Thursday, 19 March 2015

It's in the Genes

A very interesting study shows that genetically there is not a unique Celtic group of people in the UK. There is a map to go with it which gives clusters, and it also shows that there here is a genetic basis for regional identities in the UK. It also notes that:

“There is also a marked division between the people of Cornwall and Devon that almost exactly matches the county border. And the People of Devon are distinct again to those from neighbouring Dorset.”

“Although people from Cornwall have a Celtic heritage, genetically they are much, much more similar to the people elsewhere in England than they are to the Welsh for example,"

“"People in South Wales are also quite different genetically to people in north Wales, who are both different in turn to the Scots. We did not find a single genetic group corresponding to the Celtic traditions in the western fringes of Britain."

The report says: “DNA analysis of 2,000 mostly middle-aged Caucasian people living across the UK.”

In fact it was 2,039 people from rural areas, and the clever thing is that they were also selected by having all four grandparents born within 80 km of each other. As it says, it is effectively sampling DNA from the grandparents, whose average year of birth was 1885.

Towns and cities are known to draw in populations from elsewhere, so selecting by rural areas means a more settled population.

The further restriction by grandparents in the area means that there had certainly been no migration to the area since around 1885. So it means more settled than transient people are sampled for their DNA.

A similar strategy was followed by “Blood of the Vikings” survey of DNA from 2001:

“In the main, small towns were chosen and the men tested were required to be able to trace their male line back two generations in the same rural area – within 20 miles of the town chosen. The aim was to reduce the effects of later population movements, assuming that in between the Norman invasion of 1066 and the 20th century movement would have been limited.”

When they did “Blood of the Vikings”, Frank Falle also followed a similar but not identical strategy. He asked for DNA sampling from the Channel Islands, and was given the opportunity to get a surprisingly large number of samples.

The BBC report explained how he approached the subject, although it should be added that for those with Norman surnames, he also made use of family trees, something Jersey people can be obsessive about (I myself am related to the Le Marquand’s and Le Cornus, to name drop) – to ensure the people tested were of the “oldest stock”.

“The Channel Islands were once part of Normandy, a region of France founded by the Norwegian Viking Rollo. With the help of local historian Frank Falle, the UCL team decided to test the people of Jersey and Guernsey to see if any evidence of these early Viking settlers in France could be found in their DNA. The volunteers were split into two groups, those with Norman surnames, and those with English surnames. “

“The DNA of those with non-Norman surnames was found to be very similar to that from men in England. This was a mixture of Ancient Briton with those of the ‘invading’ populations. These invaders included both the Angles and Saxons who arrived in England in the 5th and 6th centuries and the Danish Vikings. These two types of DNA could not be distinguished but, like men tested in England, Channel Islanders with English surnames had a significant proportion of DNA from these ‘invaders’. “

“The DNA of those with Norman surnames was markedly different. These men were found to be very similar to the Ancient Britons. But on top of this ancestry was a hint of the Norwegian DNA signature, indicating that Rollo could possibly have had an effect on the genes of people from the Channel Islands today.”

The main DNA results for old families were:

Marker M170 = 30% of Jersey sample is Danish; 10% in Guernsey
Marker M173 = General Celtic DNA in Europe
Norse Viking DNA = 2% of sample in Jersey; 6% in Guernsey.

In his evening class, Frank gave part of the result as follows:

Old Jersey families have 60% Celtic DNA, and 30% Danish Viking.
Old Guernsey families have 70% Celtic, and 10% Danish Viking.

Another interesting result was that Frank said in a meeting of the History Section of the Société Jersiaise that there were three types of Neolithic DNA found locally from the Blood of the Vikings research and he speculated whether they related to the three types of local graves (passage, gallery, cist in a circle).

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