R M222 and Subclades

R1b-M222 and Subclades Project
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 I.               INTRODUCTIO

II.             MODAL STR VALUES








The R-M222 branch of the Y-DNA tree is defined by a Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) called M222. This diagnostic marker is associated with many individuals whose ancestry lies in the counties of  Ulster (Northern Ireland), Northwest Ireland, and Scotland including certain Highland, Lowland, Western and North Eastern counties, and is not restricted to known ancestry in the UK/Ireland region.

The R-M222 project is open to all individuals who have a derived (i.e.,positive) test result for the M222 SNP or any SNP known to lie downstream from that marker. The project will also consider admitting individuals who have not been SNP tested, but whose haplotypes show most of the Short Tandem Repeat (STR) values below. Still, because of the complex branching structure within R-M222, all individuals will be encouraged to undertake additional testing to refine the branch of M222 to which they belong. This is discussed in SECTION V below (The Importance of SNP Testing).



DYS390 = 25
DYS385b = 13
DYS392 = 14
DYS448 = 18
DYS449 = 30
DYS464 = 15-16-16-17
DYS456 = 17
DYS607 = 16
DYS413 = 21-23
DYS534 = 16
DYS481 = 25
DYS714 = 24

In some to most cases the first three STRs in the list above are adequate to establish possible membership in this group. If you have at least two of those three values and differ by only one at the mismatching marker, you may (though not certainly) a member of the R-M222 Haplogroup. A SNP test for the R-M222 marker could establish firmly.  If you are uncertain about whether you belong to Haplogroup R-M222, please contact a project administrator for advice.



A STR pattern now associated with the R-M222 group was first recognized in late 2004 following manual cluster analysis of several hundred R-M269 haplotypes in Ysearch.  A preliminary modal haplotype was established at that time based for roughly six dozen similar haplotypes. It was noted that family names associated with the cluster were almost entirely Irish or Scottish. The cluster was initially referred to as the 25/11/14 cluster based on the dominant values for DYS390, 391 and 392. In late 2005 a research team from Trinity College Dublin published a report that identified this cluster based on the distinctive values at DYS390 and 392. The research team called this pattern the Irish Modal Haplotype, or IMH, and provocatively suggested that the haplotype may be associated with the Ui Neill kings of Northern Ireland and Donegal that by legend descended from the fifth century warlord Niall of the Nine Hostages. The haplotype is not modal in Ireland – though a distinctive haplotype with a large population, it is not the dominant one.  Some haplotype frequency assessments suggested that it was most concentrated in Donegal  and nearby counties to the south and west. Also found in Lowland Scotland and the Western Isles.


In February of 2006, one of the administrators (DCW aka David Wilson) predicted that this distinctive variety would be found to correlate with the rarely tested SNP M222 and commissioned a custom lab analysis to test the hypothesis. The result, returned in March 2006, was positive. Immediately afterwards different labs began offering M222 as part of deep clade testing programs, and thousands of individuals have now been found positive for the SNP marker, M222. 

In recent years, the new options of next generation and whole genome sequencing and SNP panel testing have led to the recognition of numerous downstream subdivisions divisions that seem to have emerged between roughly 2000 and 1200 ybp (Years Before Present, in which “Present” is defined as 1950). There is uncertainty about the age of the M222 SNP itself, because the SNP marker in phylogeny is accompanied by many SNPs and variants (23 and more).  The order of mutation or position in phylogeny for these markers has not been revealed through testing thus far; hence where the M222 SNP is positioned in phylogeny is unknown.  TMRCA estimates in both STRs and SNPs using various methods from several differing sources infer subdivision within the descending UK/Ireland R-M222 population between 2500 and 2000 ybp.


Niall Noígíallach was a legendary semi-mythological Irish king who lived during the 4th or 5th century CE.  He is credited as the father to sons who sired the Ui Neill dynasty.  The 2006 TCD inferences regarding IMH and the Ui Neill dynasty led to assumptions that all men derived for the marker R-M222 were descended from this legendary semi-mythological Irish King. Whether or not Niall's legendary reputation is legitimate or that he was ancestrally responsible for the Ui Neill dynasty has been the subject of historical reviews for several hundred years.  The question this project has wrestled with post the TCD publications is whether or not Niall was the progenitor responsible for the R-M222 marker and the descending subclades.


