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Ann Hum Biol. 2000 Sep-Oct;27(5):453-65.

The origins of the Irish travellers and the genetic structure of Ireland.

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  • 1Department of Anthropology, University of Kansas, USA.


Ireland's unique and well-documented history provides insight into the formation and origins of population subdivisions. Of particular interest, is the controversial ethnogenesis of an itinerant population of Ireland: the Travellers. The objectives of this study were: (1) to determine the genetic affinity of the Travellers to the general Irish population based on gene frequency data, subdivided by county, and (2) to explore the relationship between subpopulations of Ireland, given its turbulent history. The gene frequencies of standard genetic markers collected from populations residing in counties of Ireland and the Travellers were calculated and analysed using several multivariate methods. First, a relationship (R) matrix was used to ascertain the scaled variance covariance matrix of population similarity. Second, mean per locus heterozygosity (H) was regressed on distance of the region from the gene frequency centroid (r(ii)). The results of this study include: (1) the confirmation of Crawford's (1975, in Biosocial Interrelations in Population Adaptations, E. S. Watts et al. (eds), pp. 93-103) conclusions concerning the origins and genetic affinity of the Travellers; (2) based on several multivariate analyses, the major influence on population structure was unique historical events; and (3) Relethford and Crawford's (1995, American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 96, 25-38) hypothesis concerning the distinctiveness of the midland counties was verified by this study.

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