turi king interviewing david baker

Turi regularly writes, produces, and appears in videos for both her own YouTube channel and for scientific and educational institutions.

British Family Name Origins – Professor Turi King

Knowing the meaning of your surname, and other surnames in your family tree, gives you a wonderful glimpse into the past and can tell you something about your ancestors. While there are various ways of classifying surnames, broadly speaking, they fall into five main categories, these are: parental, occupation, nicknames, location and feature of the landscape.

The use of hereditary surnames was brought to Britain by the Normans who had already been using them for a couple of generations. Before this, people who had what we would think of as a surname didn’t pass them down through the generations. They were known as bynames and could even change in a person’s lifetime.

Hereditary surnames were first used by the wealthy land-owning families as a way of securing continuity of inheritance.  The practice of using hereditary surnames then gradually filtered down to the rest of the population starting earlier in the south and moving northwards, until by 1500s, it was becoming rarer not to have a surname.

In Scotland and Wales, the pictures a bit different. In Scotland, clan names and local customs played a part.

In Wales, the practice of using a single hereditary surname didn’t start until later and was slow to be adopted widely.

The most common surname in Britain is Smith, and comes from the category of occupational names. In this case, an ancestor is most likely to have been the village blacksmith. This would have been a very important occupation in the village just as the local baker, the cooper, who made barrels, and the thatcher, who repaired roofs, would have been.

While Smith may be the most common surname in Britain, many of the most frequent surnames come from a parent’s name, usually the father. Your surname could be Thomas or Thompson, son of Thomas, or, Marriot or Molson both of which come from Mary.  In Wales, their practice of using a father’s name has led to surnames such as Jones, Williams, and Davies becoming among the most frequent surnames in Britain today.

Two types of surname derive from a place where an ancestor may have lived. The first of these is from a specific location such as a village, town or estate. And the second is from a prominent feature of the landscape. Examples of well-known surnames that are based on location are Attenborough, Durham and Thornton and being named after a place was usually associated either with owning land there or having lived there and moving elsewhere.

Surnames such as Bridge or Bell, could indicate where your ancestor lived in the village or town whereas living next to a natural feature could give you a surname such as Wood, Hill or Brook.

My favourite type of surname comes from a nickname because it can tell you something really personal about an individual. Brown is the most common surname of this type and is thought to come from a person’s hair colour or complexion, whereas Giffard is thought to come from fat cheeks. Newman is a surname that’s thought to describe a newcomer to a town or village.

One thing to remember is that your surname can have more than one origin. My surname King could have come from someone who worked for the King or as a nickname for someone who merely behaved as if he was one!

So whatever your surname: Shepherd, Andrews, Ecclestone, Orchard or Swift,  your surname contains within it a glimpse into the life of one of your ancestors.

King Richard III’s relatives: How many people are descended from his family? – Professor Turi King

Richard III left no known living descendants but that doesn’t mean you aren’t related to him through his family. Indeed, we’re all related to Richard III, it’s simply a matter of degree, but let’s get an idea of the probable number of people alive today, who are descended from his immediate family.

At the time of the Richard III project the mathematician Rob Eastaway went on BBC Radio 4’s More or Less and did the following back of the envelope calculation. Richard III had four siblings who went on to have children, they were Anne, Edward, Elizabeth and George. So, Richard had a fair few nephews and nieces around, some of whom went on to have children themselves. Indeed, one of Richard’s nieces went on to have 11 children, two of whom went on to have 11 children each themselves. So, fairly fertile there.

So, while some people will have more children and others will have fewer and the reproduction rate will fluctuate over time, we can look at historical estimates and give an average reproduction rate of about 2.3. So, with every generation the number of descendants slightly more than doubles.

Two things to consider, families intermarry and that’s going to reduce that number. Equally for wealthier families we know that the number of children they had, who went on to have children themselves, is known to be higher. Richard III’s nephews and nieces were alive 500 years ago, that gives us 20 generations give or take. So, from just one of Richard’s nephews and nieces that gives us a putative 17,161,558 descendants alive today. Now clearly, we can’t get an exact figure, but it must be the case that the number of descendants from Richard’s immediate family, must number in the millions. So, it may well be that you, or someone you know, is one of them.

