Genome of Man Who Died in 1827 Has Been Reverse-Engineered Without Any Remains

Hans Jonatan was born in the Caribbean in 1784, migrated to Iceland in 1802, and died in 1827 – and scientists have just managed to reconstruct part of his genome from 182 of his descendants, even though Hans’ remains have long since been lost.

This remarkable feat of reverse genetic engineering – the first time someone’s genotype has been reconstructed using only descendants rather than their physical remains – reveals that Hans’ mother was originally from somewhere in the Benin, Nigeria, and Cameroon region.

The study demonstrates that with enough genealogical and genotype data available, reconstructing a historical genome sequence like this is possible.

“With extensive genealogical records, genotype data and divergent ancestry, genome reconstruction of an ancestor who died almost 200 years ago is relatively straightforward,” conclude the researchers.

You can read more in an article by David Nield in the ScienceAlert web site at: DNA experts may also want to read the rather technical article that explains how Hans Jonatan’s genome was determined in an article (that requires payment) in Nature at:


The work is impressive, but without any of Hans’s remains to compare it to, how do we know they got the reconstruction right?

Liked by 1 person

In 1802 an African must have been a rarity in Iceland. I wonder what took him there.


Christine Czarnecki January 24, 2018 at 2:26 am

I would love to see this done on the Thomas Jefferson descendants, those descended from his two daughters by his wife, Martha Wayles. The results could then be compared with those of the descendants of Sally Hemings, to see if they were his descendants or descendants of another Jefferson male relative.


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