'We are going to develop individual DNA databases for each clan'

November 9, 2006

John Gow is setting up a service for people across the world to trace their genetic Scottish ancestry

The traditional test of whether someone is a true Scot is said to involve kilts and what is worn beneath them. But John Gow, director of forensic investigation at Glasgow Caledonian University, hopes to make the issue an altogether more scientific, not to mention lucrative, affair.

The university is planning to use state-of-the-art forensic techniques, including DNA testing, which could prove a major source of income for the university and a more general boost for Scottish tourism.

"It means that people with Scottish ancestors from around the world will be able to trace their records and, if they wish, we can determine their DNA profile for them," Professor Gow said. "We will be able to tell Mr Campbell from New York if he is related to Mr Campbell in Dunoon."

Work is under way on a new forensic suite, and GCU researchers hope their work will build up a genetic map of the Scottish clans. Professor Gow said several clan societies in America, including the Campbells and the Beatties, were interested. "We are going to develop individual DNA databases for each clan by looking for markers that are peculiar to that clan."

DNA is obtained through a mouth swab, with the Y-chromosome test used to define male lineage, while mitochondrial DNA profiling can help trace the maternal line.

The service is likely to cost about £60. Professor Gow, who regularly acts as a forensic expert witness in criminal cases, said he believed there was a major market for DNA testing in genealogy.

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