British Ancestry: a mixture of genetic DNA from other populations.

British Ancestry: a mixture of genetic DNA from other populations.

Genetic signatures have been found among Britons that strongly illustrate their historical roots from various locations of the UK, resulting in a highly detailed and descriptive map of genetic variations. The analysis shows clusters of genetic variation within the late 1800s, when the population was less migratory, and reflects historical waves of migration by a variety of groups of people into the island.


According to Peter Donnelly, the Director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics in Oxford, England, “The patterns we see are extraordinary. “The genetic effects we’re looking at are the result of, probably, thousands of years of history.”

DNA Map of UK migration.
Each symbol represents an individual at the center of their grandparents’ birthplaces. The tree (top right) DNA map of UK migration shows how the clusters are related. Photo credit: University of Oxford

Today, few Britons have ancestors from only one region of the United Kingdom. Therefore, it’s difficult to find patterns of genetic variation originating from a specific place.

However, the team found Britons that lived in rural areas and knew that their grandparents were all born within less than eighty kilometers. Since the DNA of these people was a blend of their grandparents’ DNA, it was expected that their genetic variations would be from within the geographic regions of their grandparents.

Participants were lumped into groups based specifically on their genetic DNA, and the geography of these groups matched significantly. Those from across central and southern Britain were in the most important cluster. Several groupings within this main group were much more isolated.

Those whose ancestry can be traced back to the archipelago, off the northeast coast of Scotland, fell into three distinct classes. This isolation most likely was a result of the islands creating difficulties in movement among various populations.

As well as the influence of geographic barriers, the overall picture resulted from migrations into and around the UK.

Genomes of people from continental Europe were analysed to gain insight into the scope of their ancestors’ contributions to Britons’ genetic ancestry. The flow of Anglo-Saxons from contemporary Germany into the UK after the departure of the Romans in 410 AD was indicated. Rather than displacing the resident population, they interbred.

Surprisingly, the Vikings, who occupied the UK during the four centuries from 700 AD to 1100 AD, had very little influence on the genetic makeup of Britons.

Britons or those with British heritage may conceivably use their DNA to trace the homelands of their ancestors.



Callaway, Ewan; UK Mapped out by genetic ancestry;