Turi has done numerous interviews for television (BBC national and local stations, Sky, ITV, CNN, Global), radio (BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 5 live, BBC World Service, BBC Radio Leicester) and press about her work and commenting on current news stories.
Turi has featured as an expert on a number of radio and television programmes and documentaries both in the UK and abroad speaking on genetics, direct to consumer testing, genetic genealogy, ancient DNA and forensics. In the last few years, these have included Britain’s Lost Battlefields, Crimewatch, Point of View, BBC Ideas, The Gadget Show as well as documentaries for the Discovery Channel, Global Television and Channel 4. On the radio she has appeared on The Life Scientific, BBC Inside Science and The Last Word and Material World on BBC Radio 4, among others. She is Scientist in Residence at BBC Radio Leicester
Turi appeared in two documentaries as part of the Richard III project: The King in the Car Park and Richard III: the Unseen Story. She advised on and appeared in two of Michael Wood’s history series: The Story of England and Great British Story which also included appearing in live televised events. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/profiles/3lwl3Wd3NFL7FZrl9djCsFy/dr-turi-king
She is currently featuring in:
- BBC 2’s DNA Family Secrets with Minnow Films
- Amazing Productions/Smithsonian Channel for a high-profile documentary project
- Crime and Conspiracy, Bigger Bang Productions, Science Channel, U.S.A.
You can listen to her being interviewed by Jim Al-Khalili on The Life Scientific BBC website – https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0006m3f
Examples of Turi’s television work
DNA Family Secrets: How does analysing someone’s DNA help to reveal their family history?
Transcript: DNA Family Secrets - How does analysing someone’s DNA help to reveal their family history?
Turi King is one of the UK’s top geneticists. A professor at the University of Leicester, she first made headlines when she helped crack one of the biggest forensic DNA cases in history.
Bones found under a council car park in Leicester are those of King Richard III.
I want to find out how Turi and her team can use DNA to help people unravel their family secrets.
I think I understand the basics but are you happy to tell us, sort of in layman’s terms, what’s involved when you’re trying to figure out where someone’s from?
So, I suppose the first thing to say is that we humans, we are 99.9% the same as one another, no matter where you are from, in the world, but what our team is able to do is we look at lots of little tiny genetic differences that we have between us.
The other thing about this is that actually there are now so many people on these databases, I mean there’s over 25 million people worldwide who have taken these DNA tests, and so the chances are actually pretty high that one of your relatives could be on one of these databases.
In terms of the people that have come to us and they’re interested in finding out a bit more about their family, their relatives, how do you go about that?
Well, what we’re doing is we’re looking for people who share a high number of centimorgans with the person who’s come to us. Now centimorgans is basically just a fancy term for a unit of genetic measurement, it’s a way that we geneticists look for people who share sections of their DNA. So, such that they might be like a first cousin, a second cousin, a third cousin and once we found one of these people that’s where the detective work actually starts, because we can talk to them and we can go right what do you know about your family tree and we can also go through records, so we can go through like birth certificates, you know, death registers, marriage registers and then as I say it starts to allow you to, kind of, hone in on who your mystery person is. Which hopefully will give the people who come to us their answers, that they’re wanting.
DNA Family Secrets: What happened to my father?
Transcript: DNA Family Secrets - What happened to my father?
Around a million of us in the UK grow up without any contact with our fathers. 75-year-old Bill has never met his dad.
During World War II 240,000 African American GIs were stationed in the UK, many had relationships with local women, which resulted in the birth of two thousand mixed-race babies. Bill is one of them.
I do remember that my mum had a photo of my dad. So, I had this photo and I used to carry around with me all the time, even when I was little, you know. I had it and I lost it. That’s all I had of him, and I keep having these flashes like that, yeah that’s what he looked like, but I can’t remember him in the flesh, you know, I can’t. I sometimes wish that I’d started earlier, to find out things, when I was a bit more healthier.
Since they last met Turi and our team have been analysing Bill’s genetic code, trying to track down any DNA matches and find his family in America.
I’m really looking forward to see what Turi can tell me.
Yeah, we’ll stay here and are you happy to go through and…
As a Geneticist I can actually tell you it was a joy looking at the DNA that must come from your father’s side and that’s because it actually gave really quite clear and detailed information. Now because it was from your father’s side, I thought well I’ll have a look at his Y chromosome type. So, the Y chromosome, putting it really simply, it has on it the gene for maleness. So, the Y chromosome that you get is from your father, which came from his father, which came from his father, so on back through time.
So, the largest number of people who are carrying this type of Y chromosome in Africa are coming from, sort of, Congo, Cameroon, so West Bantu speaking individuals and for me that’s quite interesting because we know that actually that’s where the slave trade really started, was in this area.
