Blood of the Irish
The blood in Irish veins is Celtic, right? Well, not exactly. Although the history that used to be taught at school said the Irish were a Celtic people who had migrated from central Europe, the latest studies of Irish DNA tell us a very different story.
Research done into the DNA of the Irish has shown that our old understanding of where the population of Ireland originated may have been misguided. The modern Irish population share many genetic similarities with Scottish and Welsh populations, and to a lesser extent the English. At the same time, DNA testing of remains of ancient Irish people suggests that some of the earliest human arrivals on the island originally came from much further afield.
This article is based on the research available in early 2018 - however new discoveries are being published regularly so if you want to keep up-to-date on this topic make sure you check online scientific journals such as Nature.
Early Origins of Irish DNA
The earliest settlers came to Ireland during the Stone Age, around 10,000 years ago. There are still remnants of their presence scattered across the island. Mountsandel in Coleraine in the North of Ireland is the oldest known site of settlement in Ireland—remains of woven huts, stone tools and food such as berries and hazelnuts were discovered at the site in 1972.
Where Did the Early Irish Come From?
For a long time the myth of Irish history has been that the Irish are Celts. Many people still refer to Irish, Scottish, and Welsh as Celtic culture. The assumption has been that they were Celts who migrated from central Europe around 500BCE.
Keltoi was the name given by the Ancient Greeks to a 'barbaric' (in their eyes) people who lived to the north of them in central Europe. While early Irish art shows some similarities of style to central European art of the Keltoi, historians have also recognized many significant differences between the two cultures.
Recent research into Irish DNA at the beginning of the twenty-first century suggests that the early inhabitants of Ireland were not directly descended from the Keltoi of central Europe. Genome sequencing performed on remains of early settlers in Ireland by researchers at Trinity University in Dublin and Queens University has revealed at least two waves of migration to the island in past millennia. Analysis of the remains of a 5,200 year-old Irish farmer suggested that the population of Ireland at that time was closely genetically related to the modern-day populations of southern Europe, especially Spain and Sardinia. Her ancestors, however, originally migrated from the Middle East, the cradle of agriculture.
Meanwhile, the research team also examined the remains of three 4,000 year-old men from the Bronze Age and revealed that another wave of migration to Ireland had taken place, this time from the edges of Eastern Europe. One third of their ancestry came from the Steppe region of Russia and Ukraine, so their ancestors must have gradually spread west across Europe. These remains, found on Rathlin Island also shared a close genetic affinity with the Scottish, Welsh, and modern Irish, unlike the earlier farmer. This suggests that many people living in Ireland today have genetic links to people who were living on the island at least 4,000 years ago.
Do Irish Origin Myths Match the Scientific Evidence?
One of the oldest texts composed in Ireland is the Leabhar Gabhla, the Book of Invasions. It tells a semi-mythical history of the waves of people who settled in Ireland in earliest times. It says the first settlers to arrive in Ireland were a small dark people called the Fir Bolg, followed by a magical super-race called the Tuatha de Danaan (the people of the goddess Dana).
Most interestingly, the book says that the group which then came to Ireland and fully established itself as rulers of the island were the Milesians—the sons of Mil, a soldier from Spain. Modern DNA research into male Y chromosomes has found that the the R1b haplogroup reaches very high concentrations in Western Ireland and the Basque country in northern Spain. While the picture for matrilineal descent (mother to daughter) is more complex, it seems that the northern Spanish and the Irish might have common male ancestors at some point in history.
There are also interesting cultural similarities along the western seaboard of Europe, stretching from Spain up to Ireland - as has been written about by the archeologist Barry Cunliffe. Although it might seem surprising, it is worth remembering that in ancient times the sea was one of the fastest and easiest ways to travel. When the land was covered in thick forest, coastal settlements were common and people travelled around the seaboard of Europe quite freely.
Another interesting finding about Irish DNA is that many men in North West Ireland (and their descendants around the world, including about 2% of men in New York today) are descended from a single man who lived in Ireland around 1600-1700 years ago. This coincides with the time of the famous Irish king Niall of the Nine Hostages, who legend says brought St Patrick to Ireland as a slave. The O'Neill family, who claim to descend from Niall, have certainly been a powerful family through the ages in Ireland.
Meanwhile, the latest research in 2018 suggests that the Irish are most closely related to people in North West France (Brittany where a Celtic language has traditionally been spoken) and in Western Norway. Interestingly, where earlier studies didn't find much impact of Viking DNA among the modern Irish, a recent study suggests there may have been more influence than perviously thought. You can read more details here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-17124-4
What we can take from all of this is that, although the Irish today feel part of a single group united by cultural and national identity, this culture and identity is ultimately founded on waves of migration connecting the island to the wider world of European peoples and beyond.
Who Are the Closest Genetic Relatives of the Irish?
Today, people living the north of Spain in the region known as the Basque Country share many DNA traits with the Irish. However, the Irish also share their DNA to a large extent with the people of Britain, especially the Scottish and Welsh.
DNA testing of the male Y chromosome has shown that Irish males have the highest incidence of the R1b haplogroup in Europe. While other parts of Europe have integrated continuous waves of new settlers from the east, Ireland's remote geographical position has meant that the Irish gene-pool has been less susceptible to change. The same genes have been passed down from parents to children for thousands of years. The other region with very high levels of this male chromosome is the Basque region.
This is mirrored in genetic studies which have compared DNA analysis with Irish surnames. Many surnames in Irish are Gaelic surnames, suggesting that the holder of the surname is a descendant of people who lived in Ireland long before the English conquests of the Middle Ages. Men with Gaelic surnames, showed the highest incidences of Haplogroup 1 (or Rb1) gene. This means that those Irish whose ancestors pre-date English conquest of the island are descendants (in the male line) of people who probably migrated west across Europe, as far as Ireland in the north and Spain in the south.
Some scholars even argue that the Iberian peninsula (modern-day Spain and Portugal) was once heavily populated by Celtiberians who spoke at now-extinct Celtic language. They believe some of these people moved northwards along the Atlantic coast bringing Celtic language and culture to Ireland and Britain, as well as France. Although the evidence in not conclusive, the findings on the similarities between Irish and Iberian DNA provides some support for this theory.
However, more recent studies confirm that when a complex picture is taken of Irish DNA, including both male and female lines of descent, the closest similarities are between the Irish and people living in Western Britain. In particular, people in the north of Ireland are close genetic relatives of those living in Western Scotland, probably due to a long history of migration between the two regions.
Irish and British DNA: A Comparison
I live in Northern Ireland and in this small country the differences between the Irish and the British can still seem very important. Blood has been spilt over the question of national identity.
However, research into both British and Irish DNA suggests that people on the two islands have much genetically in common. Males in both islands have a strong predominance of the Haplogroup 1 gene, meaning that most of us in the British Isles are descended from the same stone age settlers.
The main difference is the degree to which later migrations of people to the islands affected the population's DNA. Parts of Ireland (most notably the western seaboard) have been almost untouched by outside genetic influence since early times. Men there with traditional Irish surnames have the highest incidence of the Haplogroup 1 gene - over 99%.
At the same time London, for example, has been a mutli-ethnic city for hundreds of years. Furthermore, England has seen more arrivals of new people from Europe - Anglo-Saxons and Normans - than Ireland. Therefore while the earliest English ancestors were very similar in DNA and culture to the tribes of Ireland, later arrivals to England have created more diversity between the two groups.
Irish and Scottish people share very similar DNA. The obvious similarities of culture, pale skin, tendency to red hair have historically been prescribed to the two people's sharing a common Celtic ancestry. Actually, in my opinion, it seems much more likely that the similarity results from the movement of people from the north of Ireland into Scotland in the centuries 400 - 800 AD. At this time the kingdom of Dalriada, based near Ballymoney in County Antrim extended far into Scotland. The Irish invaders brought Gaelic language and culture, and they also brought their genes.
