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NEWS: Major study to map our Viking heritage

Major study to map our Viking heritage
Last updated 19:34, Thursday, 12 February 2009

MEN with long family links to West Cumbria are wanted to take part in a study to uncover the area’s Viking heritage.

Researchers at the University of Leicester are seeking men from northern England to help map the impact the arrival of Vikings in about 900AD had on the area.

Professor of genetics Mark Jobling said some knowledge of how Vikings affected the landscape could be gauged from archaeology and place names, such as Branthwaite, Flimby, Birkby, Crosby, Allerby and Dovenby, but the effect on genetics was less clear.

Among the indications of local Viking habitation are place names ending in “by”, usually Norse and meaning town, “thwaite”, thought to be Norse and meaning clearing, “beck”, meaning stream, “foss”, for waterfall, “thorpe”, meaning hamlet or farmstead, “fell”, meaning hill, and “tarn”, meaning lake.

Now Prof Jobling and research associate Dr Turi King are seeking local men whose fathers’ fathers were born in Cumbria, Lancashire, Cheshire, North Yorkshire, Durham or Northumberland to provide DNA samples for the study.

They are particularly looking for people with local surnames, such as Borrowdale, Branthwaite, Haygarth, Oldcorn, Satterthwaite and Thornthwaite, as they provide a link to the past, but all eligible volunteers will be sent DNA sample kits. Samples will be used to find out what type of Y chromosome each volunteer has – the part of DNA passed from fathers to sons.

Researchers can then see what areas of the world they are linked to and determine whether they have Scandinavian heritage.

Prof Jobling said: “What we want to end up with is a map of the north of Britain showing where the Vikings were concentrated and distinguishing between the Norse Vikings who landed in the west and the Danish Vikings to the east.

“So far we have had a lot of interest. I think it links with television programmes like Who Do You Think You Are? and Time Team. We also get a lot of interest in terms of looking at ancestry in general.”

The research follows a similar project focusing on The Wirral and West Lancashire.

As well as helping the university learn more about local heritage, volunteers will be told their Y chromosome types, which could help them trace their ancestry across the globe.

“That can give you quite a strong indication of where your lineage comes from,” said Prof Jobling.

Samples are being collected over the next few weeks and the study will continue until late 2010, after which the results will be published.

Anyone interested in taking part should email or call 07512 586493, leaving their name, address and telephone number.

Tags: genealogy, uk, viking

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