Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Far from the "West Country"

There is an interesting article in today's Daily Telegraph from the U.K. titled "Islanders speak with a West Country accent" by Richard Alleyne and Richard Savill. The link is here.

The key graphs include:

"The entire population of a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean has been found to speak with a West Country accent - because the residents all descend from one man from Gloucestershire.

"Researchers have long been puzzled by the strong rural drawl spoken by the inhabitants of Palmerston Atoll, one of the smallest and most remote of the Cook Islands with a land mass of less than one square mile.

"The island is home to 63 people, who are all descended from William Marsters, an English carpenter and barrelmaker who settled there in 1863.

"Now linguists have matched their accent to that of their very distant cousins 12,000 miles away in Gloucestershire.

"The discovery has led to intense interest in the islanders, now in their fifth generation, and one English writer and historian has launched a quest to find out more about Mr Marsters, who had four wives, 17 children and 54 grandchildren before his death in 1899."

and ...

"After his death, Mr Marsters's legacy remained intact and in 1954 ownership of the island was granted to his descendants. Although under the protection of New Zealand, it is still run by his great-grandson.

"The reason for the family's survival is put down to its strict adherence to religious laws. It is split into three branches, one for each original wife, and marriage within each branch is strictly forbidden."


Read the whole article for more information and context.

It might be a fascinating genealogy study, eh? Talk about pedigree collapse! Since all residents are descended from one man, I wonder if genetic abnormalities are showing up in the children due to the in-breeding, notwithstanding the edict against marrying someone from your own branch.

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