A ground-breaking technique offering a DNA "Sat Nav" directly to the homes of our ancestors has been developed.
Working in a similar way to satellite navigation system, the Geographic Population Structure, can locate the village where your ancestors lived 1,000 years ago. The technology was developed by an international team of experts led by the University of Sheffield.
Previously, scientists have been able to locate where your DNA was formed to within 700kms. The new technique, however, has proved to be 98% successful in locating worldwide populations to their right geographic regions, down to their village.
Genetic admixture occurs when individuals from two or more previously separated populations begin interbreeding, creating new gene pools.
"If we think of our world as being made up of different colours of soup – representing different populations - it is easy to visualise how genetic admixture occurs," said Dr Eran Elhaik, of the university.
"If a population from the blue soup region mixes with a population from the red soup region their offspring would appear as a purple soup."
"The more genetic admixture that takes place, it increasingly is difficult to locate your DNA's ancestry using traditional tools like Spatial Ancestry analysis (SPA) which has an accuracy level of less than 2%."
The team analysed data from 10 villages in Sardinia and over 20 islands in Oceania. They were able to place a quarter of the residents in Sardinia directly to their home village and most of the remaining residents within 50km of their village. For Oceania, they had 90% success in tracing islanders exactly to their island.
"This technique also means that we can no longer easily classify people's ethnic identities with one single label. It is impossible for any of us to tick one box on a form such as White British or African as we are much complex models with our own unique identities. The notion of races is simply not plausible," said Elhaik.
Dr Tatiana Tatarinova, a co-author, said: "To help people find their roots, I developed a website that allows anyone who has had their DNA genotyped to upload their results and use GPS to find their ancestral home."
The technology is now available to the public via a company called Prosapia Genetics.
According to the researchers, this screening has important medical implications, as the discovery of a certain genotype might indicate the potential for a genetic disease.
Dr Elhaik added, as reported in the Star: "What we have discovered here is a way to find not where you were born – as you have that information on your passport – but where your DNA was formed up to 1,000 years ago by modelling these admixture processes."
The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.