So, you are actually getting matches with people who arrived in the US in the early 1700s, in North Carolina and Virginia, but it’s likely what was happening was they were working on the tobacco and the cotton farms, probably until slavery was abolished in 1865.
You’re then getting matches with people who we know moved into Texas in the middle of the 19th century. So, finding those matches actually helped us to find even more information about your father and his family.
So, we know that your father was actually with somebody before he met your mum, and they had a child. This would be your half-brother; his name is Don.
Yeah, that’s news to me, I thought it might be somebody when he went back, yeah, that’s quite a revelation that, really.
So, Don was born in 1933 and really sadly he passed away about 11 years ago, at the age of 76.
I know your big question about your father was why didn’t he come back for your mum and for you. Now even if he had wanted to, come back, and marry your mum and bring you over to the US with him, it would have been impossible for him to do that. Back in the 1940s, in Texas, it was actually illegal. Interracial marriage was a crime in Texas in the 1940s, you know, people went to jail.
I suppose the other thing to remember is that even if your dad wanted to marry your mum in this country, he would not have been allowed to get married, his commanding officer would have refused it.
Oh right, so it wasn’t really a choice that he could make.
Turi, I really do appreciate what you’ve done.
British as Folk: The discovery of King Richard III in Leicester
Transcript: British as Folk - The discovery of King Richard III in Leicester
Guys welcome to a car park in Leicester. In 2012 the skeleton of famous hunchback / King, Richard III, was discovered beneath this hallowed tarmac. His bones had lain undiscovered for over 500 years, rewriting the rules of long-stay car parks forever.
Not only is he here, we’re meeting someone that helped find him.
The car park attendant?
No, turns out there’s another King in Leicester, Professor Turi King. Best known for leading the Richard III identification project,
the Professor managed to crack one of the biggest forensic DNA mysteries in history.
So, Richard III is killed at the Battle of Bosworth on the 22nd of august 1485. We know that he’s buried in the choir of the church of the Greyfriars friary, in Leicester. Now the friary has been torn down, so we are starting an excavation and what we want to see if we can do is, can we find the friary itself. Well 6 hours in we hit a little bit of leg bone. So, we start to uncover him, and we find somebody with, battle injuries, severe scoliosis of the spine, he’s in the right place, youngish male….
Turns out having a car park as your main tourist attraction is too boring even for Leicester. So, they built a shiny new building over the actual spot where Professor King and her team discovered Richard’s skeleton. Oh! how very Goth.
That’s his grave, like, right there.
What’s this all meant for Leicester, has it made it a more visitable place?
It’s been fantastic for Leicester and obviously the year later we won the Premiership, which people say was actually Richard III was behind that.
Now I know you’re thinking, Richard III, isn’t he related to Danny Dyer?
So, we are all related to Richard III, it’s simply a matter of degree.
I’m not, my family’s Irish, really far back, the Brady’s were cattle thieves, there’s no way I’m related to the royals. Like there’s no way.
You absolutely will be, because if you think about it, you’ve got 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great grandparents. If you go back to the time, say of, you know, a thousand years ago, you’ve got more putative ancestors than there were people alive at the time.
Fern, just embrace your English heritage.
This is awful.
You will be related, we’re all related to each other, of course we are.
Oh, my goodness this is, my dad’s going to be so upset when I tell him.
We’re all related to each other, that’s just made sex really weird for everyone.
I mean I already found it difficult with you.
I think it’s going to be more likely than one of my relatives murdered King Richard than anything else, but let’s see.
I remove her royal highness Fern before the car park has another death on his hands.
It’s time for my DNA extraction master class.
You look fabulous.
You’re the actual scientist, and I’m the boy playing dress-up.
It might look like we’re just smooshing strawberries, this is pretty much the same method Professor Turi used to identify King Richard.
I had his tooth and I literally had, okay it’s bigger than this, but a mortar and pestle to crush his tooth up to a powder, to be able to extract the DNA from.
Yeah, basically it’s the same premise, you are breaking down the cell walls to get a hold of the DNA.
I remember my first day at Innocent Smoothies, crushing strawberries in washing up liquid in a freezer bag. Oh no…
Oh, what are you doing?
I’m afraid I’ve got over-excited, I’m afraid.
You need alcohol.
And I’m a little concerned that the Professor is trying to get me drunk.
DNA precipitates in alcohol, it can’t stay in solution. So, if we put alcohol in here the DNA is going to precipitate out and you’ll be able to see it. So, let’s pour…
I’ve heard a lot of excuses in my time.
So, if you get down.
All right, sorry.
Do you see all these, like, little kind of, it looks like cotton wool.
That’s DNA coming out of solution.
Amazing, like a sort of traffic light shot.
A genealogical slammer.
Absolutely, I think I’m going to have to start using that.
