[Press & Publications] Genealogy and Genetics


August 2000

No 159

EMBARGOED UNTIL THURSDAY 24 AUGUST

New research to focus on surnames in Leicestershire and Rutland

What’s in a name? Plenty according to Dr Mark Jobling of the University of Leicester's Department of Genetics.

Dr Jobling is about to launch a pioneering study that links genealogy with genetics – and could be useful for forensic work. Your name could hold clues to disease patterns, history and geography, he believes.

The key to unlocking all of this is the Y chromosome. In many societies, men get their surnames from their fathers, along with a specific piece of DNA, the Y chromosome. This research will test the assumption that men with the same surname should share the same Y chromosome.

Dr Jobling said: "Surnames were established around 500 years ago. The study will include both common and rare surnames, and will investigate if Y chromosomes are shared more among rare surnames than common ones".

Dr Jobling has been researching the human Y chromosome for over ten years. He recently gained worldwide publicity for his joint work in discovering that Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States, had fathered a child by his slave, Sally Hemings.

Dr Jobling said: "I am now engaged in a bigger study into the Y chromosome. We are interested in using the Y chromosome as a marker for the histories and structures of human populations, but also for forensic and genealogical purposes".

The latest project will be conducted using over 1,000 men. They will be asked about their place of birth and those of their ancestors. The DNA will be sampled by swabbing the inside of the cheek. Males from all backgrounds and ethnic origins are required for the research, but especially those from the local area of Leicestershire and Rutland. In particular the research will focus on surnames which correspond to Leicestershire village names, and so have particular geographical associations.

The medical research charity The Wellcome Trust is funding the project through a Prize Studentship. The supported student is Ms Turi King, who has a background in Biological Anthropology, and gained an MSc in Molecular Genetics from the University of Leicester.

Men who are interested in taking part in the study should contact the researchers either by email (surnames@le.ac.uk), or by post, to: Mark Jobling, Department of Genetics, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester LE1 7RH.

NOTE TO NEWSDESK: For more information contact Dr Mark Jobling on (0116) 252 3427/3377, or via email on maj4@leicester.ac.uk http://www.le.ac.uk/genetics/maj4.html.

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