Irish Y-DNA 'Surname' Analysis - How It Works

Seventy million Irish diaspora know they have something intense and unexplainable coursing through their DNA. Perhaps, more than any other country in the world, Ire-land has left an extremely strong emotional connection to it's land through the DNA of it's people.   While we were working the night shift at a summer camp I mentioned my upcoming Ireland trip to a woman from Israel.  A light from her eyes seemed to light up the dark as she exclaimed that she had always wanted to go there.  This connection to this mysterious Isle from people the world over continues to fascinates me. 

A couple of years ago I discovered a brand new website called and a biotechnologist with a passion for genealogy.  I interviewed Dr. Tyrone Bowes for TheWildGeese and then, in Part Two, I  published Tyrone's analysis of my cousin Danny Martin's Y-DNA test in search of the land associated to our ancestor first awarded the surname of Martin.  The farthest back we had got was 1749 Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada and the persistent rumor that he was from 'Galway'.  The Y-DNA test did not bring any solid results but Tyrone's analysis discovered our closest matches were from the Scottish clans in the area known as 'Galloway'. The following is a portion of Tyrone's report in part two of my interview with him:

"There is a lot of cross-over with Scotland and Ireland, the Bruce invasion of Ireland, Gallowglass mercenaries settling here from Scotland and then later plantations! If you look at the Bell Case study on the website, his recent ancestry is Catholic Irish, but his DNA matches point to lowlander protestant Scots from Dumfriesshire this may be most relevant to your own ancestry...Regards Tyrone"

"I completely overlooked Bruce's Ireland campaign. That could possibly be the scenario. I've been reading about the Maxwell and Ramsay clans and they were both allied with and supporters of Robert the Bruce. Ramsays apparently did accompany Edward Bruce in his invasion of Ireland and most likely included Maxwells as well. Seeing as our family's connection, dna-wise, is quite distant I'm assuming it's been a number of centuries since our ancestor lived in the Maxwell/Ramsay lands otherwise there would be closer matches. Bruce's campaign was in 1315 so it could be in the ballpark. This is making Peter Martin being from Ireland quite plausible. Also from what I've been reading about the Maxwell and Ramsay clans is that they were actually of Norman extraction (this is from internet research so it could be pure fantasy) which is interesting as well considering the Martin-Norman connection...Danny"

I have continually discovered incredible levels of disappointment from many who have discovered their ancestors proved to not be Irish as if they had just lost some magical part of their essence.  Included is my own Mother's who was very upset when I revealed her Dublin born Grandfather was actually a poor orphan from Liverpool (long line of Liverpudlians and no Irish that I could find) sent to Canada as a home child, and the now famous reaction of actor John Hurt when he was told he wasn't of Irish descent on WDYTYA UK

As I write this I await another cousin's analysis of his Y-DNA test from Dr. Bowes.  For 13 years I had been operating on a hunch that my Wexford Scallian ancestor from early 1800s Nova Scotia was related to my Johnson ancestor from the adjacent fishing village.  Last September I got as close as I could to the largest concentration of Scallian/Scallion/Scallan people now and in the early records of Carne, Wexford.  I posted my own magical experience in the Carne area.  My cousin, a Johnson, received his Y-DNA test back from Family Tree DNA which showed his two closest matches were 'SCALLANS'.  After contacting them he learned that they had traced their tree back to the Carne area of Wexford confirming my 'hunch'.   There is a beautiful manor house in Wells, Gorey in the county of Wexford that was originally part of the Doyne estate.  For ten years I have had a wee note from another Johnson Wexford researcher who found a transaction of land from a William and Catherine Johnson in Tomgarrow to the Doyne estate.  A pdf file of the Doyne Estate papers is now online.  As my cousin and I await Tyrone's analysis he did drop him a hint.  He said the Johnsons were from Ballycarney which is in Tomgarrow.  This stuff is Sherlock worthy!

I had introduced, via my wild geese articles, Adrian Martyn, the Martin Tribe Historian, to Tyrone as both are in Galway and both of them presented their work at the Genetic Genealogy Ireland 2013 conference.  The lectures were sponsored by FamilyTreeDNA (at and organised by ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogy at  I have embedded their lectures from Youtube here and they are fascinating.  Anyone interested in how these men work with DNA test results  to find the land most associated with a surname regardless of what surname your ancestor was awarded will find these videos extremely interesting.

Tyrone Bowes - Pinpointing Your Irish Origin using Commercial Ancestral DNA Testing

Adrian Martyn - The Medieval Families of Galway Town

Views: 12151

Tags: ancestry, bowes, galway, genealogy, irish, irishorigenes, surnames, tyrone, wexford, y-dna

Comment by DJ Kelly on February 21, 2014 at 5:51am

The possibility of linking one's DNA to a geographical region and to other individuals is exciting. However, I think it is crucial to place as accurate an interpretation as possible on the results.  For example, the linking of your cousin Danny Martin's DNA to the west of Scotland does not rule out his being Irish but in fact confirms it. The original 'Scots' were Irish who migrated to the west of Scotland. When the Romans named 'The Scots' they were referring to the Irish. Galloway is only a few miles inland from the Mull of Kintyre - a popular landing place for Irish migrants. My own 'Scots' ancestors were Irish Kellys who migrated back to Ireland again during the 'Plantation' years. Many people who settled Scotland's east coast however were in fact Scandinavians. The Scottish nation comprises different races, as does the Irish nation. 

