Your Name May Be Written In Your Genes

BBC on a new avenue of dna research that may be of some use in crime investigations;

The technique is based on work comparing the Y chromosomes of men with the same surname. The Y chromosome is a package of genetic material found only in males. It is passed down from father to son, just like a surname.


For the study, Turi King and colleagues from the University of Leicester recruited at random 150 pairs of men who shared a British surname and compared their Y chromosomes. Across the sample, the authors determined that just under a quarter of the pairs had recent common ancestry.

Given the small sample size and the random recruitment, Dr Jobling said he was surprised at the strength of the signal.

Sharing a surname also significantly raised the likelihood of sharing the same type of Y chromosome, with the link getting stronger as the surname gets rarer.The researchers used the data to roughly test the predictive power of the method. They found the approach was most useful for less common names, with a 34% chance of prediction in the 80 least common surnames from the 150-name sample.

“This range of surnames makes up 42% of the population. So we’re looking at prediction in just under half of the population. We have to exclude the Smiths and Joneses,” Dr Jobling said.

The researchers extrapolated their success rate to the 25-65 no-suspect murders and 300-400 no-suspect rapes on the police books each year, and found the method could help in roughly 10 murders and 60 rapes annually.

FILED UNDER: Policing, Science & Technology, Uncategorized,
Kate McMillan
About Kate McMillan
Kate McMillan is the proprietor of small dead animals, which has won numerous awards including Best Conservative Blog and Best Canadian Blog. She contributed nearly 300 pieces to OTB between November 2004 and June 2007. Follow her on Twitter @katewerk.


  1. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    Does this mean that because my father passed on his name to me that we might be genetically similar?

  2. G A PHILLIPS says:

    Patrick, good question, I don’t know, but I am confident someone somewhere In one of our institutions of higher jackassical learning is spending millions of our hard earned tax dollars on finding you an answer.

  3. David Harris says:

    This is a great development, seeing as how no criminals ever tried to change their name…