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Historians bid to use DNA to plot county family trees
A GROUP of amateur historians are trying to collect the DNA of people in Oxfordshire to help build family trees.
The Oxfordshire DNA project is being run by the Oxfordshire Family History Society (OFHS).
So far 24 people have sent off samples of their DNA to an American laboratory to have it scanned.
But the hope is that hundreds more will follow – and old Oxfordshire names of families such as Merry, Buckingham, Saunders, Townsend and Wheeler are among those researchers are looking into.
The Texan company, Family Tree DNA, compares samples with a database of thousands to match people up from around the world.
And Sue Honoré, of the OFHS, said she wants hundreds of people to sign up to the project.
Mrs Honoré, 57, from Minster Lovell, said: “More and more people are turning to DNA to research their family history because the paper trail tends to run out after six or seven generations.
“Quite often in history, people come from what we call non-paternal events, so we can’t find connections with their ancestors on paper.
“That is where DNA can become useful. It can take you further back.”
So far, no one from the Oxfordshire DNA project has managed to find a concrete connection through DNA testing.
But, said Mrs Honoré, as more people sign up, chances of finding a match will improve.
So far she has found two possible matches, one in the US and one in the UK, with whom she is hoping to find a genealogical link.
Co-administrator on the project, Richard Merry, is an Australian whose grandfather migrated from Oxford to Tasmania in 1904.
Mr Merry’s most distant ancestor – who he has fully documented – is a Richard Merry born in 1640 in Eynsham, although there are other clusters of Merrys in the county.
He said one of the reasons for trying DNA was to see if he could find links with one or more Merry groups in Oxfordshire.
So far DNA has not given him all the answers, but he hopes to find connections in the next few years.
He has, however, gained considerable expertise on DNA, hence his proposal to form the Oxfordshire DNA project.
As well as the Merry line, Mr Merry is researching other Oxfordshire family names including Buckingham, Saunders, Lanchbury and Broadest/Broadist/Broadhurst – all from the West Oxfordshire area.
The Oxfordshire DNA project is looking specifically for people whose ancestors lived in the county from at least the late 19th century.
Some old Oxfordshire names include Eddington or Edginton, Morris, Busby, Collett, Tims, Townsend and Wheeler.
- DNA testing with a company like Family Tree DNA or 23andme.com costs upwards of about £150.
- The company sends out a testing kit with a cotton bud and a test tube.
- The applicant must swab the inside of their cheek and send the sample, in the tube, back to the USA.
- Scientists will then use several DNA markers to match up possible relatives, and send the customer a list of potential contacts.
- If you would like to join the Oxfordshire DNA project, go to familytreedna.com/public/ oxfordshire
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