribes people amoung my forebears. I as born in Otaki to two NZ to pioneer families. I would be happy to give a cheek scraping to participate in this Genographic Project .

  7. Robert Aronson
    Auckland, New Zealand
    August 31, 12:17 am

    Very interesting but I have reservations about how accurate you findings are? You might have been better to come to Auckland, Northland or the Waikato and I think you would have obtained a very different result, reflecting more of the Maori/Pasifika population.

  8. James Makris
    Tennessee, USA 37641
    August 30, 11:02 pm

    Does the Genographic program identify any links to Neanderthal or Denisovan lines?

  9. sharon
    August 30, 8:57 pm

    Spencer wells has the best job in the world

  10. Pete Thompson
    Waddell Arizona
    August 29, 6:22 pm

    Tried to participate “Join” the project but the links just recycle to the home page…

  11. Preston Garrison
    August 29, 11:30 am

    Graphic are way too dark to see be able to tell anything.