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Old 27th August 2012, 09:43 AM
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Question Indian ancestors - Can DNA help? A Royal connection?


Many years ago my maternal grandfather funded me to do some family history as I was interested in where our family came from. Several years on I have found out a lot about my family - including the usual 'skeleton in the cupboard' stories. I am a white Englishman in an area of England that historically has very little non-caucasian contact (Norfolk). In the family there is a story that my maternal great-grandmother (Mary) was illegitimate and her father was an indian nobleman or prince. Her mother (Elizabeth) was in service at a large house in Norfolk and became pregnant. She later married, and had several other children. I have done the research, and it seems that Mary was different from her 'brothers' and 'sisters', being quite dark-skinned and looking non-english, as were her own children later on (I have many family photos of this). My maternal grandfather (Mary's second child) and also my mother were dark skinned to a degree, and I colour very easily, but have lost most of the facial features.

After looking at newspaper articles and books on the subject I found out that Maharajah Duleep Singh (said to be the first Sikh settler in Britain) and his sons Victor and Frederick were in the area at about the time Mary was conceived. There are also several other tales of these two men having illegitimate children, especially in Elvedon village where the maharajah lived, and at Breckles where Frederick later lived, and there are documented cases of other illegitimate descendants. None of the children of the Maharajah had legitimate children - it is suggested that Queen Victoria encouraged this to stop the Indian royal line popping up in the future… At the time of Mary's conception in 1882, the Maharajah would have been 44, his son Victor was 16 and Frederick was 14. Mary's mother Elizabeth was 18. The mother of Victor and Frederick was Ethiopian/German.

I supply all this information because I am considering a DNA test to see if that line is Indian and if there is any way to see if I am a descendant of the Maharajah, or the colouring is just a coincidence and the family story is untrue. My grandfather is now dead, so I can't use his DNA, as is my mother, but I still have my great uncle alive - Mary's youngest son. He is in his late nineties and has senile dementia - can I use him for DNA? His wife may not agree…

As I have said, there are others who claim the same ancestors as me. If I were to find them, could we use a DNA test to see if we are related to prove this dependancy?

Is it worth me trying a DNA test, and which tests would I have to use. Also, what would be the chances of finding out anything worth knowing?

For more information see the Wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duleep_Singh

Thank you for reading my extended question!
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Old 27th August 2012, 10:37 AM
similligan similligan is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Maryland USA
Posts: 178
What an interesting story! One of the autosomal tests should give the ethnic breakdown you want and would also provide the means to match others who may be related.

I have done a FTDNA Family Finder test on a person with dementia. You'll have a choice of several companies for the test and the best choice would depend on the level of his dementia and his wife's wishes. Some tests, such as 23andMe include medical information, which his wife could either object to or be interested in. There are also different collection methods. The swab method that FTDNA uses can be stressful, but would probably be easier to obtain than a spit collection that I think I've heard some companies use.

If he is at a level where he still has some good days, it would be good if you could leave the test with his wife and let her pick the best time to take the sample.

National Geographic is offering a new test. It may give a better ethnic breakdown than FTDNA. It would also give you Mary's mitochondrial DNA and her husband's Y-DNA haplogroups. A couple of cons, though, are that they won't start shiping the test kits until lated October and is doesn't sound like it would help you as much for identifying cousins.

I'm only familiar with FTDNA's Family Finder, so I'll let others discuss the pros and cons of the different companies.

I was lucky with my relative's collection. I was on a three week visit and there was one day out of the entire three weeks that I felt she could give her consent and she actually wrote a few letters of her name on the consent form. I did have her guardian also sign the consent form.