Irish Characteristics and DNA
The MC1R gene has been identified by researchers as the gene responsible for red hair as well as the accompanying fair skin and tendency towards freckles. According to genetic research, genes for red hair first appeared in human beings about 40,000 to 50,000 years ago.
These genes were then brought to the British Isles by the original settlers, men and women who would have been relatively tall, with little body fat, athletic, fair-skinned and who would have had red hair. So red-heads may well be descended from the earliest ancestors of the Irish and British.
Who Are the "Black Irish"?
The origin of the term "Black Irish" and the people it describes are debated (see the comments below!). The phrase is ambiguous and is mainly used outside of Ireland to describe dark-haired people of Irish origin.
The ambiguity comes in when trying to determine whether dark-haired Irish people are genetically distinct from Irish with lighter coloring. Dark hair is common in Ireland, while dark complexions are more rare.
One theory about the origins of the term is that it describes Irish people who descend from survivors of the Spanish Armada. There are other hypotheses, mostly placing Irish ancestors on the Iberian peninsula or among the traders that sailed back and forth between Spain, North Africa, and Ireland, particularly around the Connemara region.
Some "Black Irish" are of Irish-African descent, tracing their ancestry back to the slave trade. Many of these people live on Barbados and Montserrat.
Some readers, writing below, with typical Black Irish coloring have had genetic testing done to confirm that they have Spanish, Portuguese, and Canary Island heritage.
Read more about the origins of the people of Ireland
Click on a title to read more about the history of the Irish people:
CatClark on May 01, 2018:
This is a fascinating subject. As stated in my earlier comment here, I visited Northern Spain recently and saw at least 3 doubles. I'm Irish, hailing from Tipperary, and Ryan is my maiden name. My father had red hair. If the woman in the photograph that accompanies this article had dark hair and a widow's peak, she would be me in an earlier decade. Everyone wants to know where they came from. We are creatures of the past. Every thought and instinct, hope and wish we have is a product of our genes and history interacting with the present.
Israel Putnam on October 30, 2017:
Just received the results of DNA testing. My mother was all Irish, and referred to herself as “Black Irish,” having black hair and brown eyes; traits that I carry as well. Testing revealed 60% “Irish, Scottish, and Welsh” heritage.
Oddly enough, I have carried a very Eastern European type last name through my life. Turns out, I have only a 1% portion of my DNA from Eastern Europe—and an equal amount of “Iberian.”
Essentially, I’m 60% Irish and 38% English.
Nell Rose from England on October 01, 2017:
its funny really because the only true Celtic people in the UK are the English and Welsh! The Scots and Irish are actually Gaelic, the English is the most Celtic, you only have to know about Boudicca the biggest and most famous Celtic queen of the lot! if you look at the English Celts there are at least 20 tribes just in England, not Scotland or Irish! It does make me laugh when they say they are Celts, they are gaelic, doesn't roll off the tongue so easily does it? interesting stuff.
QueenMay on September 28, 2017:
Hi, I just wanted to say your article is very interesting. I did DNA got 97% Irish which I think is a high number, 2 % Finland, 1% Native American. Iberian was mentioned on my pg. Now I think the Spanish blood that my Mother talked about must of come from there. I knew of Irish and American India as well . Well one part said 2 %Europe but then it said Finland. Anyway just was so happy 97% Irish.
J-Ryan on August 04, 2017:
Good read! My family has always talked about 'Black-Irish'. Both my dad and my wife's dad had jet-black hair in their youth (my aunts and uncles included). Obviously Irish (Ryan and O'Brien) and traced back to Tipp and Limerick. Both fathers had genetic testing done recently and they both have DNA matches from Ireland and Spain.
Kathy Wigley on July 26, 2017:
I am working on my family genealogy and DNA testing family members. My Dad is a Matlock/Medlock ancestry whose Y-DNA is R1b1b2 (R-M269). My Mother is an Owens and her mother is a Ruggles. The Ruggles line is R1b1b2 (R-M269) and her Dad's mother's paternal line is Howe (R1b1b2 (R-M269). Mom's father is an Owens (J2a3-L26). Through my parents I inherited the Rh- blood factor while my siblings did not. My Mom is AB + and I am B-. My siblings are B+. My paternal aunt said my dad was O+. I learned that in order for me to be Rh-, both my parents had to carry rh+/rh- alleles in order for me to inherit the Rh- blood type. I also make it a point to search for the haplogroups of my ancestors so I can learn more about my ethnicities I inherited from them. From both my parents I have the Irish. Gedmatch.com has allowed me to compare my DNA against my Mother's so I could learn what I didn't get from her and what part of I got from my Dad, like his African, Middle Eastern and Native American.
Daena from Arizona on July 04, 2017:
I just had a DNA test done and I was shocked to find out that I had 13% Iberian Peninsula but only 11% Ireland even though my 3rd great grandmother was born in Ireland. This is a really interesting article and brings about a few "aha" and "oh?" moments!
Larry Freitas on June 20, 2017:
Heidi: Yes, the idea that enough Spaniards survived shipwrecks during the Armada by swimming ashore in Ireland's west coast to have left a sizable genetic marker there has been debunked. That 'Mediterranean' look already existed there for many thousands of years. That doesn't mean that various European people haven't migrated to Ireland in more recent centuries either, as has happened in Britain, but those immigrants would have moved to the bigger cities, such as London, Dublin, Edinburgh, and Cardiff. Then there are those Irish emigres to Britain. I have friends who live in the Cotswolds in England, and they are from Wales originally, but really only the wife of this couple. The husband is actually Irish, as his grandfather moved to Wales for work in the early 1900's. He does consider himself Welsh, though he never learned to speak it growing up near Swansea. His wife does know how to speak it. Wales was once a hub of industrial activity, and it attracted other British and Irish as well as people from other parts of Europe for the jobs available in the steel works and coal mines back a century ago. But go to those old coal valleys like the Rhondda and everyone is really Welsh and it's been like that for thousands of years, not unlike rural Ireland where everyone is really Irish.
In Cornwall, the Cornish have little genetic evidence of invaders and outsiders, as the Romans and then Anglo/Saxons, and later the Normans, basically left the place alone, nominally controlling that area. Since 2014 the Cornish have been designated a separate ethnicity in England.
The Basques were barely affected genetically by Roman, Germanic, or Moorish invaders. In fact of those three invading groups, only the Moors had much of a genetic effect on the Iberians as a whole. The DNA of Basques suggest that they are descendants of an admixture of people who had been living there since the end of the Ice Age or before then with later comers, Indo-European speakers and R1B1 carriers, who came into the region during the late Stone Age and through the Bronze Age, but the ancient language held and a Centum Indo-European language, what would have become a proto-Celtic language, never caught on there. So proto Celtic and later Celtic languages were spoken in the Iberian peninsula eventually, but not in the Basque region, as it was a matriarchy, and the mothers kept the old language and customs alive. The area was isolated enough that the blood types of Basques are quite different from other nearby Spaniards and French, even if the R1B1 DNA exists in them as it does throughout Western Europe, and it just happens that the Basques have high concentrations of that DNA as do the Irish, Welsh, and Cornish, though some isolated areas of Galicia in Spain and Northern Portugal have the same. Pay de Basque, or Pais Vasco is also one of those areas where the invaders' language was affected by those they invaded, instead of the other way around. Think of France: Germanic-speaking Franks took up a pre-French Latin to speak as the Roman Empire was falling, eventually which developed as the French language. Old Barbarian German was lost there. The Franks left their name on the new nation, but not the language the spoke.
So, if taking into account that an admixture of more ancient people with newcomers during the late Neolithic and Bronze Ages accounted for Basques and Irish to have similar DNA, it does not make the Basques "Celts." If it means some Irish look like some Basques, that has more to do with what happened in Western Europe some 5,000 years ago to anything that has happened in much more recent times.
HeidiWoods on June 18, 2017:
We had an old family legend that could never be confirmed. The legend was that we were "Black Irish" and that we were descended from the survivors of the Spanish Armada. But when I did some research, it seemed unlikely that there would be such a great population of "Black Irish" in such a relatively short amount of time.
