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Genetic marker discovered for descendants of Bruce clan

Researchers at the University of Strathclyde have discovered a genetic marker carried by descendants of Robert the Bruce’s closest relatives

Portrait of Robert the Bruce
Spencer Arnold Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Published: February 4, 2022 at 12:06 pm
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A distinct genetic marker, carried by descendants of Robert the Bruce’s close relatives, has been identified by researchers at the University of Strathclyde.

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The researchers found genetic marker FTB15831 on the Y-DNA of two modern-day descendants of Robert Bruce, 2nd Baron of Clackmannan, who died in 1403.

The Bruces of Clackmannan’s exact relationship to Robert the Bruce, who was King of Scots from 1306 to his death in 1329 and led Scotland during the First War of Scottish Independence, is not known, but there is a consensus that it was very close.

In the Register of the Great Seal for 1365, a charter of King David II, son of Robert the Bruce, confirms a grant of lands in Clackmannan to Robert Bruce, who is described in Latin as “dilecto et fideli nostro consanguineo” (our beloved and faithful kinsman).

One of the men found to carry the marker is Rollo Bruce, a retired textile research editor from Oxfordshire.

Graham Holton, Principal Tutor on Strathclyde’s Genealogical Studies Postgraduate Programme, who led the research, said: “Y chromosome DNA tests taken by male line descendants of two of Robert of Clackmannan’s sons, Robert and Edward, show that they both carry the marker FTB15831. This means it may also have been carried by their close relative, King Robert.

“This discovery means that anyone living today who tests positive for the marker is descended from the same family as the famous King.

“Although the test takers from both lines carry FTB15831, one of them also has an additional genetic marker, indicating his descent from Robert Bruce, 3rd Baron of Clackmannan, who died around 1405. Further research may reveal more markers for specific branches of the Bruce family.”

In 1320, Robert the Bruce's supporters signed a document known as the Declaration of Arbroath, considered the oldest declaration of Scottish independence.

University of Strathclyde researchers have previously used DNA testing to uncover the modern-day descendants of the document's signatories.

Marker FTB15831 can be detected using FamilyTreeDNA’s Big Y-700 DNA test, which costs $449.

Only men can take part in Y-DNA testing.

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Rosemary Collins is the features editor of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine

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