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  • Inside Ireland

    More About Genes - The Irish Really are a race apart
    By Dr. Emmeline Hill

    Men with Gaelic surnames coming from the west of Ireland are descendants of the oldest inhabitants of Europe. In a recent study, scientists at Trinity College, Dublin, created a new genetic map of the people of Ireland. By comparing this map to European genetic maps they have shown that the Irish are one of the last remnants of the pre-Neolithic hunters and gatherers who were living throughout Europe over 10,000 years ago, before the invention of agriculture. The Irish really ARE different.

    What's in a name?

    Surnames in Ireland have been passed from father to son for almost 1,000 years. The surname system in Ireland is thought to exist as one of the oldest applications of the hereditary surname system in the world. In Ireland this system was not introduced but rather it is thought that toponymics (names derived from place names) and nicknames were adopted. For example, the name O'Callaghan comes from the Irish O'Ceallachain, a diminutive of ceallach, which was taken to mean 'frequenter of churches.'

    Traditionally, newly married women have taken up residence in the homeland of their husband, meaning that family names have remained in the area of the particular clans or septs for generations. Surnames, except in the infrequent case of non-paternity, are therefore an indication of family history, and on a larger scale, of population history.

    In developing the new genetic map, the scientists studied the DNA of 221 men from all over the country. The DNA was separated into groups of people with names coming from the same area. For example, names that originated in Ulster, such as Gallagher and O'Reilly, were grouped together. Names from Munster (e.g. Hogan, Meagher, Ryan); Leinster (e.g. Conlan, Phelan, Rafter); and Connaught (e.g. Conway, Flynn, McHugh, Ruane) were all grouped accordingly and were considered to be Gaelic Irish. Also names of English (e.g. Harrison, Hill, Jacob, Moore) Scottish (e.g. Hamilton, Johnston, Knox), Norman (e.g. Barry, Bryan, MacNicholas) and Norse (e.g. Doyle) descent were grouped separately. These were considered to be non-Gaelic Irish. By separating the DNA as such, they could study the genes that were present in a particular region of Ireland over 1,000 years ago, when the surname system was adopted.

    The science behind it

    In Issue 88 of INSIDE IRELAND, the article "Who are we? - It's in the Genes" outlined the basic science behind genetic studies of populations. Each cell in our body contains a signature of our past. Modern technology allows us to look directly at the amount of variation in the genes in these cells. Variation accumulates over time through a random process of mutation. Mutations occur at a constant rate. Therefore, the more different two people are genetically, the longer they have been separated.

    Using modern technologies to look at the differences between genes in the different peoples of Ireland, the scientists in Trinity College studied the genes on the Y chromosome. The Y chromosome is the male-specific sex chromosome that is passed from father to son in the same way that surnames are passed from father to son.

    A distinct genetic pattern

    By performing a number of genetic tests the scientists were able to identify a particular genetic pattern in the Y chromosome of the Irish. An ancient genetic marker, known as haplogroup 1, was found in most Irish men. Scientists think that most of the population of Western Europe carried this gene over 10,000 years ago. Over time however, through the movement and mixing of peoples, this gene was diluted. Now it is found in relatively fewer people throughout Europe.

    The greatest movement and migration of peoples in Europe has been the movement of farmers from the south-east of the continent after the invention of agriculture about 10,000 years ago. The farmers moved with their new technologies north-west into Europe, probably displacing the local hunter-gatherer populations that were living there at the time. In this way the haplogroup 1 genes in Europe were diluted, the farmers introducing new and different genes.

    Men with Gaelic names are more ancient

    This resulted in the formation of a gradient of haplogroup 1 genes throughout the continent, the lowest frequency of these ancient genes being found in Turkey, and the highest frequency in Ireland, with intermediate frequencies in continental populations. In Ireland 78.1% of all men have the haplogroup 1 gene.

    In Ireland men with Gaelic names have higher frequencies of this ancient marker than men with non-Gaelic names. For example, men in Ireland with surnames of English origin have 62% haplogroup 1 genes; men with Scottish names have 52.9% and men with Norman and Norse names have 83%. In Leinster, 73.3% of men with Gaelic surnames have this gene, in Munster, 94.6% and in Ulster 81.1%.

    Connaught men are the most Irish of the Irish

    The most striking finding was that in Connaught, the westernmost point of Europe, almost all men (98.3%) carry this particular gene. This means that the people of Connaught have been relatively isolated, genetically, from the movements of people that shaped the genetic makeup of the rest of the continent. By comparison, in the east of the country there has been a lot more mixing of genes coming from foreign sources.

