Ryan Taylor Does it all go back to Genghis Khan?
Genghis Kahn


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By Ryan Taylor

Are you descended from Genghis Khan? Apparently many people are.

Brian Sykes, a leading geneticist at Oxford University, calls Genghis Khan 'the most successful alpha male in human history' because he is estimated to have more than sixteen million male descendants today.

Genghis was a Mongol emperor of the 13th century. He spent his 40-year career conquering vast swathes of central Asia. Although he began in Mongolia, his influence extended to modern-day Russia, Iran and Afghanistan. He and his troops had rather extrovert relationships with the women they met along the way.

Sykes' scientists made DNA samplings in 16 locations across Asia, and found the same Y chromosome in eight per cent of the population. The Y chromosome is passed unchanged from father to son. Sykes described Genghis as 'the most successful breeder of males ever'. His gene was referred to as Super-Y.

The Hazara tribe, which lives in the border lands of Afghanistan and Pakistan, believes that its members are descended directly from Genghis.

Sykes, whose previous work includes a book postulating that all the earth's peoples are descended from seven women who originated in eastern Africa, runs a DNA testing company in Oxford.

Genghis had four sons, who continued his empire-building traditions. Two of his grandsons extended their lands into Hungary and Poland, and founded the Chinese Imperial family.

Genghis is a very modern presence in Mongolia today. Mongols have traditionally done without surnames, but the government there has implemented a law to force them to adopt new names. The most popular name is that of the Mongol hero himself, and he now has more than 500 namesakes in the capital, Ulan Bator. Others have taken the surname Borjigem, the name of Genghis Khan's clan.

Outside the capital, a thin teenager with braces has chosen to be Genghis Khan. He doesn't have lands to conquer, however. He is simply proud to be Mongolian.

It is interesting to speculate that, with increased immigration from Asia to other parts of the world, Genghis' genes will be carried everywhere. As the Asians intermarry with their new compatriots, there will be many American, Canadian, British and Australian descendants from the great warrior. Perhaps Sykes' counterpart in 2104 will find a large percentage of males worldwide have the Super-Y chromosome.

By then, DNA sampling will be as much a part of people's lives as having a blood test nowadays. The DNA will probably be recorded in databanks which can be accessed by many facets of society-law enforcement, education, genealogists. It will be easy to determine who is a Genghis descendant.

Imagine the family reunion that could result! There could be an Old Boys' Week in Ulan Bator that would make the Olympics or a World's Fair look like a village fete.

The problem is, that with old Genghis' genes might come some of his fierce and combative nature. The Mongolian police might have their hands full as one branch of the family took issue with another. There might be disagreements about who is the rightful claimant to the throne of China, or who should inherit the route of the old silk roads between Europe and Asia. By then, the silk roads will probably be a major tourist attraction, as everyone with Genghis' DNA makes a trek back to their roots.

It's too bad there is no authentic portrait of Genghis, so that people could compare themselves to the old man.

I always say that most English genealogists I meet can trace their families back to King Edward III, who had many children on both sides of the blanket. It's an interesting thing to find a king who outdid him.

Posted August 3, 2004
Column copyright © 2004 Ryan Taylor

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