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Thread: What are the Irish genetically speaking in summary

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    What are the Irish genetically speaking in summary

    I am not an expert on autosomal DNA although I try to keep up to some degree. It seems to me that the post-beaker pre-Christian Irish were likely overwhelmingly the same as the beaker/bronze age population.

    However, later post-beaker pre-Christian movements (2000BC-400AD) from an L21 dominated autosomally near-identical populations would be almost impossible to detect except through very minor changes. The fact the yDNA remained L21 dominated and the autosomal DNA changed only a little tells us something key about any post-bronze age arrivals who made a significant impact (if any) - they would have had to have come from a place where L21 was very dominant and the autosomal signal probably only differed in a very minor way from the Irish of the period.

    That to me sounds like Britain (although I wouldnt completely rule out parts of north coastal France as having very similar autosomal and yDNA as the Irish and British in the post-beaker pre-Roman era). In general this aligns with the archaeology which does indicate that by far the closest connections Ireland had in the post-beaker pre-Christian era were with Britain.

    The timing, nature and scale of any post-beaker, pre-Christian population movements into Ireland are unclear. Archaeology indicates constant moderate level contact with Britain 2000-700BC but no sharp breaks that would clearly indicate anything large scale or hostile. However, the fact beaker has turned out to be the foundation block of the Irish and British (and north, west and central European) genetics was a surprise. It showed that large scale population change can be archaeologically somewhat ambiguous or low visibility is some areas. Very few archaeologists saw the beaker movements as more than a small one in terms of scale. So, this does mean it is possible that substantial post-beaker pre-Christian migration and population replacement could have happened despite no strong archaeological indications in IF the invading population was genetically almost identical to the Irish of that era. That essentially is what would have happened if there was post-beaker pre-Christian movement from western Britain.

    The mid to later Bronze Age is very ambiguous but seen as in general continuity of the early bronze age population albeit that they remained in contact with the outside world (most with or via Britain) and were very receptive to new metalwork fashions. Its not traditionally seen as a period indicative of actual major population movement (though see my caveat above).

    It is only with the Iron Age that some see suggestive evidence of possible movement (small scale) into Ireland c. 300BC-100AD. Much of Irish culture in the Iron Age remained reflective of the later bronze age so it probably is fair to say that migrations in that period would not be expected to be huge from archaeological evidence (but again beaker has shown this can be deceptive). It looks more like small groups of hired swords and craftsmen may have settled with local blessing rather than the existing regrieme and culture being overturned. I kind of think it may have been a little like the Galloglasses of the Medieval era - basically culturally similar to the locals, settled by request to help local kings in their wars (perhaps at the border areas of their kingdom) rather than a hostile invasion. These modest sized group of fighting men may have basically 'gone native' culturally and linguistically very soon. However, the 'Hengist and Horsa' scenario cannot be ruled out. Modest groups of fighting men could have settled, gone native to some degree (rendering them archaeologically not very visible) but then in the 2nd generation become rivals or even in some case usurped the local kings. But I dont think they were culturally dominant and probably limited in numbers. The main clue for this is the P shift was not transferred to Ireland. It is interesting to note that in several areas the La Tene material seems to be associated with the more peripheral border areas with less attractive land (for the technology of the era) rather than the ancient heartlands of prehistoric settlement. Almost like they were settled to form buffer zones.

    There is also evidence of contact with Britain in its early phase of interaction with the invading Romans. This includes the introduction of new burial modes (flexed inhumation and also rare Roman type cremations). This is IMO indicative of significant migration into at least the parts of Ireland most in contact with western Britain (east and south).

    Its hard to say how much migration happened but there is undoubtedly evidence in burials for a strong romano-British influence c. 150-300AD. The historical-legendary groups known as the Fir Domnainn/Gallion/Laigin probably relate to some movement into Ireland in the later 2nd-late 3rd century AD. They are not on Ptolemy's map of Ireland of 140AD but the name is identical to both the tribes in Devon in SW England and the Strathclyde area of SW Scotland so I think a movement took place in the ear c. 140AD-290AD from one of those areas of western Britian. If it came from the only lightly Romanised west and north-west of Britain then it would likely be genetically almost identical to local Irish of the period and also L21 dominated. The only hints might be in which L21-DF13 subclades and sub-sub-clades are represented. And get this - a little known fact - Laigin, the Irish tribal-territorial name for the Leinster (SE Ireland) is of Latin derivation and means Legion (as in Roman Legion). That makes the mind boggle a bit. However, again this was localised in nature and not big enough to prevent them 'going native' in terms of adopting the Gaelic form over their British form of Celtic (well not in the long term anyway).

