The Viking DNA Project

This study was carried by out by Dr Turi King.

In this study we aimed to look at the proportion of Viking ancestry in different parts of the north of England.

As a group of islands on the edge of a continent, we know that the British Isles have been on the receiving end of numerous migrations. The peopling has occurred in waves, from early Paleolithic settlers, through to the spread of farmers during the Neolithic, the arrival of Romans, Anglo-Saxons, and Vikings. The modern population also includes likely trace contributions from other groups, too. The contributions of these various groups to the modern population of the British Isles is debated, and the purpose of this research project was to use genetic methods to contribute to our understanding of these past events. To carry out this research we used surnames, and information about the birthplaces of recent ancestors.

Most people get their surnames from their father, and men also inherit specific genetic material (DNA) from their father too. This is the Y chromosome, which is responsible for making males. We know that a Y chromosome type can relate to a particular surname and we also know that most surnames are linked to particular regions. Thus by sampling men with specific surnames and/or with ancestry in particular locations, we were able to draw up a map of the different Y chromosome types found in different regions in the past. We looked, for example, at regions where we suspected that there was a strong influence of Vikings and compared the Y chromosomes found here with ones found in Norway.

The only criteria for participating was that you are a man whose father’s father was born in the county of Cumbria, Lancashire, Cheshire, Yorkshire, Durham or Northumberland and that you have one of the surnames that are thought to be ‘northern’ surnames.

Academic Collaborators

Berit M Dupuy, Oslo University College, Norway

We are very grateful to the following people for assistance in collecting samples in Norway: Harold Lovvik, Sigurd Aase, Stephen Harding and Anne Marit Berge.

This project follows a smaller pilot project carried out in the lab of Professor Mark Jobling.

Excavating Past Population Structures by Surname-Based Sampling: The Genetic Legacy of the Vikings in Northwest England. Georgina R. Bowden, Patricia Balaresque, Turi E. King, Ziff Hansen,Andrew C. Lee, Giles Pergl-Wilson,Emma Hurley,Stephen J. Roberts, Patrick Waite,Judith Jesch, Abigail L. Jones, Mark G. Thomas, Stephen E. Harding and Mark A. Jobling. Mol. Biol. Evol. 25(2):301–309. 2008

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