Nov 12, 2008

Surname Genetics

From the Department of Genetics at the University of Leicester comes an item which may be of particular interest to family Genealogists.

New research looking at 500 British surnames suggests that there's a 70% to 87% chance that you are distantly related to a man who shares your surname. That's the findings relating to people of British origin who bear a same surname, which is not occupationally derived – and the key is in our genes.

It's not just names that are passed from father to son, because for a male to be male, he has to inherit 'male genes'. These genes are all stored on the Y chromosome, meaning that all related men will have the same Y chromosome.

This information led Oxford geneticist Bryan Sykes to start investigating his own surname. After writing to every Sykes in the phone book and looking at their genes, he found that 70% had the same distant ancestor.

Since this discovery, Turi King from the University of Leicester has expanded the study to include 500 British surnames.

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