My mother's maternal grandmother was from Dublin. But two things stood against delving into her line of the genealogy. 1 - she wasn't an Irish Catholic who married a Scottish Protestant, so both families disowned them. And, 2 - the records department in Dublin burned down, so we didn't know where else's to look for records. Well, my siblings and I bough the a 23andme kit for my mum for Christmas this last year.
Mum has just gotten her results, and because the DNA follows the maternal line, we have confirmation that we come from the Basques!! From some of my reading, I kind of already had a feeling. My mum and sisters are rh negative, and that was another clue for me, as the Basque have a higher percentage of this than other populations. This is super exciting for us and solves a bit of a mystery. Also, my mum has connected with some Irish "cousins" that my husband, daughter, and I will hopefully be able to meet with when we go to Ireland in 3 weeks!
Larry Freitas on June 18, 2017:
I visited Cornwall in March of 2017 and was told that black hair is quite common there. That got me into doing a bit of research when I got back to California, and found this R1B1 map of Europe, and that that DNA is very prominent if one from Ireland, Britain (England, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Isle of Man), Belgium, France, southern Germany, Switzerland, northern 2/3rds of Italy (but not Sicily or the south), Sardinia, Minorca and Majorca, Spain, and Portugal. That DNA has a very high representation in a few places in particular: Ireland, Wales, and the Basque region with highest percentages overall. It is a paternal DNA as well. It was carried into Europe from Western Asia and Eastern Europe starting in the late Neolithic Age and into the Bronze Age. Centum Indo-European languages then developed in the following millennia: Italic, Celtic, and Greek, but the Greeks weren't R1B1 DNA carriers. So proto Celtic languages started in those areas with R1B1, as well as Italic. Lusitanians in Iberia might have spoken a language more related to Italic than Celtic, but most of the tribes in Iberia were speaking a Celtic language that became extinct during the two centuries that Rome took to conquer, with 19BC being the year ancient Galicia (Austurias, Cantabria, Leon, Galicia and the northern 1/3rd of Portugal) fell. Celtic is a culture and language group, not a genetic one. Obviously if R1B1 was and is a paternal line, so that means there's a maternal one as well, and geneticists believe that some of that DNA came from people who left north Africa after the last Ice Age, as the Sahara region really heated up, and people there fled into southern Europe and further north. Now obviously there were other people already in Europe, so there would have been an admixture then, some 10,000-15,000 years ago, followed around the time 3,000-7,000 years ago of Indo-European speakers flooding into Europe, causing even more admixtures of people. So, even if R1B1 is quite dominant in Ireland, Wales, and the Basque region, it doesn't mean that those people share anything like the exact same DNA. Quite the opposite. Maternal North African DNA is also prominent in the Iberian Peninsula, and much less so further north to where it barely registers in Britain and Ireland. Iberia also had coastal areas in which Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Greeks settled. Compound that with the fact that there was the Muslim invasion of Iberia, with another influx in 700-800 of northern African people (Moors in Iberia, Saracens in the case of Sardinia, Sicily and southern Italy). Then there's the fact that those with Nordic DNA invaded Britain and Ireland, the Angles and Saxons in the 5th and 6th centuries, and a few centuries later the Danes and Vikings in both Britain and Ireland, and northern France as well, leaving some genetic markers with the invaded. When the Roman Empire fell, in the 400's, Nordic-type Germanic barbarians invaded the Iberian Peninsula as well, the Suebi and Visigoths in particular, though they didn't leave much of a genetic marker. The Romans and Italic peoples (and some northern Italic people had Celtic roots), however, also did not genetically influence Britain much, or Iberia, but did ancient Gaul (France) to a greater extent, and Ireland not at all because it wasn't in the Roman Empire. It's also true that Britain during the time of the Roman occupation, 50-410, imported legions, some that were made up of people from the eastern regions of the Empire, like Sarmatians and Alans, people related to Iranians by language, who were from the area of the Caspian Sea and Black Sea. It's thought that 5,000 Sarmatians settled in Britain in the Roman villas and outposts. There is now some historical evidence that the 'historic' King Arthur could have had Sarmatian, not Briton or Romano-British, roots!; and I heard that from an Arthurian scholar who lives in Tintangel in Cornwall.
Now, why didn't the Basques lose their language circa 3,000 BC, and therefore become Celtic speakers? That area apparently had a matriarchal society, and Indo-European invaders, carriers of R1B1, who assimilated with the Basques had children who learned the language and culture of their mothers. So, they kept a much older language, which might have been spoken, or at least variations of it, throughout much of Western Europe, before Indo-European Centum languages became dominant in the area; in other words from the time of the Ice Age into the late Stone/Neolithic and early Bronze Age.
If I could bring back Cornwall into my discussion, I visited Tintangel and saw the bi-lingual English/Cornish signs. One of the docents told me her mother had black hair, and that no one really knows how to pronounce Cornish, and that Welsh is used as a base to do so, as it is assumed Cornish sounded like Welsh.
Regarding the Black Irish, not many Spanish sailors and soldiers who got ship-wrecked during the Armada survived. Few, very few, ended up in Ireland. Some were handed over to the English for money. Some made it to France and then back home. Most of them died, drowned, or if they made it to shore died soon thereafter. What is true is that the island of Valentia off the south coast of Ireland became a refuge for sailors who shipwrecked there, some who were Spanish, but of other nations as well. What is also true is that the west of Ireland had been designated in the late 19th century by scholars such as H.G. Wells, as a place where the "Mediterranean" type of Caucasian existed: dark hair, dark eyes, and olive skin, though pale olive. And Ireland wouldn't be the only place where that type existed in Britain or Ireland. So, former Ireland rugby internationals Michael Bradley and Tony Ward (who I was once mistaken for) have dark hair and eyes, and the olive complexion. So does the Welsh Catherine Zeta-Jones and Tom Jones, and then there was the English Cary Grant and James Mason, and let's not forget Scot Sean Connery. I've also visited Galicia some time ago. There are plenty of blond and red-haired, though it's usually auburn, to be seen walking around the streets of Santiago de Compostela or Noia, or Vigo for that matter, along with the usual suspect "Mediterranean" type. You could see them in northern Portugal as well, such as in Guimaraes, but less so in Oporto.
To summarize, we of western European roots might have similar paternal backgrounds, but different maternal backgrounds, therefore the variations in skin, eye, and hair, and considering all the migrations and invasions, it would make anyone carrying the R1B1 DNA, whether from the Shetland Islands or the Algarve, more than likely to have hair, eye, and skin color differences between those two extremes. A shetlander more than likely could look more like a Viking ancestor, while an Algarvian would look like that Moor who came ashore from the south. It doesn't mean someone from either could also look very much alike, with dark hair, light eyes, and pale olive or fair skin. Also, R1B1 exists in other places, like Chad , Bahrain, parts of southern Russia, and western China. Go figure!
seampub on May 31, 2017:
I wonder if there is a way to differentiate the DNA of the Spanish Milesians from the possible Spanish of the Black Irish.
I was told that the Irish side of our family was Black Irish. My aunt recently had the ancestry.com DNA test done and it showed her results as 28% Irish and 9% Iberian peninsula. That seems to me that either we had a Spanish milkman somewhere along the line or a relatively recent influx of Spanish blood into our Irish heritage.
Eastmountain on May 30, 2017:
I did an Ancestry DNA test and was surprised to find that my largest "pie wedge" was Irish and that my Scandanavian heritage (which had been emphasized in family stories) was no bigger than my Iberian heritage. I had no idea I had any Iberian heritage.
