The aim is to learn more about “the intensity of the Scandinavian colonisation” in the 9th and 10th centuries in the Cotentin Peninsula, said Richard Jones, a senior history lecturer at the University of Leicester.
That includes trying to find out whether the colonisers kept to themselves or married amongst the locals, he added.
The French volunteers have been chosen because they have surnames that are of Scandinavian origin or that have been present in France since at least the 11th century. They also qualify if all four of their grandparents lived within a 50-kilometre radius of their current home.
French data protection authorities gave their green light to the study, which will be published in 2016, but the DNA testing has raised eyebrows in some quarters.
“We’re worried this will build on the idea that there are real Normans and fake Normans,” said Jacques Declosmenil, head of the local wing of the Movement Against Racism (MRAP) group.
“In the current context of xenophobia, it’s very dangerous. Racists could use this to say: ‘I’ve got proof that I haven’t got any Arab blood,’ for instance.”
It’s really only looking at which flavour of Germanic overlies the original Celt after all. The Franks, like the Scandis, were all of that Germanic grouping that came in from the east anyway.