Your Life Daily: The Granddaddy of All Genealogy Searches? UNEARTHING Your Family Tree Is a Hugely Popular Pursuit These Days. but What If You Could Find out Where You Really Come from - Tracing Your Roots Back Thousands of Years? an Online DNA-Based Service Is Offering Just That. but What Can You Gain from Delving Back So Far?
Byline: By Tara Cain
HAVE you ever wondered "where do I come from?"
Trawling through musty, old birth, marriage and death records is one thing. But there is a more potent indication of your roots than that - your DNA.
It's a record of you that can never be lost, accidentally deleted or misplaced.
And with recent breakthroughs in genetic testing, scientists claim they can trace your ancestral lineage right back to prehistoric man.
Of course, these genetic ancestry tests have something traditional genealogical tools don't - the fact that you are dealing with DNA and your genetic fingerprint gives that genuine stamp of authority.
And for many, the thought that your genes could be carrying around a part of history is very alluring - and if it's a "celebrity" rather than your second cousin twice removed that you find, then so much the better.
The world press went crazy when it was revealed that an American accountant could trace his ancestry all the way back to the Mogul warlord Genghis Khan.
As it turned out, the claims weren't true but the furore it caused and the celebrity it brought Florida resident Tom Robinson was massive.
Genetic analysis has proved so popular across the world that it has led to a dose of celebrity ancestor one-upmanship with people desperately hunting for their own family tie to historical figures.
As it turns out, I don't have any links to Khan or any other infamous character, but I am related to Oetzi the Ice Man found in the Alps!
So how do you go about finding out where you fit in the mists of time?
I took a simple test with Oxford Ancestors - they send you a swab kit which you literally wipe on the inside of your cheek and send off in a bag to to their lab.
A few weeks later you get a fancy pack back with certificates detailing your 'clan'. You also have access to the site's database and the other clan members.
Oxford Ancestors is the brainchild of human geneticist Professor Bryan Sykes.
He published research showing that everyone of European extraction could trace their ancestry back to one of seven women who lived 40,000 years ago.
He called them the Seven Daughters of Eve and gave them a history and background.
His findings hit a note with the public, and demand became so great for more information and for tests, that Prof Sykes set up the online company Oxford Ancestry offering what he calls the Matriline service.
And since the company was formed in 2001, they have performed tens of thousands of the tests.
The DNA used is your mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which is inherited solely down the maternal line. So your mtDNA is inherited exclusively from your mother, who inherited it from her mother (your grandmother), who inherited it from her mother (your great grandmother), and so on.
"I didn't anticipate the reaction it would receive," Prof Sykes says. "But people find it transports them into a world very different to where we live now.
"It takes you right back to the days of the hunter gatherer. Through your DNA you can prove where you are descended from. A lot of people will actually travel to where their ancestors lived.
People in the same clan meet up and there is a lively chat room on the website.
"And we have discovered that if you are from the same clan as someone else you feel quite relaxed around them - because essentially you are a relative!"
Prof Sykes says 97 per cent of Europeans fit into one of seven clans - Helena, Ursula, Jasmine, Velda, Xenia, Katrine and Tara. And can you believe it, I'm not in the Tara clan! I belong to Katrine, a medi-um sized clan with 10 per cent of Europeans among its membership. Katrine herself was a hunter gatherer, who lived 15,000 years ago in the wooded plains of Italy where Venice now stands, and among the southern foothills of the Alps. …