You’re very welcome to use the genealogical slammer in any of your future teachings.
Richard III: The Unseen Story
Transcript: Richard III: The Unseen Story
Geneticist Turi King had one of the toughest jobs, she had to find fragile DNA in bones that were 500 years old.
Actually, what you could do is just hold it in place.
When you’re working with ancient remains you have to be extremely careful about contamination. One of the biggest issues with ancient DNA is contamination with modern DNA. So, what I was ensuring was that while excavating and while lifting the skeleton Jo was working under extremely clean conditions. When we were looking at the skeleton we were fully garbed up in the suits, we had face masks, we were double gloved.
To ensure an accurate DNA result each step had to be double checked at two separate labs.
The skeletal remains were actually in extremely good condition. Now it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll be able to get ancient DNA out of them, because it completely depends on the soil conditions. And what I was hoping to get were teeth, that’s because they’re the most likely bit to remain, they’re usually very well preserved.
So, what you do is you take the teeth, and you take them into a clean room, you clean them extremely carefully and then you crush them into a powder and then from that you try and extract the DNA from that powder.
Sounds simple, but ancient DNA is broken into thousands of tiny fragments. Piecing them together takes months of painstaking work.
Right, well what I’ve got here is I have got a spit sample from Michael Ibsen and that contains an awful lot of his DNA, it’s got a lot of his cheek cells in there and what I’m going to be doing is I’m going to be taking some of this and I’m going to be extracting his DNA from it, and then I’m going to be sequencing his mitochondrial DNA and comparing it with any mitochondrial DNA we can get from the skeletal remains.
Unlike the skeleton, Michael’s DNA took Turi a matter of days to analyse and sequence because it was in so much better condition.
So, this is essentially part of the sequence of Michael’s mitochondrial DNA, and this is actually from my dad and what you’ll see is that not everybody has got the same DNA sequence. You can see that there’s differences between the two of them. So, my dad here has got a particular sequence and Michael has got a slightly different one. So that’s how you can tell mitochondrial DNA sequences apart from one another. And what I’ll be doing is trying to get the DNA sequence from the same region in the skeletal remains and then comparing the two sequences. And what we’re hoping is that we’ll get a perfect match.
I genuinely don’t know what the DNA result is.
Michael in here.
If you look at the DNA of Michael and you look at the DNA from the skeletal remains, there’s a match.
Looking at the sequences the match was identical. Richard and Michael share one of the rarest types of mitochondrial DNA called Haplotype J1C2C. It’s carried by just 1-2% of the population. This made the match even more reliable.
When I started to see the first sequences come back and seeing that it was a match, I just went really quiet. It was very profound.
Turi also revealed that she had managed to isolate a Y chromosome, proving that the skeleton was male.
What was so exciting about the moment of being told, was that it meant that we could actually say, beyond reasonable doubt, that we’d found Richard III. Whereas without the DNA it might have been something like, the balance of probability is that it’s Richard III.
To reinforce the genealogical research Kevin Schürer and Turi King obtained a DNA sample from another female line relative from Richard III. They also matched.
And I can now tell you, there is a DNA match between the maternal DNA from the descendants of the family of Richard III and the skeletal remains that we found at the Greyfriars dig.
Richard’s skeleton is now undergoing further scientific tests, to tell us more about his life. Turi King is analysing his DNA in even greater detail. Investigating his Y chromosome, to check the male line of descent and searching for evidence of hereditary disease. The skeleton has more secrets to reveal.
Michael Wood’s Story of England: Romans to Normans
Transcript: Michael Wood’s Story of England: Romans to Normans
This is BBC Radio Leicester…
But the key clues came from the surnames of some of today’s villagers and from their DNA.
If you are an Iliffe, you may well be a Viking, will you text me because there’s a DNA test going on.
I’m there, that’s my father and it goes right back through Charles Henry, who’s known as Harry, then George Thomas. George Thomas is my great grandfather, and his father is John, and we go back to William, Richard, and John Iliffe, who apparently originated from Fleckney.
Terry Iliffe’s surname appears around Kibworth from the 1300s, it’s from a Viking name Eilifr.
My great, great grandfather’s niece gave it to me before she passed away.
So, this is a valuation list, value of properties…
Wayne Coleman’s family have been in Kibworth at least since Tudor times and his name could be Viking too.
And here Coleman, John Henry Coleman.
I’ve gone back to 1692, the connections in the village.
But Wayne’s connection with the area could be much further back than he thinks.
I’ve just looked at these markers known as Y-STR markers and essentially that stands for Short Tandem Repeat. So, it’ll put you into a broad group of Y chromosome type, and yours seems to fall into a broad group known as R1a. Now that’s actually found across all of the north of Europe. So, I’d need to do further typing to find out sort of where your Y chromosome type seems to be found, but when we see that type in England, we start to think Norway. We start to think Norse because it’s a type of Y chromosome type that’s found at high frequency in Norway. We know that these Y chromosome types arrived in this country, through the invasion of the Norse Vikings.
