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Munster Irish

  • 1304 members

About us

Over 10,000 men with Irish heritage have had their Y-DNA tested over the last decade since such testing was added to the armoury of genealogists.  This has revealed a number of ancestral haplotypes which distinguish Y-DNA clusters within the Irish population.  Several of these are particularly prevalent in Munster, e.g. Irish Type II (defined by CTS4466 et al) and Irish Type III (defined by SNP L226) - both long-established names - and what we have classified as Munster I (defined by SNP L362).  These are described in more detail in “The Ancestral Haplotypes of Munster” on the Results page (which can be found under the ‘About This Group’ tab on the banner at the top of this page).

Membership Criteria

To meet the project goals, we limit membership to males with one of the surnames (or variants thereof) listed below and EITHER
  • a most distant paternal ancestor identified as having been born in Munster, OR
  • a Y-DNA haplotype similar to those described under "The Ancestral Haplotypes of Munster" on the Results page 

The province of Munster includes six counties:  Clare, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford.  We do extend the restrictions slightly to encompass several tribes that appear on the fringe of those boundaries, which were somewhat fluid prior to the modern borders.

We are tentatively including surnames of Anglo-Norman origins and will consider expanding these in future.

Eligible Surnames:

Ahern, Allen, Badger, Banan, Barr, Baskin, Beck, Berry, Bogue, Bowe, Bradley, Brahan, Bray, Brazil, Brennan, Brick, Broderick, Brothers, Brouder, Buckley, Burns, Cahalane, Cahallan, Cahan, Cahill, Callan, Carey, Carroll, Carty, Cas, Ceangail, Clancy, Cleary, Clerkan, Coffey, Collins, Connell, Connelly, Connery, Conner, Conor, Considine, Cooley, Cooney, Corby, Corcoran, Corkran, Cormick, Corry, Cory, Cosgrave, Cosgrove, Counihan, Courtney, Cowry, Creed, Creedon, Cronin, Crowe, Crowley, Culhane, Cullen, Cullennan, Cullinane, Curdin, Curnane, Curran, Curry, Curtin, Cusack, Daly, Dark, Day, Denny, Derkan, Desmond, Dinneen, Doheny, Donaher, Donnegan, Doney, Donnelly, Donohue, Doogan, Doolin, Doorty, Dowdall, Dowling, Downes, Downey, Downing, Drennan, Drinan, Duane, Dugan, Dungan, Dunphy, Durack, Durk, Dwan, Egan, Fahey, Falvey, Farrelly, Feehily, Feely, Fennessy, Field, Finnucane, Fitzpatrick, Fogarty, Foley, Foran, Ford, Fox, Frawley, Gavan, Gleason, Green, Griffin, Griffy, Gunning, Hallahan, Halley, Hallighan, Hallissey, Hamilton, Hanafey, Hanrahan, Hanvey, Hare, Hartigan, Hartnett, Hayes, Healy, Heffernan, Hennessy, Herlihy, Hickey, Hogan, Holland, Honeen, Hooney, Horan, Horgan, Houlihan, Hurley, Hussey, Hynes,  Hyney, Irwin, Kealy, Keane, Kearney, Keating, Keevan, Kelly, Kenneally, Kennedy, Kerdin, Kerwick, Kidney, Kinealy, Kirby, Kissane, Kyley, Laddy, Lahiff, Lahy, Lamb, Lane, Lanigan, Lannin, Larkin, Leahy, Leane, Lenane, Lenihane, Loane, Lonergan, Lundergan, Lynch, Lyne, Lyons, Mac Auliffe, MacCarthy, MacCormack, MacDonnell, MacEnchroe, MacEniry, MacGilfoyle, MacIarran, MacKeady, Macken, MacKeogh, MacMahon, MacNamara, Maher, Malone, Mangan, Mannin, McCarthy, McGillicuddy, Minihan, Mirreen, Modan, Mohilly, Moloney, Molony, Mongon, Morgan, Moynihan, Moyny, Muinhnig, Mulcahy, Mulvey, Murphy, Murray, Neville, Nolan, Noonan, Nowlan, O'Aherns, O'Bogue, O’Brien, O'Callaghan, O'Cannifee, O'Carroll, O'Cohalane, O'Connell, O'Conor, O'Coughlan, O'Cowhig, O'Cronin, O'Dea, O'Dennehy, O’Derrain, O'Donegan, O'Donnell, O'Donoghue, O'Donovan, O'Dooly, O'Doran, O'Driscoll, O'Dugan, O'Dunne, O'Dwyer, O'Falvy, O'Feehin, O'Flahiffe, O'Flanagan, O'Flynn, O'Grady, O'Hea, O'Hegarty, O'Hehir, O'Keaty, O'Keeffe, O'Kelleher, O'Leary, O'Liddy, O'Long, O'Loughlin, O'Mahony, O'Malley, O'Mara, O'Meagher, O'Meara, O'Moriarty, O'Mothola, O'Mulvey, O'Neill, O'Quike, O'Rahilly, O'Reilly, O'Riordan, O'Ruairc, O'Shea, O'Sullivan, Owens, Phelan, Queally, Quill, Quillinane, Quin, Quirk, Reardon, Reddin, Regan, Ring, Rinn, Riordain, Roddan, Roe, Rogers, Rory, Ryan, Rynne, Scanlan, Shallow, Shanahan, Shane, Sheehan, Shelly, Shinny, Spellman, Spillane, Spollan, Sugrue, Tangney, Toomey, Torpy, Tromulty, Twomey, Whalen, Whelan, Whooley, Wrenn

