Latest Blog Posts

The latest talk by Dr Tyrone Bowes at Scottish Origenes can be viewed on YouTube by clicking here. The holy grail of Academic Ancient DNA research is to accurately date the rate at which Y-DNA... More
My first talk since Covid was given at the end of March 2023 at Kihleeshil and Clonaneese Historical Societies Community Centre in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland! The talk 'Rewriting the history of... More
THE hundreds of Y-DNA Case Studies completed at Scottish Origenes have facilitated the production of the Scottish Origenes ethnicity map (pictured). Each Y-DNA Case Study has a pinpointed origin and... More
Research at Scottish Origenes has revealed that about 20% of Scottish surnames are exclusive to a single location within Scotland. Since Scottish surnames are often a genealogical record of one’s... More
Introduction (Updated September 2022) 17th Century Gaelic Ulster was one of the last redouts of the ancient Celtic world. A world that had been eclipsed in Mainland Europe by the Romans over a... More
A simple painless commercial ancestral Y-DNA test ONLY explores the paternal line, and it can therefore be used to pin one’s direct male ancestors to specific locations at specific time points in... More
A surprise finding from 10 years of Scottish Origenes Y-DNA Case Studies was the considerable number of males with Mediterranean-associated Y-DNA Haplogroups. Intriguingly, each Scottish Origenes Y-... More
Oct 2021. Scotland and Ireland are close neighbours, and it is no surprise that commercial ancestral Y-DNA testing and the resulting hundreds of Y-DNA Case Studies conducted at Scottish and Irish... More
What do >300 Scottish Origenes Y-DNA Case Studies reveal about the modern Scots? October 2021. The Y-DNA test explores the male paternal line, and anyone you match upon Y-DNA testing shares a... More
In 2021 Scottish and Irish Origenes launched a new FREE website ( dedicated to the Origenes maps series, where one can zoom in and explore the surnames, clans, castles, and DNA... More
(February 3rd 2021). When commercial DNA testing began it focused completely on Y-DNA STR testing. While Y-DNA STR results can routinely be used to pinpoint a paternal origin, the STRs themselves, as... More
In June 2018 Irish Origenes was commissioned to do a Y-DNA Case Study report for a Mr David McGinnis from Oregon in the USA. In that report (based exclusively on his commercial Y-DNA test results)... More
UPDATED October 2020, NEW (6th) McDonald Case Study Added! The McDonald surname is probably one of the most famous, spawning one of the world’s most notable brands. It is also one of the most common... More
The challenge with modern commercial ancestral mtDNA testing is linking a specific maternal Eve with a precise geographical location. However, pinpointing an origin for one’s direct female ancestor... More
The Autosomal DNA test is by far the most popular commercial ancestral DNA test worldwide (tests like’s, 23andMe, MyHeritage and FTDNA's Family Finder). BUT are you really getting the... More
Previous Scottish Origenes research has revealed how the Irish and Scottish Gaels share a common origin within the Rhineland of Central Europe, and that the progenitors of both groups sought refuge... More
The first ever Plantations Surnames of Ireland map has been completed just in time for the Back to Our Past Event in Belfast in 2019. The map details the precise location where farmers with each... More
Commercial ancestral Y-DNA testing has revealed that up to 40% of all Scottish males (and males with paternal Scottish ancestry) will have a Gaelic origin (the Y-DNA test only explores the paternal... More
Step I: When the Gaelic surname 'MacMichael' becomes Norman 'Mitchell' A change in ‘cultural identity’ can be quite rapid (think modern Americans who are a mix of almost every nation on the planet)... More
Ireland is one of Scotland's closest neighbours, and their shared heritage runs deep; it is reflected in surnames (Mac or Mc?), language (Gaelic) and not to forget their national drink (Whisky or... More
Anybody who has taken a simple painless commercial ancestral Y-DNA test (which only explores your paternal ancestry) will potentially have matched many people with lots of different surnames, and... More
Don Anderson, who is an adoptee from Oregon, has released a book which is a must read for all adoptees wishing to uncover the identities of their birth parents. Its also a must read for anyone... More
The DNA does not lie and upon commercial ancestral DNA testing the people who appear as a genetic match to you share a common ancestor with you, it is merely a matter of when that shared ancestor... More
A Sample DNA Case Study which shows how the NEW Scottish Origenes Surnames, Clans, Castles and DNA maps can be used together with a simple painless commercial ancestral DNA test to rediscover your... More
DETAILING the origin of approximately 4,000 different Scottish surnames, the Medieval territories of 400 of the most prominent Scottish Clans and Families, and the precise location of 1000 Scottish... More
Surname distribution mapping reveals that the Graham surname is associated with Scotland and bordering English Counties. Since farmers with each surname still concentrate in the area where one’s... More
The beauty with the DNA approach to researching one’s ancestral origin is that the DNA does not lie! The area identified in an Irish, Scottish, English or Welsh Origenes personalised DNA report can... More
Surnames evolve over both time and distance, and change usually at the whim of an administrator who simply records an unfamiliar surname as he hears it. In this manner similar sounding surnames... More
At Family Tree DNA’s  annual conference in 2012 I presented results demonstrating that the Scottish 'Valentines' were descended from a MacGregor who had changed his surname sometime in the early... More
I’ve been busy recently doing Case Studies and working on a Surnames and Y-DNA Map of Scotland (previewed here). But this Valentine Case Study is one of my all-time favourites and I’d like to share... More
Sometimes a quite remarkable Y-DNA Case Study comes along that I will try my best to get published in a Genealogical magazine. The latest one published in Family Tree Magazine details the Paterson... More
Every successful Irish, Scottish, or English Origenes Case Study tells an interesting story, some like the Durkin Case Study are easy to solve, others like the MacKenzie Case Study which features in... More
I was a guest speaker for Family Tree DNA at the 2013 Who Do You Think You Are LIVE event in London. The slides for that talk can now be downloaded by CLICKING HERE. This is my second set of talks... More
I was invited by the world’s largest commercial ancestral DNA testing Company 'Family Tree DNA' to give a talk entitled 'Pinpointing a Geographical Origin' at their 8th Annual Genetic Genealogy... More
The Royal house of Scotland sprang from the Kings of the Scots, who constituted only one of the 6 peoples inhabiting the modern lands of Scotland. Yet when Kenneth, son of Alpin, united the Picts and... More
When one thinks of Scottish surnames, one almost always thinks of those that begin with Mc’ or Mac.’ This is an over simplification as Scottish surnames are quite diverse and reflect the various... More
Scotland was first settled roughly 10,000 years ago after the end of the last ice age. The first reference to the people of Scotland comes from Roman sources that referred to the people north of... More