You can get a hat now.
Viking, I’m amazed.
BBC Morning Live
Transcript: BBC This Morning Live
Now it’s the test that can help people track down missing relatives, detect diseases and even unlock family secrets.
Yes so no wonder 26 million people have taken a DNA test over the past decade and in her latest documentary DNA Family Secrets journalist Stacey Dooley and one of the UK’s leading geneticists, Professor Turi King, are helping people across the UK discover the mysteries hidden in their genetic code.
I’ve just got one question, is she still alive? No?
Your mum’s still alive.
Oh, flippin’ heck.
She lives in Ireland, she’s in a care home, she’s got dementia, but she’s alive and they’re looking after her.
Well that was Stacey with Margaret there who found out that her mum was still alive. Well Professor Turi King who helped track her mum down joins us now, good morning Turi.
That made me really emotional, that little clip there shows so powerful and personal as we saw there with Margaret, I mean it’s incredible isn’t it how much you can find out from someone’s DNA.
It is, I mean it’s amazing these tests and what you can do with them now, it can really help people solve family mysteries, so for Margaret, I mean I tear up still watching that and its why Stacey’s so good because with her own history, with the fact that she didn’t grow up with her biological father, she kind of really gets this and the fact that people can have these deep sort of family mysteries and you can help people now by saying something about where their ancestry is from, finding close relatives, finding missing relatives, it’s really a powerful tool.
One of the things that we’ve learnt in the last couple of episodes is apparently 1 in 50 people in the UK don’t know who their biological father is and I think that’s one of the reasons this story about Richard really hit home to so many. He was looking for his father, this is a remarkable story because we think that he’s found his brother but it’s not his brother, can you just explain the story just a little bit for those who haven’t seen it.
So this was a really interesting one, so Richard was actually contacted by somebody through Facebook, who said ‘I think I’m actually your biological father’. So the parents who Richard grew up with have already passed away and he did a DNA test and found out that his sister was his half-sister, they didn’t have the same father and then he’s contacted by this man who says ‘I think I’m your biological father and by the way I’ve got a son, which would make this chap Brendon his half-sibling and so what we did was we did the genetic analysis to show whether or not these two were actually half-brothers. And I can’t even begin to tell you how surprised we were to find out that they aren’t.
But, and uh, but I mean they look, it looks, I was watching this thinking, but they must be brothers!
Absolutely! We all were! And I think that’s one of the really important things about this programme particularly is that we show that actually DNA testing can have unexpected outcomes.
And I think that’s actually really, really important in that I know that, you know, some other television series, what they’ll do is they’ll start with sort of 100 people and they’ll narrow down, they’ll show the ones that they really want to show. What we do is choose the people at the beginning and we’ll follow them all the way through their story. And we are really privileged to be a part of that because, you know, DNA testing sometimes doesn’t show what you think it’s going to show, you might get something unexpected and I think that’s,
Yeah, they are really courageous people to let us follow them on this journey.
Yeah, and of course DNA tests can do so much more than just trace family members, cant it, because we’re talking about ovarian cancer awareness month this month and DNA tests can actually help detect that and serious life threatening diseases as well. Can’t they.
Oh, absolutely, and this where I would say don’t go to these direct-to-consumer testing companies. We have one of the best systems in the world in the NHS. If you have anything in your family that you’re concerned about, go to your GP because there are tests that can look at things like are you genetically predisposed towards things like breast cancer, ovarian cancer. So, we have Charlie who finds out in the first episode that she’s not the carrier of a version of a version of a gene for Huntington’s disease. It can be incredibly powerful but a number of people actually, apparently up to about 80% of people don’t actually want to know, so again very brave of these people to allow us to follow them on this journey.
And you mention, you just touched on it there, that there are companies that offer these DNA tests, presumably we have to be cautious who we give our information to.
So in terms of DNA testing it really depends what your question is. So for example, for things like determining ancestry, recent ancestry, or answering a family mystery, these direct to consumer testing companies are actually really, really good. The ones that try and tell you about things like health, or fitness for example, what they’re look at are genes that are associated with a particular thing so for example are you going to be more of a sprinter for example but it’s just a tiny, tiny part of the picture, there will be more than one gene that’s involved, it will be things like, you know, training and what are you eating cos like if you’re sitting on the sofa eating doughnuts all day, you’re not going to be sprinting anywhere.
Although you should be.
It’s absolutely fascinating. Thank you so much for joining us Professor Turi King. Thankyou.
And you can watch the amazing discoveries in the final instalment of DNA Family Secrets on BBC 2 tonight at 9pm or catch up with the whole series on BBC iPlayer.
