Dr Sofie Claerhout guest researcher at Radboud Group for Historical Demography and Family History

Date of news: 24 February 2022

Sofie Claerhout is currently as a guest researcher affiliated with the Radboud Group for Historical Demography and Family History. Sofie is doctor in Forensic Genetics at the University of Leuven. During her PhD, she investigated the only part of the DNA she does not have herself, namely the male Y-chromosome.

Why the Y? The Y-chromosome is the only piece of DNA that is passed on almost completely from father to son. It is a powerful tool for forensic genetics and genetic-genealogical research. With her PhD, she investigated Y-chromosomal variation for forensic familial searching in order to solve cold cases. With this research, she recently won the Flemish PhD cup and is currently trying to change the DNA law in Belgium to use familial searching as an offender identification tool. More information including videos, blogposts and papers is available on her website

Sofie Claerhout

In her postdoctoral project, she wants to go one step further and aims to reveal the genetics behind the demography in Flanders and the Netherlands. Using her new CSYseq analysis method, both distant evolutionary ancestry as well as close paternal kinships can be identified. To make this project a success, she requires input from social, biological and legal sciences. As her research expertise and background is mainly in biological and legal sciences, she is eager to learn from experts in the field of sociology and historical demography.

Sofie Claerhout Why the Y genetics

Currently, Sofie stays at the Radboud Group for Historical Demography and Family History to learn all tips and tricks concerning research and data analysis in the field of historical demography. To elaborate the genetics behind demography, the genealogical COR* database will be used. This COR* database contains socio-demographic data of all people who have a surname starting with the letters COR*/KOR* and lived in Antwerp between 1846 and 1920. By collecting recent genealogical data of COR* men living today, they can be linked to the ancestors in this COR* database. In this research stay, Sofie will learn everything about this database from Paul Puschmann, who has years of research experience with the COR* database during his research at the Family and Population Studies research group of prof. Koen Matthys (KU Leuven). She will experience how this COR* database is compiled, how historical data is collected, coded and analyzed, and how all variables are stored in an IDS standardized format. Further, she plans to connect the genealogies of Dutch participants from her previous DNA projects to other historical databases linked to the research group, such as LINKS and HSN.