Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

DNA test to help find family roots

Image caption A DNA test could pinpoint the roots of a person's family to within a few miles

A DNA test could pinpoint the roots of a person's family to within a few miles, according to a new study.

Edinburgh University experts found genetic testing can detect the origins of people from a rural area to within five miles of their family home.

They said it might soon be possible to pinpoint the rural roots of city dwellers who have ancestors from different parts of the same country.

The report on the research is in the European Journal of Human Genetics.

It has been previously shown that there are genetic differences between populations in different countries.

Now the team in Edinburgh have tested whether the same analysis could be used to distinguish between people from the same country who were separated only by short distances.

Researchers looked at the genes of volunteers from Scottish islands, the Alpine valleys of Italy and villages in Croatia.

The study included only people whose four grandparents came from the same village, to ensure they had one definite place of origin. None of the volunteers were related to each other.

The results showed that by studying genetic differences it is possible to distinguish between people who live in villages that are only five miles apart.

They predicted the correct village of origin for 100% of the Italian sample, 96% of the Scottish sample and 89% in the Croatian sample.

Researchers concluded the pattern can be explained by the fact that in the past people tended to marry within their own community.

After many generations, the different villages developed their own genetic fingerprint, so that scientists can now detect that distant kinship.

Dr Jim Wilson, a Royal Society University research fellow at Edinburgh University, who led the study, said: "This exciting finding begs the question of whether we will be able to identify the rural origins of urban people with ancestry from many places across a country.

"These results hold out the possibility that with more data, using genome sequencing for instance, we might be able to do this."

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