    Ireland also seems to have had a very very strong Romano-British input in the period c. 300-500AD that meant that the early christian material culture of Ireland looks a lot more like it has romano-British roots that local Iron Age ones. There was a population boom in this era according to pollen records from cores in peat bogs. However in that period it is known the tide turned and the Irish were raiding Britain. So quite possibly much of the absorbing of Romano-British material culture was due to Irish kingdoms that had branches both in Ireland and Western Britain (especially Wales, SW England and western Scotland).

    So, I guess in summary, archaeology hints that Ireland was not isolated from movement after the beaker era, especially from western Britain. It is possible that the impression of the modern Irish as having been little disturbed between the beaker era and the Norman/Plantation eras may be an illusion. A significant population turnover could have happened but be hard to detect due to the invading groups coming almost entirely from genetically near-identical western Britain. My guess is the post-beaker pre-Christian movement into Ireland was neither negligible nor large. It was probably small but in places could have had a genetic impact due to taking the reigns of power. That could actually have had a major impact on the specific L21 subclades. For example its possible M222 and other L21 clades that we associate with Ireland arrived from Britain long after the beaker period, up to and including the early centuries AD.

    By the way I was not sure where to put this thread - if anyone can think of a better section then let me known.
    Last edited by alan; 05-17-2019 at 04:06 PM.

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    By the way, the basic theme I think is important. You are most likely to be invaded by your near neighbours who in turn could in many cases be nearly genetically identical to the local native population. Invasions and population movements will not always take place across strong genetic frontiers. You could almost say near-neighbour migration is akin to internal migration within a single genetic group. In a situation like that, yDNA may be more useful than autosomal. However, even the yDNA may be basically the same and only closer resolution of sub-sub-sub-sub-subclades would reveal the migration.

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    I guess everyone has been a bit scared off as you know a lot more about this than us all. I would say I think there is definitely certain Irish looks, where, you can spot that someone is Irish, but I think there are differing looks for the Irish of the various parts - with a contrast between the East where there is likely more input of Viking and Anglo-Saxon genes, even Welsh genes, whereas the West has a slightly different character. An interesting thing about Ireland is that many of the original Norman conquering families, unlike in England, were dispossessed, first in Elizabethan times in the 16th century, later under Cromwell, and again under William III (of Orange) for refusal to give up their Catholic faith (as well as perceived or real collaboration with enemy powers, Spain, France etc.). So then you suddenly had families of Norman origin that just became as poor as the rest of the population and intermingled with them. So, somewhat perversely the Irish may be more Norman than the English. You only have to look at many of the most common Irish surnames and see that they are of Norman origin to see there might be some truth in this.
    Last edited by Rufus191; 05-18-2019 at 04:12 PM.

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    I did look into the theory of the Spanish Black Irish that supposedly originates from the Lebor Gabála Érenn, because my grandfather postulated that this could be the reason for his mother and grandfather's dark phenotype (which in actuality may have been from a South Asian ancestor). The idea of Spanish Irish morphed from the myth of King Milesius or the Milesians who supposedly came from Spain and settled Ireland at some unknown point, to an idea that Irish of a darker phenotype descended from survivors of the Spanish Armada. But all are likely to be myths. I found this short piece in my researches by John Mitchel Dickson, who I am guessing just from his name was of Ulster Scots heritage, which shows there was a clear opinion probably by both English and Scots Protestant settlers, that many of the Catholic Irish, particularly the Irish to the West, in Mayo, Sligo and Kerry were of an 'aboriginal' breed, that existed prior to the 'Celtic' immigrant wave, with various implied derogatory connotations to them of brutishness, stupidity, criminality etc. Dickson then goes on to claim that this idea is supported by archaeological and written evidence - he states that blacksmiths were connected to magicians in Irish mythology because of the supposed magical ability of the incoming 'Celtic' people's abilities to make metal weapons by which the native people were subjugated.