If you haven’t seen it, definitely catch it. It’s brilliant.
Jamestown – The Search for Sir George Yeardley
Transcript: Jamestown - The search for Sir George Yeardley
400 years old and this guy’s looking pretty good, just as well because those bones are needed to provide the DNA that will hopefully confirm what everybody here thinks, that this is Sir George Yeardley.
What I’m interested in doing is getting a bone or tooth sample that I can take away to do DNA analysis. What I want to do is analyse the DNA from the skeleton and see if it matches that of a known relative.
To check him out myself I have to provide my DNA as a control.
All you need to do is breathe on these remains or touch them and you’re putting your DNA all over it, so one of the things I’m really worried about is contamination. So I need you to spit into that, up to that line, it’s actually going to take you longer.
That’s a lot of spit?
It is, it’ll take you quite a long time to actually do and then we’re going to close the lid, that’s got a buffer in it that will keep the DNA nice and happy and I’m going to take it back to the UK to do analysis.
I’m going to do this….
Yeah, take your time.
Once we’re tested and suited up we enter the gravesite to look for teeth.
Well this is amazing, so look over here we’ve got what looks like a tooth here, another one underneath there, so it’s looking good, it’s looking like we’ve got some teeth here that we’ll be able to do DNA analysis with, it’s amazing.
To make sure they were digging in the right place scientists used ground penetrating radar.
This is the first time that we have imaged a human skeleton with ground penetrating radar, it’s a really big deal because it’s not supposed to be possible, but i think this is going to open a lot of doors for new research for non-invasively looking at archaeological remains and potentially not even having to disturb them at all.
But why does anybody care about Sir George Yeardley?
This is where Sir George Yeardley presided over the first general assembly that established the rule of law in America and the principle of representative government, but there is a dark side to this story because Sir George was also one of the first English slaveholders in the colonies.
When George Yeardley first set foot in Jamestown, in the summer of 1610, the colony was on the brink of collapse. Barely 60 settlers had survived the winter and some had resorted to cannibalism. A decade later Sir George was in charge of a settlement that offered rich rewards.
In 1619 they also managed to get hold of the first enslaved Africans who arrived in this colony, which was about the same time as the general assembly and Sir George became one of the largest of those slave owners.
There are a thousand other graves at Jamestown, each with a story to tell and with every discovery emerges a more complete history of the origins of modern America. Jane Obrien, BBC News, Jamestown.
DNA Family Secrets: Who is my birth mother?
Transcript: DNA Family Secrets - Who is my birth mother?
Around three-quarters of a million people in the UK are adopted, but before the law changed in 1975, most adoptees never knew the identity of their birth parents.
Margaret was adopted when she was just six months old. She’s wondering if analysing her DNA might reveal the truth about her biological family.
My mum and dad tried for family, but it wasn’t successful, so they went to see the priest and the priest put them in touch with the adoption agency in Southport.
Southport and Liverpool a lot of Irish ladies came over, for the adoption. So, I’ve made up this story that she was an Irish lady, she came over had me and probably went back to Ireland.
Margaret is on her way back to the University of Leicester. Turi and our team have been analysing Margaret’s DNA to find out about her birth mother’s ancestry and attempting to trace her family.
Today she’s joined by husband Paul to get her results.
Margaret how are you feeling?
I woke up feeling very excited this morning, you know, I’ve not known for 67 years, not known and now today I will.
Do you want to head next door and Paul and I will wait for you?
Come on in, take a seat. It’s lovely to see you again how are you doing?
And you, yeah.
Good, okay so what we did was we were taking your DNA and we’re analysing it against people in databases that total about 25 million people. So, we’re looking for first cousins, second cousins, third cousins, this kind of thing.
So, it’s probably going to come as no surprise, but you come back as 93% Irish and you’ve actually got concentrations in particular parts of Ireland. So, let’s have a look, let’s show you. So, you actually have concentrations in places like Leitrim, Cavan, and Louth. So, in this kind of area. So, you’ve got central Ireland here and then you’ve got Ulster in Northern Ireland. So, definitely your parents are Irish.
So, I know that you were particularly interested in finding your birth mum, now, fortunately for us DNA testing is really popular in Ireland. There’s also apparently about 80 million people worldwide who claim Irish ancestry, many of them in areas of parts of the world where DNA testing is also very popular. So, that’s what we’re looking for and we’re trying to home in and see if we can find out who your birth mum is.
We got lucky. So, we found one first cousin, six second cousins, 19 third cousins and we know about this because of how much DNA they share with you, and that led us to your grandparents. So, your grandparents are Margaret and James. So, that led us to concentrate on their daughters and more specifically their youngest daughter Bridget.