As long as the surname criterion is fulfilled, the Project Administrators will, at their discretion, also accept the following for membership:
  • those not able to identify Munster origins but having a haplotype closely matching a number of other members of the same surname who do
  • those with a haplotype under consideration by the Project Administrators for addition to its listing of the Ancestral Haplotypes of Munster
  • those with most distant paternal ancestors located in counties contiguous with Munster where the Project Administrators agree there was likely local migration from Munster
  • those with well-established Munster-specific surnames with a view to exploring their origins when they have not so far been revealed to us through study of ancient texts

We have compiled a spreadsheet with all the surnames we have researched and included in our list, indicating the source supporting our decision to include the surname, the original Irish form of the name, the tribal name when one is indicated, the origins and territories of those surnames.  It is a work in progress, and we welcome input from project members or others to broaden the list appropriately, add detail to the information and/or correct errors.  It can be found at or

We are currently focusing on pre-Norman, native Irish surnames.  The Project Administrators are continually reviewing the eligible surnames and may also make a determination on occasion to include a surname not otherwise fulfilling the stated criteria if it is deemed useful to their study.  They will respectfully remove those who do not meet these criteria.

All new project members are automatically placed in an 'Ungrouped' group at the bottom of the Results spreadsheet.  We review the kit's details to determine if the kit is eligible for inclusion in this research project.  At times, it is more difficult than others to make that decision.   If your kit has been there for a while, feel free to contact us to ask about your placement.  Eventually, the kit will be placed in a group or will be removed with an explanation why the project is not appropriate for them.


While the individual surname projects are focused on the history and heritage of their own surnames, it is the goal of the Munster Irish DNA Project to study the broader context of the common ancestors and relationships between the tribes and tuatha found in the province, as described in more detail on the Goals link.


We are pleased to have Dr. Catherine Swift, Director of Irish Studies at Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, join us as a consultant to our researches.  Her deep knowledge and resources will help us in exploring the interrelationships of the surnames of Munster.  She has an interest in the correlation between the history and geneaology of Irish surnames and the evidence of DNA, and she is a frequent lecturer on the subject, having presented at the Genetic Genealogy Ireland 2014 conference ( the recent Who Do You Think You Are? conference in Birmingham (, the Genealogy Event in August 2015 in Adare and at GGI 2015 ( - What is an Irish clan?) to mention a few.  You can find out more about her at

Brian Donovan, the Director and CEO of Eneclann ( has also kindly joined us as a consultant.  He is the co-founder with Fiona Fitzsimons of the organization established in 1998 as a Trinity College Dublin campus company that specializes in Irish Family History, Genealogy and Heritage research, including bespoke heritage projects, research for the media, as well as consultation and collaboration with other experts.  Their genealogists have been commissioned to work on various television series such as Who Do You Think You Are? and RTÉ's Where Were Your Ancestors During the Famine?  Brian has published a number of books on Irish and clan history and lectures across Ireland as well as the US.  His expertise and that of his colleagues will provide us with a valuable resource for our project and our participants in researching the history and heritage of our Munster surnames.