I knew my mom's family was Scots-Irish-Welsh, and now I have a couple of theories about the Iberian connection, thanks. My DNA may run a trail from the Visigoths to the Celtiberians to The Irish.
constanceemmett on April 25, 2017:
I was lucky to stumble upon your post today, Marie. My mother's family emigrated to Brooklyn from Belfast NI in the 1930s. Her mother's family were Ulster-Scots, I assume, from name and religion, and they were members of the mythical Black Irish tribe: they had black hair and eyes and olive complexions. My father's family came to the US hundreds of years ago and I've traced his mother's side in England as far back as the 16th c. Imagine my surprise when I recently received my National Geo DNA results: I fit the French pattern much more closely than the British, and I have a whopping 25% SW Europe (56% NW Europe, 11% Eastern EU and 8% NE EU). Before reading your article, I'd remembered that the Celts/Gauls, then the Normans, then the survivors of the Armada brought French and Spanish and Basque etc., blood. National Geo lumped Ireland in with both Britain and the other NW European countries, so it was sort of a wash, but now I know why, thanks to you: because Irish genes come from all of those countries, as the waves of migration reached the shores over time. Of course, my Spanish blood may be from one lucky Spanish sailor, from the Armada or another ship, who was saved and welcomed in Ulster or the shores of Scotland! I look forward to your future posts. Constance
Marie McKeown (author) from Ireland on March 26, 2017:
Unfortunately it can be very difficult to trace family history in Ireland. The best way can be through churches if you know where your first emigrating ancestor went to church.
ghoast00 on March 22, 2017:
This article helps explain the results of my DNA test.
Mine indicated 23% Irish, 8% Iberian Peninsula, Western Europe 56%, and oddly enough 3% African.
MelindaHatfield63 on March 21, 2017:
I wonder if we might be distantly related. My maiden name is McKown (with spelling variants of McKeown, McKowen, McEwen, etc.). My ancestor emigrated from County Antrim to America in the early 1740's. It's easy to trace the line back through the generations in America, but once in Ireland, the trail goes cold. Any ideas on the best way to further the search in Ireland for a name that has so many variant spellings? Thanks!
Charli2008 on March 21, 2017:
There are old legends that tie into some of these findings ~ in particular that Scotia (Scotland) daughter of a Pharoah and Gaelos (Gaelic) son of a Greek King and their entourage moved through NW Spain (Basques) to Ireland about the time of Moses. They're said to have brought with them the kilt, the bagpipes and the St Andrews flag, all originally Ancient Greek. From Ireland they over time moved into Wales, Cornwall, Isle of Mann and Scotland, and later Brittany. Whilst I'm not suggesting this explains it all, I find it interesting these findings support the ancient legends.
Christine Brady2 on March 19, 2017:
I've also heard that the Phoenicians carried on a trade between what is today Ireland and Canaan or what is today Lebanon, which is why there are many redheads in Israel and Lebanon and may be the why there are more swarthy complexions in Ireland. There are a number of Irish Surnames like Duffy that specifically refer to Black. Last name: Duffy. This interesting name, with variant forms, Duffie, MacDuffie, McFee, McPhee, D'Duffie and O'Duhig, is an Anglicization of the ancient Gaelic personal name "Mac Dhubhshith" a compound of elements, "mac" meaning "son of" plus "dubh", "black" and "sith", peace, hence "son of the black one of peace". Of course the Danish Vikings were also referred to as Black, because they wore black metal chain armor. I work in Mexico and I noticed that I get along especially well with people from Durango, which was populated by the Basques. It is also interesting to note that the great missionaries and revolutionaries of South America were Basque.
Christine Brady2 on March 19, 2017:
My closest ancestors all came from Northern Ireland, County Down, Armagh and Donegal. I had my DNA tested and was told my female line came from Doggerland which is a land between England and Holland, now under water. I noticed a similarity in the pronunciation of my mother's maiden name Haughey if it were pronounced in Spanish with Jaureguei which is a Basque name.
Marie McKeown (author) from Ireland on March 17, 2017:
You are right about the red hair. Geneticists seem to find it difficult to distinguish between Scots (especially in the West) and Irish. More research in future may reveal connections and / or distinctions.
Marie McKeown (author) from Ireland on March 17, 2017:
Interesting! Sounds like the phenomenon sometimes referred to as the 'black Irish' about which there are a few theories, but no definitive answers.
Kate Regan on March 17, 2017:
Having had a black haired, hazel eyed Irish father who got deep, dark tans in the summer this topic has always fascinated me. When I look at the red headed Irish, I see nothing to compare myself to. On a trip to Portugal, however, I was astounded by the similarities. Locals seemed to think so too, as many wanted to speak Portuguese to me and English to my traveling companions.
Peter Quinn on March 10, 2017:
AHA. I'm mixed Scottish/Irish origin, and I feel it behooves me to point out that Scotland, not Ireland has the per capita highest proportion of redheads on Earth. Of course, red hair is a particular genetic marker for the origins we are discussing here. Almost half of Scots have this gene. So, let's not be putting the cart before the horse here. I'm very skeptical about some of the assumptions here regarding the relationship between the two lands, which might be far older than the time you refer to.
MaureenJane on March 05, 2017:
This is fascinating to me. It also might explain in my AncestryDNA result of 6% Iberian Peninsula to go with my 67% pure Irish. And the accompanying map showed the part of Spain that is Basque country. Wow!
H Lax on March 05, 2017:
"the inability of the Irish man to move his hips while dancing" haha...so funny, I have 6 brothers and not one of them can move their hips while dancing...I think it extended to the Irish Woman in my case. I look like I'm doing the Robot whenever I try to dance.
Dan OCinneide on March 01, 2017:
Interesting article, but a pity the Irish Isle is labelled as a British isle...
Marie McKeown (author) from Ireland on January 28, 2017:
Connolly (and a variety of similar spellings) is quite a common name in Ireland. Your great grandmother's family might have had a different spelling but essentially the same name. The surname is derived from the Gaelic name O'Conghaile which means 'fierce as a hound / wolf'. O'Connolly septs (large family groups or clans) were common in the west of Ireland. Hope this helps - good luck with your research into your family history!
mic26 on January 16, 2017:
I just found out through a DNA test I am almost a third Irish. My Great Grandmother was a Conley (spelling?) she was adopted at young age and we do not know if this is an accurate spelling. I am extremely interested in her roots, she does list her father as being from Ireland on a census record. Any ideas about the Conley name? Origins in Ireland? I want to visit there one day, I am learning as much as I can to pass it down to my children and grandchildren.
Marie McKeown (author) from Ireland on January 11, 2017:
Unfortunately the word Celtic can have many different meanings which gets confusing. Some people use 'Celt' for the inhabitants of Ireland and Britain before the Roman and Anglo-Saxon conquests. Others use 'Celt' to refer to central European tribes that were warring with Greek and Roman empires. There is some new research emerging that suggests that the Celtic culture of Ireland and Britain did not originate in central Europe but in the Iberian peninsula - sometimes this is called the Atlantic seaboard culture. So in that sense you are right that if the Irish are called Celts then the ancient Iberians should also share this name as they share ethnic and cultural links. But if Celt refers to central Europeans then neither Irish nor ancient Iberians were part of that same people so are not Celtic. I hope this clarifies things a little, though I accept it is a very complicated topic.
Marie McKeown (author) from Ireland on January 11, 2017:
You are right that all Europeans, indeed all humans, first came out in waves of migration from Africa. I think this is an important point and I will see if I can find more information as to which group or groups of humans coming out of Africa ended up making their way all the way to Ireland. Thanks for your comment.
SandraMynameis on January 04, 2017:
Hi, I stumbled on this article and thought it is very interesting, but there are some misconceptions in it.
For a start, the Spanish (although back then they were not even called Spanish, they were just a bunch of Celtic and Iberian tribes) were (are) the original Gaelic Celts.
In Galicia, northern Spain, there is a big statue of King Breogan, a Spanish Celtic king who was apparently the first Gaelic settler of Ireland, and after him came the milesians, leaded by his son. See the connection there? Gaelic-Galicia.