Taking a DNA test – which company and why? Professor Turi King

Let’s start the beginning. To get a DNA test done you need to buy one with one of the DNA testing companies, and depending on which company you go with, and which test you get done, that’s going to cost you between about £70 and £150. The DNA test and to view basic results shouldn’t cost you anything further, though please do bear in mind you may need to take out a subscription to access features, that you need to carry out your research.

So why test? Well generally people want to test for one of three reasons, the first is to find out where in the world they’re getting matches to understand something about their ancestry, or to build out their family tree, or to find a particular individual, such as a biological parent.

Now it’s important to say I am not sponsored by any company, but in terms of choosing a company to take a DNA test with, it’s simple maths. The larger their database, the more likely it is that you’re going to get the information that you’re looking for, and for that reason I tend to suggest that people get tested with Ancestry. At the time of recording, Ancestry’s database is getting on to be twice the size of its nearest rival, 23andMe, so it makes sense to test with them, but let’s unpick this a bit.

If you’re getting your DNA tested to see where you’re getting matches in the world, to understand something about your ancestry, it makes sense to go for a company with a big database, with as many populations represented as possible. And that’s because what they’re doing is they’re taking your DNA and they’re comparing them against what’s known as reference populations, to see where you’re getting matches.

Now many of these reference populations are made up of other customers, who have known ancestry in a particular part of the world, but also because for some parts of the world DNA testing just isn’t that popular, companies have been making use of publicly available data sets, as well as partnering with academic collaborators, who are carrying out their own genetic studies, in order to boost their coverage of underrepresented populations.

Now each company has its own database, which is why you’ll get slightly different results, though they shouldn’t be massively different, with each company. It’s also why your results will change slightly as companies update their databases.

As I’ve said, the two companies with the biggest databases are Ancestry and 23andMe, so if you only want to find out about where in the world you’re getting matches, then I recommend that you just go for the cheapest, you’re going to get similar results with each of them and you don’t need a subscription if all you want to do is find out your basic ancestry.

If you’re looking for a particular person, or wanting to widen out your family tree, then your biggest hurdle is who has taken a DNA test and which company they’ve taken their DNA test with. Now it doesn’t have to be the person you’re looking for to have taken a DNA test, but you do need people who are relatively closely related to them to have taken one.

Now one thing to remember is that while you may not get helpful DNA matches right away, it may be that in a year, two years, somebody takes a DNA test and that proves to be a useful match, and you’ll get periodic notifications of this.

As Ancestry has the biggest database, I recommend testing with them first and if you don’t get good matches with them, and you can afford it, test with 23andMe as well. This is because the only way to access the databases of Ancestry and 23andMe is to pay to take a DNA test with them. Both of these companies allow you to download your raw data, which can then be uploaded, free of charge, to MyHeritage, LivingDNA, Family Tree DNA and the standalone database GEDmatch. this allows you to look for matches in their databases as well. However, depending on the results, you may need to take out a subscription to access features that you need to research your question.

Now if you’re looking for a particular person you need to start to build your family tree based on whatever information you already have. Ancestry and MyHeritage are really good for this because they allow you to build your family tree on their website, though you may need to take out a subscription to access records. 23andMe don’t have the tree building capabilities at the moment.

So, there you go, there’s a quick introduction to the DNA testing companies that you might need to answer your question, good luck.

The percentage of DNA inheritance in families

Let’s have a look at DNA inheritance in families. Now, we inherit our DNA from our parents. So, we get half of our DNA from our mums and half our DNA from our dads. So, I’m going to show you how DNA inheritance works in families through the medium of gummy bears.

So, here we have got a mummy and a daddy bear, and they’re going to have a baby bear, that they’re each going to give half of their DNA to. So, this half comes from mum, that half comes from dad. Now, let’s give them another little baby bear, they’re going to do the same thing. Mum’s going to give half of her DNA, dad’s going to give half of his DNA, but it’s not going to be the same half that was given to the older sibling.

Now you can see this half, has come from dad and that half has come from mum. And while it’s not exactly the same DNA that’s been passed down to each sibling, we do see that they share on average about half of their DNA. So, with this set, it’s this bit here and that bit there, that they have in common.

Okay let’s take this down another generation, let’s get these bears married off. So, here we go let’s give them some partners. And let’s give this couple here a little baby.

The same thing happens again, each parent passes on half of their DNA to the new baby. So, this bit here, that comes from this parent and that bit there, that half, that comes from that parent.

