MEN with Viking surnames filled the meeting room of New Earswick Folk Hall and queued to help research into the ethnic origins of the British people.

Academics were collecting DNA from men with Viking names to see if they are directly descended from the Scandanavian traders and seaman who once ruled York and Yorkshire.

It was the first of four gatherings across northern England and followed a public appeal for people with Viking surnames to come forward.

The project will feature in a future BBC eight-part documentary series on the history of ordinary British people – the Great British Story – and BBC photographers were at the event.

The head of project, geneticist Turi King, of the University of Leicester, said of the York meeting at the weekend: “It has been great. They are quite rare surnames and we have had 200 responses.”

More than 60 people attended, but only one representative from each surname could give DNA. She left with nearly 50 samples. Many of those attending had done their own family research or were interested in the origins of names.

Among those at the meeting were two Addymans, including the retired director of York Archaeological Trust, Peter Addyman, who said it was a “wonderful initiative”, and a member of the only Postlethwaite family in York – Stephen Postlethwaite. The name originates in Lancashire, though some ancestors moved to Newcastle and Barrow, possibly to work in the shipyards.

The surname Collinge also appears on the list, which was a shock for Shaun Collinge, landlord of York pub, The Maltings in Tanner’s Moat.

“You’re joking,” he exclaimed, when The Press broke the news. “I always thought I was a Celt. I always believed our family came from Ireland.

“I’ll definitely put my name forward. I’m game for a laugh.”

Asked whether he thought he shared any resemblance with Vikings, he said: “I’ve never been frightened of fighting… and I am pretty determined.”

Peter Hirst, of Wakefield, said: “I quite like to think of myself as Viking.” He said it was good to highlight the Scandanavian influence in Britain, instead of the French or American influence.

“There is a lot of interest in who we are – you see what is happening in Scotland. I would prefer an independent Yorkshire with a strong Viking influence.”

Jayne Carroll, a linguist of the University of Nottingham, gave a talk on the origins of names and showed the small geographical areas where some of the men’s surnames were to be found historically.