Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Question from Gisli - DNA for testing of bones

Would it be possible to identify the bones of Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour or Katherine Howard, through DNA, if HM were to allow acces to the bones in the Tower Chapel.

Are these families still alive in England today?

The Boleyns, Seymours and the Howards were powerful in their time, but what of today. Is there anyone alive who could donate DNA to be used in determining who is who. Or are the all gone.



Anonymous PhD Historian said...

The direct family line of Katherine Howard survives to the present and still holds the Dukedom of Norfolk. Katherine was the granddaughter of the 2nd Duke and the niece of the 3rd Duke. The current Duke, Edward Fitzalan-Howard, is the 18th Duke. It might therefore be theoretically possible to perform a DNA match between the current duke's family and the remains of Katherine Howard.

Anne Boleyn was also a niece of the third Duke of Norfolk and thus, like Katherine, a granddaughter of the 2nd Duke. This might make differentiating between the bones of Anne and Katherine somewhat problematic, since they are both genetic descendants of one person. But it is not impossible. It would depend on whether or not there are any descendants of the Boleyn-Carey line still surviving (I will leave that to KB, as it is her area of expertise, but I believe the current Marquis of Bath, the eccentric Alexander Thynn, is a descendant of Anne's sister Mary by way of the Knollys, Devereux, and Thynne lines).

The location of the remains of Jane Seymour is known. She lies with Henry VIII in a vault beneath the choir of the Chapel of St. George at Windsor Castle. Her remains should therefore be identifiable simply by their location.

But the real problem with Katherine Howard and Anne Boleyn lies in whether or not any DNA could be recovered from their bones. As was discussed in a previous topic on this site, the bones have been exhumed and reburied over the centuries as various "restorations" of the Chapel of St Peter-ad-Vincula were undetrtaken, especially in the 19th century. The bones have thus been jumbled about and not contained within a single coffin or
other sealed container. Anne was buried in an old arrow chest, for example, which would not have protected her remains from contamination. It is very likely that no DNA would be able to be recovered from bones that have been so poorly preserved. But if the Russians were able to do it with the Romanov remains after they had been burned and buried in a watery well, perhaps it might be possible with bones that are 350 years older than those of the Romanovs. I'm just not sure what real purpose would be served, hwoever, by digging up the floor of the chapel and testing all of the bones found there.

August 05, 2008 8:15 PM  
Blogger kb said...

As usual, phd historian has put the situation clearly in perspective.

And yes, there are plenty of Knollys and Carey descendants of Mary Boleyn alive and kicking. Some of them might be interested in contributing DNA samples to test the theory that Henry the VIII was really the father of Mary Boleyn's children.

August 06, 2008 8:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If my Shelton genealogy is correct, one of my grandmothers would be Lady Anne Boleyn Shelton who married Sir John Shelton. Lady Anne was the sister of Thomas Boleyn,father of Queen Anne and grandfather of Queen Elizabeth I. Would I be a good candidate for DNA?

September 19, 2008 12:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW so this means I hold Dukedom of Norfolk? Thanks man you helped me out!

October 04, 2008 2:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh and we have residence in America (Howard family, at least whats left of it!)

October 04, 2008 2:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of my ancestors was Lord John Shelton who was married to Anne Boleyn (Queen Anne's aunt). Anne Boleyn Shelton's father was William Boleyn and her mother was Margaret Boteler. My question is after all the generations would my DNA have any of both the Sheltons and the Boleyns.

December 12, 2008 5:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would not be much of a problem determining which remains were Anne's if DNA was taken from Queen Elizabeth I. It is to my knowledge that DNA could be collected from the bones. But, with extreme care it would have to be extracted from below the surface. DNA has been extracted from the bones of ancient Egyptian mummies. The bones may not have been protected from the elements, but they have not lost all traces of DNA.

December 23, 2008 3:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My Great Aunt is a Direct Descendent of Mary Boleyn and William Carey. Her whole family passed down the knowledge of the line by naming most of the men William and for the women adding the middle name Carey.

February 16, 2009 7:11 PM  
Blogger kb said...

Anonymous (with the Carey great-aunt)

I am very interested in trading emails with your regarding your family history. I have done my doctoral work on the Careys starting with Katherine Carey and her brother Henry.

Lara - if you see this would you please forward my email address to this poster?

Thank you

February 16, 2009 9:23 PM  
Blogger Lara said...

kb - If the anonymous commenter sends me an email, I'd be happy to pass on your address.

And I see all the comments since I moderate them. :)

February 16, 2009 9:43 PM  
Blogger khoward2bme said...

Since the question has been brought forth, would the modern descendants of the Dukes of Norfolk (Howard) hold the same DNA (Y Chromesome) as the original dukes? The FTDNA site in America has several Howards tested and they have varying DNA of not being of the same family. The question is what are the origins of the great Howard Family? Were they Saxons or Scandinavian? Isn't this the question always presented about this great family?

July 07, 2009 4:00 PM  
Anonymous Alannah Ryane said...

I am working on a pilot "webisode" for a new documentary series I am producing regarding this issue and I have a descendant of Carey/Boleyn willing to do dna testing if we can get to Henry VIII's remains. I also have a genealogist author who has written on the carey/boleyn mystery. Anyone who is interested in helping me with this please contact me. Great blog here...thanks

August 26, 2009 8:13 PM  
Blogger kb said...

Alannah -

I have just sent you an email at your info@ account on your web site. I did my doctoral work on the Careys and would love to 'talk' to you about your project.

August 26, 2009 10:32 PM  
Blogger Virginian said...

Has DNA testing been done to verify that Queen Elizabeth I, daughter of Anne Boleyn, was in fact the biological daughter of King Henry VIII, as opposed to, say, Sir Thomas Wyatt?

November 10, 2009 8:42 PM  

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