Good luck

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Old 28th August 2012, 07:21 AM
tomcat tomcat is offline
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Join Date: May 2005
Location: Jamaica Plain, MA
Posts: 3,404
Originally Posted by Tseb View Post
...As I have said, there are others who claim the same ancestors as me. If I were to find them, could we use a DNA test to see if we are related to prove this dependancy?
Yes, absent a sample from an pedigreed Singh with which to compare, positive comparisons between persons with the same lore of Singh descent would be proof. Such proof would be especially solid if the sample came from a person with no Norfolk roots to confuse the matter.
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Old 31st August 2012, 07:16 AM
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Thank you very much for all this information. I am still a bit unsure about where to go... I have been putting this off for a long time (several years) but as my great uncle is now getting much older and worse I think that the time is very near to take action. If the worst came to pass I can also use my own DNA, but presumably as I am two more generations down the line, the DNA that I want to trace would be more diluted?

I think I also need a 'push' and positive comments from anyone are welcome...

Approximately how much will the required tests cost me?

Thanks to you both for the help so far, and to all those people who have read this post.

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Old 31st August 2012, 07:25 AM
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Originally Posted by tomcat View Post
Yes, absent a sample from an pedigreed Singh with which to compare...
The problem as I see it is that there is no 'pedigreed' line as the British government did as much as possible to stamp out the family in the late 1800s and the Sikh community is not interested in finding out as far as I can tell... I will have to try to contact the other 'descendants' that I know of - see the wikipedia article in the first post...

A few years ago I even tried the BBC when they advertised for people to take part in a genealogy TV programme based on DNA, but they said the likelihood of finding anything interesting to them was very low, and didn't want our input (myself and my late brother).


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Old 31st August 2012, 07:43 AM
andbro andbro is offline
FTDNA Customer
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 327
If I was you I would get the DNA sample ASAP. Once your uncle has gone like you said your DNA will not take you too far back. I have a lot of Norfolk ancestry and the ff test has revealed many ancestors.
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Old 31st August 2012, 09:53 AM
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So, which company would be more recommended for what I am trying to achieve? FTD or a competitor? Who has the biggest database for this? And with the competitors, which of their products is comparable with Family Finder?


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Old 31st August 2012, 10:18 AM
andbro andbro is offline
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Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 327
I have used familytreedna. I have had good matches in the Norfolk area. I use ancestry for research which is good,but I don't like them for DNA. I have not used 23and me. I think ftdna is the easiest to use. You will get an ethnicity breakdown. That shoul confirm any Indian ancestry,especially as it was your great uncles grandad. Obviously his DNA is stronger than yours. This part wil help greatly with that rumour as he should be 25% approx Indian.
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Old 31st August 2012, 12:52 PM
1_mke 1_mke is offline
mtDNA: K2a | Y-DNA: R-L1029
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 586
Both my Mom and I have 10x the matches at 23andMe that we have here. I'm not qualified to comment on the accuracy of either sites approaches to making matches but it seems likely that 23andMe has a much larger autosomal DB than FTDNA.

Ancestry is a bit raw right now. Again I'm not going to comment on the accuracy of their results either but I have 10x the matches there that I have on FTDNA.

The truth of the matter is that you want to test at as many places as you can afford since there is only a limited amount of overlap between their databases and you are much more likely to get a valuable hit if you've cast your net as wide as possible.
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Old 31st August 2012, 01:45 PM
vinnie vinnie is offline
FTDNA Customer
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 1,609
If you're interested in seeing whether you're a direct male descendent of the maharajah, and possibly related to other men known to be directly related to him, then you need a yDNA test. You can start with as little as a 12 marker test from FTDNA from which your basic yDNA haplogroup will be determined. If your haplogroup turns out to be one that is common to the Indian subcontinent, then you can proceed with additional yDNA testing as you desire. Another option would be to do the new GENO 2.0 from National Geographic, which will give both your direct maternal and paternal line haplogroups, but it won't give your specific 12 markers; however, you can then upload your results to FTDNA and proceed with the 12 marker (or more) testing. Otherwise, you can do the Family Finder or another company's autosomal test to see if you may be related along any of your lines to him, within the last 5 generations or so. As for your uncle, if you can test him with his permission, absolutely do so; I would test him for yDNA, mitochondrial DNA (mother's line), and the autosomal DNA. If you ever test your own autosomal DNA, his results would be invaluable for helping to determine which line your matches come from.

Last edited by vinnie; 31st August 2012 at 01:49 PM.
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