Study seeks to better understand Traveller heritage

People with at least two grandparents from the Traveller community are being asked to take part in a new genetic study.

An old photograph of a Scottish Traveller family taken , date unknown

The research will provide a unique opportunity to understand how Scottish Travellers relate to Irish Travellers, English Gypsies and Welsh Kale, as well as their settled neighbours.

Some 400 people are being invited to join the study, which will also seek to understand patterns of health – including any genetic risk factors  - in the Traveller community.

Study origins

Representatives of the community asked researchers at the University of Edinburgh to carry out the study, as there has been no genetic research involving Scottish Travellers.

The study will build upon previous work by the Edinburgh team with the Irish Traveller community, which helped in establishing them as distinct ethnic minority, recognised by the Irish Government.

Genetic analysis

Everyone who takes part in the University of Edinburgh study will complete an online questionnaire about their health and lifestyle.

They will also be asked to return a saliva sample by post, which will be used for genetic analysis by researchers.

Scottish Traveller groups have never been involved in studies using the power of modern genetics. I was delighted to be asked by representatives of this community to carry out a study that will reveal how the Traveller communities fit into the genetic landscape of Scotland and the British Isles.

Professor Jim WilsonProfessor of Human Genetics, Univeristy of Edinburgh


For us Travellers – also known as Nacken – this study could be very useful: many myths surround our origins, so the study could potentially prove or disprove some of these stories. Travellers have some of the greatest health inequalities in Scotland. If we are genetically predisposed to certain conditions more than other groups, or if we have illnesses that are more likely to affect us, then health professionals may be able to use data to address some of these inequalities.

Samantha DonaldsonA Scottish Traveller from Dunfermline and member of the study’s public involvement panel

Related links

Find out more and sign up for the Traveller Genes study

[Image credit: Gavin McGregor]