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Oxford Ancestors

From ISOGG Wiki

Oxford Ancestors
Industry Genealogy, DTC genetic testing
Founded April 2000. Ceased trading December 2020
Founder(s) Professor Bryan Sykes
Headquarters Kidlington, Oxfordshire, England
Area served International
Products mtDNA Tests, Y-STR tests
Website (Wayback Machine

Oxford Ancestors was a commercial genetic genealogy company launched in April 2000 by Professor Bryan Sykes, a Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Oxford. Oxford Ancestors was set up to meet the anticipated demand for mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) tests from members of the public in response to the publication of Sykes' book The Seven Daughters of Eve (published spring 2001) which claimed to show that almost everyone in Europe was descended on the maternal line from one of seven female ancestors. The "daughters" or clans correspond to the most common mitochondrial DNA haplogroups in Europe. For a list of the clan mother names used by Oxford Ancestors for the mtDNA haplogroups see the ISOGG Wiki list Oxford Ancestors haplogroup nicknames.

Sykes was one of the first researchers to establish a link between the Y chromosome and surnames. His paper "Surnames and the Y chromosome" suggested that the surname Sykes had a single surname founder, even though written sources had predicted multiple origins.[1] A Y chromosome test was also offered to the public on the company's launch. Oxford Ancestors similarly assign clan names to the Y-DNA haplogroups.

Oxford Ancestors participated in producing the 2001 BBC television documentary, "Blood of the Vikings," which claimed to show how Y-chromosome DNA testing could reveal Viking ancestry.

Bryan Sykes died on 10th December 2020.[2] The company ceased trading on 31 December 2020.[3]


The company offered the following products:

  • The MatriLine test sequenced a client's mitochondrial DNA and identified which of the "seven daughters" (haplogroups) was the client's own ancestor and described her imagined life. The Matriline test was a low-resolution HVR1 (hypervariable region 1) mitochondrial DNA test suitable for deep ancestry purposes only.
  • Y-Clan was a basic Y-chromosome DNA test. The company deduced your "paternal clan and your ancient ancestral father". The Y-Clan test consisted of 26 Y-STR markers.
  • Tribes of Britain service. If your paternal roots are in Britain or Ireland this Y-clan analysis test purported to tell you whether you are descended from a Celt, Saxon or Viking. The service was based on research from Professor Sykes' laboratory on the genetic history of Britain and Ireland, which was published in the book Blood of the Isles (published in the US and Canada as Saxons, Vikings and Celts: The Genetic Roots of Britain and Ireland). Sample Tribes of Britain reports can be seen here and here. Note, however, that these reports were for entertainment value only and did not have any scientific basis.[4]

News reports


Further reading

See also


  1. Bryan Sykes and Catherine Irven. Surnames and the Y Chromosome. American Journal of Human Genetics, April 2000, Vol 66, issue 4, pp1417–1419.
  2. Ferry G. Bryan Sykes obituary The Guardian, 18 December 2020.
  3. The following announcement was published on the Oxford Ancestors website on 18th December 2020: "It is with great sadness we announce the death of Professor Bryan Sykes on 10 December 2020. Bryan was the inspiration for the founding of Oxford Ancestors in 2001 and all the science behind it. His passion for translating the excitement of scientific discovery into enjoyment for all was immeasurable. In the last few months, Bryan made sure that systems and training were in place within Oxford Ancestors such that the Company could operate in his absence except in cases of unusual results or unusual queries needing his expert interpretation. Nevertheless Oxford Ancestors will cease trading on 31 December 2020. All orders placed up to and including this date will be processed as usual. All samples received up to 31 March 2021 will be analysed and results reported in the usual manner. Access to the company database will remain open until 30 September 2021. Communications should use the webform facility accessed through our website here."
  4. Shriver MD, Kittles RA. Genetic ancestry and the search for personalized genetic histories. Nature Reviews Genetics 2004: 5: 611-618.

External links