A little while back, I met a man of slightly oriental appearance who held Dutch nationality but who believed his forebears had come from the Russian Steppes. He was taken aback therefore when an American DNA company's test results advised him his ancestors were not from Europe at all but were native Americans. The company had not interpreted this result in an historical context however.  Had they done so, they would have realised that the native Americans had settled there from parts of Asia (including the Russian Steppes) by migrating across the land bridge which once linked Asia to North America.    

Whilst DNA analysis is a major development in ancestral research, I think we need to bear in mind that the DNA company reps who are interpreting our results are scientists and not historians. That's my humble view - for what it's worth.

Founding Member
Comment by Nollaig 2016 on February 22, 2014 at 7:58am

Sylvester McMonkey McBean DJ :)

Comment by DJ Kelly on February 22, 2014 at 11:31am

I'm afraid I had to look that one up, Belinda, as I've never read the American children's writer Dr Seuss's stories. Now I'm hoping I don't share DNA with the stupid Sneetches! 

Founding Member
Comment by Nollaig 2016 on February 22, 2014 at 11:38am

I'm not saying it's right or wrong DJ, just who gets all the $$$ :)

Comment by Alannah Ryane on February 24, 2014 at 12:52pm

Thanks DJ for providing us with more info on this.  I should have spent more time on that part of my post as I missed a few things.  I  just added Tyrone's response into my post above for clarity.  The comment about people who are disappointed stemmed from my cousin Danny imagining the response in the Martin's of Nova Scotia's 250 year "Irish" heritage, my own Mother's who was so upset when I revealed her Dublin born Grandfather was actually a poor orphan from Liverpool (long line of Liverpudlians and no Irish that I could find) sent to Canada as a home child, and the now famous reaction of actor John Hurt when he was told he wasn't of Irish descent on WDYTYA UK.

Comment by Alannah Ryane on February 24, 2014 at 1:08pm

My other cousin Richard Johnson just got back his case study and analysis from Dr. Tyrone Bowes on his Johnson Y-DNA from Wexford this is really fascinating.  Hoping to post on it soon.

Comment by DJ Kelly on February 25, 2014 at 5:09am

So glad to hear your family are getting their hoped-for results Alannah. 

Though I've never tried them, I know that  UK-based DNA analysis firm Oxford Ancestry is run by historian, geneticist and Celt Bryan Sykes.  He famously mapped the DNA of Britain and Ireland and identified the distinct DNA of Celts, Anglo Saxons and Vikings. He proved that the DNA of the Scots & Irish still predominates in the UK. His books, such as 'The Seven Daughters of Eve' are fascinating. Also well worth a read are 'The Sea Kingdoms' by Alistair Moffat and 'The Celts' by Peter Berrisford Ellis.  'The Tribes of Britain' by David Miles is another fascinating book.  All of these live by my bed and I dip into them all the time for research and inspirtion.

I am a linguist with an interest in history (especially Irish history) and I have just published a book entitled 'The Chalfonts and Gerrards Cross at War' which explores the ways in which conflict - from the Stone Age to the present day and including 2 World Wars - has affected the  people, the way of life and even the landscape of 3 Buckinghamshire villages. The book  may surprise and even dismay some of my fellow village residents, as it discredits the generally held view that the history of these villages only begins with the Anglo-Saxons.  I demonstrate that these beautiful hills and valleys, which nestle here in the south east of England, were once home to Celtic (early Welsh) speaking folks who remained here throughout invasions by the Romans, Vikings and Normans.   I aim to demonstrate, through language and DNA findings as well as through historical and archeological research, that the Celts were settled throughout the British Isles for several millennia before the 'English' came into existence.  It won't please everyone.  

Comment by DJ Kelly on February 25, 2014 at 5:14am

I must apologise to our Welsh cousins for omitting them from my comment about Celts predominating (para 2 above). Apols also for misspelling of 'inspiration'. There's no 'edit' facility on these posts.

Comment by Alannah Ryane on February 28, 2014 at 11:41pm

Well DJ your book pleases me already! I was on a ancient celt/druid hunt when I was in Ireland and Wiltshire as I have been studying our ancient origins and I find the connections between the ancient Isles and Egypt etc fascinating as well as the old Druid ways and the Native American ancient wisdom teachings.  So many similarities in the old ways. I am slowly putting together an article on that.  

Comment by DJ Kelly on March 1, 2014 at 3:17am

Looking forward to reading that article, Alannah.


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