So, let’s draw you this family tree. So, this is your family tree, so, you’ve got Margaret and James and they have a daughter Bridget. Bridget has two children and we talked to them. So, her two children they really didn’t think that Bridget had any other children and there was this family story that the eldest sister had had an illegitimate child, who had been given up for adoption. Because we wanted to be really sure which one of these two sisters was your mum. So, we took your DNA, we analysed it against Bridget’s two children and that gave us our answer. So, your birth mum is Bridget.
So, this would be with her husband, you would come off here with your biological father and you come off there, so, you have got younger half siblings.
DNA Family Secrets: Where was our birth father from?
Transcript: DNA Family Secrets - Where was our birth father from?
Triplets, David, Philip, and Peter were adopted when they were four years old and have never known the identity of their birth father. They’re wondering if analysing their DNA can solve the mystery of their ethnicity?
So, you know a bit about your birth mother?
But nothing really about your father?
You don’t even know what ethnicity your father was?
Why do you need to know?
I think it’s to give you a sense of belonging. Everybody deserves, you know, to know who he created them.
Hello, you two, come on in.
Come and have a seat.
So, when you first came and saw me you basically had one main question, your biological father’s heritage and actually this is where DNA completely comes into its own because you had nothing to go on, you didn’t have any information did you?
So, what we did, the first bit was, we looked at your Y chromosome because you can look at somebody’s Y chromosome and you can say something about their ancestry on their biological father’s side.
So, remind me where did you think your biological father came from?
I thought South American somewhere maybe, Italy maybe so….
We actually got a very clear result.
Your biological father had mixed ancestry.
But very clear locations as to where that came from. So, the first of those is actually in West Africa.
So, around Liberia, let’s show you a map.
So, you can have a look.
We are getting hits around Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana and up into Mali. It seems to be centred around Liberia, obviously DNA doesn’t follow political borders and we know that there’s been huge amounts of migration and people trading and so you get a mixture of DNA here.
So, is that a bit of a surprise?
Right, so, the other half of your father’s DNA, again very clear and it’s from Northern Ireland.
Not too far away.
Okay I wasn’t expecting that one.
So, it is in South Down and North Louth.
In this area here, so, where about you guys so live?
We grew up here and we now live, South Down is where we grew up.
So, basically where are you guys grew up?
Strange, I never once expected that.
We were surprised.
The other thing that we were doing was that we were looking in the database and we’re looking for people who share a high number of centimorgans with you. So centimorgans is basically a term that we use to describe how much DNA you’re sharing in common with somebody else and we got a match.
So, I’m going to draw you a family tree.
So, it seems to centre around two brothers, this one is a chap called James, over here this is Samuel. Now we are getting a match with a woman who we think is your first cousin, so James is her father. So, we think that Samuel would be your father, we think that’s the most likely scenario. Now, really sadly from talking to the family we think that Samuel died about a decade ago.
Now, we have talked to the family, but they are really not forthcoming.
I can understand that, yeah.
They actually don’t want to have any more contact, so obviously we’re going to respect their wishes.
Yeah, we understand that.
DNA Family Secrets: Do I have sperm donor siblings?
Transcript: DNA Family Secrets - Do I have sperm donor siblings?
Over 45,000 people in the UK are conceived through sperm donors.
25-year-old Tink, only found out as a teenager that she is one of them.
Tink wants to test her DNA to learn about her ancestry and find out if she might have any half brothers or sisters.
So, you were conceived via a sperm donor?
When did you find all this out?
I was 17. I was about 6 months pregnant, and my dad called me downstairs. So, I sat down, and I was just sitting on my phone, and he was like, ‘no I really need to tell you something’ and I was like okay. And then he just said that he had a vasectomy, they tried to reverse it, to have me, but it just didn’t work. So, he then said, ‘oh we used a sperm donor’. And I just burst into tears, didn’t know what to do.
So, up until that point?
I had no idea.
You thought that was your dad, your biological father?
Yeah, he was the man I was living with, yeah, thought that was my dad.
It was just surreal.
Would you like to know who the sperm donor is or was?
I want to find out if I’ve got siblings and I want to find out, you know, where I come from, but I just feel like my dad is my dad and I don’t want to upset him, at all.
So, in an ideal world, what would you like to happen, how would you like to see this play out?
I find a sibling, we get on, that would be amazing, and just to find out where I come from. Have I got any heritage in different countries I don’t know? If there’s other people there, then it takes away the feeling of… well I was just born in the clinic.
Until now the only thing Tink has known about her sperm donor, is that he was a student from Leeds.
The results of Tink’s DNA test are back and she’s meeting Turi to find out the truth.
Oh, Tink how are you?
I’m good thanks, how are you?
How you feeling?
All right, nervous, very nervous. Might sound strange for other people but for me its very life changing.
