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

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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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.
  • Cheryl

    I find the lack of paternal DNA dating to the 8000BC – 5000BC range interesting. Unfortunately, to me, this speaks to the violence in early civilizations. To kill all the males in the population, including children is a horrible but effective way to take over the population.

  • Asturias

    why genographic project is not publishing Avilés, Astutias DNA results?

  • Paul B McNulty

    A fascinating study. I’m looking forward to the conclusions.

  • Eddie Staunton

    Good stuff, very interesting, any Stauntons tested? confirm once and for all we are rightful heirs to the throne of Great Britain 😉

  • Derlin Gerard Clair

    Quite interesting.The two circles representing the different results of the MaternaL,from the mother(Mitochrondial)DNA,and the Paternal (From father)DNA Tests.m z

  • Crooked Nose

    I’m still not convinced that the R1b comes from Iberia. They’re finding older more diverse results from Turkey and the Caucasus region and the lack of R1b in ancient mesolithic -neolithic burials from western Europe is telling. I suspect late neolithic-early bronze age warriors from the east. Just look at the diversity of MTdna in Ireland versus Paternal Y-dna. What do I know? I work in a pizza shop in NY. 😉 Sláinte.

  • MaraLynn

    I am so very excited to be a part of this adventure. I sent my test results in a week ago and I will be like a KID at Christmas when I get them…thank you National Geographic. 🙂

  • Robert Pflieger

    My MtDNA haplogroup is U5a12a which is found in Ireland and North western Europe. As far back on my maternal line that I have records is my 3rd Great Grandmother who was Irish-Canadian. The only area where the number of persons in this haplogroup is large enough to make population percentage estimates is Denmark where it was found to be in 5% of the population. Since The U group is relatively ancient, but not basically Scandinavian, it might follow that Vikings brought back women from Ireland, and from there this haplogroup spread.
    Just a bit of speculation.

  • Eli

    It doesn’t make sense to assume that it is ‘likely’ that the 88% R1b paternal haplogroup is a result of the Viking raids. The first Vikings didn’t arrive in Ireland until 795 A.D. Ireland had been populated since 7000 B.C. and as an island, Ireland has had invasions and migrations of different populations on it’s shores since the first people appeared over 9000 years ago. The R1b haplogroup percentage is very high (60-100%) in Ireland, the U.K., France, Northern Portugal, Spain, Northern Cameroon and the Bashkirs from the Abzelilovsky District of Russia. It is much lower in Scandinavia, 30-60% in the far South, 10-30% in the mid-land area and only 2-10% in the far North.

    I also wish the article had gone into more depth explaining the largest distribution of maternal DNA, the 77% from Haplogroups H, J, K, T2, V & X and the 16% Haplogroup U, U4, U5 & U8, rather than skipping over it and focusing on the smallest percentage of the 100 random participant’s maternal DNA, a tiny 7% from the Viking invasions. The genetic history of Ireland is 9000 years old. The Vikings are only one part of the puzzle.

  • dianne

    I sent my DNA cheek swabs to the genome project in mid Oct but am still waiting for the results. Seems to be stuck at 80% completion! When will I get them?

  • joe

    Those maps and circle graphs are based on hypothesis not fact. I totally agree with the mtDNA that they classified as Mesolithic or Neolithic origin but the bronze age-Viking thing I don’t agree with. There is now hundreds of ancient mtDNA samples, with some Y DNA and autosomal DNA from Europe in almost all its periods of human history and there have been more studies on modern Europeans than another people so a lot has been discovered.

    I will have to organize more results of mtDNA from FTDNA to make an opinion about this. But it seems looking at ancient DNA that the vast majority of maternal lineages(mtDNA) in Europe descend from farmers who arrived from the Near east about 8,500 years ago and took up most of Europe by 6,000 years ago. The native hunter gatherers of Europe had almost 100% U5, U4, and U2e but there definitely were other haplogroups in Europe like RO, HV, H, and N before the Neolithic farmers from the Near east arrived.

    The Near eastern farmers I think based on ancient DNA partly replaced the native hunter gatherers. Autosomal DNA of European hunter gatherers and farmers has also revealed a lot about the ancestry of many Europeans including Irish. It has revealed that what was called by many different people north European clusters descend from the hunter gatherers and the Meditreaen and specifically Near eastern clusters from the farmers.

    The autosomal DNA results of Otzi a ~5,300 year old farmer from the alps and Gok4 a ~5,000 year old farmer from southern Sweden were nearly identical to each other. They had overwhelmingly Meditreaen like ancestry. They were also extremely extremely close to modern Sardinia people. But besides that there is no one in Europe who can be classified as in their genetic group or whatever you want to call it.

    All major modern ethnicities that live in the alps and Sweden in areas with farmers who ere related to Gok4 and Otzi are traditionally farmers. And have much more north European aka hunter gatherer like ancestry. There was probably a lot of Genetic shifts not just in those areas of Europe but many others during the copper age and bronze age.

    This can definitely be explained by many different migrations and new cultures that spread in Europe during that time. This is the exact time Indo European languages are suppose to have begun spreading out of Russia and Ukraine. I looked at the 100’s of mtDNA samples from central Europe(mainly the same area of Germany) during the Neolithic age which there is total continuity from 5,000bc-3,000bc.