    The prevalence of ancient genes in Ireland suggests that the Irish have largely maintained their pre-Neolithic genetic heritage. There has been little genetic influence from outside the country since the first people came to Ireland almost 9,000 years ago.

    The Early Bronze Age

    By looking at the amount of variation (the number of mutations that have accumulated over time) in the haplogroup 1 genes of these men it was possible for the scientists to estimate a date for the origin of the bulk of these genes in the country. They estimated that most of the genetic variation in Ireland has accumulated over the past 4,200 years following a rapid growth of the population at this time. This is the time of the Early Bronze Age in Ireland.

    The Early Bronze Age in Ireland, among other things, saw the appearance of megalithic tombs. Newgrange in Co. Meath is the best known example. The scale and magnanimity of these structures suggest that the creators belonged to a large, highly socially evolved society.

    The scientists have shown most of the genes present in Ireland today came from the people who were living at the time of Newgrange. These people were the descendants of the ancient hunter-gatherers of Europe.

    Dr. Emmeline Hill works at the Department of Genetics, Trinity College, Dublin.

  • #2
    Maternal lines with mitochondrial U5 U4, etc. are also direct line descendants of the original hunter-gatherers, even if they no longer have those ancient nuclear genes.

    Comment


    • #3
      Hello Dr. Hill

      I am confused about the term haplogroup.

      For instance in your article you mentioned haplogroup 1 and its relationship to Connacht. But FTDNA tells me that my haplogroup is R1b1a2a1a1b4b and that my more distant genetic relatives are from Connacht, northern Munster and Ulster.

      Thanks!

      Best

      Doug

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Tourist View Post
        Hello Dr. Hill

        I am confused about the term haplogroup.

        For instance in your article you mentioned haplogroup 1 and its relationship to Connacht. But FTDNA tells me that my haplogroup is R1b1a2a1a1b4b and that my more distant genetic relatives are from Connacht, northern Munster and Ulster.

        Thanks!

        Best

        Doug
        I am not Dr Hill.I just quoted an article from Ireland.

        Comment


        • #5
          The article is little more than "Irish are special snow flakes" and doesn't help with spreading accurate information on Irish genetics. Although in her defence it seems the article is very old (haplogroup 1 being used for R1b) and she was probably echoing what most people were saying.
          Last edited by Naughtius; 10 September 2013, 05:29 PM.

          Comment


          • #6
            1798 can you please inform us as to why you posted an article that was written in 2000?

            There have been a great deal of studies since this article was written, and the information is outdated.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by N21163 View Post
              1798 can you please inform us as to why you posted an article that was written in 2000?

              There have been a great deal of studies since this article was written, and the information is outdated.
              Why? Has the percentage of R1b in Ireland changed since this article was written? Hopefully we will be allowed to make up our own minds here in Ireland about our dna.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by 1798 View Post
                Why? Has the percentage of R1b in Ireland changed since this article was written?
                I don't recall saying that the percentage of R1b had changed since the article was written.

                I said the information was outdated.

                I also asked why you had posted the article. I thought this was a fairly straight-forward request.
                Should I not have asked this?

                Originally posted by 1798 View Post
                Hopefully we will be allowed to make up our own minds here in Ireland about our dna.
                What did you mean by this last statement? I think you have misunderstood something along the way.
                Last edited by N21163; 11 September 2013, 06:12 AM. Reason: Clarification

                Comment


                • #9
                  I only saw the article this week and I didnt know when it was first posted.What caught my eye about the article was the reference to Newgrange. I believe that a lot of the people here are descended from the tomb builders.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by 1798 View Post
                    I only saw the article this week and I didnt know when it was first posted.What caught my eye about the article was the reference to Newgrange. I believe that a lot of the people here are descended from the tomb builders.
                    Thanks for the explanation

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by 1798 View Post
                      I only saw the article this week and I didnt know when it was first posted.What caught my eye about the article was the reference to Newgrange. I believe that a lot of the people here are descended from the tomb builders.
                      I'm sure Dr. Hill is aware that those aborigines over in Connaught (Sligo) were building passage tombs centuries before Newgrange. But sites like Creevymore are not accessible to tourist buses (Fortunately).

