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About us

Updated February 7, 2009.

This project was started on August 5, 2005.

The O'Neills were kings or rulers of all or part of Ireland for about 650 years and might be the oldest traceable surname in Western Europe, the name going back about 1,050 years. Many branches to the O'Neill clan emerged over the years (Tyrone, Clannaboy, Ivowen, Fews, etc.). In addition, other separate septs of O'Neills developed over the years, including the O'Neills of Magh da Chonn. This project will use the well-documented Irish O'Neill history to assist in the interpretation of DNA evidence.

Update August 7, 2017:     Subgroups within the O'Neill Project

The subgrouping within the O’Neill Project has been done forY-DNA only.

The most recognized O’Neill line is the Ulster O’Neill line which dates from the 10th century when first used by Domhnall of Armagh (173rdHigh King of Ireland 956-977 ad) who was also known as Donal O’Neill (the surnamewas selected by him to show descent from his grandfather, Niall Glundubh, 170thHigh King of Ireland 914-917 ad).  Obviously the male line goes back hundreds of years before this with the resultant Y-DNArelationship.  The “bard’s recitations ofthe line of Kings of Ireland” starts with Milesius, King of Spain, who died in1699 bc and who is the ancestor of all the Kings of Ireland.  [see “The Ancient and Royal Family of O’Neill” by Desmond O’Neill, 1995]

One of the most well known of the line of Irish Kings, and ancestor of the Ulster O’Neills among others, is Niall Mór, or Niall of the 9hostages.  He was the 126th High King of Ireland from 378 to 405 ad.  Descent from him has become a convenient definition of being an O’Neill, and there has bee nsignificant research on what his Y-DNA probably looked like.  When looking at Y-SNPs, R-M222 stood out as necessary to be a descendant, but not sufficient to establish descent.  More research was being done with Y-STRs, and a North-West Irish Variety modal haplotype was defined (NWI).  The Time to the Most Recent Common Ancestor(TMRCA) for NWI is estimated to be between 3,000 and 5,000 years ago.  Niall’s descendants seem to fit within the NWI.  However, when looking at the O’Neills that have been tested at Family Tree DNA (FTDNA), there is a significant group that is not R-M222 and does not match the NWI; this group was named the O’Neill Variety (ON).  The ON Variety is a very tight cluster with little variation which implies a recent origin; one estimate of TMRCA was 1,100 years ago.  The ON Variety is assumed to be the result of a “non-paternal event”.  The best estimate of when this occurred is after 870-980 (when the McLaughlins branched off) and before 1100 (when the Clannaboy O’Neills branched off).  [see “Insights Into the O’Neills of Ireland from DNA testing” by Edwin B. O’Neill and John D McLaughlin, 2006]

The Y-DNA testing at FTDNA identifies the basic haplogroup (SNP) and then provides the STR values for determining closeness of relationship.  Both the R-M222 / NWI  group and the ON Variety group have the same basic haplogroup, R-M269.  There are O’Neills who do not fall under R-M269, so they are grouped separately.  The grouping has been based on the closeness of matches of the STR values.  As more STRs are tested, the “closeness” becomes more reliable.  12 and 25 STR tests are not very reliable.  111 and 67 STR tests are quite reliable.  The 37 STR test is borderline.  With the advances in SNP testing, they have become the first criteria for placement and STR tests have become a support (although a majority of grouping is still STR-based).

With this background, here is the current grouping within the O’Neill Project.  Note that the SNP definitions are SNPs far downstream of R-M269. For those who have not done further SNP testing, their matches are looked at for more detailed SNP definition and for STR closer matching.

1A UiNeill, R-M222: This is the basic R-M222, NWI group. The SNPs are R-M269+>>> P312+>L21+>DF13>>> M222. Those whose STRs fit the NWI haplotype are given the “Niall of the Nine Hostages” badge. Note that this badge is a prediction for M222, and up to 10% of those with the badge at M269 will not be M222. The M222 SNP mutation is thousands of years old. However, in the haplotree this is the SNP name selected for a group of 35 SNP mutations where there are no branches. This means the TMRCA (Time to Most Recent Common Ancestor) is moved forward to about 140 BC. So everybody in 1A has a common ancestor with each person in 1A where that ancestor was born in 140 BC or more recently.\

1A1 UiNeill, R-M222+>>>DF105/DF109+ TMRCA 1850 ybp or 390 AD: For those in 1A who have done further SNP testing, almost all are positive for this SNP. We believe this is the actual SNP mutation of Niall Mor, Niall of the Nine Hostages. There are now 29 branches directly from DF105 although 75% of the people at FTDNA are in 3 of these 29 branches.

1A1A Ui Neill R-DF105>S588+ TMRCA 483 AD: This is one of the 3 major branches. This is believed to be the branch for Cenél nEógain then later Niall Glundubh to Donal O’Neill.

1A1A1 Ui Neill R-S588>A5386+ TMRCA 1348 AD: This single step down the haplotree includes 9 SNP mutations.

1A1B Ui Neill R-DF105>DF85+ TMRCA 519 AD: Another one of the 3 major branches. This is believed to be the branch for Cenél Conaill.

1A1C Ui Neill R-DF105>A18726+ TMRCA 434 AD: This is the 3rd major branch. This is believed to be the branch for Uí Briúin.

