Study into British genetics arrives in Fraserburgh

Professor Sir Walter Bodmer with local volunteer Helen Macdonald.
Professor Sir Walter Bodmer with local volunteer Helen Macdonald.

A major study into the study of the genetics of the British population and the differences in people’s facial features has arrived in Fraserburgh.

Volunteers from Fraserburgh and the surrounding area went along to the Fraserburgh Old Parish Church Centre on June 17 and June 18 to take part in the project, called ‘People of the British Isles’, which is led by the University of Oxford.

Once there, volunteers had the chance to fill out a form with their details, including name and date and place of birth, as well as their parents’ and grandparents’ years and places of birth.

The volunteers also had blood, taste and smell tests as well as photos of their hands, skin tone and faces taken as part of the genetic mapping process.

Once all their details are recorded, the volunteers are given generalised rather than person-specific information about their samples, which will then be used to add to the project’s genetic map of Britain.

The project, which has been running for 10 years, seeks to group individual samples together based on genetic similarity.

The samples which are collected are then used to determine the patterns of genetic variance to determine where people come from. The map itself shows the average position of where the volunteers’ grandparents came from.

The initiative, which is funded by the Wellcome Trust, is led by geneticist Professor Sir Walter Bodmer as well as Tammy Day and a number of project members.

Organisers of the project chose to come to Fraserburgh as part of their UK-wide sampling process.

The project will be taking place in Fraserburgh on June 17 and June 18 before moving onto Peterhead on June 19.

Commenting, Professor Sir Walter Bodmer said: “I’m delighted to be here.

“We’ve got volunteers coming who are contributing to the study of the genetics of the British population so we can underline the differences of people’s faces and, in addition, study the genetics that leads to differences in facial features.”

One of the volunteers who took part in the project in Fraserburgh was Helen Macdonald from Stuartfield, who is a family historian and who heard by word of mouth that volunteers were being sought. Helen commented: “I think it’s a very exciting project and I’m very pleased to be able to support it.

“I was told I look exactly like my great aunt, who I had never met and never had any photos of, so that intrigued me as to why I looked like a Macdonald and made me feel like I belonged then.”

For further information on the project, visit