Digging up your ancestors for DNA?
An increasing number of people are suggesting the DNA testing of excavated human skeletons as a route to more information about their ancestors. The genetic analysis of Richard III has demonstrated the potential, given enough time and resources. But could one really go about direct DNA testing of ancestors? After explaining the potential of ancient DNA analysis I will consider: (i) legal requirements and ethical issues, (ii) archaeological excavation and evaluation of the evidence for identification, (iii) ancient DNA extraction and comparisons with the DNA of living people, (iv) the requirements this approach puts on paper-trail genealogical research.
Andrew Millard is Director of the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, and Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, at Durham University. He specialises in biochemical and geochemical analysis of bones and teeth. He has also been researching his family tree for almost 40 years. He is currently Chair of the Trustees of Genuki and Academic Coordinator for the Guild of One-Name Studies. Part of his current research is the Durham Scottish Soldiers Project, which involves analysis of the skeletons of Scottish prisoners who died in Durham in 1650, but also investigating links to living descendants of other prisoners who survived.