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Paul Burns View Post
                        I'm sure Dr. Hill is aware that those aborigines over in Connaught (Sligo) were building passage tombs centuries before Newgrange. But sites like Creevymore are not accessible to tourist buses (Fortunately).
                        There seems to be more indigenous Irish in Munster and Leinster if you look at the red hair map of the Isles.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Blood of the Irish

                          Blood of the Irish
                          The Blood in Irish veins is Celtic, right? Well, not exactly. Although the history many Irish people were taught at school is the history of the Irish as a Celtic race, the truth is much more complicated, and much more interesting than that ...

                          Research done into the DNA of Irish males has shown that the old Anthropological attempts to define 'Irish' have been misguided. As late as the 1950s researchers were busy collecting data among Irish people such as hair colour and height, in order to categorise them as a 'race' and define them as different to the British. In fact British and Irish people are closely related in their ancestry.

                          Research into Irish DNA and ancestry has revealed close links with Scotland stretching back to before the Ulster Planation of the early 1600s. But the closest relatives to the Irish in DNA terms are actually from somewhere else entirely!

                          Irish origin myths confirmed by modern scientific evidence
                          One of the oldest texts composed in Ireland is the Leabhar Gabhla, the Book of Invasions. It tells a semi-mythical history of the waves of people who settled in Ireland in earliest time. It says the first settlers to arrive in Ireland were a small dark race called the Fir Bolg, followed by a magical super-race called the Tuatha de Danaan (the people of the goddess Dana).

                          Most interestingly, the book says that the group which then came to Ireland and fully established itself as rulers of the island were the Milesians - the sons of Mil, the soldier from Spain. Modern DNA research has actually confirmed that the Irish are close genetic relatives of the people of northern Spain.

                          While it might seem strange that Ireland was populated from Spain rather than Britain or France, it is worth remembering that in ancient times the sea was one of the fastest and easiest ways to travel. When the land was covered in thick forest, coastal settlements were common and people travlleled around the seaboard of Europe quite freely.

                          Irish Blood: origins of DNA
                          The earliest settlers came to Ireland around 10,000 years ago, in Stone Age times. There are still remnants of their presence scatter across the island. Mountsandel in Coleraine in the North of Ireland is the oldest known site of settlement in Ireland - remains of woven huts, stone tools and food such as berries and hazelnuts were discovered at the site in 1972.

                          But where did the early Irish come from? For a long time the myth of Irish history has been that the Irish are Celts. Many people still refer to Irish, Scottish and Welsh as Celtic culture - and the assumtion has been that they were Celts who migrated from central Europe around 500BCE. Keltoi was the name given by the Ancient Greeks to a 'barbaric' (in their eyes) people who lived to the north of them in central Europe. While early Irish art shows some similarities of style to central European art of the Keltoi, historians have also recognised many significant differences between the two cultures.

                          The latest research into Irish DNA has confirmed that the early inhabitants of Ireland were not directly descended from the Keltoi of central Europe. In fact the closest genetic relatives of the Irish in Europe are to be found in the north of Spain in the region known as the Basque Country. These same ancestors are shared to an extent with the people of Britain - especially the Scottish.

                          DNA testing through the male Y chromosome has shown that Irish males have the highest incidence of the haplogroup 1 gene in Europe. While other parts of Europe have integrated contiuous waves of new settlers from Asia, Ireland's remote geographical position has meant that the Irish gene-pool has been less susceptible to change. The same genes have been passed down from parents to children for thousands of years.

                          This is mirrored in genetic studies which have compared DNA analysis with Irish surnames. Many surnames in Irish are Gaelic surnames, suggesting that the holder of the surname is a descendant of people who lived in Ireland long before the English conquests of the Middle Ages. Men with Gaelic surnames, showed the highest incidences of Haplogroup 1 (or Rb1) gene. This means that those Irish whose ancestors pre-date English conquest of the island are direct descendants of early stone age settlers who migrated from Spain.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I've read that the Basques have the highest incidence of Rh- blood. My mother (100% Irish) is Rh- and so am I. We are haplo U5 (maternal surnames are Riordan, Murphy, Attridge, Ahearn) and my mother's paternal haplo is R1b1a2 (RM269) (Roche). I wonder if there is a higher incidence of Rh- blood in Ireland as a result of early Basque settlers?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Maureen Hastings View Post
                              I've read that the Basques have the highest incidence of Rh- blood. My mother (100% Irish) is Rh- and so am I. We are haplo U5 (maternal surnames are Riordan, Murphy, Attridge, Ahearn) and my mother's paternal haplo is R1b1a2 (RM269) (Roche). I wonder if there is a higher incidence of Rh- blood in Ireland as a result of early Basque settlers?
                              Blood group O is the most common group in Ireland and I am U5 and O+ .

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