The Genetic Legacy of British India – the FIBIS DNA Project

Genetic Legacy of British India image

Just after my last blog post in January this year I was approached by Debbie Kennet to present a lecture for the DNA Workshops at Who Do You Think You Are – Live at Birmingham NEC in April and I agreed. I knew exactly what I was going to talk about and the examples I was going to use. The title of my talk was to be “The Genetic Legacy of British India – the FIBIS DNA Project” and I would use examples from my family – mainly my Grandmother, who I had tested several years ago, and her son, my Uncle, who I had tested last year, plus some examples from the FIBIS DNA project that I administer. I had not had a chance to investigate my Uncles test results, so I thought this would be a good opportunity.

I also approached my colleague, Geraldine Charles, to give the talk with me as she I knew she had done a lot of mtDNA research with her family and had some excellent examples to show. We agreed she would talk about her mtDNA research and I would talk about my family’s Family Finder results and the FIBIS DNA project in general. Luckily for me Geraldine agreed as my planned talk was about to fall apart!

A few weeks later I started to prepare my PowerPoint presentation and took some screenshots of my Grandmothers and Uncles Family Finder (atDNA) “my Origins” results. First I wanted to show my Grandmothers results showing her Central Asian DNA percentages and then my Uncles. As I mentioned earlier, I hadn’t had time to investigate my Uncles results. When the test results had come through all I had done was have a quick look and breath a quick sigh of relieve that Grandma showed up as being his mother, as the last thing you want to do is tell an 89-year-old lady that she brought back the wrong baby from the hospital sixty odd years ago! Then I checked if he had Central Asian DNA, and he had, but I didn’t compare results or check percentages.

As I inserted the screenshots into the presentation I suddenly noticed that Grandma only had 4% Central Asian DNA and my Uncle had twice the amount. How could that be when Grandma only has 4% and my Grandfather was English with no known connections to India? Surely it should be Grandma that has twice as much as my Uncle! I had researched most of my grandfathers family back to the late 1700s and they were basically all born and raised in the London area with no obvious Asian connections.

To make matters worse I started to have problems with my eyesight. Letters/words would disappear when I tried to read them and straight lines would bend. Long story short I had develop a hole in my retina.

My talk seemed doomed, but it did go ahead thanks to Geraldine, who managed to get a Family Finder test carried out on herself in time to include in the talk. Geraldine ended up giving the majority of the talk, due to mine not going to plan, but I did find where the extra Central Asian DNA came from and if you listed to the below talk all will be revealed! I am continually amazed by what you can find out your family from DNA testing, the mysteries it can solve and rumours it can confirm!

Unfortunately, due to the hole in my retina not being repaired before I had to give the talk, I was unable to read my part of the presentation when I got up on stage. Luckily Geraldine jumped up on stage to the rescue and read it for me until I recomposed myself and gave the rest of the talk from memory. Thank you Geraldine!

Hope you enjoy the talk below!

The Genetic Legacy of British India – the FIBIS DNA Project

The blurb

This presentation relates to people who went to India under the East India Company and the Raj and married into Indian/Anglo Indian families. The presentation will cover Mitochondrial Eve; Geraldine’s own mtDNA result which indicate Indian ancestry; Illustrating with Geraldine’s family tree, How others of her extended family tree share her mtDNA; How she used the tree to identify other living individuals, who carry other testable mtDNA lines for ancestors they have in common; The Y-chromosome and its significance with respect to surnames in Britain; FIBIS’s DNA project; Autosomal Family Finder/MyOrigins results from Valmay’s family and other people in the FIBIS project.

Valmay Young, FIBIS trustee and Geraldine Charles, Fibis trustee and Professional Archivist – Although an archivist for many years with the National Maritime Museum, Geraldine Charles originally studied Biological Sciences at degree level. This included Anthropology and Genetics. Geraldine is also a founder member of the Families in British India Society (FIBIS) and has given many talks that include the use of DNA in British India family history. Valmay Young is webmaster and trustee of FIBIS. Valmay also works at Suffolk Record Office and started the FIBIS DNA project in 2012 after realising its potential in breaking down the all too common brick walls in British India research due to the lack of documentary evidence.

This lecture was presented at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015 (Thurs 16th to Sat 18th April 2015, Birmingham, UK). Please note that these videos are copyrighted to the presenter and should only be used for personal study. They are not to be used for any other purpose without the presenters express permission. Also, please note that because this is a rapidly advancing field, the content may quickly become outdated.

The lectures were sponsored by FamilyTreeDNA (at and organised by Maurice Gleeson & Debbie Kennett on behalf of ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogy at

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