Always thought this was true

In fact, a map showing tribes of Britain in 600AD is almost identical to a new chart showing genetic variability throughout the UK, suggesting that local communities have stayed put for the past 1415 years.

Many people in Britain claim to feel a strong sense of regional identity and scientists say they the new study proves that the link to birthplace is DNA deep.

The most striking genetic split can be seen between people living in Cornwall and Devon, where the division lies exactly along the county border. It means that people living on either side of the River Tamar, which separates the two counties, have different DNA.

Having been born just the correct side of that line I have always known that those on the other were t’other, not quite human in the same manner. But then everyone knows that about Cornishmen.

However, this research is not quite what it is blown up to be:

The ‘People of the British Isles’ study analysed the DNA of 2,039 people from rural areas of the UK, whose four grandparents were all born within 80km of each other.

Because a quarter of our genome comes from each of our grandparents, the researchers were effectively sampling DNA from these ancestors, allowing a snapshot of UK genetics in the late 19th Century before mass migration events caused by the industrial revolution.

What they’ve actually found is that local people are local. Interesting, but not quite the same as finding that Britons are local people.

26 thoughts on “Always thought this was true”

  1. And by framiing it that way, they’ll add ‘science’ to all sorts of nativist tripe, sad to say.

  2. News shocker: people in hilly or mountainous areas find it hard to move around, whereas those in the plains intermingle more easily.

    You’d find the same outcomes in other parts of the world.

    Afghanistan’s tribalism stems from the fact that they are indeed tribes, each genetic clan laying claim to their particular valley in that country’s rugged terrain. Or even more pertinent today: Greece is not like Germany.

    Geography matters.

  3. …so first they excluded all the offspring of the restless types. I did a little family research during a boring winter. My four grandparents pre WW1 repeatedly sailed the seven seas until they stopped wherever money ran out or good fortune smiled. Their parents were even more restless. The Devon shepherd who went to Australia had a daughter who married a German-Jewish travelling player whose migrations included South America, back to Europe and all the gold rushes of California, NZ, Oz and South Africa. Another settled into respectability after a spell with the Hudson Bay company before his daughter married a fellow Brit with Indian connections. I suspect that very few people stayed put in the social gap, except maybe in Norfolk.

  4. Ahh, the wonders of modern science.

    The art is in the sample selection, for those who found science a bit testing at school…

  5. oops, that sounds as though I’m insulting fellow readers. What I meant was that the researchers found science a bit difficult!

  6. But the burning question is (and doubtless Professor of Genetics, Physics, Economics, and History of Art, Field Marshal the Lord Reverend Sir So Much, FS, will be along shortly to answer it), which British race has the lowest median IQ and when can we start discriminating against individual members of the group because of their mean IQ?

  7. bloke (not) in spain

    Looking at the comments, so far, seems inconvenient truths don’t fit the consensual “reality” ain’t too popular.
    What ‘s wrong with the science? I know with my own family, because the surname is rare & geographically related, most of the people with that surname live within 50 miles of each other. That’s not to say some of us haven’t wandered off. My grandfather came to the UK from New Zealand. But most people didn’t.

  8. So Much for Subtlety

    The ‘People of the British Isles’ study analysed the DNA of 2,039 people from rural areas of the UK, whose four grandparents were all born within 80km of each other.

    May I point out this is not determining whether local people are local. It is removing the effect of the post-War policy of population replacement. It is a way of removing the Windrush generation.

    The study does go back 1415 years. What they are saying is that our grand-parents’ generation did not move much. But neither did anyone for just under 1400 years before that. As opposed to young-uns today.

  9. So Much for Subtlety

    Guy Herbert – “And by framiing it that way, they’ll add ‘science’ to all sorts of nativist tripe, sad to say.”

    So you’re joining the Guardian tendency in labelling all the science you don’t like as racism? That is, you are not saying they are wrong, you are saying the political implications of what they say is unacceptable?

    Andrew M – “News shocker: people in hilly or mountainous areas find it hard to move around, whereas those in the plains intermingle more easily. …. Greece is not like Germany.”

    Greece is mostly mountains. But they are all Albanian and Bulgarians when they are not Turks. Germany is mostly flat except in the South. But I suspect, apart from the odd mass Russian rape, they are pretty genetically uniform.

    What do you think?

    From the geography we ought to conclude the Germans are a lot trust society and the Greeks a high trust one. From the genetics, the opposite. Which do you think is more accurate?

    “Geography matters.”

    Not as much as genes.

