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About us

Project Overview

The McNeely Family Tree DNA Project was launched in May 2004 and has gained nearly 90 project members.

While the geographic base of this surname and its variants once spanned a single region, the McNeely diaspora today literally spans the globe.

This is primarily a y-DNA project, meaning the bulk of the results are from male DNA tests. However, the advent of Family Finder testing has allowed for meaningful insight into non-paternal relatedness (non-y-DNA, e.g., both male and female testing) to one or more of the y-DNA lines for those who have ordered this type of test.

Project Background

In order to untangle and identify the major McNeely descent lines, the McNeely Project places participants whose DNA is a match into common subgroups (with a skeletal descent chart for each participant, where available) to ease the work for researchers who have the results of a DNA test for a male McNeely from his/her line to identify their lineage with the surname.

These subgroups aspire to identify recent genetic descent and kinship (10’s to 100’s of years), historical and genetic associations of current surnames to the original Gaelic surnames and septs (More distant past) and to identify SNP assignment (1000+ years).

Additionally, these subgroups aim to draw genetic connections, if any, between current McNeely families residing in various areas of Ireland and Scotland.

Surname History

As is the case for countless anglicised surnames of Gaelic origin, McNeely, or any one its current variants, may come from a number of ancient septs who eventually adopted surnames. Sighting the genealolgy work of MacLysaght, Ó Droighneáin and Ó Murchú, to name just a few of an abundance of sources, a few Gaelic surname origins are listed below to demonstrate this point:


Mac Conghaile 

Mac an Fhilidh

Mac an Fhailghigh

Mac Neill Chonnalaigh


As English influence (and subsequently, the English language) gradually spread into areas where these indigenous surnames existed, most were anglicised in both spelling and to a lesser extent, pronunciation. To the native or fluent speaker of any of the surviving Gaelic languages, it would make clear sense that different Gaelic names pronounced in native tongue may be interpreted similarly to a non-speaker. Further, their spellings and pronunciation in English equivalents would certainly have been varied when translated by native Gaelic speakers. Anglicisation of Gaelic surnames did not fall under the auspice of a single authority or person and occurred gradually, allowing for greater variance in spellings and pronunciations of the Gaelic surname origins.

Further, many immigrated to new countries and for a number of reasons sometimes dropped Gaelic prefixes (Mac/Mc/O’) from their surnames or modified them altogether.

Taking all of these conditions into account it is not difficult to realise the existence of multiple surnames that are similar in both sound and spelling which may or may not come from the same septs.

































Surname Associations

Numerous surnames in this project have been recorded (before the advent of genealogical DNA testing) in their association with the Uí Néill (or their founder, Niall of the Nine Hostages - Pronounced 'nile' in English). The name Uí Néill (pronounced 'ee ñayl') in Gaelic simply means ‘Sons of Niall’ or 'From Niall'. DNA testing performed in Ireland through Trinity College Dublin (‘A Y-Chromosome Signature of Hegemony in Gaelic Ireland’, Moore et al) has demonstrated a common genetic fingerprint amongst many Uí Néill surnames and at the time of this background’s compilation, five project members have been confirmed as carriers of Niall’s purported genetic mutation (Haplogroup Subclade M222), and 19 more within the same genetic cluster almost certainly carry it based upon their nearly identical STR markers.

Not surprisingly, the current geographic distribution of the McNeely surname in Ireland coincides with the historical seats of the Uí Néill and Connachta dynasties. It also falls within the geographical concentrations of men who tested positive for the ‘Niall Haplotype’ in the Trinity College Study.

M222 was recently subdivided into multiple subordinate SNPs, where DF97 (8 mutations below M222) is currently terminal for Group I McNeelys. A well-updated chart of the M222 tree can be found Here

In a non-scientific, but nonetheless interesting case, the Gaelic surname Mac Conghaile is long associated with folklore claiming descent from seals and is the basis for the film ‘The Secret of Roan Inish’.

Project History

The McNeely Family Tree DNA Project was created in the course of looking for the family of origin for a single McNeely paternal lineage, who fathered nine sons who lived to adulthood. A number of McNeely lines that may or may not be related were located. Often, McNeelys who appeared to be related were living in the same places in the same time periods, but despite the geographic overlap, there is no apparent connection between the groups.

Important Notes

There is no close genetic relationship between the different McNeely or Neely member subgroups. This clearly demonstrates that despite the same or similar surname spellings, the different subgroups represent completely different families.

Please be sure to review the information at the "Results" tab and the "News" tab (both above) as well as the information at the "Y-Results" tab (also above).


It has become quite clear that the Neely and McNeely surnames have no overall genetic relation. However, as of October 2009, an established DNA link between a McNeely and a single Neely line was determined, and any Neely who would like to join the McNeely Project as well as the Neely Project is welcome to do so.