The article kind of makes it seem that the Spanish who arrived to Ireland were not Celts, but they were. Not only the north of Spain was Celtic, but also the south, and all of Spain except for the Mediterranean coast zone that was the home of Iberian tribes. Kids in Spain are taught this at elementary school.
I personally find it annoying that these days, whenever anyone mentions Celtic culture they almost always mention Ireland only, forgetting about the many other Celtic cultures that existed in Europe, especially the Spanish one since Gaelics came from there in the first place. It's like the modern Spanish have been robbed of their own culture and it's not supposed to be their own culture anymore, even when it is.
Lori Kleist on January 04, 2017:
The link I am not seeing here and would like to have more on the topic of, is that of African root in the Irish. The article speaks about Spain but the Irish of Spain were of African decent. Please comment on this and give some input.
Laurianne Behrens on December 31, 2016:
My father is full blooded Spanish and my mother was full blooded Irish. My father has always referred to the dark haired Irish as Black Irish making reference to Irish with Spanish roots.
Sukhdev Shukla from Dehra Dun, India on December 11, 2016:
Quite interesting, Marie. There is lot more which research can dig out. Thanks for sharing.
Linda Robinson from Cicero, New York on May 27, 2016:
Hello Marie and good morning, wow such a thorough fascinating hub about the Irish, it peaked my interest because I am half Irish on my mothers side. The intriguing content was well covered and you explained it so well, excellent hub. So nice meeting you and happy to be following you. If you have the time I also have one on the Irish community and the snow throwers, have you ever heard that story? :)
David Reed from US on March 02, 2016:
it's a nice historical topic which you discuss in detail. This also remind us that how this nation added to European culture & customs. Their history shows us a deep relation with other European Nations. Thanks for sharing & writing this kind of precious hub.
Cynthia Zirkwitz from Vancouver Island, Canada on March 01, 2016:
Fascinating hub that has sparked a great deal of discussion. Can you imagine any other nation in the world having such an impassioned debate about its origins? Forty years ago an Irish woman told me that the Black Irish were Catholics (originally from Spain) and that the reason I had so many red-heads in my Irish lineage is because we were Anglo-Irish and Protestant. I know that this is likely very simplistic, but it made a lot of sense to me when she told me. I guess we believe the myths we want to believe.
Dave Sumner from United States on March 01, 2016:
Having recently gotten around to havning DNA testing done I found this Hub to be quite fascinating. Thanks!
Sunardi from Indonesia on December 06, 2015:
This hub makes me curious about Ireland, wanna explore the history and the literature books. I hope I could one day.
zoetropo on November 03, 2015:
Careful with the word "Dane". There are two kinds of Dane in Denmark. Firstly, those from Copenhagen and its island who are nearly Swedes (Y chromosome haplogroup I1). Secondly, those from Jutland (the peninsula north from Germany) who are R1b.
R1b is dominant in Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, Brittany, France, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, north-west Italy, West Saxony, Franconia and Bavaria.
Franks, Anglo-Saxons (and Jutes), Celts, Basques and Etruscans are, genetically, a single people group.
Apparently their languages have been replaced on several occasions. Originally most probably spoke a non-Indo-European language similar to Basque. As evidence for this, Basque has receded in historic times from Poitou, through Aquitaine, to Gascony in France, and a similar retreat has occurred in northern Spain to the currently recognised Basque country.
Norse DNA (I2) is much rarer in the British isles than is R1b.
For reasons we don't yet understand, R1b also occurs in large and apparently ancient concentrations among native American populations around the Great Lakes, as well as in western Siberia, and in Chad in central Africa.
marwan on October 11, 2015:
HI I'M From Gulf I was surprised me origin Irish test DNA Love realize Genuine
Sandeep Rathore from New Delhi on September 25, 2015:
Informative hub, thanks.
BigBlue54 from Hull, East Yorkshire on April 28, 2015:
Thanks for that Oliver. I can see the connection with Map, Mac and Ap. Mac's, the name not the burger, arrived in what is now Scotland in the 5th century, about the same time as the English. And, of course Scotland is the land of the Scotii. But it was the Scotii who came across in the 5th century. So until that point it was not called Scotland.
Harold was Harold Godwinson. Harold son of Godwin, or Godwine. Just for clarity it was pronounced Goodwin.
The name Britain we get from the Romans and did include Ireland in that. So the British Isle was the Isle of the Britains.
The name Great Britain was to distinguish it from what is now Brittanny.
What is interesting is that recent DNA tests in Britain has shown that most of the people have pretty much stayed in the same areas for centuries. I find this information interesting for several reasons but one is that there was supposed to be a great deal of internal migration in Britain in the 19th century. In the 1801 census some 80% of the population lived in the countryside while the remaining 20% lived in what towns and cities there were. By the 1901 census this had reversed. Many small towns and villages grow in the 19th century but the DNA research would suggest that migration was more localised. This despite the arrival of the railways.
Also read an article recently which stated that the English are closed to the Danes rather than the Dutch or the Germans. I would have had more respect for this idea if the author had realised that the English came also from Denmark. Also that many Danes and Norwegians came across to England and settled here.
Marie McKeown (author) from Ireland on April 28, 2015:
You're too kind, but thanks!
Oliver Kloessoff on April 26, 2015:
BigBlue your reference to Welsh Ap being akin to Irish O is off. It was originally map, the equivalent of the Gaelic people's Mac Mc (mic) but dropped the m some time ago. O signifies grandson of .
Also IIRC the Irish were using surnames well before the British, circa the time the Scandinavians were establishing themselves in coastal France, long before their mixed descendants, and their Breton, north French and Flemish allies overthrew Harold.
Christine and Peter Broster from Tywyn Wales UK on March 08, 2015:
I would love to get my DNA tested for this original Irish gene. To know that I am linked to the tribes who lived here 3000 or 5000 years ago. My father's side is pure anglo saxon but my mother was half Irish and half Scottish. She was also red haired as is one of my sisters. My son has light brown hair but has a red beard. So I can make the assumption but I cannot be certain. Fascinating article.
Lee Cloak on March 07, 2015:
Fantastic hub, great, very interesting, thanks!
Saire Schwartz on February 25, 2015:
This article and its engagement is so AWESOME! I have always been interested in topics like this and especially the Irish. I bow before you!
Barbara Bethard from Tucson, Az on January 16, 2015:
wonderful hub Marie!
Angela F from Seattle, WA on October 04, 2014:
Very interesting - On one genealogy branch I can trace my Scot-Irish roots back to the Crusades, but I had not heard the Basque connection (although it does make sense.)
BigBlue54 from Hull, East Yorkshire on September 25, 2014:
With regards to the use of "O" in a name, the Welsh would use the word ap meaning son of. Many cultures do or did this, Saudi Arabia they use ibn, so ibn Sa'ud mean son of Sa'ud.
In the British Isles, that's England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland, each person had their personal name and then a list going back several generations of who their father was. When the Normans took over they wanted a simplified version for their records. So John son of Will became John Wilson, Wilson becoming the family name. Sometime nicknames became family names. Alexander was usually shortened to Sandy, so the son of Sandy was Sanderson.
If you have ever read Homer's The Iliad you will remember that each hero was known by his own name and that of his father and grandfather. The idea was to impress people with your pedigree. Some people have been less than impressed by this though. Centuries ago when Korea invaded Japan the invaders were met by the Japanese army for battle. The Japanese warriors decided to ride out each in turn ahead of their army and announce who the were and their ancestry. The Korean archers just used them for target practise.
Marie McKeown (author) from Ireland on September 25, 2014:
Quite a few families dropped the 'O' to fit in with the anglicisation of the country.
Goringe Accountants from London, UK on September 22, 2014:
Recently discovered my last name use to be O'xxxxxxx way back when. I wonder how many other names use to have an O' in front of them and be of Irish lineage?!
Sean Evans from GTA on September 18, 2014:
Very interesting article and one I enjoyed a lot.
thom w conroy on July 12, 2014:
An interesting hub for all of us with an abundance of Irish blood in our veins (and even for those that don't). I agree - if someone ever spent the time and money to investigate it we'd most probably all trace back to the same African woman about a zillion years ago. Thanks for the thought.
