Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Niall Marker

When I was doing research for "the novel formerly known as" Death in the Fens, I happened upon something called The Niall Marker. Geneticists have isolated a gender specific trait that they have traced back to a 5th century High King of Ireland, Niall of the Nine Hostages.

Being the history geek and lover of trivia that I am, I decided I MUST incorporate this fascinating bit of obscure information into my novel. Only it turns out The Niall Marker might not be that obscure after all...

A couple of weeks ago, I watched a fascinating program on PBS about how African Americans are tracing their roots by studying their DNA. Scientists have perfected a technique that can tell anyone what percent of their DNA is from Africa, what percent is Native American, and what percent is from Northern Europe. The narrator of the program, a professor at Harvard, was quite surprised to learn that over 30% of his DNA came from Northern Europe. But that's not all!

Turns out that he had Irish ancestors. How did the experts know? (drum roll, please) Because he had The Niall Marker. I couldn't believe it! There was my fascinating little piece of trivia that I'd put into my book on national television!

Truth IS stranger than fiction!

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