The genetic history of France

Eur J Hum Genet. 2020 Jul;28(7):853-865. doi: 10.1038/s41431-020-0584-1. Epub 2020 Feb 10.


The study of the genetic structure of different countries within Europe has provided significant insights into their demographic history and population structure. Although France occupies a particular location at the western part of Europe and at the crossroads of migration routes, few population genetic studies have been conducted so far with genome-wide data. In this study, we analyzed SNP-chip genetic data from 2184 individuals born in France who were enrolled in two independent population cohorts. Using FineSTRUCTURE, six different genetic clusters of individuals were found that were very consistent between the two cohorts. These clusters correspond closely to geographic, historical, and linguistic divisions of France, and contain different proportions of ancestry from Stone and Bronze Age populations. By modeling the relationship between genetics and geography using EEMS, we were able to detect gene flow barriers that are similar across the two cohorts and correspond to major rivers and mountain ranges. Estimations of effective population sizes also revealed very similar patterns in both cohorts with a rapid increase of effective population sizes over the last 150 generations similar to other European countries. A marked bottleneck is also consistently seen in the two datasets starting in the 14th century when the Black Death raged in Europe. In conclusion, by performing the first exhaustive study of the genetic structure of France, we fill a gap in genetic studies of Europe that will be useful to medical geneticists, historians, and archeologists.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Evolution, Molecular
  • France
  • Genotype*
  • Humans
  • Pedigree
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Population / genetics*
  • Population Dynamics*