    Ulster Journal of Archaeology: Volume II (1896)
    https://archive.org/stream/ulsterjou.../n163/mode/2up

    This is the section from Arthur Young's Tour in Ireland (1776-1779) that referenced 'Milesian Irish' and 'the Spanish breed'

    https://archive.org/stream/arthuryou...search/spanish


    As regards the extent to which Normans contributed to the Irish genome, it is useful to look at the so called (originally by Cromwell in a derogatory manner) Tribes of Galway, who, out of 14, 12 were of Norman origin.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tribes_of_Galway

    https://www.aletterfromireland.com/t...bes-of-galway/


    Also this little guide of Hiberno-Norman history and surnames by Dr. Paul McCotter is worth a look


    https://web.archive.org/web/20180419103319/http://www.irishabroad.com/yourroots/genealogy/names/anglonorman/



    originally referenced by this short article by John Grenham
    https://www.johngrenham.com/blog/201...rman-surnames/

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    According to Ethnogene, I'm genetically 2.6% French, including some Norman. I am of Galwegian ancestry but also of English ancestry and as such I expect multiple sources for the Norman influx.
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    Well personally I think the idea of exotic southern elements in the Irish population have pretty well been blown apart by ancient DNA. The Irish cluster very strongly with Britain (especially west) and far north-west coast-facing Europeans (northern France, Dutch, Scandis etc) and the yDNA is overwhelmingly the same as the British Celts and perhaps northern France. I dont think there was much migration from anything other than the shortest hops across the water. You will of course get a trickle of exotic people arriving into virtually every maritime trading coastal city of significance with a long history but the numbers would be low and would have been concentrated in urban populations.

    The Black Irish concept is a strange one that seems to be a new world one. The term is not an Irish one. Only 3% of the Irish have black hair and proper dark brown eyes are under 1% with maybe 20% or so in the hazel/lighter brown shades and the rest all blue or blue-green. The Irish are thought to have the fairest skin in the world. So, its an odd term. Id say the highest percentage of darker traits in Ireland is the south-west coastal towns but that is just personal observation. All the Irish have that is dark is a higher rate of the darker shades brown hair than Germanic countries who tend to have more mid brown and mousy as adults. The Irish otherwise follow the common north European pattern of mostly having very blond hair as small children and progressively becoming darker. Ive a kid in nursery and about 80% of the kids at that age have light blond hair. It darkens with age, usually getting dirty fair by around 5, mousy after then many reaching a mid sort of hazel flat dark brown in their teens. But its very rare to have shiny blue-black hair of a southern Euro type at any age in Ireland. The most typical Irish person has light eyes (mostly blue, blue-green or light hazel), pale skin (often freckles and rosy cheeks when young) and mid to hazel-dark dull brown hair IMO. Often a reddish tint and facial hair very frequently has a red element among dark haired people. Its a very dominant colouring combination that I would guess around 50% of the Irish population have. The Scottish actor (of recent Irish decent) James McAvoy is a textbook example. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikiped...annes_2014.jpg Of course there is a percentage where all the darker traits combine - the common dark brown hair in combo with more uncommon traits like slightly more olivey skin and darker eyes (like Colin Farrell) but that is a fairly small minority (perhaps most common in south-west Ireland). By the way, I notice Colin Farrell appears to have a chunk of British ancestry judging by ancestral names Simpson and Jackson in his recent ancestry.

    I dont even think there is a 'western Irish' look. In the northern half of the western seaboard the look is mostly brown (and a fair amount of red hair) with very fair skin and light eyes but in the south-west there seem to be a bigger element somewhat more darker eyes and skin that is less ultra-fair. Then again ive been to towns like Ennis on the middle part of the west coast where golden brown and dirty fair hair seemed very common. So I think the west-east division in Ireland is too simplistic.

    In fact the term 'black' in Ireland over the centuries was used by catholics to mean Irish protestants. Its apparently a reference to the dark clothes that were worn by protestants centuries ago and latterly possibly the uniforms of constabulary etc who also tended to be protestant. The term 'black...(add expletive)' is still used commonly as a sectarian derogatory term for protestants. Indeed the area with the largest number of protestants in Ireland (today Northern Ireland) was known as 'the black north'. Ive even heard very strongly protestant towns and villages called 'black holes'. The term 'black' appears in folk songs too with the same meaning. I think it likely goes back to the late 16th/17th/18th century. I even once when I was living in England heard a drunk Irishman shouting 'black B///ard' at a protestant Irishman which caused confusion among the actual black (Afro-Caribbean) folks in the street. So I know its a sectarian term that is still used by people who indulge in such language today and it has a long history going back maybe 450 years. Its literally the only use of the term 'Black' aimed at humans that I know in Ireland.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Northman View Post
    Thanks for this! I had just recalled that this was going on today as I had heard about it a while back, I had no idea the results were already out! So, the results are indeed intriguing, and seem to point to significant input of Norwegian Viking genes, as well as genes that resemble North West French, which they say is 'probably Celtic'. Well, I would think there was a good chance that may be from Breton Normans. That they find that Gaelic clusters align with the Provinces is intriguing.


