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O'Brien Surname Project

"There's a little bit of Irish in all of us" - But are you an O'Brien?
  • 1015 members

About us

Genetic Genealogy Ireland 2016

I had the honour of making a presentation at the recently completed GGI 2016, along with Sir Conor O'Brien, relating to our O'Brien Surname Project at FTDNA. Below is a link to my presentation. It goes for around 45 minutes. I hope you find I presented our project well and look forward to your continued involvement with DNA research.

INK: Type in the following into your browser:  "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wp-1bfxaXYs"

There have been a lot of developments in regards to DNA in recent times and it is no longer simply about STR Y-12, 27, 37 or 67 markers. We are now breaking down the Y-DNA tree. So, please look at what is displayed on the project and see if you should upgrade your tests accordingly. This especially applies to those with L226 or M222 Halpo groupings.

DNA and Family History

The project is a tool-kit that assists people in finding out which groups they belong to; verification of relationship; or just trying to find additional information, to hopefully piece together the chaotic history that makes Ireland so interesting and fascinating,yet frustrating; when putting the fabric of your family together.

While it may be nice to know your distantly related or a descendant from a particular Icon of Irish history, surely its the excitement of being able to link with some distant relative in the Ireland, US, Australia, Canada, South Africa, South America or any other place on earth; or to be able to place yourself within a particular group or region that is the true benefit of the DNA project

An O'Brien (or derivatives) surname of itself can often hide the real origin of a family. With religious changes and great movements of people, names can be changed to suit the circumstances families face. In Irish history this has been a common thread in regard to names and many people may find that by tracing the name the family now has, they hit brick walls, where the line ceases.

The name O'Brien has been around for a thousand years, but from that name many other surnames have devolved. While some of these changes can be shown through the traditional paper traces, most have started in mystery.

Irish families often faced the hardships of war, famine and poverty and many children were often "adopted" out to allow for the survival of the group. One example was when land was rented by Spinsters, then they might"adopt" a male child from another family, who would use their name as his.

Therefore DNA-testing gives us concrete evidence for identifying and separating family lines. Y-chromosome DNA testing is especially helpful because the male Y-chromosome is handed down, father to son, basically unchanged through the generations, except for rare mutations that, by themselves, can be helpful indicators of branching.

It is important to also check the options regarding test for specific SNP’s, these results can sometimes some clearer connections.

Accessibility to family DNA testing is doubtless the greatest technical advance in the history of genealogical research because -- at long, long last -- we have a tool to break down those brick walls!

So what are you waiting for?

Dál gCais (L226) and Niall Noígíallach(M22) within the O’Brien’s Surname Group

You may be aware that while a lot of O’Brien’s or derived names are generally from Ireland, the fact is that Ireland itself is made up of many sub-groups and Clans that may have similar surnames but they are not related to each other.

As surnames are a recent invention, no more that 800 years or so, a lot of individuals or groups adopted names that may have political,cultural or other reasons. Thus it is a fact that many within this Project find themselves displaying results that raise questions about their heritage.

As far I am concerned I welcome all with an associate name and do not judge about how that name came about.

However there are a large group of members who are identified with the “Dál gCais” group represented by the SNP of L226. This SNP has shown great restraint and it is apparent that it only belongs to a particular group of Irish people. It also has a direct relationship with the O’Brien’s and related Clans associate with Brian Boru and his extended family. (We know this because an existing member of that family is also L226.)

For more information on the Irish type III or L226 Group and the background use this link:


Likewise, there are a large group of members who are part of the other famous Clan of Ireland the “Niall Noígíallach”(M222). We know from history that the name “Brian” was associated with both groups, so the fact there are “O’Brien’s” having one or the other of these SNP is no surprise.

I am attempting to the best of my knowledge and time to separate members within the various historic DNA groups, not just these two. Any suggestions always appreciated.