History at Leicester

The British Romany project

Background to the study

This University of Leicester study is being carried out by Matt Sears who is studying for a PhD in the Centre for Regional and Local History. Matt is responsible for all the historical and genealogical research. The genetic analysis is being carried out by Dr Turi King in Professor Mark Jobling's lab. It aims to look at the genetic ancestry of the Romany people living in Britain today.

The Romany are spread across Europe, and are thought to have arrived in Britain in the sixteenth century. Genetic studies have been done of Romany people in parts of Europe, and together with linguistic evidence suggest an origin in north-western India (over 1000 years ago), but the British Romany have not been studied in this way. We would like to know how they are related to European Romany people, and to learn where their ancestors in Europe might have come from.  In our genetic studies we focus on the Y chromosome, which is the part of our DNA responsible for maleness and is passed down from father to son.  In this study we will also analyse mitochondrial DNA, which passes from mothers to all their children.

It's very important to point out that by examining the Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA, we are only able to say anything genetically about just two of an individual's many ancestors. This is simply an artefact of how these two pieces of DNA are inherited.  An individual has many, many ancestors who will have contributed to the rest of their genetic makeup.

The number of ancestors that a person has increases as one goes further back in time.

For more information on this project please email us.

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