    The bullet points from the Genealogical Society of Ireland are useful for a quick reference:
    http://familyhistory.ie/wp/irelands-dna/


    Irish DNA Atlas Key Findings

    *That prior to the mass movement of people in recent decades, there were numerous distinct genetic clusters found in specific regions across Ireland
    *Seven of those revealed so far are of ‘Gaelic’ Irish ancestry and describe the borders of either Irish Provinces or historical kingdoms.
    *The remaining three are of shared Irish-British ancestry, and are mostly found in the north of Ireland and probably reflect the Ulster Plantations.
    *Two of the ‘Gaelic’ clusters together align with the boundaries of the province of Munster, and individually are associated with the boundaries of the kingdoms of Dál Cais and the Eóganacht.
    *There are relatively high levels of North-West French-like (probably ‘Celtic’), and evidence of West Norwegian-like (probably Viking) ancestry within Ireland.
    *There is evidence of continual, low level migration between the north of Ireland and the south and west of Scotland.
    Last edited by Rufus191; 05-20-2019 at 05:28 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by alan View Post
    In fact the term 'black' in Ireland over the centuries was used by catholics to mean Irish protestants. Its apparently a reference to the dark clothes that were worn by protestants centuries ago and latterly possibly the uniforms of constabulary etc who also tended to be protestant. The term 'black...(add expletive)' is still used commonly as a sectarian derogatory term for protestants. Indeed the area with the largest number of protestants in Ireland (today Northern Ireland) was known as 'the black north'. Ive even heard very strongly protestant towns and villages called 'black holes'. The term 'black' appears in folk songs too with the same meaning. I think it likely goes back to the late 16th/17th/18th century. I even once when I was living in England heard a drunk Irishman shouting 'black B///ard' at a protestant Irishman which caused confusion among the actual black (Afro-Caribbean) folks in the street. So I know its a sectarian term that is still used by people who indulge in such language today and it has a long history going back maybe 450 years. Its literally the only use of the term 'Black' aimed at humans that I know in Ireland.
    That's news to me! It must be a regional thing, possibly used more in places like Ulster where there is a larger Protestant population. I heard the term 'black Irish' but it likely was that I saw it on the internet rather than ever having heard it being said. Although if I recall correctly Maura Derrane originally from Connemara and with the dark brown hair, blue eyes and pale skin appearance was hoping to see some Spanish in her DNA results that were aired on the Late Late Show due to the story of the Spanish Armada. She was probably thinking that would explain her dark hair colour. My mum and I would have those general features as well actually. Of course, no Spanish percentage actually turned up in Maura's DNA, just some trace Scandinavia and Finland/Northwest Russia percentages like what I got in my original estimate. There are some with black hair, brown eyes and a darker complexion and those with just the browns eyes and dark hair but it's not the predominant appearance as you say. More than likely the Spanish Armada story arose among 'outsiders' as a way to explain why those Irish do have darker features than what's considered typical. It's most likely just due to natural variation within a population rather than there necessarily being a reason for it that can be attributed to any major event.

    Edit: The derogatory term actually reminded me of a recent conversation I had with some people from Clare. One of the girls was from England and had moved to Clare and it took her ages to adjust to the lingo. They were using phrases and I had no idea what they meant and they couldn't get over that I didn't know the meaning behind the phrases. There's actually a website on county slang for Ireland. I was looking at those for Roscommon and I knew the majority. I was particularly impressed that they had included 'All To One Side Like The Town Of Loughglynn' and 'From Out The Cloonchas' which are definitely unique to Roscommon since they refer to local places.
    Last edited by FionnSneachta; 05-20-2019 at 06:23 PM.
    Ancestry: Ireland (Paper trail ≅ 81.25% Roscommon, 12.5% Galway, 6.25% Mayo)
    Y-DNA (M) ancestor (Y): Kelly b. c1830 in Co. Roscommon (Uí Maine)
    mtDNA (P) ancestor: Fleming b. c1831 in Co. Roscommon
    mtDNA (M) ancestor: McDermott b. c1814 in Co. Roscommon
    Paternal great grandfather (mt): Connella b. c1798 in Co. Roscommon (T2a1a8)

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