Monday 24 October 2011

Science and genealogy unite in the Irish DNA Atlas

The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and the Irish Genealogy Society have come together to find the Irish DNA code.

Officially launched this weekend as the Irish DNA Atlas project, the aim is to analyse genetic variation in the island's population and pick out the genetic differences between people whose ancestors lived in, say, Dungarvan and those who lived in Letterkenny.

Inevitably, the selection criterion is tight. Participants have to be able to trace all of their eight great-grandparents to one localised area, preferably to within a clearly defined community of about 30km radius. They will then contribute a DNA sample (taken by a mouth swab – nothing complicated), which will be sequenced and added to the database. As the latter grows, the project team will develop a picture for what constitutes a 'typical' Irish person.

The project has two main aims: to further our knowledge of the population history of Ireland and its connections with others in Europe, and to learn more about how genes influence health in Ireland, particularly in relation to heart disease, diabetes and cancer. The scientific aspects of the Irish DNA Atlas project will be directed by Dr Gianpiero Cavalleri of the RCSI.

If you wish to take part in the project, and meet the qualification that your 8 great grandparents were born in one locality (even if this straddles a county boundary), you should be aware that participation is on a pro bono basis providing information for the analysis of the samples by the RCSI. There is no payment and there are no costs, other than the return postage of the DNA sample and accompanying questionnaires.

You can request an Irish DNA Atlas project pack from