Irish Roots

June 14th, 2010

John Grenham

The New York Times reports that two recent genetic studies have demonstrated conclusively that Jewish communities in Europe and the Middle East can trace their origins back to the ancestral Jewish population that lived in the Middle East about 3,000 years ago. A big surprise was just how genetically close were the descendants of the two major divisions of the Diaspora, the Ashkenazim, who settled in Northern and Eastern Europe and the Sephardim, who moved from Spain and Portugal to the Ottoman Empire and North Africa in the Middle Ages.

The studies also show that the levels of genetic divergence between Iranian and Iraqi Jews and other communities point to a separation about 2500 years ago, a date that fits neatly with the destruction of the First Temple at Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 B.C. and the subsequent exile of many Jews to Babylon.

What has any of this to do with Ireland? A couple of talks I was at recently dealt with “tracing Irish ancestors using DNA”. Both dwelt on the detailed studies carried out in TCD on the connections between Irish surnames and Y-chromosome inheritance. These have provided very strong evidence that, for example, many bearers of the traditional surnames associated with the Uí Néill tribal grouping in the North-West, - Doherty, Gallagher, Bradley etc. – share a common male ancestor who lived around the 4th or 5th century, the reputed period of Niall of the Nine Hostages, from whom the Uí Néill claimed descent. What the studies can’t do, however, is document an actual link between any living individual and Niall.

So, for anyone interested in pre-documentary history, in large migrations, even in the evolution of surnames, genetic population history is a wonderful tool. But it is population history, not genealogy.

You can see the full New York Times report at http://www.tinyurl.ie/06m.


Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.

Current column

2014

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
6
3
3
7
5
2
7
4
1
6
13
10
10
14
12
9
14
11
8
13
20
17
17
21
19
16
21
18
15
20
27
24
24
28
26
23
28
25
22
 
 
31
 
 
30
 
 
29


2013

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
7
4
4
1
6
3
1
5
2
7
4
2
14
11
11
8
13
10
8
12
9
14
11
9
21
18
18
15
20
17
15
19
16
21
18
16
28
25
25
22
27
 
22
26
23
28
25
23
 
 
 
29
 
 
29
 
30

 
30


2012

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
2
6
5
2
7
4
2
6
3
1
5
3
9
13
12
9
14
11
9
13
10
8
12
10
16
20
19
16
21
18
16
20
17
15
19
17
23
27
26
23
28
25
23
27
24
22
26
24
30
 
 
30
 
 
30
 
 
29
 
31


2011

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
3
7
7
4
2
6
4
1
5
3
7
5
10
14
14
11
9
13
11
8
12
10
14
12
17
21
21
18
16
20
18
15
19
17
21
19
24
28
28
25
23
27
25
22
26
24
28
26
31
 
 
 
30
 
 
29
 
31
 
 


2010

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
4
1
1
5
3
7
5
2
6
4
1
6
11
8
8
12
10
14
12
9
13
11
8
13
18
15
15
19
17
21
19
16
20
18
15
20
25
22
22
26
25
28
26
23
27
25
22
27
 
 
 
 
31
 
 
30
 
 
29
 


2009

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
6
2
2
6
4
1
6
3
7
5
2
7
13
9
9
13
11
8
13
10
14
12
9
14
20
16
16
20
18
15
20
17
21
19
16
21
27
23
23
27
25
22
27
24
28
26
23
28
 
 
 
 
 
29
 
31
 
 
30