Just who is on your family tree?

Charlemagne DNA GenealogyI’ve just come across a fascinating website http://nautil.us/ , it’s theme is “What Makes You So Special: The Puzzle of Human Uniqueness”. It is a science based website, but several of the pages concern themselves with DNA and other subjects dear to a genealogists heart. One page in particular addresses the fact that statistically it can be proved that we are all related to one another.

A particular sentence caught my attention – “anyone who was alive 2,000 – 3,000 years ago is either an ancestor of everyone who is now alive, or no one at all”. This makes sense when you think that working backwards each generation doubles the number of direct descendants, so when you go back 40 generations (not likely on a typical family tree) then you would have a trillion direct ancestors when the world population is estimated to have been only about 300 million.

So we are all related to Charlemagne, Edward 1st, Cleopatra and so on. Makes for a colourful family tree!

Here are links to two articles I think you’ll find thought provoking –



Are you a descendent of Tudor seaman?

Cowdray Engaving-detail of sinking genealogy

Henry 8th’s flagship the Mary Rose was spectacularly raised from the seabed off of Portsmouth, Hampshire in 1982, anyone who watched the moments as the wreck broke through the water will remember the awful shock as one of the supports failed and it seemed as if she would go back to her watery grave. However the salvage was successful and the immense task of preservation started.

A museum has been built around the remains and this is now open to the public. Interpreting what has been found is an on going task and one area which is drawing some attention is that scientists are attempting to extract DNA from the bones discovered inside the ship. Ten skulls have had facial reconstruction so we can see what they looked like, but just who were they?

Remains of 179 individuals were found inboard, mostly male and under the age of 30 years. The position within the ship gives an idea of their tasks aboard. This will be a fascinating project for genealogists to watch and will once more bring family history and DNA to the forefront of the news.

The image above is a detail of the Cowdray Engraving showing the sinking of the Mary Rose on 19 July 1545. Based on an original painted between 1545 and 1548 for Anthony Browne, Master of the Horse.



DNA now available through The Genealogist

DNAThe press releases seem to be coming in twos today!

David Osborne of The Genealogist sent me the following information about the new DNA service that they are offering. The prices start from £64.95, not sure what level of DNA investigation this is for, but their website is bound to give all their details.

Here’s the press release……

DNA testing made affordable
As more and more people research their family history, there comes a point when it becomes very difficult to go any further with your family records and the trail go cold. However, there is now a possibility of going much further and the use of genetics has helped Family Historians create new lines of research.
The Genealogist has started offering these DNA tests to the public to help trace family lines with prices starting at £64.95 with other packages available.

“I see this as another tool that not just genealogists but anybody interested in family history could use to discover a lot more information,” says Mark Bayley, Head of the Online Division at TheGenealogist.co.uk  “When you research a line, there’s only so far back you can go when the paper trail ends. DNA can bridge that gap and get you past those brick walls. Many people are interested in genealogy and don’t have time to research the full family history themselves. Now they can learn more about their family than they ever thought was possible. We have access to the largest DNA Database and it can really help expand your family history knowledge.”
DNA Testing from
TheGenealogist can allow beginners to the world of genealogy to make big strides in developing their family history in much quicker time and discover key leads, also allowing you to connect with other genealogists and family members you never knew existed.
Many thousands of users have purchased DNA testing and the demand is increasing as people decide to take their family history research that step further. It’s a quick , painless process involving a swab in the cheek that can give you a wealth of information on your past!

It is a fascinating way to really retrace your roots.


23andMe Beta Testing

Are you interested in using a DNA service for your family history? The firm 23andMe has recently announced some new ancestry features. Here is their press release ….

But you can get a look at what’s to come here.

The first thing that will change is how we surface the collection of ancestry tools we offer users. Now when you click on My Ancestry Page, you’ll get a dashboard summary from our multiple features giving you a quick overview of things like your overall maternal and paternal line ancestry, a summary of recent changes to your Relative Finder matches and sometimes hard-to-find ancestry gems.

To dig deeper into your ancestry, a few of our scientists have overhauled the Ancestry Painting V2 analysis, which we believe is the most accurate breakdown of your genetic ancestry now being offered anywhere. Previously we “painted” individuals ancestry by displaying their Asian, African and European ancestry. Our Ancestry Painting will soon draw from approximately 20 different world regions, creating a much finer detail of your genetic ancestry that can break down European ancestry and differentiate between Native American and Asian ancestry. Here’s an example of the results from our friend Harvard Prof. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who is also the host of the recent 10-part PBS series Finding Your Roots.


Another enhancement includes a turbo charged upgrade to how results are displayed in our popular Relative Finder tool. A new Relative Finder Geographic Map View offers you the chance to display your matches on a world map. This can be incredibly helpful for anyone on a genealogical hunt who must triangulate between multiple different sources of information about their ancestry. In this case we show how your relatives cluster on a world map, which in turn can help you target your search for relatives.


Finally, we’ve added another essential tool for those interested in ancestry with a new Family Tree.

The beauty of this the new tree is that it offers a easy to use and intuitive way to store a profusion of family history. For those who use other ancestry services, they can import their GEDCOM data into 23andMe’s new family tree tool. You’ll be able to enter into the Family Tree relevant dates, life events, professions and other data.

We believe that these new features and enhancements will be both helpful and fun in your exploration into your own ancestry with 23andMe.



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Scots able to track down ancestors to within a few miles


Scotland DNAThe 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.


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