An article in the Johannesburg Sunday Times illustrates just how accurate DNA research can be when applied to genealogy. The island of Tristan da Cunha lies some 2800 km off the African coast. The inhabitants of the island share only seven surnames, and each of these can be traced to the original male founders. The island, which boasts rich and detailed historical and genealogical records, has a population of just 300, believed to have descended from 15 ancestors - seven men and eight women who arrived on the island between 1816 and 1908.
The island's founders all originated from Scotland, England, Holland, the US, and Italy. At least, that is what the genealogy records claim. However, DNA analysis of many of the island's records indicates that one more, previously undocumented male ancestor came from Eastern Europe.
Researchers behind the study stumbled upon the existence of a "traveling stranger's" DNA while tracing the island's DNA and genealogy records. The undocumented appearance of an unknown DNA is euphemistically referred to as a "non paternity event" by DNA researchers.
The genetic study conducted by Professor Himla Soodyall and colleagues at the National Health Laboratory Service, in conjunction with the University of the Witwatersrand and the South African Medical Research Council, was conducted to test the accuracy of the island's ancestry.
Professor Soodyall stated, "Our genetic material is inherited from our parents, and their parents before, and so on. By examining transmission of genes in living people, we can study the genetic trails of our ancestors back to about 100,000 to 150,000 years ago."
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