1B ONeill Variety, R-DF27: This includes the Clannaboy O’Neills, Tyrone O’Neills, O’Neills of the Fews, and the McShanes.  The SNPs areR-M269+>>>R-P312+>R-DF27.  It appears all will be Z1513+ and a subset will also be BY3292+.  This group appears to be the only large group of DF27 in Ireland

1C Leinster/Carlow/Magh da Chonn, R-L159:  The SNPs areR-M269+>>>R-P312+>L21+> DF13+ (Group 1A is DF13- but Z552+)>Z10_1+>Z255+ (also see Groups 1D and 1L)

1D Thomond Irish Type III, R-L226:  The SNPs follow Group 1C, but are Z255- and instead Z253+>Z2534+         

1E Eoghanachta South Irish Type II, R-CTS4466:  The SNPs follow Group 1C, but are Z10_1- and instead FGC11134+

1F Colla, R-DF21:  The SNPs follow Group 1C like Group 1E but are both Z10_1- and FGC11134- and instead DF21+>Z16267+

1G Glen of Aherlow, R-L21: The SNPs follow Group 1F, but are Z16267- and instead Z30233+ (see also Group 3G)

1H R-M269 Group: There are 2 general R-M269 Groups: 1H and 3A.  Over time Group 1H had been reduced to two people.  Using the one match with deeper SNP testing as a guide, they have been moved to 3K, and the STR values are a reasonable fit with the Group.

1I R-P311 Group:  These have matches under both P312 and U106, so they are here until there is better definition

1J R-P312 Group 1: The kits for Groups 1J and 1K have not tested SNPs beyond the basicR-M269, don’t have good STR matches, but appear to be P312.  There are 2 groups because of the significant STR matching.

1K R-P312 Group 2: See the description for Group 1J

1L R-Z253 Group:  This is similar to 1D in that they are Z253+, but they are Z2534-

1M R-U152 Group:  U152 is a third split from P312 (Groups 1A and 1A1 are Z290/L21 and Group 1B is DF27 which also split at P312), 3H is also U152

1N R-L513 Group: Groups 1N and 1O are another split from DF13+ as first discussed under Group 1C.  These two are DF13+>S668+ the Group 1N is Z16340+

1O R-L193 Group:  This Group is discussed under Group 1N; Group 1N is DF13+>S668+>A7+ (and Z16340-)

1P R-Z156 Group:  This Group is the first listed here that is U106+; this is P312- but both are descended from P311.  Group 1P is U106+>Z381+>Z156

1Q R-L48 Puerto Rico Group: This is similar to Group 1P; Group 1Q is U106+>Z381+>Z301+>L48+.  See also Groups 3J and 3K

1R R-JF50005 Group:  This is another U106 Group.  Like Group 1Q it is U106+>Z381+>Z301+, but it is L48-. Instead it is Z301+>S1688+>>>JFS0005+

1S R-DF27+>ZZ12_1+ NOT ZZ19_1:  This group is for those who are DF27+ but do not fit within Group 1B.  They are DF27+>ZZ12_1+>ZZ19_1- but the current members are Z225+

2A I-L126 Group:  There are 3 Groups whose haplogroup is I rather than R.  The basic assigned haplogroup for this Group is I-M223.  The SNP L126 is 4 levels further down the haplotree from I-M223 (see also Groups 2A and 3M)

2B I-M253 Group: I-M253 is the next SNP level down from the basic I haplogroup (I-M206).  Group 2A is M253- but P215+ (see also Groups 2A and 3M)

UNGROUPED:  The Group 3 series are for those who don’t seem to fit into one of the Groups above, but may have some better definition of where they fit in the haplotree.  If you are in one of these Groups but feel you should be in one of the other Groups, let us know and we’ll investigate.

3A Ungrouped R-M269:  This is the basic assigned R haplogroup which is about 5 SNP levels down from the basic R-M207 SNP.

3B Ungrouped R-P311: This SNP is 3 levels down from R-M269

3C Ungrouped R-P312: This SNP is 1 level down from R-P311

3D Ungrouped R-L21: This SNP is 1 level down from R-P312

3E Ungrouped R-DF21:  This SNP is 2 levels down from R-L21

3F Ungrouped R-CTS2457: This SNP is 7 levels down from R-L21; it is DF21-

3G Ungrouped R-CTS3655: This SNP is 8 levels down from R-DF21 (see Group 3E)

3H Ungrouped R-U152: This SNP is 1 level down from R-P312 and is R-L21- (see Group 3D)

3I Ungrouped R-Z381: This SNP is 2 levels down from R-P311 (P311+>U106+>Z381+); it is R-P312- (see Group 3C)

3J Ungrouped R-U198:  This SNP is 3 levels down from Group 3I (Z381+>Z301+>S1688+>U198+)

3K Ungrouped R-L48: This SNP is 2 levels down from Group 3I (Z381+>Z301+>L48+) and is S1688-

3L Ungrouped R-M512: This is a basic assigned R haplogroup alternate to M269 where the common SNP is 4 levels higher than M269.

3M Ungrouped Haplogroup I: This is the 3rd group for haplogroup I; the STRs do match well with Groups 2A and 2B

3N Ungrouped Haplogroup F: There is one member of haplogroup F

3O Ungrouped Haplogroup G: There are 3 members of haplogroup G

3P Ungrouped Haplogroup J Puerto Rico:  There is 1 member of haplogroup J

3Q Ungrouped Haplogroup Q: There is 1 member of haplogroup Q

3R Ungrouped Unclassified: Reserved for members without a defined haplogroup

3S Ungrouped Haplogroup E: Reserved for members of haplogroup E

3T Ungrouped R-L664: This is 3 SNP levels below R-M512 (see Group 3L)

Ungrouped:  New members are located here until they are assigned to one of the other Groups