You are here


Why the Scots dominate Ulster

Introduction (Updated September 2022)

17th Century Gaelic Ulster was one of the last redouts of the ancient Celtic world. A world that had been eclipsed in Mainland Europe by the Romans over a millennia and a half earlier. The final Conquest of Ireland would see the Irish Gaels dragged kicking and screaming into the modern world (the Highland Scots Gaels would cling on for another century). It was a traumatic process, and one can only imagine how the Native Ulster Irish felt seeing the arrival of thousands of English speaking, Protestant, Lowland Scots, and English. The consequences of the Plantation of Ulster are still being felt today. But what does the first ever Plantation Surnames of Ireland Map (now free to explore online click here) and the hundreds of Northern Irish DNA Case Studies reveal about the Plantation of Ulster? 

A Family Affair

The Scots dominate the Plantation Surnames of Ireland Map, but the Scots themselves were a mixed bunch of predominantly Lowland Gaels (with ‘Mac’ surnames) and non-Gaels who mostly originated from Southwest Scotland and the Southernmost borderlands with England. A recent set of Y-DNA Case Studies on the Plantation Donegal ‘Allisons’ and County Down ‘Ellisons’ (CLICK HERE to download the Ellison Y-DNA Case Study) reveals that they descended from paternal cousins who departed Strathaven parish in Lanarkshire in Southern Scotland in around 1610AD. One cousin settled in County Donegal where the surname remained Allison, while the other settled in Down where the surname became Ellison. Both settled with neighbours from Strathaven parish and the surrounding borderlands of Ayrshire and Lanarkshire. These were close knit communities that would often repeat a pattern of migration and settlement as more land became available until almost all of Ulster was colonised. In Ireland they would evolve into the Scots Irish or Ulster Scots. The tight kinship of these Scottish is even better illustrated in the Morrison Autosomal DNA Case which is based on DNA test results (CLICK HERE to download the Morrison Autosomal DNA Case Study). The Morrison Case Study beautifully illustrates how many of his ancestral lines link back to the same part of Ulster and in turn back to the same part of Scotland ('safety in kinship and numbers'). The Scots that passed through Ireland would become excellent frontiersmen as a result of living among often hostile Native Irish. A few generations after their arrival in Ulster, their descendants would depart for the Americas, repeating that same pattern of settlement in the New World. 

Passing through Ireland led to the first corruptions of a number of other Scottish surnames, with Irish ’McReynolds’ replacing Scottish ‘McCrindle,’ ‘Roxborough’ becoming ‘Roseberry,’ and 'Hemphill' replacing 'Semple' (see Hemphill Case Study click here). While Y-DNA testing would dispel some common held myths, the Ulster ‘Mahargs’ are NOT ‘Grahams in disguise’ but are Southwest Scottish Gaelic ‘McHarg’ (Maharg = Graham spelled backwards). Similarly, Ulster 'Hawthornes' are not Gaelic Irish ‘O’Dreains’ but Southwest Scottish ‘Hawthorns,’ while both Northern Irish and Scottish ‘Littles’ were originally Border Scot ‘Liddells.