  10. “the late 19th Century before mass migration events caused by the industrial revolution” is a rum remark. When do they think the Industrial Revolution happened, then? So why should I put much weight on the rest of their shtick?

  11. Spain
    Are you included in Greg Clark’s longitudinal survey? He uses unusual surnames. At least that’s an arbitrary sample, while this one seems a little bit fixed.

  12. What “mass migration events”? Are you referring to people moving from the countryside to cities? How far, geographically, did such masses migrate?

  13. Those stay at home types should get out and enjoy the world. My direct line, from 1680, living at least 50 years in each place, is:
    NE England
    NE Ireland
    Virginia
    North Carolina
    Georgia
    Texas
    and my wife and I have lived, 20 years in each location, in Texas, California and North Carolina, again. My daughters live in Maryland and Chicago, with husbands from Pennsylvania and Louisiana. Stir that pot!!

  14. the late 19th Century before mass migration events caused by the industrial revolution is bollocks, see e.g. Cobbett. But that’s DT editorial ignorance and shouldn’t detract from this nicely designed study.

  15. bloke (not) in spain

    “Spain
    Are you included in Greg Clark’s longitudinal survey?”
    I’ve no idea, BiF. But if he’s concentrated on low incidence surnames, I’ll be in twice. Mum’s side has half the incidence of Dad’s.

  16. bloke (not) in spain

    Oh, it’s about status. We’ve got bags of that! Great-grandfather is reckoned to have owned the only mountain in London.
    Work it out…

  17. A bit behind with movie news, I was delighted to find out earlier on that local Northampton girl Sophie Turner (Game Of Thrones’s Sansa Stark) has been cast as the young Jean Grey in the next X-Men movie. Top casting choice there, Singer.

    Anyway, she’s a very good example of the local Germanic inflected gene pool that will soon be all but extinct–

    http://www.northampton-news-hp.co.uk/X-Men-Apocalypse-Sophie-Turner-confirmed-Jean/story-25913644-detail/story.html

    –which I think of as “Demi-Ginge”. You can spot the colouring and skeletal robustness a mile off.

    This sort of science is kind of sad science really, recording that which is passing away; on any reasonable extrapolation of current trends, the peoples of Europe will soon be gone. It’s a matter of personal values whether that is a good thing or a bad thing, but it is certainly a thing.

  18. Spain
    Our Mutual friend? Dombey and Son? Endemol too recent?

    Dickens, these quizzes are quizzical.

    Anyway, given the selection, this study seems to be one of those ones which says that wearing hats makes you bald.

  19. The Tamar: River of Blood.

    Not a title that your local historian is likely to get published.

  20. bloke (not) in spain

    Only trouble with your thesis, ian, is the collar & cuffs don’t match. Read the link from the story. She’s a blonde.

  21. So Much for Subtlety

    Ian B – “on any reasonable extrapolation of current trends, the peoples of Europe will soon be gone. It’s a matter of personal values whether that is a good thing or a bad thing, but it is certainly a thing.”

    Cultural nihilism and fashionable self-loathing must have gone quite some way when anyone can say something like that. The peoples of Europe are the best thing to happen to the planet. Most of the world is capable of even basic tasks without them. Progress depends almost entirely on them. Their passing will be a disaster of the first order.

  22. Cultural nihilism and fashionable self-loathing must have gone quite some way when anyone can say something like that.

    I said in a deliberately value neutral way something which, as I’m sure you remember, I am not the least bit value neutral about; if I were, I would not have mentioned it at all. The problem, in my opinion, is not so much those people who believe it is a good thing, but those who believe it is not even a thing.

  23. I can’t see a problem with the methodology of the study – it shows those families able to stay put for three generations are generally likely to be descendents of others who do not move. I think we call this the yeomanry or free peasantry – those who rarely need to move because they hold their own resources…

    It is the published conclusions that bother me. Why are we focussing on the post-Roman period here? Just because the genetics vaguely match the post-Roman map (and note Devon is not recorded as a separate kingdom ever, so it should either match the rest of the West Saxon area or Cornwall, or be like both, under this model) we have to accept this is the reason the genetics vary? No-one has managed to prove however that the genetics do not vary because of iron age tribes, or bronze age tribes, or stone age groups, in those areas, because each cluster is, as noted, a distinct geographical and environmental area (yes, most of England is a single area – other than the odd big river or marsh, how difficult is to get around even in winter?

    My favourite result though was the small outcrop of the main English genetic type in north-east Fife. Might be something to do with a certain university town up there (and thus shows the limits of the whole study).

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