Using appropriate terms to describe the relationships between the peoples of Munster is not an easy task.  There are apparently far more terms in Irish than found in English translations. Spellings vary, definitions vary and terms can sometimes have more than one meaning.

Dr. Swift made a presentation ‘What is an Irish clan?’ at the GGI 2015 conference(you can view it at  She researched a number of late 19th century and early 20thcentury historians, discussing Irish words and their translations, referring to different levels of family units and associations.  Using her insights as well as other sources, we have chosen to use the following terms and their indicated definitions in our text.

Sept - a group of descendants from common parents long deceased (e.g. MacGillicuddy, a 1500s branch of the O’Sullivans)

Clan - a larger group descending from a common ancestor (e.g. O’Sullivan)

Síol - seed/progeny, similar to Clan above, usually used in connection with a renowned first millennium progenitor, e.g Síol Eoghain, the progeny of Eoghan

Tribe - a group of several septs or clans, often claiming descent from a common ancestor(e.g. the Eóganacht of Cashel, including the clans of McCarthy, O’Donoghue and O’Sullivan)

Tuath(a) - can mean ‘People’ (Tuatha de Danann) or the territory of a clan or tribe (e.g. Onacht O’Donoghue or Tuath O'Fithcheallaigh, of the Feehilys and several other Corca Laidhe clans)

Common Ancestors

The Irish have traditionally been a patrilineal society from earliest days, with allegiance to the local chief in the territory, to whom most members of the clan were related.  When surnames were assumed, they were usually based on the forename of an illustrious forebear, most often of the chiefly family; hence everyone with the same surname should generally have a common ancestor.  With some given names being of more widespread use than others, a number of surnames based on a common given name, such as Donough, often arose independently in different parts of the country, while others had only one genesis. 

With the advent of Y-DNA testing, the émigrés from Ireland found a way to try and find their relatives when they had lost their connection to their home country.  This enabled ‘brick walls’ to fall and many families have found their heritage.  However, one thing became apparent quite quickly – even if there was only one eponymous ancestor, not everyone with the same name had matching Y-DNA or consequently the same common ancestry.  For Irish surname projects with more than one independent clan evolving from a single surname, a number of different interrelated groups could be identified; but nevertheless, not everyone will match one of these different groups.

This has caused much consternation for some, understandably so; and while valid reasons for having a different haplotype from the others of the same name are mentioned, an adoption, an NPE (non paternity event) or name change for other reasons are not necessarily the only explanations.  There are those who don’t match a large cluster, there are those who don’t match anyone else of their surname.  Nevertheless, their DNA lineage could go back all the way to the clan of that name and the people in its territories from the beginning when surnames were adopted.  It would be unrealistic to think that every person within the clan territories was directly related to the chief through a male line; though the Derbfine (five generations of male relatives of the chief) would almost exclusively choose a new chief from within that elite group.

Although there has been population movement during the last century, particularly to the large towns and cities, many of the Irish have remained within the territory of their ancestors.  If someone knows where their family came from, they should be entitled to consider themselves part of the clan of their name from that area.  If they don’t know and can’t tell from their DNA, or their origins don’t align with the territory of their surname, then they should be able to feel themselves part of any group of their name they choose if there is more than one to choose from.  Clan societies make no distinction and welcome all of the name.  This is the only practical way to address modern society within the parameters of our ancient heritage.  No Irishman should feel lost within his land.


Irish myth and legend, first written down in the first millennium A.D, tells of successive invasions of Ireland culminating in those of the Fir Bolg, the Tuatha Dé Danann, and finally the Sons of Míl(esius), all of whom, it is implied, could have origins in the south-east of Europe. Whatever the date of the last of these (1699 B.C. is suggested by a fancifully created genealogy), it seems likely that it occurred during the Irish Bronze Age (ca. 2,000 - 500 B.C). 

