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The Spread of M222

‘Vikings,’ ‘Foreign Helpers’ and ‘Raiders from across the Sea’

Approximately 8% of Irish males, together with many Scots and Ulster Scots carry the M222 genetic marker (also referred to as the 'Niall of the Nine Hostages' DNA marker). In fact, two of the most notable males for whom I’ve done work; the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins and Mr Norman P. McClelland are both M222+ve. BUT their ancestors took very different paths, President Higgins paternal Catholic Gaelic Irish ancestors originate in Southwest Ireland, while Mr McClelland's ancestors were Ulster Protestant Scots! The paths that their ancestors took are only now being uncovered with the help of modern commercial ancestral DNA testing and they serve to highlight the changes in identity which our ancestors went through, some gradual, some quite rapid.

Doherty surname in Ireland The M222 Y-DNA genetic marker first appeared in a single male who lived on, or near, the Inishowen peninsula in the far northwest of Ireland approximately 1,500 years ago (+/-300 years). If you are M222+ve then your paternal ancestry will involve lots of Dohertys! The Dohertys are ubiquitous among the vast majority of M222+ve test subject’s (look to your 25 and 12 marker matches). That’s no coincidence, Doherty is the most common surname in Inishowen and they were the most prominent Clan in Inishowen; their castles and towerhouses dominate that area! However, scientific research and Y-DNA Case Studies performed at Irish Origenes have revealed areas beyond Inishowen shores where M222+ve males predominate in the local population, particularly along Irelands west coast (Moy River valley), Southeast Ulster (between Carlingford and Strangford Loughs) and Southwest Scotland (Galloway). This spread throughout Ireland is confirmed by an examination of the distribution of M222+ve surnames like Doherty, McLaughlin and Gallagher which can be found along Irelands west coast and to a lesser extent within County Down in Southeast Ulster. What is particularly notable is that the M222+ve males who spread beyond Inishowen, particularly along the west coast of Ireland have acquired new surnames like Higgins and Halloran

Higgins and Halloran Surnames in Ireland Clues as to why these M222+ve Gaels began colonising throughout Ireland (and beyond) can be found in their origin; Donegal (Dún na nGall meaning ‘base or fort of the Foreigner’) and their descriptive surnames which they took with them like Gallagher (Ó Gallchobhair meaning ‘Foreign helper’) who upon settling along the west coast of Ireland acquired new surnames like Higgins (O'hUigin meaning ‘Viking’) and Halloran (O'hAllmhurain meaning ‘Pirate or Stranger from overseas’). Modern DNA science indicates that just after the appearance of surnames (1000AD) the M222+ve Gaels of Inishowen had formed an alliance with Scandinavian ‘Vikings’ and that Christian-Gael and Heathen-Gall (Gall = foreigners) had together raided and colonised throughout Ireland, an embarrassing alliance which has disappeared from Irish historical records. In support of this Viking-Inishowen connection, research at Irish Origenes has uncovered at least two individuals with recent Inishowen ancestry but with Scandinavian Y-DNA signatures, clear evidence of Scandinavian contact with Inishowen. 

The Surnames of Galloway in Southwest Scotland Some of the M222+ve males who settled in Southeast Ulster took part in the subsequent Norse-Gael Conquest and colonisation of Southwest Scotland which was led by the King of Norway ‘Magnus Barelegs’ in about 1100AD. The land they conquered became ‘Galloway’ meaning ‘land of the foreign Gael’ a term used by the surrounding ‘Scots’ to describe the Gaels from Ireland who settled there. The Inishowen Gaels took with them to Galloway their genetic markers (like M222), their Gaelic language, and their surnames like McLaughlin, McGowan, McKean, Kelly and McGee (Gaelic surnames dominate Galloway; see the accompanying surnames of Galloway image). However, in the areas where M222+ve Gaels settled permanently they acquired new surnames like MacClellan, MacCartney and MacKnight. The Scots are a diverse bunch and many Scottish surnames reveal the origin of the bearer (click here), Galloway reveals the surname 'Ireland'' (red arrow; surnames of Galloway image). What’s particularly interesting is that Conquering Gaels and Vikings appear to have split Southwest Scotland between them, with the Gaelic-Irish (denoted by their 'Mac' surnames) colonising the area west of Dumfries town, while the Vikings (with surnames typically ending in '-son') colonising the area to the east.

If one examines the Medieval Clan territories of Galloway the division between M222+ve Irish Clans (red arrows, Clans of Galloway image) and Viking Families is quite striking. Magnus was the last truly 'Viking' King of Norway and he was murdered by his Irish Allies in County Down in Southeast Ulster, it would appear that King Magnus had outgrown his usefulness among the Gaelic Irish and Viking settlers who divided his conquered territory (including Galloway) between themselves.

In Galloway in Southwest Scotland, the Irish Gaels gradually adopted the English language (Gaelic was extinct as a language in Galloway by 1760AD click here), they later adopted the Protestant faith, and approximately 500 years after their ancestors had first arrived in Galloway, many would return as English speaking Protestant Lowland Scots during the Plantation of Ulster that began in the early 17th Century. Within Ireland they would have settled among their distant Gaelic Irish relatives, some may have been aware of their earlier Irish connection (the McClelland family has always had a strong sense of its Irish identity). Today, a high proportion (up to 30%) of Protestant males in Northern Ireland, and males in the US with Ulster Scots roots carry the M222 genetic marker. Contact Irish Origenes here for a FREE CONSULTATION on your DNA results.



English Origenes

Scottish Origenes