Was Genghis Khan any relation to you?

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The Independent Online

Andy Graham, an amiable, quietly spoken man who works in the music business in east London, does not appear, at first glance, to be the kind of person who might be related to Genghis Khan, the rampaging Mongol conqueror of the 12th century. But you never know.

Andy Graham, an amiable, quietly spoken man who works in the music business in east London, does not appear, at first glance, to be the kind of person who might be related to Genghis Khan, the rampaging Mongol conqueror of the 12th century. But you never know.

"I'm actually from pretty solid Yorkshire stock on both sides," the bespectacled Mr Graham, 42, says. Indeed, it is probably difficult to find anyone less likely to be a member of the clan of the Master of the Blue Wolf. But then he adds: "All the women in the family are pretty forceful. And my dad's side hails from Italy about four or five generations ago.''

On the strength of that, it is possible that Mr Graham could be among the millions of men who carry the distinctive pattern of Y chromosomes in their genes which indicate probable descent from the great warlord, who, it is said, sired many children.

But for a more positive verdict, Mr Graham joined 20 or so other men in London this week whose DNA is being tested to establish whether, on a balance of probabilities, they are descended from Khan. It cannot be more certain than that, because there is not any actual Khan DNA left to test for comparison.

What is known is that an estimated 16 to 17 million men in central Asia alone share the Y-chromosome pattern that indicates descent through the male line from the children of the warlord, whose armies conquered vast tracts of Asia and Europe. Movements of population will have spread the pattern even further, perhaps even to Yorkshire.

Mr Graham's DNA test - a simple mouth swab - was conducted by courtesy of Shish, a restaurant in trendy Hoxton in east London at which he is a regular. The restaurant specialises in kebab-style dishes from the Middle East and Asia, and arranged the tests in honour of the Mongolian government's decision to reintroduce surnames, banned by the former Communist leaders.

For Mr Graham it was "a bit of fun" with the prospect of a free meal for anyone deemed to share the genes. But among the men were several hailing from Mongolia and less interested in the prize than determining their ancestry. "We had one man in who said it was really important for his family to be certain as possible about his descent,'' Richard Moore, the general manager, said.

In Mongolia, by the end of last month, the deadline for registering surnames as an entitlement to vote, more than half the population of 2.6 million had chosen the Khan clan name of Borjigin, meaning Master of the Blue Wolf. The revisionist view of history is that Khan was not a bloodthirsty conqueror, but a brilliant military tactician and an innovative ruler now seen as the father of his nation.

Mr Graham's DNA is being analysed by Oxford Ancestors, which offers a commercial service to those who wish to trace genetic roots. It was founded by Bryan Sykes, an Oxford University geneticist who, in 1994, extracted DNA from a frozen 5,000-year-old corpse in the Tyrolean Alps and identified a woman living in Britain as being genetically linked.

Of course, I accepted the generous offer for a test on my DNA, although, so far as I am aware, my own genes are a reliable mixture of the blood of Wales and central England. And although my family and friends might differ, I do not believe I display any particularly warlord-like traits, let alone claim to be a Master of the Blue Wolf. And I have fathered only a couple of children. But you never know; I have always felt my younger son was something of a putative tyrant. Mr Graham and I will know for sure in six weeks.

THE MONGOL HERO

Born sometime between 1162 and 1167, Genghis Khan was originally named Temujin. A few years later, his father was killed by Tartars and Temujin was made clan chief. But the clan refused to be led by a boy and abandoned him and his mother to live as nomads.

By 1206, Temüjin had successfully fought back and united the formerly fragmented tribes of what is now Mongolia. He was crowned Khan of Khans and ruler of "all who live in felt tents" in front of 20,000 people.

He went on to lead one of the most effective fighting forces in the pre-firearms era. More than three million people may have died as Mongolia became the largest contiguous land empire in history. When Genghis Khan died in 1227, aged in his 60s, 2,800 people were reputedly killed in honour.

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