A retired lecturer who took a DNA test to find out where his ancestors came from has been found to be directly descended from the first woman on earth, who lived 190,000 years ago.
The test revealed that Ian Kinnaird has a genetic marker inherited from his mother that traces his ancestry to an African lineage that has not been found before in Western Europe.
Researchers from Britain’s DNA, who carried out the tests, said the result meant that in genetic terms he was a “thoroughbred”, and could be described as the “grandson of Eve, or the grandfather of everyone in Britain”.
They were so surprised by the results that they phoned the 72-year-old, a widower who lives in the far north of Scotland, to break the news to him.
They told him his mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), passed through the female line, was 30,000 years old and only two genetic mutations removed from the first woman, while most men have a genome with around 200 mutations since the earliest humans.
“It is an astonishing result and means he could have been in the ‘Garden of Eden’,” the Telegraph quoted Alistair Moffat, the historian and rector of St Andrews University, who was involved in setting up the DNA project, as saying.
“It is further proof that even white Anglo-Saxon Protestants are descended from a black Eve,” he said.
The project has now tested 2,000 people across the United Kingdom and most have markers that trace their ancestry back up to 3,500 years.
These defined them as descendants of various groups including the earliest Britons, the Ancient Irish, Vikings, hunter gatherers and cave painters.
The project aims to map Britain’s “family tree” and previously found that the actor Tom Conti shared an ancestor with Napoleon Bonaparte.
It also showed his “fatherline” is Scandinavian and he carries YDNA marker, which is found in a quarter of Norwegian men.
“I have led an unremarkable life until now but my computer has been red hot since I was told. This is a real gobsmacker. I seem to carry a gene from west Africa that arrived through the slave trade,” he said.
“I have been researching the links between the slave trade and Liverpool, the area where the female side of my family came from. Africa was part of my geography degree at Hull University in 1959, but I couldn’t have imagined anything like this,” he said.
Kinnaird’s L1B1 genetic marker will also be carried by his sister Jean, 65, a retired teacher who taught in Wigan, and the daughter she had at the age of 17 who was given up for adoption.
Moffat, who set up Britain’s DNA with James Wilson, a geneticist from Edinburgh University, said the unassuming lecturer was a “remarkable” individual.
“This lineage appears in Africa, in Senegal, but has never been seen in north-west Europe. It is likely to have reached Britain through the arrival of slaves in Liverpool,” he said.
“A woman who might be called Eve and a man who might be called Adam really existed. Eve, the mother of all of us, lived around 190,000 years ago just as homo sapiens were evolving. Other women lived at the same time but only Eve’s mtDNA survived.
“Adam also lived in central Africa, perhaps only 140,000 years ago. Only his YDNA survived to father all of the male lineages on earth,” he said.
He further said that the Kinnaird could “not pass on his mtDNA, but his sister could and she had a daughter who will carry the lineage.”