Search for original Father Christmas

THE world's leading genetic expert is conducting new research to try to trace the real Father Christmas and is appealing to the people of Essex for help.

THE world's leading genetic expert is conducting new research to try to trace the real Father Christmas and is appealing to the people of Essex for help.

Professor Bryan Sykes, professor of human genetics at Oxford University, is appealing to men with the Christmas surname to come forward to take part in his unique study.

Prof Sykes will take a cheek swab from volunteers to locate the DNA sequence of their common ancestor, the progenitor of the family name.

He hopes to prove a link between the Christmas family of Essex and the Christmas, often spelled Chrismas, family of Sussex.


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And yesterday, the Christmas family of Braintree, Essex said they would be happy to help Prof Sykes' work.

A connection predates existing records, but has not yet been possible to verify.

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Prof Sykes said: “We are aware there are several main branches of the family and the main objective of the project is to see if we can find a link back to the original Father Christmas.

"It is understood the name has Norman influences and would have come into use in about the 1200s when men started to inherit their father's name and estate.

"Christmas was often given as a name to someone born on Christmas Day.

"Perhaps we will find our original Father Christmas did have a white beard and give presents to children.

"These tales often have a strong foundation in reality, although I am not sure whether our Father Christmas will have a link with the one best known today. I seem to think he has continental roots."

Prof Sykes is the author of the international bestseller The Seven Daughters of Eve, which reveals the majority of humans of European extraction can claim to be descended from one of seven women.

The study of the Christmas family DNA is being conducted with the assistance of 80-year-old Henry Christmas, who has spent the last 50 years researching the origins and history of the name.

There are more than 1,000 bearers of the Christmas surname in the UK.

Jayne Christmas, of Lister Road, Braintree, said her son Peter, 27, could be willing to have his DNA swabbed to help with the project.

“Somebody at work mentioned this to me and I did not realise what it was all about - I think Peter would be keen to help.

“My father-in-law is from Watford and the family moved to Devon about the time of the Second World War so I am not sure if we are the ones they are looking for, but we would be happy to help as its quite an interesting story.”

Early references to the name date back to Roger of Sussex in 1200, Simon of Pevensey in 1288, William of Huntingdon in 1318, Peter of Steeple Morgan in 1359 and Richard of Colchester in 1400.

By the early 1500s written records show the wide spread of members of the Christmas family from Essex to Surrey, Cambridgeshire, London and Sussex.

Through his research, Henry Christmas, from Shrewsbury, Shropshire, has found more than 9,000 names from the late 1500s to now.

For more information about the study, visit www.oxfordancestors.com

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