The village of Bledington is like the archetypal view of Britain, complete with cute cottages, a 12th-century church, Morris dancing poles, and pubs full of warm beer. Therefore, a new genetic test has decided to test just how “British” they are by looking at their DNA.
First thing’s first, as any British person will tell you, the idea of “Britishness” is a confusing thing (even without getting genetics involved). The first settlers on the British Isles obviously came from somewhere outside of Britain. Then over the following millennia, Britain spent a lot of its time being invaded by other parts of the world, including the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons, and the Normans. Around the 19th century, Britain started invading huge parts of the world. This means this little island has always been mixing with other parts of the world, both genetically and culturally.
Therefore, there’s no set thing that defines Britishness. As this genetic study also highlights, even this quintessentially British village is a great mish-mash of ancestry.
The study by genealogy company Ancestry collected saliva samples from 120 people in the village and asked them a few questions about their heritage. Population data says that 94 percent of the village deem themselves as “White British” and 56 percent of the study group didn’t expect to find results outside of the UK.
Nevertheless, the analysis of the DNA results revealed that the average resident was 42 percent Anglo-Saxon. This was the dominant culture of Britain from the 5th century CE, consisting of northern Germanic tribes who migrated from continental Europe and indigenous British groups who took up parts of their culture. A further 20.61 percent were from Western Europe, 17.03 percent Irish, 10.06 percent Scandinavian, and 2.8 percent Iberian (the peninsula of Spain and Portugal). Many others found traces of genetic heritage from Native America, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Melanesia.
A fair few of the village’s residents were pretty shocked by their results. Local resident Guy Chittenden, 24, said he always strongly believed he was “100 percent British.”
“All I know is English people in my family – and as far as I am aware I don’t know any relatives outside of Britain,” he said in a statement.
When he received his results, however, he was shocked to find out that he was just 3 percent Anglo-Saxon, with the rest of his genetic ancestry being from Western Europe, Ireland, and Scandinavia.
Commenting on the study, AncestryDNA spokesman Russell James said: “Despite the majority of residents assuming they were British through and through, this fascinating process uncovered some incredibly diverse heritage and allowed us to take a broader look at the genetic history of the village as a whole.
“It seems that Bledington‘s picturesque and arguably ‘typical England’ look and feel is deceiving as, on average, less than half of the villagers’ DNA (42 percent) was identified as Great British.”