French Genetics: Abstracts and Summaries

by Kevin Alan Brook

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The "French Heritage DNA" project administered by Denis Beauregard and Denis Savard invites the participation of French people who have had their Y-DNA and/or mtDNA tested by Family Tree DNA. Other interesting projects include the "French Swiss DNA Project", the "Normandy Y-DNA" project, and the "R1b French" project.

French people mostly live in France but also live in neighboring Belgium and Switzerland and their descendants notably moved in large numbers to Quebec and Acadia. They are called Walloons in Belgium. The French are a complex mixture of ancient Celtic, Iberian, Italic, Germanic, and Greek peoples. French people aren't identical to the ethnic Basques, Bretons, and Corsicans who also inhabit France.

The standard French, Norman, and Occitan languages are members of the Romance linguistic family and all are written in the Latin alphabet.

Ethnic French participants in the French Heritage DNA project carry such mtDNA (maternal-line) haplogroups as A2f1a, A2-C64T, T2c2, X2b7, K1b2b, H13a1a4, W, W3a1, C1c, C4c1, H, H3q, H7, H7b6, H44a1, K2a6, T2b7a2, and J1b2, among others but some of these, such as A2-C64T and C1c, are of Amerindian origin.

Participants in the French Heritage DNA project belong to such Y-DNA (paternal-line) haplogroups as I-M253, I-P109, I-P37, J-P58, J-Z387, R-L21 (a branch of R1b), R-M269 (R1b1a2, the most common branch of R1b in western Europe), R-L552, and R-U198.

Participants in the French Swiss DNA Project whose most distantly known ancestors were French people from Switzerland carry the Y-DNA haplogroups E-L542, E-V13, E-V36, E-M78, G-P15, G-M201, I-M253, I-Z138, N-M178, R-M269, R-U106, and R-U152.

Participants in the Belgium Walloon project who state their most distantly known ancestors were French-named people from the Wallonian region now inside Belgium carry the Y-DNA haplogroups G-S2808, I-M253, I-Z131, R-M198, R-M269, R-L20, R-M512, R-Z16340, and R-DF19.

Major studies of the French

Matilde Karakachoff, Nicolas Duforet-Frebourg, Floriane Simonet, Solena Le Scouarnec, Nadine Pellen, Simon Lecointe, Eric Charpentier, Françoise Gros, Stéphane Cauchi, Philippe Froguel, Nane Copin, the D.E.S.I.R. Study Group, Thierry Le Tourneau, Vincent Probst, Hervé Le Marec, Sabrina Molinaro, Beverley Balkau, Richard Redon, Jean-Jacques Schott, Michael G. B. Blum, and Christian Dina. "Fine-scale human genetic structure in Western France." European Journal of Human Genetics 23 (June 2015): pages 831-836.
      They studied the full genomes of 1684 DNA samples from people from Western France. Their analysis is useful both for ethnic French people and for ethnic Bretons from northwestern France. Excerpts from the Abstract:

[...] We found that fine-scale population structure occurs at the scale of Western France, with distinct admixture proportions for individuals originating from the Brittany Region and the Vendée Department. [...] At a more refined scale, and within the Pays de la Loire Region, we also found evidence of fine-scale population structure, although principal component analysis showed that individuals from different departments cannot be confidently discriminated. [...]"

Eva Ramos-Luis, Alejandro Blanco Verea, Maria Brión, V. Van Huffel, Paula Sánchez-Diz, and Angel Carracedo. "Y-chromosomal DNA analysis in French male lineages." Forensic Science International: Genetics 9 (March 2014): pages 162-168. First published online on December 29, 2013.
      The authors analyze Y-DNA haplogroups' variation across France using a pool of 558 samples taken from men from 7 French regions: Alsace, Auvergne, Bretagne, Île-de-France, Midi-Pyrénées, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, and Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. Figure 2 lists all the Y-chromosomal haplogroups they found and their frequencies on a per-region basis. The haplogroups are BD, E*, E1b1b1*, E1b1b1a, E1b1b1b, E1b1b1c*, E1b1b1c1, F*, G, I*, I2a2, J*, J1a, J2, K*, L, N1c, P*, R1*, R1a, R1b1*, R1b1b2*, R1b1b2a1*, R1b1b2a1a, R1b1b2a2d, R1b1b2a2e, R1b1b2a2g, and T.

Excerpt from the Abstract:

"Even though we find that most of the individual populations in France were not differentiated from each other, Bretagne population shows population substructure, [...]"

Excerpt from the body of the article:

"From a total of 27 binary markers typed in the seven regions of France, 22 different haplogroups were found (Fig. 2). The most frequent haplogroup in all the regions was R1b1b2*(xR1b1b2a1, 2d, 2e, 2g), with the exception of Alsace, where the most common one was R1b1b2a2g."

Roy J. King, Julie Di Cristofaro, Anastasia Kouvatsi, Costas Triantaphyllidis, Walter Scheidel, Natalie M. Myres, Alice A. Lin, Alexandre Eissautier, Michael Mitchell, Didier Binder, Ornella Semino, Andrea Novelletto, Peter A. Underhill, and Jacques Chiaroni. "The coming of the Greeks to Provence and Corsica: Y-chromosome models of archaic Greek colonization of the western Mediterranean." BMC Evolutionary Biology 11:69 (March 14, 2011).
      This paper's goal was to study the genetic traces of Greek colonization in Provence in southern mainland France. 51 samples from Provençal Frenchmen were compared with 58 samples from people from Smyrna and 31 from Asia Minor Phokaia. The Y-DNA haplogroup E-V13 is known to be "characteristic of the Greek and Balkan mainland". It was found among 19% of the Phokaian samples and 12% of the Smyrnian samples as well as among 4% of the Provençal Frenchmen, 4.6% of East Corsicans, and 1.6% of West Corsicans. Altogether, according to the Results section, taking into account all haplogroups, "An admixture analysis estimated that 17% of the Y-chromosomes of Provence may be attributed to Greek colonization."

Chrystelle Richard, Erwan Pennarun, Toomas Kivisild, Kristiina Tambets, Helle-Viivi Tolk, Ene Metspalu, Maere Reidla, Sylviana Chevalier, Stéphanie Giraudet, Lovorka Barać Lauc, Marijana Peričić, Pavao Rudan, Mireille Claustres, Hubert Journel, Ian Dorval, Claude Müller, Richard Villems, André Chaventré, and Jean-Paul Moisan. "An mtDNA perspective of French genetic variation." Annals of Human Biology 34:1 (January-February 2007): pages 68-79.
      Mitochondrial DNA was evaluated for 868 samples these researchers and previous researchers gathered from inhabitants of France, predominantly from 12 specific locations, including but not limited to regions like Normandy, Seine-Maritime, and North-East in the north and Languedoc and Provence in the south. Ethnic French people proper as well as Bretons, Corsicans, and Basques living in France were tested. According to Table 1, H is by far the most common mtDNA haplogroup in France with the frequency of 45.56%. Others include (but are not limited to) K at 8.74%, U5 at 8.3%, J at 7.65%, HV0 at 4.77%, U4 at 2.31%, I at 2.02%, and T1 at 1.66%. Data gathered from Breton people from Brittany and Basque people from Basque Country are itemized separately. The authors conclude: "The mtDNA haplogroup composition of the French does not differ significantly from the surrounding European genetic landscape." However, they did find some level of distinctiveness among the Bretons and Basques, which makes sense as they are distinct ethnic groups with their own languages.

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