Grant for research into linking DNA data to historical demographic databases

Date of news: 24 February 2022

Paul Puschmann and Sofie Claerhout (guest researcher at the Radboud Group) received a small research grant (€ 6,000) from RICH in order to link DNA data to historical demographic databases. More specifically, this is data on the Y-chromosome that is passed on from fathers to sons, without a lot of changes in the DNA code. By linking the DNA data of present-day people through their family history, the information on the Y-chromosome can be connected to male individuals in the historical demographic databases.

to connect the present with the past y chromosome

Within her postdoctoral project, it is essential to link Y-chromosomal DNA obtained from contemporary living men to their paternal ancestors in historical demographic databases. With this interdisciplinary project, Sofie wants to (a) explore surname founder history to gather more perceptions on surname origins in Flanders and the Netherlands, (b) unravel the influence of the Y-chromosome and demographic variability on the offspring sex ratio to know why some families have more sons than daughters, and (c) determine human Y-chromosome diversity to estimate the forensic familial searching success rates in different population groups. Overall, this pioneering project will increase interdisciplinary population research worldwide. More information including videos, blogposts and papers is available on her website

The linking of the DNA samples to the historical demographic databases is, however, not only essential for Sofie’s postdoc project, but it opens a whole range of new research opportunities, as it lead to an enrichment of historical demographic databases. The opportunities that this will create will be further investigated in an international workshop that Paul and Sofie are preparing together with some international colleagues in the fields of historical demography and genetics.