People with the same surname may share a common male ancestor, according to a study published in the American Journal of Human Genetics last week. Professor Bryan Sykes, of Oxford University, looked at Y chromosome DNA from 60 men who were also called Sykes. To his surprise, over half shared a unique, identical pattern of DNA variation, which suggests they inherited their Y-chromosome from the same male ancestor.
The results of the study have amazed genealogists, who had assumed there were several different founders of the Sykes family. The surname is taken from the name for a boundary stream, a common feature of the Yorkshire landscape. It was probably first passed from father to son around the year 1300. The fact that only 50 per cent of the Sykes men in the study had a different DNA pattern suggests a low rate of non-paternity - around 1.3 per cent of Sykes boys in each generation were not fathered by a Sykes, the researchers estimate.
The Y-chromosome DNA pattern was not present in any of the 'non-Sykes' men included in the study, even those from Yorkshire. Professor Sykes, who started the research as 'a bit of fun', claims the results could have important implications for both genealogy and forensic science. He has obtained similar results for three other surnames, but adds that more common names such as Smith or Jones are likely to have several founders.
Sources and References
How every Sykes branched from the same family tree
DNA 'family tree' clue may identify criminals
Surnames found in DNA
Sykology finds our names in our blood