Totally, no it’s monumental.
Alright Tink well I’ll wait here, good luck, you’ll be brilliant and then we’ll catch up in a bit. Good luck.
Hello, come on in.
Okay, so when we first met, and you had two main questions. So, first was could we tell you anything about your father’s ancestry and then the second bit was that you were interested in seeing if you could find any sort of half donor siblings. Okay, so I’m going to start with the ancestry side of stuff.
So, we take your DNA, and we are analysing it against millions of people and when we did that, and we took away the bits that we knew must come from your mum, that actually gave us a really clear answer. So, your father’s DNA is pointing really strongly to Northern Ireland.
That is just amazing.
Yeah, did you have any kind of thoughts as to what…
No, I never thought that I just thought he was a student from Leeds, that’s all I’ve ever known. So, to know he’s not, it’s just mad.
The DNA match is really concentrated around this area, so South Derry, Londonderry, East Antrim. So, we think it’s pretty safe to say your dad was Irish.
I wasn’t expecting that, at all, at all.
I can’t get over that.
That completely ties in with the genetic evidence, absolutely.
I can’t believe I’m basically half Irish.
So, the other thing that you were kind of interested in, was, could you find any donor half siblings. So, we helped you get signed up to a number of donor conceived registers and you’ve been waiting for information to come back so it looks like you might have a match.
Okay, so that’s the email that’s come in, this is for you.
We have looked for relationships between you and other donor conceived individuals and have found a link that suggests that you are likely to share a donor, with at least one other on the register.
We will be undertaking some additional tests to help further verify any links and we will be in contact with you again once those are complete.
Okay, so looking at those results it sounds like you have a match, but we really need to be absolutely sure, which is why this extra testing is going to be needed.
That’s the really good start.
Okay and they’re on the register.
They’re on the register, so that’s the thing, the registers are only as good as whoever signs up to them.
So, if they are does that mean, because they’re on it as well, that they looking?
Probably, if two people have joined, they’re looking for donor conceived siblings.
So, hopefully at the end of this you will have what you were looking for.
DNA Family Secrets: What is my ethnicity?
Transcript: DNA Family Secrets - What is my ethnicity?
Where do you think come from?
I said Tunisia before.
Tunisia? Lee, where do you think I might be from?
Morocco, look you’ve got this kind of Pocahontas style look and dark olive skin.
Spanish, maybe, who knows.
Janine has lived her entire life never knowing the identity or heritage of her birth father. Her white British mum always kept her true parentage a secret.
Talk me through why you’re taking a DNA test?
So, when I was born it was really obvious, I was not my dad’s daughter, but everybody was trying to say I was. And the reason it was obvious was because I came out looking like Mowgli. I had this head of hair, super dark, and it just was, my dad Bill has blonde hair blue eyes.
And your mother’s white?
My mum’s white. So, my grandmother was really embarrassed about the fact that my mum had, A) had a child when she was 17, and B) it’s me, who is not white. And what I find more bizarre than anything is, she tried to palm me off as being a white man’s child. Myself and my mum moved in with Bill when I was three days old. And Bill said, ‘look at her skin, look at me, you can’t say this is my daughter because it’s not’.
And you’ve got a good relationship with Bill?
Amazing relationship, he’s been in my life 43 years and just been the best dad in the world, you know.
Janine, what’s the goal? What are you hoping to find out?
I think in an ideal world it would be to find out where I came from. What is within my DNA that makes me, me.
Even if somebody was to say, ‘Janine, this is this is what we’ve got about you, this is what we know about you’. Then I’d be like, yeah okay.
Today, Janine will receive her DNA test results. She hopes Turi can finally solve the mystery of her ancestry.
Hey, how are you?
I’m good, how are you?
You look lovely.
Thank you, so do you.
How do you feel?
A bit nervous, anxious, strange, strange mix of emotions really.
Well, it’s unknown territory, isn’t it?
Yeah, 43 years of waiting for some information.
Go next door, just have a chat with Turi and then come back in.
Hello, come sit down. So, actually yours has been a really complicated case and we’ve actually used some new research techniques, which we haven’t done before, in the hopes of providing you with some answers.
I know that you’re particularly interested in finding out about your biological father, and so what we’re doing is obviously we’re taking your DNA and we are matching it against populations from around the world and actually we’ve got a really clear result. So, we know you are getting strong matches around Pakistan, Northern India and into Afghanistan.
So, let’s have a look at a map.
Okay, so you’re getting a lot of matches in the Punjab province of Pakistan, which is part of that larger Punjab region of Northern India and Pakistan.
We think that your dad is Sikh, and we actually think that he’s Jat Sikh.