    But mtDNA from new dominate culture of eastern and western Europe Bell Beaker(western) and Corded ware(eastern) from about 4,500ybp are different. They have mtDNA haplogroups that were never found in Neolithic Europe and much different percentages. Also two Y DNA samples from Bell beaker had R1b the dominate Y DNA haplogroup of modern western Europeans(especially Irish) and two y DNA samples from Corded ware had R1a1 the dominate Y DNA haplogroup of eastern Europeans.

    It has been theorized by studying modern Y DNA that haplogroup R1a1a1 M417 spread very much with many Indo European langauges. R1a1 has been found in 16 of 17 Y DNA samples from Indo Iranian cultures in asia in the bronze and iron age. Modern day Indo Iranian speakers have a high amount of R1a1a1b2 Z93 while people in former areas of Corded ware culture have high amounts of R1a1a1b1 Z283. So we know Indo Europeans are at least part of the reason for Genetic shifts in eastern and central Europe and Scandinavia during the metal ages.

    There are 31 y DNA samples from Neolithic central and western Europe not one had R1b. Most experts believe that R1b(specifically R1b1a2a1a L11) arrived in central Europe around 5,000ybp and spread very rapidly in west Europe from 5,000-3,000ybp becoming the dominate Y DNA haplogroup. The new Y DNA, mtDNA, new Indo European langauges, and new cultures in western and eastern Europe is probably also connected with the rise of north European aka hunter gatherer like ancestry. We just need to autosomal DNA from early proto Balto Slavic Corded ware culture and early Germanic Italo Celtic cultures like Unetice, Nordic bronze age, and Urnfield to prove it.

    Modern day Irish people are pretty unique and there already has been a lot of DNA studies on them. They have kept their Celtic language and blood after many invasions of Britain by Romans, Anglo Saxons, Vikings. Irish without a doubt are full blooded(just about) descendants of bronze age Celts who invaded the British isles. I bet once there is ancient autosomal DNA from Unetice culture it will be shown modern Irish, northern Scottish, Welsh, Cornish, and Brittany who are the last Celtic speakers are their closest modern relatives.


    To Eli…the blue line is showing exactly what you said: most male lineages come from Iberia in prehistoric times. I think the write up was just poorly phrased (the Viking lines are primarily I and R1a, though the southernmost tip of Norway has some R1b …and some darker phenotypes.)
    Crooked Nose-I also don’t think R1b originated in Iberia, but it dispersed from there up the Atlantic seaboard to Ireland, Britain etc. Certainly it has been found in Beaker People, whose culture appears to have its earliest foundations in Portugal. The earlier neolithic monuments of Ireland, such a Newgrange, also have some Iberian characteristics.

  • Joseph

    I think the thing this study is ignoring, but is painfully obvious to me, is that the reason the maternal lineage goes all the way back to the hunter-gatherers and the paternal one does not is because the males were killed by male invaders and their women were kept alive for . . . reasons.

  • JK

    I find this all so interesting. My mother is from the southern part of the Netherlands, close to Belgium and Germany. My maternal haplogroup is U6a1…… most commonly found today in Morocco. I have traced this line back to the late 1600s to a village near Tongeren, Belgium, the oldest town in Belgium. My theory is that my ggg…. grandmother was likely a Roman slave or possibly she came up from Spain when this area was part of the Spanish Netherlands. I have found only one other dna match in Belgium and one in Sweden. I wish I had a better idea on how to determine which path she took or if there is another. Anyway it may have been a violent beginning to my maternal line, but I suspect that all lines have some violence in it at some point. Given the history of the world.

  • Greg

    You don’t need to kill all the conquered males, you enslave them.
    That reduces their breeding opportunities, which has the same effect genetically as killing them, while you gain some economic benefit from their labour or selling them.

  • Charles Robinson Sr.

    Traced ancestors to Scotland ,Ireland England Germany,
    in some branches to 605 ad. have been working on family history for 8 yrs.

  • Marcus

    I’ve been waiting on my results since Dec. 23rd and yes I was stuck in the 80% done stage for a while also. Now it is March 17th 2014 and they (national geographic scientists) sent me a message stating the test didn’t have enough DNA on it, surprisingly, since I’m an RN, and also it would take an additional 4-5 weeks… Not a Rant more like a Vent . Did I forget to mention that I’m African American. So the nice lady on the phone stated it may take longer. :/

  • Gene bachman

    No need to wonder what happened to the Neanderthals – we have the model as the Europeans migrated to the Americas : first the invaders overwhelm the natives with diseases, then eliminate many males with superior weapons, enslave the rest ( working them to death ) , selling some. In a short time the natives have effectively vanished, leaving only scattered DNA traces. The women, of course, had a slightly different fate.

  • Annelise McGuinness

    We are a strange species.

  • Lou Vignates

    Your site has very slow response. Gets ttiresome waiting for it to respond.

  • Boogly

    They only sampled a 100 people all from the same community! You can not get accurate data from such a small sample!

  • Martin

    Just had my autosomal DNA checked. About 50% of English and Irish ancestry and the rest from eastern Europe. I was very surprised when 40% came back as from Norway, 10% from the British Isles, and the rest from the Poland area as was expected. Perhaps I was allotted a lop sided amount of autosomal DNA from my R1A1 Z-92 Northern Polish Baltic Y-DNA clade. Is that even possible?

  • Michael Momeni

    The following article traces human migration following the last glacier period (20,000 years before present):

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