Munster Irish Y-DNA Project - Background



Allen, Banan, Barr, Baskin, Beck, Bowe, Brahan, Bray, Brick, Broderick, Brouder, Burns, Cahalane, Cahallan, Cahan, Cahill, Callan, Carty, Cas, Ceangail, Cleary, Clerkan, Collins, Connelly, Connery, Cooley, Corby, Corcoran, Corkran, Cormick, Corry, Cory, Cowry, Cronin, Crowley, Cullen, Cullennan, Cullinane, Curdon, Curry, Curtin, Cusack, Daly, Dark, Day, Denny, Derkan, Dinneen, Doheny, Donaher, Donegan, Doney, Donnelly, Doogan, Doolin, Doorty, Dowdall, Dowling, Downes, Downey, Downing, Drennan, Drinan, Duane, Dugan, Dunphy, Durack, Durk, Dwan, Egan, Farrelly, Feehily, Feely, Field, Fogarty, Foley, Fox, Frawley, Gavan, Gleason, Green, Griffin, Griffy, Gunning, Hallahan, Halley, Hallighan, Hamilton, Hanafey, Hanrahan, Hanvey, Hare, Hartnett, Hayes, Healy, Heffernan, Hennessy, Hickey, Hogan, Hooney, Horan, Horgan, Hussey, Hyney, Irwin, Kealy, Keane, Keating, Keevan, Kelly, Kenneally, Kennedy, Kerdon, Kerwick, Kinealy, Kirby, Kyley, Laddy, Lahiff, Lahy, Lamb, Lane, Lanigan. Lannin, Leahy, Leane, Lenane, Loane, Lynch, Lyne, Lyons, Mac Auliffe, Mac Carthy, MacDonnell, MacEniry, MacGilfoyle, MacIarran, MacKeady, Macken, MacKeogh, MacMahon, MacNamara, Maher, Malone, Mangan, Mannin, McGillicuddy, Minihan, Mirreen, Modan, Mohilly, Mongon, Moynihan, Moyny, Muinir-Cheangail, Mulcahy, Mulowne, Neville, Nolan, Noonan, Nowlan, O’Brien, O’Derrain, O'Aherns, O'Bogue, O'Callaghan, O'Cannifee, O'Carroll, O'Cohalane, O'Connell, O'Conor, O'Coughlan, O'Cowhig, O'Cronin, O'Dea, O'Dennehy, 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'Riordan, O'Ruairc, O'Shea, O'Sullivan, Phelan, Queally, Quill, Quin, Quirk, Rogers, Rory, Ryan, Shallow, Shanahan, Sheenan, Shelly, Shinny, Spellman, Spillane, Spollan, Toomey, Torpy, Tromulty, Twomey, Whelan, Whooley


Over 5,000 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.  At least three of these appear to be specific to, or prevalent in Munster: Irish Type II (defined by CTS4466 et al) Irish Type III (defined by SNP L226) and the Munster I (defined by SNP L362).  These are described in more detail in “The Ancestral Haplotypes of Munster” on the Results page under the ‘About This Group’ tab on the banner at the top of this page.

Auxiliary Website

We have recently launched an auxiliary website at courtesy of Rod O'Donoghue and The O'Donoghue Society that will contain additional charts, maps, spreadsheets and analyses of the research and results of the project.

Membership Criteria

To meet the objectives of the project as described below and on our Goals page, we seek to limit membership of the project primarily to those with one of the surnames listed above (or a variant thereof), and EITHER

  • a most distant paternal ancestor identified as having been born in Munster, OR
  • a yDNA haplotype similar to those described under "The Ancestral Haplotypes of Munster" on the Results page

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 the surnames have not so far been revealed to us through study of ancient texts

Those who are deemed not to meet these criteria will be asked to leave the project or accept that the Project Administrators will remove them from it.

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 tribe 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 tribal territories was directly related to the chief through a male line.


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 tribe 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.





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.  

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:

Corca Laidhe Project:

R-L21 4466 South Irish Project:

Eóganacht Septs Project:

The EOGANACHT septs of Ireland:

South Irish R1b Y-DNA (a bit out of date but with some useful historical information): 



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 they 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. Y-DNA haplogroups E-M78 (E1b1b1a), I1, J1 and J2 could have abounded. Megalithic tombs were rare in the extreme south of Ireland, suggesting not only that the south of Munster was more thinly populated than the north in the Neolithic Age, but more significantly, the inhabitants came from a different location.  Some scholars suggest from Spain, which coincides with the Milesian myth.


During the Bronze Age, if not 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 “Celtic” tribal 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 tribal groupings, and no doubt many successively merged, split and dispersed, and held varying degrees of power and authority as the centuries progressed. It is intended to describe these in more detail in another article on this website in due course.


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 reasonably reliable genealogies are considered to begin. The Eoghanacht tree provided as fig.1 below (to be loaded shortly) shows how 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 tribes, the Corca Laidhe, Corca Dhuibhne, Déisi Muman, Uí Fidgenti, etc. etc.


However genealogy is not just about the head families. Each tribe or grouping 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, however they be described. 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 Ireland, 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 Ireland 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

The EOGANACHT septs of Ireland:

Last updated 12th Nov 2013


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