BigBlue54 from Hull, East Yorkshire on March 18, 2014:
I think Marie has to be commended for an excellent Hub which has provoked a very interesting and informative discussion. Well done Marie
Don Colfax from Easton, Pennsylvania on March 17, 2014:
Wow. Very informative and well written. I haven't looked much into my cultural history but wow. Thank you!
BigBlue54 from Hull, East Yorkshire on March 12, 2014:
Hi Joseph, it is a natural assumption that would lead you to think that people are named after the country they come from rather then the country being named after them. But in this case England is the Land of the Engels.
Joseph C Durkin on March 11, 2014:
Hi BigBlue, yes I was aware of the kingdoms, but not the fact they called themselves english.
zoetropo on March 09, 2014:
The Bretons set about making their own mark on the landscape. Aside from some spectacular castles, beautiful abbeys and impressive ports, they renamed several places: the main London-York road became Ermine Street (after the emblem of Brittany), as did a major road in the West Country; the Granta River became the Cam (Breton for Meandering), and the Barwell in Leicestershire became the Tweed (like Welsh "Twyd", meaning family, kin, clan or people).
zoetropo on March 09, 2014:
Gospatric, who was Earl of Bernicia and Northumbria early in the reign of William the Conqueror, was of mixed Cumbrian, Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Irish stock, and self-identified as British.
Alan Rufus, a wealthy and powerful Breton cousin of King William I, accompanied him to England: the Norman historian Wace wrote that at the Battle of Hastings "Alan and his men did the English great damage".
Alan then did many surprising things: in his own lands, he abolished the Danegeld, defended and promoted local Cumbrians and Anglo-Danes, and toward the end of William the Conqueror's life persuaded the King to return to York to apologise for the harm he did.
The aforesaid Earl Gospatric's family honoured Alan's memory by naming some of their sons "Alan", most notably Alan of Allerdale and Alan of Galloway.
Alan was very courteous and seems to have been a favourite of the ladies, such as the Conqueror's sister Adelaide and his wife Matilda. Astonishingly, even King Harold's daughter Gunhilda loved Alan.
zoetropo on March 09, 2014:
My maternal grandmother was a Chapman. The Chapmans of Whitby on the north coast of Yorkshire were merchants, bankers and shipbuilders in the 1800s; they are recorded there, *with that surname* and in maritime trade, in about AD 400. So they were among the early Angles to settle in northern Britain and were sea traders there from their arrival in the 300s until very modern times.
Further south along the Channel and the North Sea, the Romans built forts along what they called the "Saxon Shore". So the word "Saxon" was in use for these people from early times.
When the Anglo-Saxons and Jutes occupied much of what is now England around the 6th century, the Britons living in Gaul described this territory as "Saxon (occupied) Britain".
Despite what some pessimistic chroniclers of the time implied, there was extensive intermarriage between the native British and Anglo-Saxon immigrants. King Alfred was a member of the House of Cerdic, whose name is Old British.
DNA surveys indicate that at least 75% of both male (Y-chromosome) and female (mitochrondrial) lines of descent in modern England are from Neolithic inhabitants, so the Celts, Romans, Anglo-Saxons and recent immigrants combined have contributed at most 25%.
BigBlue54 from Hull, East Yorkshire on March 02, 2014:
There is a difference between the land and the people Joseph. The people called themselves the English and did so before they crossed the North Sea. And that includes the Saxons and the Jutes. The idea of them being Angles and Saxons was something which came in much later and is nothing to do with what they called themselves.
When they first came across they set up separate kingdoms. The area between the Firth of Forth in what is now Scotland and the River Humber to the south was called variously Northumberland, the land north of the Humber, but before that it was Deira which ran from the Humber to the River Tees and then the area to the north up to the Firth of Forth was called Bernicia.
Other kingdoms you may of heard of was Wessex, Alfred the Great and Mercia with King Offa who built Offa's dyke to keep the people of wale out
It was not until later when kingdoms became more unified that the name England appears. Though they called it Engleland, land of the Engles.
So yes the did exist in the 5th century but England did not. The land was named after the people and not the other way round. Hope that helps clear things up for you Joseph.
Joseph C Durkin on February 28, 2014:
BigBlue54 In an earlier post you mentioned the english. The English weren't in existance in the 5th Century Ad. The first known use of "England" to refer to the southern part of the island of Great Britain occurs in 897. It wasn't until Æthelstan that the Kingdom of England came into being in 924.
Are you refering to the Angles as the english?
BigBlue54 from Hull, East Yorkshire on February 28, 2014:
Well we all came originally from Africa via the Middle East.
BigBlue54 from Hull, East Yorkshire on February 25, 2014:
Hi Esnuni, I have read about Iceland which seems to have a number of red heads on the population. It was supposed to be populated by Norwegians from Ireland but DNA tests have shown that some of those "Vikings" were less Sven and Olaf and more Patrick and Michael. In other words some of those who migrated to Iceland were either native Irish or may have had one parent who was Irish.
Charles Dawson from Bartow, FL on February 24, 2014:
This is such an awesome article, and very close to home for me. Both sides of my family can be traced back to Ireland, but my father's side has all of the redheads. My father, two aunts, my half-sister and three cousins are/were full redheads, and two more cousins and myself have ginger hints/highlights in our hair/beards.
BigBlue54 from Hull, East Yorkshire on February 19, 2014:
Hi Esnui, I took a look at English Origenes and I am sorry but I do not buy it. The origin of the name Townsend is simple. Each village and its parish was a township. Settlements on the edge or end of a township would be called Townsend so there are towns end scattered all over England. I know of a village not far from me which has two. And just because you have the same name it does not follow you have the same DNA. These were just people living at the towns end.
People were called Smith because that was their occupation. As every village would have at least one. Clark was given to anyone who could read and write. None of these people had any relationship with the others of the same name. There are a large number of surnames which originate from an ancestors occupation. Fletcher, a man who made arrows. Tanner, someone who tanned leather. Cooper a man who made barrels. None of these people of the same name would necessarily have the same DNA and because of their professions being widespread it would be difficult to say they had a common origin.
You are also assuming that a persons name has not changed for what ever reason or that they are actually related to one or both parents.
The explanation given on the website looked more like a little bit of knowledge and a very large amount of guess work.
BigBlue54 from Hull, East Yorkshire on February 16, 2014:
Hi Esnuni, I read the article in the link you gave and to be honest I am not impressed with it. Whether that is with the author of the article or the book I cannot tell without reading the book but I can see problems with it.
We know there was a huge influx of people into Britain from the fifth century, the English, but these are not mentioned. But the archaeological evidence clearly shows that they arrived in the fifth century and then spread across the country. And how do you separate the English from Denmark and the Danes from Denmark?
The people he calls Celts may have arrived some 4/5000 years ago which would be about the time the Bronze Age started here. But again is this interpretation correct. Are we looking at people from Spain moving to Britain or those from Britain moving to Spain? The Atlantic Culture went both ways. And what happened to the original population of Britain, which I noticed was not mentioned? There was a very large population here at that time, what happened to them?
For something which was supposed to answer questions it has raised many more which need answering.
Marie McKeown (author) from Ireland on February 16, 2014:
Thanks for sharing the link to that article - very interesting!
zoetropo on February 11, 2014:
Irish legends say Ireland was settled in waves, with the Gaels arriving late (a few centuries BC) from Galicia. Allegedly (but impossibly) Ireland was spotted from the top of a tower.
However, it is a fact that the "Tower of Hercules", a 55 metre Roman lighthouse built on the site of a previous Galician one, faces north toward Ireland.
The Celtic Sea (between Ireland, South-West Britain and Brittany) and the Bay of Biscay have always contained major trading routes (and still do); this is how the "Atlantic" cultures came to share many characteristics.
