Questions about the DNA analysis

Why can’t DNA provide all the answers?

DNA evidence can’t tell us about Richard’s life, death and burial. The other analyses we have carried out tell us about those in considerable detail.

DNA is one kind of evidence among many others which is useful for forensic identification, such as identifying criminals during trials, or missing persons. Evidence is gathered to indicate who the person might be and then the DNA from this individual is compared against possible relatives to see if there is a match.

The kind of DNA most easily recovered from archaeological remains such as bones is mitochondrial DNA because it is present in many copies in cells in your body. Your mitochondrial DNA is inherited from your mother, whether you are male or female. There are a number of types of mitochondrial DNA, but the type shared by Richard III and the two modern descendants of his sister is extremely rare, further strengthening the evidence of the match between them.

Why can only certain people related to Richard provide DNA that is useful for the investigation?

Mitochondrial DNA is passed intact down the female line so only people who can demonstrate an unbroken female line of descent [Kevin genealogy document] from Richard III’s mother, Cecily Neville, are useful donors. Two of these have been identified, and their mitochondrial DNA has been matched with the skeleton.

Similarly, Y-chromosome DNA is passed from father to son, and only men have it. However, neither Richard III nor his father Richard of York left any direct male descendants who lived to produce children. Therefore to find men who share the same Y-chromosome DNA as Richard III, we would have to find men who can demonstrate an unbroken male line of descent from Edward III, the great-great-grandfather of Richard III.

Unfortunately, people who are related to Richard III but with crossing lines of descent, moving between the male and female lines, are not useful donors. And, of course, all genealogies have to be carefully verified using original historical documents.

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