DNA Shows Man a Descendant of Genghis Khan
Tuesday, June 6, 2006; 8:30 PM
LONDON -- Tom Robinson had long wondered about his family tree. He never suspected its roots might lie in the Mongolian steppe.
The Florida accountant knew that his great, great-grandfather had come to the United States from England _ but beyond that his research drew a blank. So he turned to the burgeoning field of "bioarchaeology," having his DNA tested to see what it revealed about his origins.
He was in for a surprise. According to a British geneticist who pioneered the research, Robinson appears to be a direct descendant of Genghis Khan, the Mongol warrior who conquered vast tracts of Asia and Europe in the 13th century.
Robinson said he was startled when he received a call from the firm Oxford Ancestors about a surprising ancestor uncovered by his DNA tests.
"My first impression was, 'Oh no, who is it' _ imagining it was Adolf Hitler or something like that," said Robinson, 48. "So I was actually pleasantly surprised."
Robinson thinks his forebear, whose name has long been a byword for violence and cruelty, has had a bad press.
"In addition to being a conqueror, he was a great administrator," said Robinson, who has been reading up on Genghis Khan. "Their system of governance was fairly sophisticated."
Established in 2001 by Oxford University geneticist Bryan Sykes, Oxford Ancestors offers DNA testing to people around the world eager to trace their genetic roots.
Sykes believes DNA can be used to map humanity's common ancestry. In 1994, he extracted DNA from a frozen 5,000-year-old corpse found in the Tyrolean Alps, and identified a woman living in Britain as his descendant.
Sykes' 2001 book "The Seven Daughters of Eve" claimed that 95 percent of Europeans are descended from seven tribal matriarchs _ he dubbed them Ursula, Xenia, Helena, Velda, Tara, Katrine and Jasmine _ who lived between 10,000 and 45,000 years ago.
He also believes most Europeans can trace their descent to "Five Sons of Adam," and offers tests to identify these paternal ancestral clans by mapping patterns of DNA within the Y chromosome, the genetic material handed down from fathers to sons that changes little over generations.
Women have two X chromosomes, while men carry one X chromosome and one Y, so only men can take the paternal ancestry test.