The Genographic Project Returns to Ireland to Reveal DNA Results

By Colby Bishop, The Genographic Project

Hundreds of County Mayo, Ireland residents gathered earlier this week to learn first hand what their DNA could show them about their ancient past. From Viking ancestry to descending from Niall of the Nine Hostages, the genetics of County Mayo proved intriguing, reaching far beyond Guinness and the rolling green landscape.

Faces of County Mayo Ireland
Faces of County Mayo Ireland

The Genographic Project Team returned to County Mayo Ireland to reveal the Geno 2.0 DNA ancestry results from 100 local residents that participated in the Gathering Ireland event this past June. The Gathering is a community-led year-long project where everyone is encouraged to create local gatherings and invite connections from abroad to visit Ireland, and learn what being Irish is all about.

The Mayo County Council’s Enterprise and Investment Unit hosted the Genographic Project for the Gathering event under the theme of diaspora and cultural exchange. In addition to the 100 participants, some well-known individuals also participated with Geno 2.0, including An Taoiseach Enda Kenny (Prime Minister of Ireland) and Minister of State Michael Ring, TD. View the details on some of their specific results.

“We were honored to be invited by the Mayo County Council to participate in The Gathering, Ireland 2013,” says Alexander Moen, National Geographic’s vice president of Explorer Programs. “The Gathering is a reunion of clans so to speak. Similarly, the Genographic Project is a virtual gathering of humanity connected by myriad migration routes around the world over the last 60,000 years. So Ireland was a perfect place to host a community Geno 2.0 event.”

For the trip, the Genographic team debuted a short National Geographic documentary featuring the 100 participants and partnership.


After an opening of Irish music and slideshow of Irish faces, Genographic Project director and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Spencer Wells discussed the collective results revealing two new National Geographic Maps showing maternal and paternal Geno 2.0 results. “It’s wonderful to be back in County Mayo” said Wells as he welcomed the large crowd “and even better to see some familiar faces in the crowd”.

Maternal (mitochondrial) DNA distribution and likely migration routes.
Maternal (mitochondrial) DNA distribution and likely migration routes.

The maternal DNA results showed great genetic diversity, including lineages that dated back to some of the island’s earliest settlers (haplogroups U4.U5.U8), and some others that arrived more recently (haplogroups I, T1). The paternal DNA lineages were less diverse (88% of participants were haplogroup R1b), likely a result of the dominance of a few male leaders like King Niall of the Nine hostages, as well as the historical influence of the Viking raids from across the North Sea.

Paternal DNA distribution and migration routes.
Paternal (Y chromosome) DNA distribution and migration routes.

Each participant wore a special badge provided by the Mayo County Council labeling them as a Geno 2.0 participant. “This is such a great opportunity in Northwest Mayo to see what our story is and where we are going” said one Mayo resident on his excitement to be involved with the project. “We are ecstatic to be part of this historical study, said Joanne Grehan, Head of Mayo County Council’s Enterprise and Investment Unit, “and what better way to celebrate our ancestry than with the Genographic Project”.

These 100 participants have now joined more than 620,000 others from 130 countries in an effort to better understand the path of human movement and map human genetic diversity across the world. To learn more about the Genographic Project, visit www.genographic.com.

Learn More

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Europe’s Early Settlers Uncovered

Otzi the Iceman Leads a Wave of Genetics Buzz

Dr. Miguel Vilar is the Science Manager for National Geographic's Genographic Project. Miguel is also a molecular anthropologist and a science writer. His fieldwork has taken him to remote places throughout the South Pacific, East Africa, Mesoamerica, and the Caribbean. In the laboratory he researches the modern genetic diversity of human populations from Melanesia, Micronesia, North and Central America, and the Caribbean. Miguel has published in several anthropology and genetics journals, as well as popular science magazines.

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