don't have enough evidence," he says._
That began to change when Redmonds's advice was sought by Bryan Sykes, a geneticist at Oxford University. Sykes had been invited to give a talk to scientists at Glaxo Wellcome, a large British drug company, which in the mid-1990's was beginning to take an interest in the human genome. The organizers of the conference at which Sykes was to speak asked him several times if he was related to the company's then chairman, Sir Richard Sykes. He kept saying no, not that he knew of. Even the company chauffeur who arrived to drive him to the conference asked the same question.
Sykes was about to repeat his usual denial but suddenly a thought crossed his mind. "Maybe Sir Richard and I were related after all, but without realizing it," he writes. "And, more to the point, maybe I could prove it by a genetic test." Sykes asked the chauffeur to wait and rushed back to his lab for a genetic sampling kit (essentially a swab to brush cells off the inside of the cheek). At the conference, which his namesake was attending, he asked him for a sample.296 The two men had grown up in quite different parts of the country. Bryan Sykes's family lived in Hampshire, in southern England, Richard Sykes had grown up in Yorkshire, in the north. Apart from both having been trained as scientists, they seemingly had nothing else in common. But it turned out there was something else: they possessed the same Y chromosome.
Y chromosomes, of course, are bequeathed from father to son just as are surnames. After the test with his namesake, Bryan Sykes wondered if other Sykeses too might be related to one another. Research showed that there were many Sykeses living in Yorkshire and that the surname itself was derived from a Yorkshire word, sike, meaning a moorland stream. Sykes picked some 250 of his namesakes at random from the Yorkshire area and sent each a letter asking for a sample of his DNA. About a quarter obliged, and from analysis of their cells a distinct pattern emerged. About a half carried the identical Y chromosome, or one that was just a single mutational step away from it. The rest had a miscellany of unrelated Y chromosomes.
Several interesting conclusions followed. First, there was just one real Sykes Y chromosome. All the men who carried it were presumably descended from the first bearer of the surname. That meant the surname had been assigned only once or, if more than once, all other lines had ended without male heirs and no longer existed.
As for the 50% of Sykeses who did not carry the true Sykes Y chromosome, their cases must have been largely the result of what geneticists delicately refer to as a "nonpaternity event" at some point in their family tree, meaning the biological father was not the same as the father of record. Adoption is one possible explanation for nonpaternity, though it probably wouldn't account for many cases.
If half of Sykes men alive today have a nonpaternity event somewhere in their genealogy, doesn't that raise considerable doubt about the virtue of Sykes wives through the ages? Bryan Sykes argues this is not the case. Assuming there have been 23 generations of Sykes since the first Mr. Sykes in the thirteenth century, an infidelity rate of merely 1.3% per generation would account for the fact that only half of contemporary Sykes men carry the correct Y chromosome. This compares very favorably with the nonpaternity rates of contemporary populations, Sykes comments, which run from 1.4% to 30%, though most fall in the 2 to 5% range.297
"I'm proud to say I have the aboriginal chromosome," Sykes replied when asked whether he was a true Sykes or one of the out-of-wedlock kind. His early ancestors seem to have been a rough lot; they appear regularly in court records of the fourteenth century as having incurred fines for cutting down trees or stealing sheep. "Nonetheless, their wives were faithful through all this," Sykes 298
Redmonds, the local historian, has traced the earliest Sykeses to the villages of Flockton, Slaithwaite and Saddleworth in West Yorkshire. The first mention of the name is a court record of AD 1286 referring to a Henri del Sike of Flockton. There are still Sykeses living in Flockton. Redmonds was able to locate the plot of land of which Henri del Sike was tenant, a farm that straddled a stream between two parishes. He took his geneticist friend to visit. "There was no sign of the farmhouse which my ancestor, the very first Sykes, had occupied, but even so, it felt quite extraordinary to be here," Sykes wrote. "Looking round at the old mill, the track and the stream, it seemed that nothing in the landscape had greatly changed. Nor had it. The field and croft boundaries were as they had been in the late thirteenth century when Henri del Sike was living here. As I stood, I could almost hear the voices of the children—my ancestors—laughing as they threw pebbles into the stream."299
Sykes has analyzed the Y chromosomes of three other English surnames and found that, as with his own, each can be traced to a single bearer. Because of his research it now seems that many English surnames once had a single bearer, and even the commonest ones like Clark and Smith may be descended from only a few originals.
Genetic analysis is at the least a new tool for historians and may one day support a new kind of history, possibly somewhat at variance with the conventional kind. English schoolchildren are taught that their history really begins with the Roman invasion of 55 BC and Caesar's defeat of the Celtic tribes who opposed him. The true bearers of the English heritage, the textbooks imply, are the Anglo-Saxons, later invaders whose Germanic language was the ancestor of English. The defeated Celtic inhabitants of Britain are assumed to have been pushed back into the hinterlands of Wales and Scotland and largely disappear from most history books.
But a survey of British Y chromosomes shows that the Y chromosomes characteristic of Celtic speakers, far from having disappeared, are carried by a large proportion of the male population of Britain. Nowhere does the indigenous population seem to have been wiped out, either by the Anglo-Saxons who invaded from Denmark and northern Germany in the sixth and seventh centuries AD, or by the Danish and Norwegian Vikings who arrived in the ninth and tenth centuries.300 (Two other groups of invaders, the Romans and the Normans, probably arrived in numbers too small to have left a demographic mark.) The Y chromosomes common among Celts have a particular set of DNA markers known to geneticists as the Atlantic modal haplotype, or AMH. AMH Y
chromosomes are also found, it so happens, in the Basque region of Spain, whose inhabitants are thought to represent the original inhabitants of Europe. AMH-type Y chromosomes are particularly common in places like Castlerea in central Ireland, which no invaders ever reached. This suggests that the chromosomes are the signature of the first hunter-gatherers who arrived in Britain and Ireland toward the end of the Pleistocene ice age 10,000 years ago. Given the similarity between Basque and Irish Y chromosomes, some geneticists suspect that people who had used Spain as a southern refuge during the Last Glacial Maximum started to move northward as the glaciers melted. Many may have traveled by boat up the west coast of Europe, entered the waterway
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