The HeraldScotland newspapers reports……. Scottish scientists have found a way to identify a person’s family roots to within a few miles, raising the possibility that city dwellers could soon trace their descendants back to their ancestral village.
Edinburgh University experts used volunteers from small communities in the north of Scotland, Italy and Croatia to quickly scan half a million DNA letters – the chemical combinations that make up our genes – and pinpointed in some cases 100% accurately where their distant relatives lived.
Within five years they believe the technique could be developed sufficiently so that a person who lives in a city could trace their ancestors from other towns or countries. Dr Jim Wilson, a Royal Society research fellow who led the university’s study, said: “This holds out the hope that, with more information, we might one day be able to determine the ancestry of city dwellers.
“There is a vast amount of untapped information residing in our DNA. This is not going to happen tomorrow, but within the next five years, if a database of samples from villages across Scotland is built up, we may be able to achieve this.”
His team analysed the genetics of unrelated people who had four grandparents from the same village on Scottish islands, three Italian alpine villages and two in Croatia. This resulting data was fed into a computer, which then decided which town each of the people came from based on their genetics.
It predicted the correct village of origin for 100% of the Italian sample, 96% of the Scottish sample and 89% of the Croatian sample.
The method cannot yet be applied to people who live in cities, as the industrial revolution and subsequent urbanisation mixed up the gene pool.
Wilson, who conceded that more research was needed, said that during the industrial revolution population movements were much slower.
This meant that whole families lived in small villages and towns for long stretches of time, handing down property from generation to generation and marrying people from nearby.