A globally rare Y chromosome type described previously in only a few West African individuals has been found in a British male, according to a study to be published online in the European Journal of Human Genetics. This finding represents the first genetic evidence of an African genealogy among 'indigenous' British people.
As part of a survey of British Y chromosome diversity, Mark Jobling and colleagues recruited 421 males who described themselves as British and analysed their Y chromosome. One of the men carried a rare African Y chromosome, though he knew of no African family connection. Previous research by Jobling and colleagues has shown a link between Y chromosomes and surnames - both passed from father to son - so other men sharing the same rare east-Yorkshire surname as the original male were recruited. One third of them were also found to carry the African chromosome, and conventional genealogical research was used to link them to two family trees, both dating back to the 1780s in Yorkshire. These families owe their unusual Y chromosome to an African man living in England some time before the mid-eighteenth century, and reveal the complexity of English ancestry.
The docking of the ship Empire Windrush in 1948 is often regarded as the start of a multiracial society in Britain. However, in reality Britain has been home to people of African origin for centuries. Africans were first recorded in northern England 1800 years ago as Roman soldiers defending Hadrian's Wall and later, the Atlantic slave trade saw African servants and entertainers become common in Tudor times. Studies of British genetic diversity had previously found no apparent genetic trace of these people in modern inhabitants until now.
Mark A. Jobling (University of Leicester, UK)
Abstract available online.
(C) European Journal of Human Genetics press release.
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