The earliest evidence of Homo sapiens in Ireland is from ca 8,000 B.C, when it is believed he entered present day Co. Antrim from south-west Scotland, either by boat or via the land bridge still remaining as the last ice age closed and the sea levels were still rising. Throughout the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods (ca. 8,000 - 2,000 B.C) it seems probable that the inhabitants of Ireland were, as those of Britain, the descendants of those who had retreated into the Iberian, in particular, and Italic peninsulas during the last Ice Age, along with any new waves of migration from south-east Europe.  Recent advances in the extraction of Y-DNA from ancient bones have revealed predominantly haplogroup G2a in central Europe with some I2a (and one E1b sample in Spain) but no R1b during the Neolithic. (See table below for current Irish haplogroups, and ref (8)). Megalithic tombs were rare in the extreme south of Ireland; this and other archaeological differentiation  suggest perhaps that the inhabitants came from a different location.  Some scholars suggest from Spain, which coincides with the Milesian myth.

During the Bronze Age, if not shortly before, the first carriers of Y-DNA haplogroup R (in the form of R-M269) were reaching the Atlantic shores of Europe at the end of their centuries’, or even millennia long, trek from Anatolia and the Caucasus.  One of its most frequently found subclades in Ireland,  that of the SNP R-L21, is believed to have originated in mainland Western Europe ca. 2,000 B.C. The haplotype associated with this SNP, or those in its lineage immediately preceding it, is known as the Atlantic Modal Haplotype (AMH), as described in “The Ancestral Haplotypes of Munster” on the Results page.  The progeny of the “father” of R-L21 came to dominate the lands of Gaul, Britain and Ireland, such that the first extensive investigation of the Y-DNA make-up of Ireland, the 2004 Trinity College, Dublin study by Bradley, McEvoy and others, (ref. 1) revealed the following breakdown of Irish men:


Terminal SNP

% Munster

% Rest of Ireland

























Ireland was found to be blessed with rich copper deposits, the most abundant of which were in south-west Munster. To manufacture bronze artefacts, tin needed to be imported to Ireland, and although its closest availability was Cornwall there is evidence of widespread trade with Gaul and along the Atlantic seaboard. Thus new trading communities associated with bronze production, quite possibly comprising newly arrived migrants, developed in new locations, principally present-day West Cork and Co. Kerry.

Over the following centuries, and well into the Iron Age (ca. 500 B.C - 400 A.D in Ireland) it is believed that Ireland was progressively populated by migrants from present-day Britain, France, the Iberian peninsula and even beyond, although not in any further definitive invasion in which the incumbent peoples were overrun or expelled from their homeland. These migrants, along with traders travelling the length of the Atlantic seaboard, brought the cultures now labelled as “Celtic” to Ireland.

At the beginning of the first millennium A.D. we begin to have an (albeit sketchy) picture of the tribal groupings of Ireland and thus Munster, due principally to the observations of Greek and Roman seafarers. Within a few centuries, with the coming of Christianity and its associated scholarship, however, we have annals being recorded by native Irish. Although the earliest of these do not survive, successive transcriptions have ensured a wonderful historical and genealogical record. It is against the latter that we intend to measure our genetic research.

The ancient manuscripts reveal numerous Munster tribes, and no doubt many successively merged, split and dispersed, and held varying degrees of power and authority as the centuries progressed.

The most influential group in Munster was that of the Eoghanacht peoples, whose name derived from the mythical Eoghan Mór (Eugene the Great), a son of King Olioll Olum.  Although concocted genealogies record their ancestors back to Milesius, it is with the 2nd/3rd century King Olioll Olum, or at least with his supposed gt gt gt grandson King Conall Corc that conceivably reliable genealogies are considered to begin.  Numerous Munster names are believed to have their origins in the progeny of King Olioll Olum. This of course implies that, as long as each such family has continued to generate male heirs to the present day, similar haplotypes should be evident in all of them. The same applies to the leading families of other early peoples, the Corca Laidhe, Corca Dhuibhne, Déisi Muman, Uí Fidgeinti, etc. etc.

However genealogy is not just about the head families. Each clan or tribe may have comprised people of considerably varying haplotypes, and perhaps even from different major haplogroups, with common ancestors only to be found long before arrival in Ireland.

