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Discover if You're a Niall of the Nine Hostages Descendant

A recent study conducted at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, found that a striking percentage of men in Ireland (and quite a few in Scotland) share the same Y chromosome, suggesting that the 5th-century warlord known as "Niall of the Nine Hostages" may be the ancestor of one in 12 Irishmen. Niall established a dynasty of powerful chieftains that dominated the island for six centuries.

In the study scientists found an area in northwest Ireland where they claim 21.5% carry Niall’s genetic fingerprint, says Brian McVoy, one of the teams at Trinity. The same area of Ireland has previously been the subject of anthropological study…and has shown a strikingly high percentage of men from HaplogroupR-M269(85.4%). According to McVoy, this area was the main powerbase of the Ui Neill kings, which literally translated means "descendants of Niall".

McVoy says the Y chromosome appeared to trace back to one person. Following the genealogists' trail McVoy comments: "There are certain surnames that seem to have come from Ui Neill. We studied if there was any association between those surnames and the genetic profile. It is his (Niall's) family."

Of note to FamilyTreeDNA customers, this signature is found in .6 of one percent of the entire FamilyTreeDNA database. It is characterized by the following markers when our 12-marker test is applied:

A more detailed signature appears when we apply the Y-DNA 25 marker test and compare to the apparent Ui Neill signature. A listing of those values appears in the table below.

While the signature is typical for R1b European males in general, it is characterized by 11,13 at DYS 385a/b and 14 at DYS 392. Within our second panel of markers the most distinctive difference from the R1b Modal is the 15,16,16,17 at DYS 464.

DNA testing can show:

  • if two people are related
  • your suggested geographic origins
  • if you match the Niall of the Nine Hostages DNA
  • your deep ancestral ethnic origins

McEvoy states: "As in other polygynous societies, the siring of offspring was related to power and prestige." The study mentions that just one of the O'Neill dynasty chieftains who died in 1423 had 18 sons with nearly a dozen women and claimed 59 grandsons.

Niall of the Nine Hostages received his name from the taking of hostages as a strategy for playing mental havoc upon his opponent's chieftains. He is known in folklore as a raider of the British and French coasts. Supposedly slain in the English Channel or in Scotland, his descendants were the most powerful rulers of Ireland until the 11th century.

Modern surnames tracing their ancestry to Niall include (O')Neill, (O')Gallagher, (O')Boyle, (O')Doherty, O'Donnell, Connor, Cannon, Bradley, O'Reilly, Flynn, (Mc)Kee, Campbell, Devlin, Donnelly, Egan, Gormley, Hynes, McCaul, McGovern, McLoughlin, McManus, McMenamin, Molloy, O'Kane, O'Rourke and Quinn.

Journal reference: American Journal of Human Genetics(February issue)

Which Test to Take

Y-DNA Tests (Paternal Line Test) - Click here to learn more and order. 

Males can test their Y-DNA to determine the origin of their paternal line. Note that the Y-DNA test strictly checks the paternal line, with no influence from any females along that line. Females do not receive Y-DNA, and therefore females cannot be tested for the paternal line. If you are a female and would like to know about your paternal line, you would need to have a brother or a male relative from that line tested.

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