Next generation sequencing efforts have settled the question for us.  The haplogroup existed long before Niall.  The marker R-M222 sits among a block of at least 23 and more variants considered presently phylo-equivalent; so described because we do not yet know the order in which these markers mutated.  We also do not know where in the order the R-M222 marker is positioned....at the top, middle, bottom of the block etc.  Aging estimates suggest that the entire haplogroup known as R-M222 (including this phylo-equivalent block in which the marker sits) may be as old as 4000 or more years before present (ybp).

We also do not know what Niall's genotype was/is.  There were other haplogroups and L21 subclades contemporary with R-M222 in Ireland during Niall's and Ui Neill dynasty clans'/founders/leaders reputed times of living.

In 2013 the haplogroup began subdivision.  Below the phylo-equivalent block, the subclades exampled a larger and more diverse haplogroup than anticipated by observation of the STR haplotypes.   The ages of some of the older haplogroups have been tentatively and imprecisely assessed in windows extending from 2500 -- 1500 ybp.  The testing has been elective and consists primarily of men in multiples of surnames claiming differing ancestral geographies, the majority who descend from ancestors that migrated out of the UK/Ireland region to diaspora destinations of the American Colonies/US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand among others.  Some of the results are anchored by men in current residence within various geographies within the UK/Ireland region.  While the majority of testers have stated ancestral origins in the UK/Ireland region, ancestral origin statements are not confined solely to the region; there are stated ancestral origins in Scandinavia, France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, among other geographies.  Within recent years skeletal remains yielding DNA that may be sequenced have been recovered.  Radio Carbon Dating has determined for those recovered in Ireland suggest that the majority of remains genotyped with a M222 subclade marker date to the Medieval period.  We expect within the coming years additional ancient DNA information from the UK/Ireland region and other geographies.

While the STR values of even a limited haplotype can usually rule someone in or out of Haplogroup R-M222, STR values are by themselves almost useless for categorizing individuals in the sub-haplogroups (sub-clades) below R-M222. For that reason, it is strongly recommended that members of the project SNP test.  (This suggestion is less important to individuals whose known close relatives have already done such testing, but maybe a good idea to have a specific haplogroup associated with your kit in the FTDNA data base.) There are instances among project members in which individuals separated by only a few steps of genetic distance have been shown to belong to completely different branches of the R-M222 haplogroup; thus cannot share a recent common ancestor within the last 1500-1800 or more years. Similarly,there are cases in which individuals separated by a genetic distance of 10-11over 67 or 111 markers belong to the same subdivision despite the implied time span of generations. SNP testing is extremely important not only for understanding the development of branches below M222 marker, but also for determining those other members who may share recent common ancestors whose identities might be worked out through document-based genealogical research.

 Every project member will find on the Y-DNA Haplotree Page a diagram that contains what FTDNA has determined about the branching structure below M222.

 There are options for SNP testing.  If you suspect a particular marker, an option of single SNP testing may be employed.  The best Y SNP testing available for FTDNA testing is Next Generation Sequencing through their current Y 700. The product is expensive yet quite reasonable on sale, and well worth the investment.  There should be no need for further SNP testing once next generation sequencing is complete.

FTDNA also utilizes SNP Packs, and R-M222 has a general SNP Pack as well as SNP Packs for DF85 and DF97.  We do not recommend employing SNP Pack testing.  Consider &700.  We strongly encourage members to ask an administrator prior to ordering any SNP Pack.  The advise may include saving funds to use towards the Y700 NGS testing.

Project Administrators and independent researchers in times past have separately worked out a branching structure for the R-M222 Haplogroup that includes not only SNPs discovered by FTDNA but also through testing procedures conducted by other laboratories. It is very close to the FTDNA Haplotree but in some cases adjusts the placement of rarely-seen SNPs. It is FTDNA’s policy to base their tree  only on SNPs that they have confirmed from DNA samples that were provided by their own customers and analyzed in their own or cooperating labs. The consensus tree undergoes constant revision, and changes will be reflected in the branching diagrams that presented here.


FTDNA sponsors a discussion group known as the "Activity Feed" that is accessible from each project member's home page.


Another group is The R1b-M222 Haplogroup and Subclades group at .io


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