Saturday, June 05, 2021

Question from Stephanie - DNA links to Henry VIII

Is there a way to tell through DNA if youre related to King Henry Viii? Im a descendent of Mary Bolelyn throughly Catherine Carey and her grandson Thomas West de la warr. Thanks any information is much appreciated.

1 comment:

PhD Historian said...

You asked "related to" rather than "descended from," so I will respond accordingly.
Henry VIII's known children (Mary, Edward, and Elizabeth, plus Henry Fitzroy) all died without issue. As a result, Henry VIII's nuclear DNA "died out." Mary Boleyn was not biologically related to Henry VIII, so the only way you might yourself be biologically *descended* from Henry VIII through the ancestors you named is if one of them were sired by him. Yet to my knowledge, there is no evidence to suggest that any of Mary Boleyn's children were sired by Henry rather than by her first husband, William Carey. There were no children recorded from her second marriage, to William Stafford.
However, at a remove of almost five centuries, Henry's nuclear DNA would have been massively diluted across the generations, making it all but impossible to confirm a DNA match to Henry's male nuclear DNA. But, it *might* be possible to establish a link via his mitochondrial DNA, which survives intact down the generations (mitochondrial DNA is not involved in reproduction, but instead exists separately in an organelle of the female ovum or egg). Mitochondrial DNA is passed in the female line, not the male line. When the remains of Richard III were discovered, for example, the DNA from the bones was matched to a male descendant living today, and the match was to the mitochondrial DNA that both Richard and his modern descendant got from Richard's mother, Cecily Neville, not to Richard's own nuclear DNA (scientifically complicated stuff!). It might therefore be possible to compare your mitochondrial DNA to that of one of the living descendants of either of Henry VIII's two sisters, Mary and Margaret Tudor. A positive result would make you a very distant niece of Henry VIII, and therefore "related to" rather than "descended from" Henry.