Friday, 4 March 2011

Scotland's DNA: Who do you think you are? - Part 4

The Scotman newpaper continue their series of articles based on Alastair Moffat's radio programme, The Scots: A Genetic Journey.

The latest article can be found here Scotland's DNA: Who do you think you are? - Part 4

Here is a snapshot of particular interest to me personally. It concerns the MacLeods and a new marker called S68 (also known as L165). This was discovered by Dr Jim Wilson and is bringing fresh insight into the origins of Clan MacLeod.

Clan MacLeod is a fascinating case study. From a sample of the DNA of 45 Macleod Y chromosomes almost half, 47 per cent, clearly show social selection at work in that they descend from one individual. If this statistic is projected amongst the total number of MacLeods, it means that almost 10,000 men alive today are descended from this man. Among the remaining 53 per cent, researchers have found only nine other lineages present, showing that MacLeod men married women who were unfailingly faithful to them.

Nevertheless, the MacLeods do not carry the M17 marker group. Theirs is a recently discovered sub-group labelled S68. It is found in Lewis, Harris and Skye, core Macleod territory, but also in Orkney, Shetland and Norway, with a few examples in Sweden. Despite extensive screening, S68 is very specifically located, showing up only once in the east of Scotland and once in England. This is a classic pattern for a Viking marker in Britain, but one much rarer than M17. MacLeods determinedly claim descent from a common name father, a Norse aristocrat called Ljot, a relative of Olaf, King of Man. They are probably right to continue to claim that – science for once supporting tradition.
Follow this link for analysis of the results from the MacLeod DNA Project and other pages which highlight the deep ancestral relationship to several other surnames.

A new project specifically looking at S68/L165 can be found at R-L165 (S68) Project This marker has also been found in a group of MacDonalds from the Northern Highlands and a group of Bealls (Bells) from Fife. Testing is currently being carried out on a Buie from Jura and a MacNeil.

The MacNeil's of Barra (Group b. orange coloured ) are genetically related by STR matches with the group of MacDonald's mentioned above and who are positive for this marker. Testing is required to confim that these MacNeils also carry this marker, but STR results do suggest that they will also be positive.