A team of geneticists at Trinity College Dublin led by Professor Dan Bradley have discovered that “as many as 3 million men worldwide may be descendants of the Irish warlord, who was the Irish “High King” at Tara, the ancient center of Ireland from A.D. 379 to A.D. 405.” Millions of Irish Americans may be directly descended from Niall of the Nine Hostages, the most prolific warrior in Irish history. His dynasty lasted for centuries, continuing up until the Elizabethan conquest of Ireland at the end of the 16th century.

On a raid in Wales, Niall of the Nine Hostages captured a young slave and brought him to Ireland. That slave would later escape, and go on to become Ireland’s patron saint, St. Patrick.

King Niall was responsible for the very common Irish surname “O Neill” (“Ui Neill” in Gaelic) – which literally means ‘descendant son of Niall' – also the name of Irish pubs all over the world.) The researchers also found that as many as one in 12 men in Ireland have the same DNA as the Irish king – and in Ireland’s Northwest, that figure rises to one in five.

Bradley told the London Independent. “Before this, everything was mythology, but now there does seem to have been a single male ancestor of this group of powerful dynasties." Are you sure you are not in some way descended from this powerful Irish King? Does your ancestry not go all the way back to one of Niall’s own ancestors, Ireland’s Queen Maeve? Check it out. Check out Niall of the Nine Hostages and Queen Maeve in your local Library or on the Internet.

Tags: Ancestors, DNA, History, Hostages, Ireland's, Irish, IrishAmerican, IrishAustralian, IrishCanadian, Maeve, More…Niall, Nine, Queen, Roots, of, the

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Thanks for this blog, Tom.  Niall of the Nine Hostages is indeed an interesting figure.  Wish we knew more about him.  Oh, and welcome to The Wild Geese ... glad to have you aboard!


Fortunately we do know more about Niall, a lot more.

Tom O Connor



 If this is true then why doesn't the DNA of the last confirmed descendant King of the O'Neills;Shane the Proud match the so called Niall of the nine hostages DNA? They have tested Shane's descendants and it doesn't match. (Hugh's lineage was questionable but I do not know if his descendants were tested but it could show if he was really a Kelly)

Very good question, Kevin, but you will have to put it to Professor Dan Bradley and his Trinity College team or some other DNA experts, because I know very little about DNA and question many of Niall of the Nine Hostages so-called descendants. The reason I quoted that claim by the Trinity College team was because it contained material which is utterly false. I am anxious to see whether any one else will take exception to it before I go any further.

Tom O Connor

Here is my puzzlement...Niall himself reigned in the late fourth to fifth centuries, approximately 368-395 AD. Yet it wasn't until the 9th century that there was what we would consider "High Kings" in Ireland. Also, wasn't he one of five sons born to Eochaid Mugmedón? So how is it then that Niall is the one singled out? 

Bit Devine,

You are absolutely correct. There was no 'High King' on Ireland before the 9th century. That claim by the Trinity College team led by Professor Dan Bradley contained material which is utterly false. Niall of the Nine Hostages wes never High King of Ireland and never reigned from Tara. That claim is pure pseudo history. Niall was indeed a son of Eochaid Mugmedón (erroneous rendition of Muigh Mean, the plain around Turoe and Loughrea) by a slave girl and, hence, could not have been proclaimed king over Eochaid's legitimate sons. He was expelled by Eochaid's legitimate wife. Niall was sent north at the head of a Connacht invasion force against the Cruthin of West Ulster. His sons set up their Kingdoms in Donegal and Tyrone.

The Trinity College researchers found that as many as one in 12 men in Ireland have the same DNA as Niall of the Nine Hostages – and in Ireland’s Northwest, that figure rises to one in five. That goes some way to support the conquest of the Northwest of Ireland by Niall and his sons.

Niall was singled out by medieval pseudo historians of Ui Neill provenance.

Tom O Connor



In my Celtic studies lectures back in University...which was a while ago, it was taught that whilst he didn't hold a King's title on the same level as the legitimate sons, he did hold a lesser title and was given the "less desirable" lands over which to reign. A sort of banishment with privileges.

That puts it very nicely, Bit. Niall won sword-land for himself and his family in the Northwest of Ireland. It was from there that the Ui Neill later spread out. But Niall never set foot on Tara. The Cruthin of Ulster finally lost control of Tara only by 637AD.

The northwest of Ireland ... the best part! :-)

Trinity College Researchers found that as many as one in 12 men in Ireland have the same DNA as Niall of the Nine Hostages – and in Ireland’s Northwest, that figure rises to one in five. However, despite the fact that pseudo historians claim that the Ui Neill descendants of Niall reigned as High Kings of Ireland at Tara for several centuries, their DNA markers are conspicuous by their absence around the Tara district. What does this tell us!

Fascinating stuff.  Hopefully we'll get some solid answers over time.

Perhaps I should - my grandfather, an Essery was a second generation immigrant from Cornwall. Maybe I do have a smidgen of Irish blood in me!


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