Caithness & Sutherland (Counties)

  • 1079 members

About us

Geographical coverage of the project
The name Caithness is derived primarily from a tribal rather than a place name and appears to have been given to the indigenous people in question, 'the Cats' by their Celtic-speaking neighbours.
Ref: Professor Bill Nicoliasen in, Baldwin, John. R. ed. (1982) Caithness - A Cultural Crossroads. Edinburgh: Scottish Society for Northern Studies.

Caithness was originally named Katanes by the Norsemen, meaning 'headland of the cats'.  The lands south of the Ord of Caithness were later designated Sudrland by the Norse (the southern part of Katanes) whilst the area west of lowland Caithness was referred to in the Norse sagas as the 'Dales' of Caithness (Dalir).  It has been argued that the 'province' of Strathnaver likely equates to these 'dales' and should be seen as part of the earldom lands of Caithness. 
See: Baldwin, John. R. ed. (2000) The Province of Strathnaver. Edinburgh: Scottish Society for Northern Studies.

The project will cover that part of north-eastern Scotland inhabited by 'the Cats', namely present day Caithness (Katanes), Sutherland (Sudrland) and the 'Dales' (Dalir) which equates with the Diocese of Caithness in the Middle Ages.
Diocese of Caithness in the Middle Ages

Who can join?

The project is open to both males and females who have a direct lineage back to the above areas on their paternal or maternal side.
The project also takes results for individuals who have taken the Family Finder test and who have ancestors from Caithness or Sutherland.
Participants are requested to enter the name and place for a vital event of there most distant known ancestor - Name /date /parish/ county.
For example:
William McDonald b.1793 Latheron, Caithness d.1874

The project aims to:
- promote DNA testing to help individuals further their genealogical research
- help participants make the best use of testing and to make contact with their genetic cousins
- explore the deep ancestral origins of the inhabitants of Caithness and Sutherland
- encourage and support participation in surname, clan, family and haplogroup projects (including the Scottish DNA Project).

Caithness a cultural crossroads
Caithness has been a cultural crossroads over millennia settled by Picts, Norse, Gaels and Scots speaking settlers from elsewhere in Scotland. 
Some questions:

- Caithness has many broches - what became of the broch builders?
- Is it possible to identify genetic signatures of these early indigenous settlers in the population of Caithness and Sutherland?
- What became of the Picts of Katanes and Sudrland and to what extent were they displaced and replaced?
- Caithness was settled and governed by the Norse from the 9th century A.D. until absorbed into the Kingdom of Scotland. 
  What genetic legacy did this settlement leave within the Caithness population?
- The Gaels from Dalriada or Dál Riata migrated north eventually settling up to present day Caithness county border.
  Can their migration be tracked through the DNA of men with Caithness and Sutherland roots?
- Is it possible to identify where the Scots speaking incomers to Caithness originally came from in Morayshire, Banffshire, Aberdeenshire and elsewhere?
- Caithness inhabitants share surnames with neighbouring areas including the Orkney Isles, Sutherland, Ross-shire, Inverness-shire, Morayshire, Banffshire and Aberdeenshire.
  To what extent do men bearing these surnames with Caithness origins share a common paternal ancestry with men from these other areas?

Which test should you choose?
The project recommends testing for 37 markers as the minimum for meaningful genealogical comparisons.  The 12-marker Y-DNA test can be used as an introduction to DNA testing and will provide you with a haplogroup designation.  This test can be upgraded to the higher resolution 37 or 67 marker test at any time using the same sample.

If you are testing to match with other surnames due to illegitimacy or you are interested in exploring your deep ancestry then the 67-marker test is recommended.  Once your results have been returned you ought to also join your relevant haplogroup project. These are also hosted by Family Tree DNA.

How is the sample taken?
The sample is taken with a simple mouth swab from the cheek inside the mouth.  This is sent to the laboratory in Houston, USA and results returned approximately 4-6 weeks later.  Your test results are compared to the Family Tree DNA database and you will be informed of any genetic matches by email and also on your own personal Family Tree DNA user page.  Your results will automatically be added to the Caithness DNA Project.

Members of this Project are interested in working together to find their common heritage through Y-DNA testing and the sharing of information.  Those with paternal links to Caithness are welcome to join the Project to determine if their surname is genetically linked to others in the Project.

How to join the project
If you have already tested with Family Tree DNA please use the 'Join' link at the top of this page.

If you have not tested before please use the following link to join the project and begin your own genetic journey - Join the Caithness DNA Project
If you live outwith North America such as the British Isles, Australia and New Zealand etc, kits can be supplied by Alasdair Macdonald, Scottish representative for Family Tree DNA.
Please email: and he will provide further details.

Updated 07 June 2016.