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Britains discover genetic marker of Royal Scots

Posted: Sun Aug 23, 2015 6:02 am
by D J Thornton ... -years-ago
A DNA testing program by Britains DNA – a genetic ancestry provider – has managed to identify the development of a genetic marker in a historical figure for the first time. This has led to the discovery that half of all men with the surname Stewart or Stuart are directly descended from Alexander the fourth, High Steward of Scotland.

Alexander lived from 1214 to 1283 and had three sons and two daughters. ‘Britains DNA’ ran DNA testing on the male descendants of two of Alexander’s sons; Sir John Stewart of Bonkyll, who died in 1298 at the Battle of Falkirk at William Wallace’s side, and James the fifth, High Steward of Scotland, who lived until 1309.

It was found that Sir John’s male line of descendants had a particular Y chromosome marker named ‘S781’, where James the fifth’s did not. It can therefore be inferred that S781 developed in Sir John because if it had developed in his father, Alexander; James the fifth’s male line of descendants would carry the marker too.

This is the first time that the origin of a genetic marker – otherwise known as a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) – can be traced exactly to a historical figure such as Sir John. For genealogy enthusiasts this is another example of how genetic ancestry can yield a powerful insight into their lineage, where a ‘records based’ approach may have faltered.

For male Stewarts and Stuarts alive today; discovering there’s a 50% chance they’re directly descended from Scotland’s royal line is an intriguing revelation. It’s estimated that more than 17,500 Stewarts and Stuarts are of royal descent.

‘Britains DNA’ are based just outside Edinburgh in Scotland and have been undertaking genetic ancestry testing since April 2012. By discovering and testing for markers such as S781; they can say that 20% of Stewarts and Stuarts share Sir John as an ancestor, and 30% share James the fifth.

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