Are the WELSH the truest Brits? English genomes share German and French DNA – while Romans and Vikings left no trace
- Scientists found that Britain can be divided into 17 distinct genetic ‘clans’
- The Welsh have the most DNA from the original settlers of the British Isles
- English genomes are a quarter German and 45 per cent French in origin
- French DNA dates from before the Norman conquests of Britain in 1066
- Despite their reputation for raping the Vikings left little trace of their DNA
- The ancient Romans also left little of their DNA behind after their conquest
- People in Cornwall and Devon form two distinct groups that rarely mixed
By Fiona Macrae for the Daily Mail – Published: 18:06 GMT, 18 March 2015 | Updated: 14:49 GMT, 19 March 2015
We like to think of ourselves as being different from our European neighbours.
But the English owe a lot to the French and a fair amount to the Germans – at least as far as our genes are concerned.
For a study has mapped the genetic make-up of Britain. Researchers analysed the genetic code of 2,000 white Britons and compared the results to data on more than 6,000 people from ten European countries.
Similarly, the Vikings may have a reputation for rape and pillage but the genetic evidence shows they did not have enough children with the locals for their Danish DNA to be present today.
The Anglo-Saxons, in contrast, did leave a genetic legacy, with about 20 per cent of the DNA of many English people coming from the invaders who arrived 1,600 years ago.
Further DNA comes from earlier migrants from what is now Germany.
The French contribution to our genes did not come from the conquering Normans but from much earlier.
Some is from the earliest modern Britons who arrived after the last Ice Age and more came from a mystery set of migrants who settled before the Romans invaded.
Other countries to contribute genes to English DNA include Belgium, Denmark and Spain.
The Oxford University study, which examined people whose grandparents had all been born near each other and were white European in origin, revealed that Caucasian Britons can be separated into 17 distinct genetic groups.
Remarkably, many of these modern-day ‘clans’ are found in the same parts of the country as the tribes and kingdoms of the 6th century – suggesting little changed in Britain for almost 1,500 years.
The people of Orkney are the most distinct, a result of 600 years of Norwegian rule.
The Welsh are the next most distinct.
They have so much DNA from the first modern settlers, that they could claim to be the truest of Britons.
But even within Wales there are two distinct tribes, with those in the north and south of the principality less similar genetically than the Scots are to the inhabitants of Kent.
Clear differences can be seen between the inhabitants of Cornwall and Devon, while West Yorkshire and Cumbria also have their own genetic heritage.