Article

European Journal of Human Genetics (2007) 15, 288–293. doi:10.1038/sj.ejhg.5201771; published online 24 January 2007

Africans in Yorkshire? The deepest-rooting clade of the Y phylogeny within an English genealogy

Turi E King1, Emma J Parkin1, Geoff Swinfield2, Fulvio Cruciani3, Rosaria Scozzari3, Alexandra Rosa4, Si-Keun Lim5, Yali Xue5, Chris Tyler-Smith5 and Mark A Jobling1

  1. 1Department of Genetics, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK
  2. 2GSGS, 14 Beaconsfield Road, Mottingham, London, UK
  3. 3Department of Genetics and Molecular Biology, Università degli Studi di Roma 'La Sapienza', Rome, Italy
  4. 4Human Genetics Laboratory, University of Madeira, Funchal, Portugal
  5. 5Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Hinxton, UK

Correspondence: Professor MA Jobling, Department of Genetics, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester LE1 7RH, UK. Tel: +44 116 252 3427; Fax: +44 116 252 3378; E-mail: maj4@leicester.ac.uk

Received 19 September 2006; Revised 23 November 2006; Accepted 28 November 2006; Published online 24 January 2007.

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Abstract

The presence of Africans in Britain has been recorded since Roman times, but has left no apparent genetic trace among modern inhabitants. Y chromosomes belonging to the deepest-rooting clade of the Y phylogeny, haplogroup (hg) A, are regarded as African-specific, and no examples have been reported from Britain or elsewhere in Western Europe. We describe the presence of an hgA1 chromosome in an indigenous British male; comparison with African examples suggests a Western African origin. Seven out of 18 men carrying the same rare east-Yorkshire surname as the original male also carry hgA1 chromosomes, and documentary research resolves them into two genealogies with most-recent-common-ancestors living in Yorkshire in the late 18th century. Analysis using 77 Y-short tandem repeats (STRs) is consistent with coalescence a few generations earlier. Our findings represent the first genetic evidence of Africans among 'indigenous' British, and emphasize the complexity of human migration history as well as the pitfalls of assigning geographical origin from Y-chromosomal haplotypes.

Keywords:

Y chromosome, haplogroup, African, surnames, genealogy, Y-STRs