Get more with your Gold Cheque Account

DNA reveals half of residents in Cotswold village are related

By Michael Abayateye
Residents in Cotswold

When they agreed to take part in a unique DNA project, residents of a close-knit Cotswolds village thought they might, at best, discover a far flung relative in an exotic location.

In fact, more than half of participants, who included the pub landlord, a local artist and a farmer, learned they were instead related to each other.

The landmark project that involved testing the DNA of a Gloucestershire community also revealed that despite being overwhelmingly white British, the average resident was just 42% Anglo Saxon. 

Almost 120 residents of Bledlington, near Chipping Norton, aged between 19 and 93, provided saliva samples for the study, conducted by AncestryDNA and said to be the first of its kind.

The village was selected for its size, scenic Cotswolds location and community spirit.

The findings challenged participants notions of their identities and that of the community as a whole, experts said.

Sixty one residents discovered previously unknown genetic connections, despite the fact that half of all participants had moved to the village from elsewhere with no prior link to the local people or area.

The closest found was that of Graham Harris and Gloria Warren, 74, who turned out to be third cousins, sharing a great great grandparent as their closest ancestor.

Camilla Bowditch, 68,  and Andrew Packe, 66, were revealed to be fourth cousins and had no idea of their genetic link, despite living just minutes away from each other.

Mrs Bowditch is retired and has lived in Bledington for two years, having previously lived and travelled across the UK and parts of Africa while Mr Packe had lived in the village for more than three decades.

Residents Sylvia Reeves, 93, and Steve Tyack, 46, were also surprised to learn they were distant cousins.

Mrs Reeves, a village historian, said: "I've been here in Bledington for 56 years and I've known Steve's family ever since I have been here.

“I even watched his parents courting, so, to find out we are related is amazing. I would never have dreamt it especially because Stephen is rooted round here whereas I came to Bledington by chance after being born in London."

Mr Tyack, a builder and member of the Parish Council, added: "Of everybody in the village, I'm really happy to be related to Sylvia. This whole experience has been wonderful - a real opportunity. It's really brought the community spirit back to Bledington."

Four other villagers were told of previously unknown local DNA matches identified as fourth cousins or closer, while 59 others discovered they had distant cousins in the village.

Before they took the test, more than half of the villagers said they did not expect to carry DNA from outside of the UK, yet the results showed that not one participant's DNA was 100 per cent British.

The results revealed that the villagers carried DNA from 18 separate global locations, including Scandinavia, Asia and Africa.

Sue Windsor, 73, who has lived in the village for 18 years, discovered that she was only six per cent British while the vast majority of her heritage was from western Europe.

“I haven’t got a clue how that’s come up,” she laughed. “I really can’t believe it. All of my family, as far as I knew, was British but I haven't got any British in me.

"We all just went down to the village hall to be tested one Saturday morning for a bit of fun but I will certainly investigate further now to find out a bit more about it.”

Kristen Turner, 48, a marketing manager, was intrigued to learn that her DNA was seven per cent South Asian.

“I'm quite excited to be able to find out where that comes from in my ancestry and perhaps try and find out where they originated from, what their story was and how it joined my line,” she said.

Russell James, an AncestryDNA spokesperson said: "Despite the majority of residents assuming they were British through and through, this fascinating process uncovered some incredibly diverse heritage and allowed us to take a broader look at the genetic history of the village as a whole.

“It seems that Bledington's picturesque and arguably 'typical England' look and feel is deceiving as on average, less than half of the villagers' DNA was identified as Great British.”

Credit: Telegraph