About Oxford Ancestors

Our Background

Oxford Ancestors began in 2000 in Professor Sykes' university laboratory following press coverage of his research into mitochondrial DNA and the genetics of human evolution. This showed, among other things, that almost everyone in Europe is maternally descended from one of seven female ancestors. Following the publication of his book on the discovery 'The Seven Daughters of Eve' in 2001 the demand from members of the public for DNA tests to identify descendants of these ancestral soon outstripped the capacity of the laboratory and the Oxford Ancestors Ltd was incorporated as an official University of Oxford 'spin-off'.

By then, Oxford Ancestors also offered Y-chromosome tests to follow the equivalent paternal line after Prof Sykes' laboratory had uncovered the surprisingly close association between surnames and Y-chromosomes, a connection which was soon enthusiastically taken up by genealogists.

As demand for our services grew, we moved into a succession of premises around Oxford. We remain close to Prof Sykes' academic research and, as the science has developed, we have added new services, such as our 'Tribes of Britain' test where customers with roots in Britain or Ireland can learn whether their ancestors were likely to have been Vikings, Saxons or Celts.

Though we are well aware you have a choice and we are confident that you will appreciate the unrivalled scientific credentials that Oxford Ancestors has to offer when choosing whom to entrust with analysis of the most precious gift from your ancestors - your DNA.

Professor Bryan Sykes

Bryan has been a Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Oxford since 1997 and is a Fellow of Wolfson College. After discovering how to extract DNA from human fossils, his research has used genetics to explore many aspects of human evolution particularly as revealed by mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosomes. His six books on genetics 'The Seven Daughters of Eve', 'Adam's Curse', 'Blood of the Isles', 'DNA USA', 'The Nature of the Beast' and most recently 'Once a Wolf' are all written with the general reader in mind.

When not in Oxford, Bryan and his wife Ulla, a Danish painter, live on the Isle of Skye off the northwest coast of Scotland.

Our Ethics

Over the past nineteen years, it has been my privilege to have you send me your DNA from all over the world. We started way back in 2000 because I was keen that people could share in the excitement of the new genetics research which was being done in university laboratories like my own in Oxford, but rarely reaching beyond the halls of academe.

That has all changed and nowadays cheap DNA tests based on hazy concepts of "population" are widely available, even if their meaning is often ambiguous or misleading. The popularity of ‘ethnic testing’ is a case in point, where even religious persuasion is given a genetic foundation which cannot be justified.

However we are simply not a collection of biologically defined 'pure' ethnic groups and to pretend otherwise is scientifically invalid, misleading, divisive and potentially dangerous. I am optimistic that genetics, used properly, will serve to dispel this falsehood and Oxford Ancestors will never offer tests that divide the people of the world into categories defined by race, ethnicity or religion.

The Team

Sue Foden
Non-Executive Director
After gaining MA and DPhil degrees from Oxford, Sue's career has taken her through positions in Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property and Venture Capital. Sue joined the Board of Oxford Ancestors in 2001 and is currently a non-executive director of several UK biotech companies. She lives in Oxford.
William James
Non-Executive Director
William is Professor of Virology at the University of Oxford and an expert on HIV/Aids. Like Sue Foden, he joined the Oxford Ancestors Board in 2001. He also represents the University in some of its other spin-out companies and has beeb a Pro-ViceChancelior. In 2017 William was appointed as our Head of Talent.
Robin Roberts-Gant
Robin was born in London. His career started off in design and printing and graduated into computing where he could combine both passions. He joined the staff of the University of Oxford in 1997 where he now runs a production unit specialising in image manipulation, typesetting and design. He lives with his family in north Oxfordshire.
George Bentley
Technical Manager
George has been our Technical Manager since 2005 and is in overall charge of our analytical laboratory. He is a keen restorer of WW2 planes and and preferred this fitting image.
Emma Kensington
Head of Media
Emma has fifteen years international PR experience before starting her own agency based in London. She deals with all aspects of medis relations where she is assisted by Antonia de Brette.
Antonia de Brette
Head of Diversity
Antonia is Head of Diversity in the Media department where her team is responsible for LGBTQ issues.