And what you can see is that this baby shares about a quarter of its DNA with each of its grandparents. So, this bit here, you can see that comes from grandma and that bit there, that comes from granddad.

You can also see that this bear is going to share about 25% of its DNA with an aunt or an uncle. So, it’s this section here, and that little section there, that it’s sharing about 25% with an aunt or uncle.

Now, let’s give this other couple its own little baby bear. So, this is a cousin to this one here. And you can see the same thing again, it’s inheriting half of its DNA from each parent. So, this half comes from this bear, that half comes from that bear. This bear again shares about a quarter of its DNA with each grandparent. So, that comes from grandma, that comes from granddad. And again, it’s sharing about a quarter of its DNA with an aunt or an uncle. So, again that’s this little section in here.

And you can see when looking at the cousins here, that they share on average about 12.5% of their DNA. So, in these two is going to be this little bit here and that little bit there.

So, there you go, there’s a simple way of looking at the percentage of DNA inheritance in families.

Extracting DNA from a strawberry – Professor Turi King

Pretty much everybody has heard about DNA from the telly and it’s really popular for people to get their DNA tested to tell them about things like their ancestry. But hardly anyone is actually seen what DNA actually looks like, so this is a really quick little experiment that you can do at home, using household goods, so you can actually see DNA yourself.

So what we’re going to do is we’re going to get DNA from strawberries and what you need to do is just take the tops off of the strawberries because it’s really hard to break up those leaves and things like that.

So what we’re going to do is we’re going to put the strawberries into a bag, because the DNA that we are interested in is in the cells and it’s in a little structure known as the nucleus.

So what we need to do is we need to break open the cell walls and get to that DNA, by squishing up the strawberries. So this is going to take a little bit of time and what you want to do is you want to get them as nice and as smooth a paste as possible, so you just have to work at it basically.

Okay, now that we’ve broken down the cell walls a little bit just mechanically what we want to do is we want to add a little bit of water, because we’re going to get the DNA to come into solution.

So we’ve got about a 100ml of water here, not terribly much and then we can break down the cell walls not just mechanically by squishing them but also using washing up liquid because the cell walls are made up of a fatty material and so the washing up liquid, just a few drops is fine, is going to help to break down those cell walls and break down the nucleus for us as well, to release that DNA into solution and then we’re just going to add a pinch of table salt and what that will do is help to clump the DNA strands together.

So let’s close this back up again and we’re going to give it a little squish. So what’s happening now is you’ve got the DNA, it’s coming out into the water, but there’s lots of things in here that we don’t want, so bits of cell wall, bits of cell that we don’t want, we want the DNA that’s come into solution.

So what we need to do is we need to filter out those bits we don’t want and we’re just going to do that with filter paper, this is a coffee filter, just pop it into a little funnel there and then just pour this in and then what happens is the cell walls, the bits of stuff we’re not interested in hopefully will stay in the filter paper and the stuff we are interested in, the DNA will come through in that water. So that’s going to take a little while for that to happen so you just have to let it go for a bit.

Now what’s happened is the DNA has come through and it’s in that water, now DNA stays quite nicely dissolved in water but it doesn’t stay dissolved in alcohol, so what we need to do is we need to add alcohol. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to pour this into here, now you can do all this with your own spit if you like but it takes quite a bit of time to get enough spit together to be able to get a really good set that you can look at.

Now I have got a really high proof alcohol, this is actually a white rum really high proof, which is great but you can use methylated spirits if you want to use a cheaper option and what we’re going to do is we’re just going to add alcohol to the top of this.

Now you don’t want to mix it in too much, what you’re going to do is you’re going to basically rest this alcohol here, on the top and you’ll see that where the two layers meet the DNA is going to start to come out of solution, it doesn’t like being in solution in the alcohol it can’t do it. So what it does is it starts to precipitate out, we’ll do about equal amounts of each one, so equal amounts of alcohol to strawberry juice, like this and you can see it already.

So you can see what looks like, sort of like clouds or cotton wool and that’s the DNA starting to precipitate out of solution. So if you have a look where the two layers meet you can see what looks like cotton wool, little strands of cotton wool coming out of solution there and that’s the DNA starting to precipitate out.

If you leave it for a little bit what you’ll get is a layer of what looks like clouds and that’s the DNA that you can actually see there. So we’ll just leave that for a bit and you’ll get a better look at it like that and that’s something you can really easily do at home so you can actually see DNA yourself.