What happened to the Gaelic Irish?

With the arrival of the Plantation Scots and English, the Native Irish faced the prospect of assimilation or displacement. A surprising number of Irish clans, particularly in Counties Antrim and Down where Plantation settlement was most successful did indeed assimilate and are today indistinguishable from their fellow Protestants. The only evidence of their Irish origin is in their Y-DNA test results and their surnames like Branagh, Brennan, Gorman, Heaney, and Connor which have no Scottish or English equivalent. The numbers are significant and point to a mini–Irish Reformation which has surprisingly disappeared from recorded history. However, for the majority ‘unassimilated’ Irish, simmering sectarian issues would be amplified over time, a process that would see them gravitate to areas where they were more numerous (safety in numbers), giving rise to areas of Ulster that are almost devoid of Gaelic Irish surnames, a process most notable today in Counties Armagh and Down.

A Gaelic Irish origin for many Plantation Scots

If you ask anyone today to point out the Gaelic area of Scotland they will point to the Highlands and Western Isles. Yet if one divides Scotland based on the distribution of Gaelic ‘Mac’ surnames it reveals an almost perfect East/West divide. Everyone neglects the Gaelic Southwest which includes Galloway and parts of bordering Ayrshire and Southern Lanarkshire. Y-DNA testing reveals that there are in fact 2 Gaelic Paternal Y-DNA markers associated with Southwest Scotland; I-M223 and R-M222. The I-M223 marker is associated with Gaulish refugees from Roman Conquest who settled in Southwest Scotland and spread into Southern Ulster in Ireland. In contrast, the R-M222 mutation appeared in a single male who lived in Northwest Ireland in around 200AD. The descendants of R-M222-Adam would proliferate in Ireland and in 1100AD some would participate in the Hiberno-Norse Conquest of Southwest Scotland. The land in Southwest Scotland that these Irish Gaels Conquered became ‘Galloway’ or ‘land of the foreign Gael,’ a term used by the surrounding Scots to describe these Irish Gaelic colonisers. Overtime, the Irish Gaels would be absorbed among the Scottish Gaels, some would adopt the English language and become Protestant. Over 500 years later in 1610AD, many of these bilingual Protestant Scots Gaels from Galloway would return to Ireland as colonisers. Hence today, many of the Protestant community of Ulster with Gaelic Scottish surnames have an Irish paternal R-M222 genetic marker (making them more Irish than some of the surrounding Irish Catholics). Although the Galloway Gaels were of different faith, they shared a common Gaelic language and had a mutual historical loathing of the English. That would have consequences in the 1641 rebellion.

The 1641 rebellion and its aftermath 

We live in an age when every atrocity of war is recorded so that justice can be sought at a later date. The precedent for which is the 1641 rebellion in Ireland. Every single murder and massacre was recorded in detail (Down Survey), and includes the names of the perpetrators and their victims. It is a remarkable piece of history (which for generations would stoke the sectarian flames), even more remarkable when one realises on can explore each incident at the click of a button. After making the first ever Plantation Surnames of Ireland map, I was struck almost immediately by the fact that the 2 areas where most atrocities occurred were associated with English settlement (North and West Armagh, and Mid-Cavan) where English surnames dominate. There was no love lost between Scots and English settlers in Ireland. One could argue that the people of Scotland and English have been at each other’s throats since Roman times. However, the English colonisers were at a disadvantage as they did not speak Gaelic, while many of the Scots could (having originated in Scottish Gaelic Galloway). In addition, many Scots were still aware of their deeper connections with Ireland, as were many of the Native Irish. This resulted in the targeting of English settlers in 1641, with some recorded instances of the Scots also taking an active part. However, when order was restored, it was the Irish who suffered, while the Scots would simply acquire extra land left by the absent Irish and English. This could be one reason why the Scots far outnumber the English in Ulster.

Another interesting DNA fact revealed by the turbulent times of 1641 is that many orphaned English, Irish, and Scots children were simply adopted into Planter or Native Irish families and assumed new identities, which has given rise to an unusual number of DNA Case Studies were non-paternal events are revealed (where a surname and family history does not match the DNA). For anyone DNA testing in Ulster the results can be a lottery, which from a science perspective makes Ulster DNA so fascinating!  Which begs the question, what would the DNA of today’s Ulster Politicians reveal? 

CLICK HERE to contact Scottish Origenes for a FREE CONSULTATION on your DNA test results or to find out about a suitable DNA test or email Dr Tyrone Bowes:

Where will your DNA take you?

Irish Origenes

English Origenes