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The Fitzgeralds of Ireland

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  • The Fitzgeralds of Ireland

    It's interesting that researchers have identified Y chromosome SNPs associated with so many important lineages in Irish history, but to my knowledge nobody has put forth a credible hypothesis about the Fitzgeralds, perhaps the single most powerful kindred of them all.

    The Fitzgerald DNA project shows a few small clusters, but no convincing overall pattern. There are some interesting folks in haplogroups I and E. But there appear to be several, widely diverged subclades of I involved, and while their surname is derived from Norman French, the evidence for a Scandinavian origin is ambiguous. Their earliest securely documented ancestor was Walter Fitz Other, whose family may have been among those very few Normans whose presence in England preceded the Conquest. The name Otho makes it sound as if Walter's father could have been a Saxon, and perhaps this family only culturally assimilated to the Norman elites.

    The particular subclade of E that these individuals seem to belong to might be shared by a fellow named Barry, as you'd expect. But the wider problem is that it seems to be far better represented among the Roche family of Munster, whose origins supposedly lay in the Low Countries and have nothing at all to do with the historical Fitzgerald dynasty. I would be really surprised if that signature turned out to represent the core stock of the FitzGeralds.

    Contemporary records show an enormous number of landed families named Fitzgerald in the Medieval and Early Modern eras. So the lack of a clear modal signature seems really weird to me. Has one actually been identified somewhere else but I just haven't seen it? This reminds me of the case of the Dillon family who, despite a similarly enormous volume of historic cadet branches, present a bewildering variety of Y chromosome signatures.

  • #2
    Okay, now I see. Almost definitely Haplogroup I-M253, most likely some as-of-yet-undiscovered subclade of I-FGC21732.

    Participant # 75954 seems to be the only member of the project claiming to have a pedigree leading back to Walter Fitz Other. Without testing every entry, it at least looks very plausible back to the 17th century.

    https://www.familytreedna.com/groups.../about/results

    Luckily, a fellow named George Dames Burtchaell published a very detailed review of this family in 1892, and he seems to have a very good basis to say that yes, the Baron-FitzGerald family of Burnchurch, Co. Kilkenny do indeed descend from Walter FitzOther.

    https://www.jstor.org/stable/2550793...n_tab_contents

    Unfortunately, there are not a ton of high-resolution testers among this group. I'm just guessing based on a low-res STR haplotype that a guy (interestingly named Outlaw) who seemed to have "packed out" at I-FGC21732 that the SNP defining the genuine dynastic FitzGeralds belongs to this line. But it's definitely some subclade of I-M253, with lots of representation in Scandinavia.

    So weird that such a small group seem to have the best claim to represent this immensely important lineage. Given their historical political power it makes sense that a lot of families would have adopted their surname, but I expected a clearer plurality in favor of the core dynastic lineage. This is almost the exact opposite of so many other important Irish and Scottish families where there are few to no donors with the ideal conventional pedigree, but where the core lineage is obvious when reviewing the various Y DNA signatures. So weird that there aren't at least a few full BY700 kits represented here.
    Last edited by benowicz; 17 August 2022, 11:51 PM.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by benowicz View Post
      It's interesting that researchers have identified Y chromosome SNPs associated with so many important lineages in Irish history, but to my knowledge nobody has put forth a credible hypothesis about the Fitzgeralds, perhaps the single most powerful kindred of them all.

      The Fitzgerald DNA project shows a few small clusters, but no convincing overall pattern. There are some interesting folks in haplogroups I and E. . . . The particular subclade of E that these individuals seem to belong to might be shared by a fellow named Barry, as you'd expect. But the wider problem is that it seems to be far better represented among the Roche family of Munster, whose origins supposedly lay in the Low Countries and have nothing at all to do with the historical Fitzgerald dynasty. I would be really surprised if that signature turned out to represent the core stock of the FitzGeralds. . . .
      Interesting.

      There seem to be two widely divergent varieties of E involved here. E-CTS11721 (Fitzgerald) and E-FT99807 (Roche).

