Genetic study shows deep Norwegian lineage in people of northern Scotland

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A team of researchers from Scotland and the U.K. has found via genetic study that many people in modern Scotland are of Norwegian descent. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the group describes their study and what they found.

As the researchers note, many have been conducted with people living in England, Wales and Ireland—but little has been done with people living in Scotland. To remedy the situation, the researchers gathered and analyzed genomic data from 2,544 people from across Britain, Ireland and many of the islands that surround them. The team focused most specifically on people in Scotland who lived within 50 miles of their parents.

The researchers report that they found genetically diverse clusters of people around Scotland: the southwest, the Hebrides, Shetland, the northeast, Orkney and the Borders. They also found invaders and settlers from Europe, particularly those from the north, had a profound impact on some parts of Scotland—in the most northern clusters, up to 23 percent of the people had Norse ancestry. The researchers found that most of the Norse ancestry came from people who had lived in Sogn og Fjordane, Hordaland and a few other parts of western Norway—areas that prior research has shown were where marauding Vikings had been based.

The researchers also found that the farther south people lived, the less Norse ancestry they had, and that people living on some of the islands off the coast of Scotland have their own unique genetic histories. They also found evidence that many of the early settlers of Iceland came from northern Scotland and Northern Ireland. And they found that people living on the Isle of Man originated from Scotland. The researchers suggest the reason so many people in northern Scotland have such a high degree of Norse blood is because people in those areas tend to marry locally.

  • Scotland's genetic landscape echoes Dark Age populations
    A genetic map of the British Isles, based on work by Professor Jim Wilson from the University of Edinburgh's Usher Institute and MRC Human Genetics Unit. Credit: The University of Edinburgh
  • Scotland's genetic landscape echoes Dark Age populations
    A genetic map of the British Isles, based on work by Professor Jim Wilson from the University of Edinburgh's Usher Institute and MRC Human Genetics Unit. Credit: The University of Edinburgh

The researchers conclude by noting that learning the genetic history of the regions of the world is important because it can help better understand the development of human diseases.


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More information: Edmund Gilbert el al., "The genetic landscape of Scotland and the Isles," PNAS (2019). www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1904761116

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Sep 09, 2019
Interesting that some one figured that out, thanks to DNA. I'm sure some people figured that out before DNA testing. They could try one of two things, that are now almost unknown: HISTORY and Genealogy. I noticed some Irish in those yellow and blue/green dots. What a surprise, not. Being that one of the sons of my number one ancestor (whose descendants now are in the few millions) moved there and was crowned King, thanks to a stone that he stole from the rightful heirs, that somehow ended up with the British. Not hard to figure out the ancestor I am referring to. Or the stone for that matter. Heck, doing some research I found out that a Mennonite family that I know, is related to me going way back to before they came across the pond a few hundred years ago.

Sep 13, 2019
The reverse migration, from Scotland to Norway, was also part of the exchanges between the two countries, the most famous example being the Grieg family; the great-grandfather of Edvard Grieg, the great Norwegian composer, migrated from the land of his ancestors to Norway where he settled in 1770; he belonged to the Clan Ghriogair [Clan Gregor] which name eventually morphed into Grieg.

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