Galicia was the homeland of Count Theodosius and his son the Emperor Theodosius. Born on the Count's estates and accompanying him to Britain was Magnus (Flavius Clemens) Maximus. In 383 Gratian was the western Emperor but he was losing the support of many Romans because he favoured the Alans, a tribe from central Asia of Iranian origins. Magnus's troops and many British people urged him to invade Gaul and depose Gratian. He did so, landing in Armorica (the region west of the Seine and north of the Loire), where he established a base manned by troops from Powys and Gwynedd in Wales, it's said under the command of Conan Meriadoc, a Prince of Powys whose relative Elen, Magnus had married.
Magnus ruled Britain, Gaul, Spain, the western edge of Germany and northern Italy, mostly wisely and certainly popularly, for 5 years, until Emperor Theodosius found the opportunity to build up his own forces and defeat Magnus's main army, then executed him and his son Flavius Victor. The women of Magnus's family were allowed to live, and the base in Armorica remained in Conan's control.
Interestingly, Magnus also seemed to have set up a base in his native Galicia, which maintained close links with Armorica.
Around 407 Armorica declared independence from Rome, but remained a staunch ally. When Attila the Hun invaded Gaul in 451, he attacked Orleans which was under Alan governance. The Alan leader offered to surrender the town to Attila if the people were spared. Just then an alliance of the Alans, Armoricans, Visigoths, Franks and Romans arrived and drove Attila east, catching him on the Catalaunian Plain and forcing battle. The Romans captured the local hill before the Huns could, and Aetius the Roman general who blamed the Alans for not all dying before letting the Huns reach Orleans placed the Alans front centre in the hope that the Huns would annihilate them. However, the Armorican archers protected the Alans and wiped out the Hun front lines. That night was pitch black, so Attila planned a sneak attack on the Roman position, but when he approached it he was shocked to encounter a continual hail of arrows drove him back to his own camp. The Armoricans had done it again. (Students of the Hundred Years War will recall how good the Welsh archers were.) In the morning, the western allies were ready to storm Attila's camp and knowing this he prepared a bonfire in which to commit suicide. However, Aetius was afraid that with all the Huns dead, the Visigoths under Thorismund would become an overwhelming threat, so he disbanded the army and let Attila live to ravage northern Italy. The Alans he sent to Armorica and Galicia, thinking they'd cause trouble there, but they were accepted with open arms and settled in nicely, thank you.
In 470, the Visigoths, now under Euric, intended to attack the Romans, so Riothamus the King of the Britons (meaning the Armoricans) led an expeditionary force to join the Roman emperor Anthemius and meet the threat. But Arvandus the Praetorian Prefect of Gaul directed Euric to intercept Riothamus. A battle was fought east of Avallon in Burgundy (a town you can visit today) and after hard fighting, Riothamus ordered a retreat of his surviving soldiers. It's not known whether the King survived, but Arvandus was committed to stand trial for treason. His friend Sidonius Apollinaris pleaded on his behalf and the death penalty was commuted to exile.
With the Armoricans severely weakened, the Franks invaded Gaul in force and took Paris from its last Roman commander in 486. The Franks pushed the boundaries of independent Armorica far westward, but they were never able to completely conquer it. Under Frankish influence, Armorica was broken into separate states: western Brittany (the independent remnant), eastern Brittany (the Breton March) and the Counties of Anjou, Maine, Touraine, Blois, and Rouen which would later become the nucleus of Normandy.
The Franks penned the Bretons in with fortifications in depth; this is how it remained throughout Charlemagne's reign. A final push by the Franks under Charles the Bald to conquer all of Brittany on 22 August 851 led to a two-day open battle at Jengland in which the Armoricans systematically whittled down the Frankish army. Charles fled on the second night, leaving his camp to be overrun in the morning. etons overran The Bretons overran all the Frankish forts and met Charles at Angers (capital of Anjou) to settle the border and receive an acknowledgement that the Franks had no claim of suzerainty over them.
Meanwhile, the Visigoths invaded Spain, the Swabians went to Galicia, and later the Muslims invaded. They did take most of Spain, up to the Pyrenees and even advanced to Tours and Poitiers where the Franks and Armoricans defeated them.
But the Muslim attempt to take Galicia met with defeat and Galicia pushed back, beginning the Reconquista, as Galicia gradually expanded and combined with the Spaniards it freed to retake Leon, Asturias, Portugal, Castile and Aragon.
So Magnus's two bases saved European civilisation.
The story of Normandy is an interesting one. Norsemen began raiding the coasts of the British Isles and France in the 700s. After their defeat by the Bretons, the Franks thought they'd be clever and hire Vikings to attack Brittany. But the Bretons had deeper pockets and hired more Vikings to attack Paris. The Norse allies of the Bretons settled in the Loire valley, but in the early 900s they betrayed them (shades of Arvandus and the Goths) and overran Brittany, pillaging and destroying all over. The Breton Court and many other Bretons fled to the England of Edward the Elder, son of Alfred the Great. The Vikings were now free to pillage France wherever and whenever they liked. The young King of France was deposed by his own court and also fled to England.
Another group of Vikings, led by Rollo, settled in the Lower Seine, took Rouen and threatened to take Paris. The French court bought them off by making Rollo the official Count of Rouen and with promises of land in eastern Brittany that wasn't the Franks' to give. Rollo then married a Breton wife, as did his son Count William I "Longsword".
Edward was the godfather of Alan II, the heir to the throne of Brittany. In 936, Alan led a fleet across the Channel, landed near Dol and in a year of pitched battles recovered his homeland, driving the Vikings of their main southern base of Nantes into the river Loire (paradoxically) to drown. Then he allied with the ousted Count of Nantes to defeat the remnant of the Loire vikings at the battle of Trans-La-Foret. The French King then felt it was safe to return home.
The Seine Vikings began to take serious notice of this, and they and the Bretons began to form an accommodation. The Duke of Brittany and the Duke of Normandy married each other's sisters and promised to protect each other's heirs.
By 1066, when Harold was appointed King of England and demoted many Bretons and Normans who had reach high station there, Count Eozen of Brittany and Duke William of Normandy had formed a military alliance. Eozen gave his sons Brian and Alan Rufus 100 ships and thousands of troops to join William's ambitious attempt on the English throne. At Hastings, the Breton tactic of the feigned retreat worked wonders and Harold's shield wall slowly crumbled until he had nowhere to hide from the archers and the knights.
Alan was given 109 manors from Harold's Consort, Edith Swannesha, and took her daughter Gunhilda under his wing. Alan served William loyally and grew stronger, but he also made William apologise to York for the Harrying.
Marie McKeown (author) from Ireland on February 04, 2014:
Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge!
BigBlue54 from Hull, East Yorkshire on February 02, 2014:
Hi Marie, I found your hub very interesting and informative. I studied archaeology at university which included much on prehistory, Roman Britain and the Anglo Saxons.
Your thoughts on migration from Ireland to Scotland between CE 400 and CE 800 would be when the Scotii arrived in what became Scotland from Ireland. This coincides with the English arriving from the east after the Romans left.
I remember watching Billy Connolly on Hadrain's Wall proclaiming it was built to keep the Scot's out. As they were still in Ireland when it was built it would have been a stupid place to put it.
The Romans called the islands the British Isles and included Ireland within that. And the referred to the people of all the islands as the Britains.
I did read several years ago about some DNA research carried out on one of the islands on the Irish west coast. It was thought there would be a chance to find DNA which had not been mixed with that of other groups such as the English of Norwegians. Imagine their surprise when they traced the origins of the DNA and found it came from south east England. It turns out they had not done the research properly because when Cromwell had been in Ireland he had garrisoned the island and then left them behind when he left. They had married local girls so their DNA turned up.
Several years ago a Scandinavian style broach was found in England. Nothing unusual there except that the decoration within it was Irish in style. We know that Norwegians from Ireland would sometimes be part of an a raiding party or even an army such as that defeated by Athelstan. So why the mixed style? Was he Norwegian with an Irish wife? Irish with a Norwegian wife? Or the son of a mixed Norwegian Irish marriage?
