Couples can have a simple DNA test to find out if they are ‘carriers’ of the ‘ginger gene’ and could have redhaired children.
The ginger gene is present in around 40% of people in Ireland, although only 10% actually have red hair. Therefore it is possible for babies to grow up with ginger hair even if neither of his or her parents have red hair.
In 2013, an exhibition was set up by the creators of BBC heritage programme Who Do You Think You Are? They offered members of the public the chance to see if they were a ‘carrier’ of the ‘ginger gene’ and so if they had a chance of having redheaded children.
Experts believe that if two people who carry the ginger gene have a child, there is a one in four chance that the baby will grow up to be ginger even if neither parent has red hair.
Dr Jim Wilson was the chief scientist at the ancestry company behind the test. He said: “Through a simple saliva test to determine deep ancestry, we can also identify whether an individual is a carrier of any of the three common red-head variants in the gene MC1R.
“This means that families can carry a variant for generations, and when one carrier has children with another carrier, a red-headed baby can appear seemingly out of nowhere.”
Ireland is one of the countries with the highest percentage of redheads. Red hair is often considered a national characteristic, and there is even an annual Redhead Convention each year in Cork. Scotland also has a high proportion with 13% of people being ginger but up to 30% being carriers of the ginger gene.
It is estimated that there are 40million redheaded people around the world, about 0.5% of the global population.