Okay, so, the Sikh religion is actually quite a young religion, but the Jat people, they’re an ethnic group, which goes back much further, in that area. They are major landowners and farmers, and they have strong links to business, in that area. We think that your father probably arrived in Leicester, probably after World War II. So, this is the time when India and Pakistan were separated. And Leicester it’s got the highest concentration of Sikhs in the East Midlands, it makes up about 5% of the population.
So, the matches that we are getting back from your DNA are not close matches. So, they are people who you would share a great, great, great grandparent or further, but the surnames that we’re getting back are really giving us a hint as to what his ethnicity seems to be. And the surnames that are coming back are things like: Sidhu, Sahodar, Dat, Panu, all of these are Jat Sihk surnames.
But nothing turned up in the databases that could tell us who your father was we could only determine his ethnicity. But that’s essentially as far as the DNA has got us.
So, how’s that?
It has definitely filled a void for me that has been missing, which was where am I from.
Yes, and that’s really clear.
DNA Family Secrets: Who is my biological father?
Transcript: DNA Family Secrets - Who is my biological father?
As well as having the potential to track down absent dads, the recent popularity in DNA tests has uncovered a surprising statistic. Around 1 in 50 people do not have the biological father they think they have. 53-year-old Richard has recently discovered that he’s not blood related to the man who raised him.
So, your father the man that brought you up.
You always thought he was your biological father?
Yes, yeah but he was a very good father, and I had some very good times with my father, me dad yeah. So as far as I know he was me dad.
After both of Richard’s parents passed away, Richard was contacted by a man named Raymond, claiming that he’d been in a relationship with Richard’s mother and thought he might be Richard’s biological father. A DNA test with Richard’s sister, proved they were only half siblings and that the man he always believed was his dad, wasn’t.
So, you’re now in a situation where you’re 53 years old, both your folks have passed.
So, you can’t ask either of them many questions?
And you must have thousands of questions?
I know there’s a, might be a possible brother involved there, so, that would be interesting.
Do you want him to be your brother?
Yeah, it would be quite nice, you know, I’ve just grown up like with my sister, so it would be quite nice to know there’s a brother and that there.
Richards asked Brendan to join him for his DNA test results. Turi has been analysing both of their genetic codes, to determine if they actually are half-brothers.
Hello mate, how are you? We haven’t met.
No, we’ve not met have we.
If they are, it means that Richard will finally know who is his biological father, because it will be the same as Brendan’s. The plan is Rich, you’re going to go next door and have a chat with Turi and then are you alright to come back in and let us know.
Actually, your case turned out to be really complicated, it took huge amounts of research for us to get to a point for you. But I know that your really big question was whether or not this man who contacted you, was actually your biological father and he had a son didn’t he, Brendan. So, the question is are you half-brothers?
Okay, results. When we looked at your DNA, you didn’t share a quarter of your DNA and if you look at your Y chromosomes, they are totally different. So, you are definitely not related, you don’t have the same father.
So, I know it’s not quite the answer that you were hoping for and certainly not, I mean as a team we would have loved….
This is completely…
Different, too anything, ah mate…
Not expecting this at all…
No, yeah, I thought it was quite a bit of similarities…
to be honest with you, I…
I think that’s the thing though, the DNA is the poor reflection of that kind of emotional connection that you can get with somebody.
We’ve got more news for you.
So, the other thing obviously we were doing was we were looking in these DNA databases and we’re looking for people whose DNA you match. So, we did that, and we came across a couple of paternal cousins and that led us to a woman called Ellen Charlotte Sell. She was born in 1912, she is your paternal grandmother.
So, we have got Ellen, she married a man called Alfred and they had five sons. It’s hard to say for sure, but after speaking to one of your cousins, we think that her third son John is your biological father. He was born in 1946.
Sadly, he passed away in his 50s, from lung cancer, in 1988.
We can’t absolutely confirm that he is your biological father because he didn’t have any children, that we can use to test your DNA against, to be absolutely sure.
I don’t know…
It’s a lot of information all in one go.
DNA Family Secrets: What are genetic mutations?
Transcript: DNA Family Secrets - What are genetic mutations?
We often hear about, sort of, genetic mutations, are you happy to tell me a bit more about that?
Yeah. So, when our DNA is being copied, to go into either sperm or egg, I always kind of say, it’s like a bunch of typists and what they have to do is, is our DNA is kind of like a book and they have to copy this book out.
So, I’ve got a little thing here.
So, if I was to give you that and say can you copy that out for me, can you do it without any mistakes? Now, this is just one page, but if you think about our DNA is actually about 1.6 million of these pages, that you would have to copy out with no mistakes.
So, as you can imagine mistakes happen a lot.
So, for example this might change to a G or a T, but you can have mutations that happen, and they have no effect whatsoever.
Luck of the draw, isn’t it?
Yeah, and you can have other mutations that you might go on to get a really serious disease because of it.