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Benelux Regional DNA Project

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One Family Project

The One Family One World Project is a partnership between Living DNA and Eupedia initiated in 2017. The project aims to map the regional genetic variations of the world with a great level of detail and accuracy in order to improve our understanding of both recent and ancient migrations and see how humans are all connected with one another as one big family.

Genetic variations within Benelux

Historical context

The Benelux region, historically known as the Low Countries, lies at the limit between the ancient Celtic and Germanic world. The Rhine and Meuse rivers marked the boundaries between the two groups before Roman time. The Romans conquered all the land until the Rhine, but by the third century the Franks, a Germanic tribe from Denmark, crossed the Rhine and settled in large numbers in what is now Belgium, creating a hybrid society.

In the Middle Ages, the Vikings raided and colonised the North Sea coast, mainly in Frisia, Holland, Zeeland and in the County of Flanders, where they founded the city of Bruges.

Following the split of the Frankish Empire, the Low Countries were divided into counties and duchies that marked the traditional boundaries between regions for nearly 1000 years until the late 18th century.

Local dialects developed mostly within those boundaries, which indicates that the local population married principally within their county's or duchy's boundaries. This is thought to have led to a homogenisation of the gene pool in each region, a hypothesis that can only be confirmed by genetic testing.

Objective & Methodology

To determine the boundaries between proposed genetic regions of the Benelux we took into account the areas of settlements of ancient Celtic and Germanic populations, the places in which the Romans, Franks and Vikings later settled most heavily, the historical borders of counties and duchies as well as the boundaries of present-day languages and dialects.

In the Netherlands, the proposed genetic regions of North Holland, Frisia, Drenthe-Overijssel and Gelderland were all located beyond the zone of influence of La Tène Celts and outside the boundaries of the Roman Empire. Their ancestry would therefore be less admixed and more purely Germanic.

Some historical political entities consisted of two or three distinct linguistic zones, which perdure to this day. That was the case of the Duchy or Luxembourg, where French was spoken in the western part and German in the eastern part, and the sprawling Principality of Liège, which spanned over French, German and Limburgish (now mainly Dutch) speaking territories.

As people rarely married outside their language group, the gene pool evolved differently in each linguistic zone, and each historical region was therefore split by language.

Furthermore, Y-DNA and autosomal DNA data from the Genetic History of the Benelux at Eupedia was used to further split large regions (Holland and Brabant) or resolve conflicts between historical and linguistic data.

Note that the Dutch province of Flevoland was excluded from the historical regions as it was reclaimed on the sea in the 1950s and 1960s and only became a province in 1986.

Proposed genetic regions of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg

Our preliminary research indicates at least 15 areas of Benelux may have distinct genetic differences.

Proposed genetic divisions of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg - One Family One World DNA Project
  • Ardennes
  • Brabant
  • Drenthe-Overijssel
  • Flanders
  • Frisia
  • Gelderland
  • Hainault
  • Holland
  • Limburg
  • Luxembourg (and German-speaking Belgium)
  • Meuse Valley
  • North Brabant
  • North Holland
  • South Guelders
  • Zeeland

How do I qualify?

The One Family project is open to everyone worldwide and has two parts.

  • 1. To build a genetic family tree of everyone from around the world, regardless of where your family comes from.
  • 2. To build a regional genetic breakdown of ancestry within countries, similar to 'The Peopling of the British Isles project'. This part of the project is looking for people with all four grandparents born within 80km (50mi) of each other inside our project areas of interest.

If you have already tested with Living DNA, all you need to do to join the project is log into your account, click on the Research tab and choose to participate in our global ancestry research project, if you haven't already done it.

If you already tested your DNA with another company (23andMe, AncestryDNA, MyHeritage, or FTDNA's Family Finder), you can join the project here for free. After submitting the form with your family information, you will receive an email to confirm the creation of your Living DNA account and will be asked to upload your genome there for free.

If you have not yet tested your DNA with one of the above companies, then you will need to order a Living DNA test to take part.

The data provided as part of the project is kept strictly private and confidential under Living DNA’s ISO:27001 certification for information security. Please read Living DNA's Privacy Policy for more information.

See also

Genetic history of the Benelux & France

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