      There is a note by one of these E-CTS11721 fellows suggesting that the donor, apparently a fellow named Fitzmaurice, has private, unpublished info linking his DNA profile to the Fitzmaurice barons of Kerry. If true (?), this would represent a serious conflict with the pedigree of the Burnchurch Barron-Fitzgeralds discussed in the last post.

      https://www.familytreedna.com/public...frame=yresults


      The much more numerous E-CTS11721 seems, so far, to be highly concentrated in Cork and Kerry. The (apparently ?) I-FGC21732 fellows are more geographically diverse--Burnchurch is in Kilkenny, and there is also a fellow from Listowel, Co. Kerry, although at a very low resolution. So it may not be a simple story of an NPE during the Middle Ages manifesting itself through geographic distribution.

      The E-CTS11721 have a common ancestor born maybe around 1200 C.E., and E-FT99807 around 1300 C.E. The (apparently) I-FGC21732 fellows seem to have target-tested individual SNPs rather than a full-blown Big Y, so the age of that clade, estimated by Discover at about 1000 B.C.E. is not too informative. Their STR profiles are way too low of a resolution to even bother looking.

      I don't know. While I haven't done a super-deep dive into the info published for the Burnchurch family, it does pass the smell test. There isn't enough info on any of the E-CTS11721 people to even understand the nature of the claim yet, although the volume of matching donors is more like what I was expecting from a major Medieval lineage in Ireland.
      Last edited by benowicz; 18 August 2022, 01:03 PM.

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      • #4
        I think I see what is going on now.

        My searches for the earliest contemporary documentation joining the various Kerry branches of the Fitzgeralds to the ancestral house turned up little more than some colorful folk traditions.


        1916 Peerage account of Kerry Fitzgeralds.png

        The website linked below provides more elaborate detail, but still doesn't point to any specific contemporary documents. The folkloric motif of the orphaned founder of a cadet branch seems almost like a red flag.

        https://en-academic.com/dic.nsf/enwiki/10186490

        Questionable ancestry of the Kerry Fitzgeralds.png




        If so, they wouldn't be the first family to forge (literally) a link to the dynastic Fitzgeralds. In the analysis of the Burnchurch pedigree, Burtchaell comes to the conclusion that while the Burchurch family were of actual, legitimate Geraldine descent, the oft-repeated folk tale of their descent from the Gurteen Fitzgeralds was false, and in fact, the Gurteen family could be demonstrated to have faked their pedigree. Detailed support for the claim about the Gurteens wasn't listed there, but he treats it as an established fact, so perhaps it was.

        Ancestry of the Fitzgeralds of Gurteen debunked.png


        Which is not to belittle the Kerry or Gurteen Fitzgeralds. They were, locally, very powerful families. Some of the best known bearers of the name come from these backgrounds (e.g., George Robert Fitzgerald of Turlough, the tearaway libertine).

        Just goes to show that mere numbers alone do not conclusively prove descent from an ancient kindred, I guess. I mean, you could say that the Kerry Fitzgeralds were an ancient kindred, just not from the same patriline as the much more powerful Dukes of Leinster.

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        • #5
          It should probably be said, though, that the Fitzmaurice barons of Kerry were of a different line than the Knights of Glin, etc., and were most definitely connected to Walter Fitz Other. So if there is something other than mere playing off matches with E-CTS11721 un-pedigreed fellows named Fitzgerald goin on with that Fitzmaurice donor, the ball may still be in play. But I tend to doubt it.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by benowicz View Post
            I think I see what is going on now.

            My searches for the earliest contemporary documentation joining the various Kerry branches of the Fitzgeralds to the ancestral house turned up little more than some colorful folk traditions. . . .

            Well, here is one important exception. "Feudal Warlords: The Knights of Glencorbry", by Paul MacCotter and Kenneth Nicholls. It seems that for the FitzGibbon White Knights of Glynn there may be some credible, direct contemporary evidence for direct patrilineal descent from the same stock as the Barron/FitzGerald family of Burnchurch.

            FitzGibbon origins.png

            The same paper discusses the evidence supporting the descent for the other knightly families of west Munster, but as far as I can tell (let me know if I'm wrong), that evidence is circumstantial, indirect, and very equivocal.

            I think the situation is that the title of White Knight has become dormant, although some suspect that some traceable descendant of the Limerick branch of the FitzGibbons may survive, perhaps a collateral descendant of the now-extinct Earls of Clare from the 3rd creation.

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