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About us

The immigrant ancestors of Neely DNA Project administrators were traditionally thought to have descended from the MacNeils who in turn descended from the O'Neill clan. There are records of Neelys in England in the late 1500's, but large groups of Neely records did not show up until the mid 1600's around Londonderry and southern County Tyrone of Northern Ireland. We have been able to piece together much of the movement in Ireland from these records. There were also McNeelys in County Antrim in the mid 1600's and earlier, and McNeelys in western Ireland whose name was anglicized from MacConghaile. These two groups of McNeelys are not related, but we had assumed the Antrim McNeelys and the Neelys probably came from the MacNeil clans and their descendants in the borders area of western Scotland. Similar surnames don't always have similar YDNA haplotypes. The Neely DNA Project was started because none of the original Neely participants appeared to have a common ancestor within the past 40 generations with any of the participants of the MacNeilMcNeely, or O'Neill projects. 

These Neelys probably have no common ancestor with MacNeils, McNeelys, or O'Neills within the past 1000 to 1200 years, with the exception of the small Neely 'Viking' Branch. This observation was contrary to the suggestion of some Neely genealogists that the Neely surname was likely derived from MacNeil, McNeely, or O'Neill within the past few hundred years. As the number of participants in this project grows, we continue to look for links between Neelys and similar surnames. For more information about our Neely ancestors see

Neely YDNA Project 

Our Neely YDNA project will be 12 years old in 2018. Jim Neely and Stephen Taylor Neely have been the Administrators of the project since its inception in 2006. Jim has concentrated on researching and documenting conventional Neely genealogies, while Stephen has focused on the technical use of YDNA analysis and on exploring advances that are taking place that have great promise for providing more information on the origin of the Neely groups.

A lot has been learned about Neely branches, but trying to tie the first Neely immigrants in Colonial America back to records in Ulster, Ireland has been painfully slow because of a lack of paper trail genealogies back to the first Neely immigrants from their descendants, the current participants. We need additional progress in this area. However, the YDNA STR results we have accumulated as well as upcoming advances in YDNA SNP analysis. 


All YDNA projects appear to be comprised of several different genetic groups. The more common and older the name, the more genetic groups. The Neely project is no exception. It is hard to say how and when the blending of the genetic groups happened. We have recently recognized a total of six Neely "branches" from the different genetic groupings that have evolved from participant's YDNA STR results. In order for a grouping to qualify as a branch, we have decided it must contain at least 3 Neely surnames (or spelling variant) of 37 marker haplotypes, with each having a FTDNA TiP calculation of 50% or more probability for a MRCA from the group average (modal haplotype) in the last 12 generations. This should be useful for looking at Neely history back to about 1500 or slightly earlier. The remaining participant groupings may or may not grow into a Neely branch in the future, depending on results of future participants.  A brief summary for each of the Neely branches appears in our Results section. We consider a 37 marker STR test to be the minimum needed to give us the information we need to understand groupings and relationships. Additional marker tests, up to the maximum 111 marker test are helpful in refining STR relationships and are also more "accurate" than the 37-marker test, but also cost additional money.


This is a rapidly advancing field and has the potential to greatly enhance the effectiveness of YDNA as a surname genealogical tool in the next few years. While the STR test looks at relationships over the last few hundred years, the SNPs look at surname relationships over several thousand years. You may have read about the FTDNA "Big Y" test, but you may not have understood what it does or have heard about the work on the "King's Cluster" and the SNP Pack tests. So, what are these tests and what do they show and how much do they cost? To start, here is a link that gives you the background that explains the differences between SNPs and STRs.

The most comprehensive YDNA SNP test offered by FTDNA is the BigY500. The cost of an upgrade from 37-markers to BigY500 is usually $569, but can be discounted by $100 or more when FTDNA has a sale. We encourage all members to upgrade to BigY500, if possible. For members who know their ancestry for hundreds of years, the Big500 provides the best possible reference for the benefit of other members. For members who know less than a hundred years of their ancestry, the BigY500 provides the best opportunity to match other members with known ancestry.

FTDNA offers several SNP Packs as alternatives to BigY500. Members of Neely genetic group 1 or 2 (PA or VA) should consider the DF98 SNP Pack, group 8 (Niall) should consider the M222 SNP Pack, and group 9 (TX) should consider the Z251 SNP Pack

General Fund

Members may wish to donate to the General Fund. Any amount is appreciated. This fund allows Administrators to offer subsidies to members who would otherwise have difficulty affording tests that have importance to the Neely Project.