A genetic survey in the UK by Mark Jobling and colleagues, found a Yorkshireman who carried a globally rare Y chromosome type, described previously in only a few West African individuals. Their report in the European Journal of Human Genetics earlier this year sparked considerable press speculation about the history of African migrations into the UK.
Further information was obtained by enlarging the sample. Y chromosomes and surnames are both passed from father to son, so other men sharing the same rare east-Yorkshire surname as the original man were recruited for their study in the search for additional Y’s. One third of them were also found to carry the African chromosome. Conventional genealogical research was then used to link the participants to two family trees, both dating back to the 1780s in Yorkshire. Does this evidence pin down the date at which an African ancestor arrived in the UK?
Neil Bradman and Mark Thomas are doubtful. They have published a commentary in Heredity asking whether we should be surprised by the discovery of this Y haplotype in Yorkshire at all, given the accepted wisdom that Modern Man originated from Africa. Indeed, is it not more surprising that from a survey of 421 British males, only one carried the rare African Y chromosome?
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