As the first millennium A.D. drew to a close, surnames began to be adopted in Ireland, generally becoming attributed to the kings, chieftains or other leaders of tribes, clans or tuatha. Many of these were simply derived from what we now call forenames which were already in use, and thus where such names were common, the same surname could appear independently in different parts of Ireland, as exemplified by O’Brien, O’Donoghue and O’Neill. For a while, further surnames were subsequently generated as their offspring took new surnames which distinguished themselves from brothers or cousins (e.g. Conor Mac Auliffe, giving rise to the McAuliffe surname, is said by some to have been the son of Auliffe MacCarthy).

Eventually, everybody took a surname, but in many cases, whatever their ancestors’ previous allegiances, it was that of the master they now served. Thus the goal of this project is to ascertain under which banner our ancestors were standing at the time surnames came into being, who were the banner holders and what Y-DNA emblem was painted on each banner.


Annals of Inisfallen: 
Barry Raftery, Pagan Celtic , Thames & Hudson, 1997
Brian McEvoy, Daniel G. Bradley, Hum Genet (2006) 119: 212–219 Y Chromosomes and the extent of patrilineal ancestry in Irish surnames:

Kenneth Nicholls, Gaelic and Gaelicised  in the Middle Ages, Gill & Macmillan, 1972
Donnchadh Ó Corráin, Ireland Before the Normans, Gill & Macmillan, 1980
Dáithi O hOgáin, 
Myth, Legend and Romance, Prentice Hall Press, 1981
Brian Sykes, 
Blood of the Isles, Bantam Press, 2006

Related Projects

There are a number of other projects and websites devoted to researching the haplogroups and tribes of Ireland.  Those with related interests are:

R1B-CTS4466 Plus Project:

Irish Type III Project:

R-P314 haplogroup Project:

Corca Laidhe Project:

South Irish R1b Y-DNA:

The EOGANACHT septs of Ireland:

R-L21 & 4466 South Irish Project:

Eóganacht Septs Project:


Elizabeth O'Donoghue/Ross - Founder of the project and Main Administrator
Leeanne Raga - Co-Administrator, website
Nial Moore - Co-Administrator, Anglo-Norman group
Nigel McCarthy - Founder and Co-Administrator, historical and technical expertise
Patrick Regan - Co-Administrator, historical expertise and membership

Munster Irish Project Privacy Statement

As Administrator and Co-administrators of the Munster Irish Project, in addition to abiding by the Privacy Policy that Family Tree posts, we wish to assure you that we give you, as a member of this Project, our priority in protecting your privacy and the confidentiality of your personal data.

What personal data about you do we hold or have access to?

The only personal data about you that we hold or have access to is data which has been made available to us by Family Tree DNA with your consent, to the access level you have chosen, and additional data which you may have given us directly by e-mail.

What use do we make of this personal data?

The only use we make of this data is that relevant to meeting the goals of our Project.  We would not publish or share your full name, e-mail address or other contact details with any other project member or other person or organization without your specific written approval, unless we were legally obliged to do so.

We will not publish or share your DNA test results except in anonymized form, limited to kit number and surname or ancestral surname.  The Results spreadsheet on our website also contains your Paternal Ancestor Name and Country of origin.

How long do we hold this personal data?

We hold this data for as long as you remain a member of our Project.  If you wish to withdraw from our Project you may do so by clicking the ‘Leave’ button on the Project Preferences link of your Account Information page.  We would do our utmost to identify and delete any emails you have shared with us if you request us to do so, though we cannot retrieve information that may have been previously posted in a public domain. 

In our administration of this Project, along with Family Tree’s commitment to you, we will comply with the requirements concerning the privacy of project members that are contained in the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation which enters into force on 25 May 2018, regardless if you reside in the EU or elsewhere.

We endeavour to respond promptly to any queries, errors or complaints you may bring to our attention about our handling of your personal data associated with this Project.

We may update this Statement as circumstances arise.

Elizabeth O'Donoghue/Ross,, Group Administrator

Leeanne Raga,, Group Co-Administrator
Nial Moore -, Group Co-Administrator

Nigel McCarthy,, Group Co-Administrator

Patrick Regan,, Group Co-Administrator

Date: 2nd June 2018


Last updated 21st August 2022