Anyway, again thanks for the hub. I thought it was well written and I look forward to reading more.
Marie McKeown (author) from Ireland on January 16, 2014:
Stephanie from Texas on January 13, 2014:
Very interesting info! I'm glad I found you. I'll be a follower now and I can't wait to read more. Thanks for sharing!
Colleen Swan from County Durham on December 23, 2013:
Hi Marie, Being of Irish ancestry, this article was of special interest to me. Growing up in America, I noticed my relatives disliked anyone who was not Irish. At the same time, when someone once commented on my grandmother's delightful brogue, she slammed the phone down on the unfortunate caller.
Thanks for a fun and informative look at Irish origins.
Marie McKeown (author) from Ireland on December 10, 2013:
Interesting - thanks for sharing and good luck with investigating your origins!
Jim Drummond from Rugby, Warwickshire on December 10, 2013:
Facinating especially the Basque/spanish connection. For years on holiday in Spain the locals think I am one of them been some what embarrassing as a couple have refused to believe me when I say no habla espanol. I have always wanted to know where me and the family came from but find the DNA is to expensive to have done and analysed. I am swarthy skinned, black hair facial features like Spanish guys. My brother is ginger haired, light skinned and Scottish in features. We wereboth born to Scottishparents inPerth Scotland. Mum was from Peterhead (vast fishing trade links) was swarthy skinned with black hair, dad was decended from travelling links,his family were basket makers who moved about to where raw materials were growing (willow). Still wondering about my origins as I am intrigued about the Spanish possibilities!
Joseph C Durkin on December 08, 2013:
I'll agree with that Marie I couldn't dance even if my life depended on it!
Marie McKeown (author) from Ireland on December 05, 2013:
Fun story! I think Irish men just aren't natural dancers...
Beth Perry from Tennesee on December 04, 2013:
How interesting, great information!
I can't testify to Irish men, but I have a relative of Scot heritage who says Scottish men don't shake their hips when dancing because the pennies might fall out from between their butt cheeks. But uh, that could just be a wild boast :)
Marie McKeown (author) from Ireland on December 03, 2013:
Thanks Joseph - I am glad you enjoyed the article. The King you are thinking of may be Mil d'Espange - according to Irish legend the sons of Mil (Milesians) settled in Ireland after voyaging from Spain.
You also asked about Viking connections - some vikings did settle in Ireland in the middle ages. The family names 'MacLaughlin' and "Toner" (among others) are believed to be descended from Viking settlers.
Joseph C Durkin on December 03, 2013:
I remember my dad showing me a small piece on where us Durkins originated from and it quite clearly stated that we came originally from Spain and settled in Ulster.
I've been trying to find the piece but to no avail so far, I remember it mentioning a King but I just can't remember what his name was.
So I personally think that Marie has a valid point in her original article.
Marie McKeown (author) from Ireland on October 30, 2013:
A good point!
Treathyl FOX from Austin, Texas on October 30, 2013:
I'm not so much interested in how the study of DNA can prove my ancestry. I think genetics has the greatest value when it can be applied to the treatment of genetically inherited sickness. If you can fix a faulty gene so a person can enjoy their health, think of all the dead ancestors that died from something that person didn't have to suffer from. That's why I support the research of DNA.
Dubhlain on September 26, 2013:
Marie there is a wealth of books that touch on the subject, not directly of course, but included in the records of a British army as it fought its way through history. The problem in researching these records is getting past the romantic and mythical nonsense written about the wild geese.
My best suggestion is a quick look at the battle honours of the British regiments which will tell what countries or continents their battles were fought in. If you find an interest it that, then the regimental associations could be a source of information on the ethnic make-up of the women and children of the regiments.
For starters the Irish regiments from the 17th century are;
The 18th regt. 27th regt. 86th regt. 87th regt. and the 88th regt. The Connaught rangers. There was also the leinster Regt. know as the Royal Canadians, and of course the Dublin Fusiliers and the Munster fusiliers. Both the latter began life as European [Irish] Infantry regiments in the service of the British east India company, and therefore serviced most of their life in and around the Indian continent. There were also the 5th Irish Lancers and the 8th Kings Irish Hussars, plus a few others from time to time. In addition all other regiments of the army recruited extensively in Ireland. As you can see it was quite a source of manpower, manpower that was needed to hold and control an empire.
Unlike today when a regiment goes overseas for a few months only. The regiments of the 17th to the 20th century went overseas for years, in fact there are recorded cases of regiments forgotten in such place as the Caribbean islands. the fever islands then!
Incidentally it was common practise to recruit blacks as regimental musicians and these would remain with the band until death, desertion, or demob.
Si an saol.
Marie McKeown (author) from Ireland on September 24, 2013:
An interesting perspective Dubhlain - where did you come across it? Is there a book on the subject?
Dubhlain on September 24, 2013:
I don't think the term 'black Irish' is as much a mystery as many think, and perhaps a very brief lesson in the history of the British army may help?
Long before the union with England was forced on Ireland. The Irish were enlisting into the regiments of that army in their thousands, and in the late 17th and early 18th century that British army with its Irish regiments and its thousands of Irish in the English, Scots and Welsh regiments, fought its way from Portugal through Spain and into France.
Along the way it collected a great many Portuguese, Spanish, and French wives and woman. They weren't nuns and the soldiers were certainly not monks, priests or celebrants!
The result was that in one way or another, and in spite of the terms imposed by a stingy British government, the regiments brought home a significant number of their continental wives, woman, and offspring, and for the last two hundred years or so, The descendants of those soldiers and their women can be seen the length and breadth of Ireland and quite a few other places in this world.
Si an saol.
Marie McKeown (author) from Ireland on September 03, 2013:
Glad you enjoyed!
Swinter12 from Earth on August 28, 2013:
Ancestry and genetics is one of my many loves.
Sometime ago I read about the Black Irish and how the dark hair of some individuals in Ireland is due to the arrival of Spaniards. Never knew there was that much similarity.
As I was reading, my head kept coming back to the smilarities in some in Irish and some of Spaniard´s folklore, which you mentioned in the comment´s section.
Truly fascinating !
Jim Drummond from Rugby, Warwickshire on July 29, 2013:
I have always been fascinated by my origins/race and have for some time believed I am related to either Italian or Spanish. When holidaying in Spain I was taken as a local/Spanish and people would speak to me assuming I spoke the language. The conclusions in the article tend to suggest I was on the right track. I am swarthy skinned with black hair. Very interesting and fascinating.
bobbickel on July 27, 2013:
Blood of the Irish: DNA Proves Ancestry of the People of Ireland
interesting ... here are some questions: A) what made the Spanish move from the fertile lands and good hunting grounds of the area now known as Spain, to a rocky island? If the decendents(sp) really are Spanish in origin, why is there no similarity between the Gaelic language and Spanish. they are 2 completely different languages.
Renee Kohler on July 25, 2013:
I am new here, my dad was 1/2 Irish and born in Oakland, California, USA. His dad was born in napa, California, USA. His dad was 100% irish born in Ireland. I am excited to learn all I can about my dads heritage.
Renee Kohler on July 25, 2013:
I am a new comer to this blog. My dad was 1/2 Irish, born in Oakland, ca. His dad was Irish, born in napa. His dad was 100% Irish born in Ireland. I really don't know much. I am very interested in any information you provide on these pages.... I am excited to learn all I can.
DGMJD03 on July 25, 2013:
Now I know where my brother-in-law came from!!
Mary Kelly Godley from Ireland on July 24, 2013:
Very interesting Hub. I have always thought that if I traced my Irish heritage back far enough it would probably turn out that all us Irish are related. As you say its a small gene pool and a lot of us Irish do tend to marry people who live nearby although that's all changing now as the world becomes smaller and we are becoming more multicultural too. Voted up.
John Harper from Malaga, Spain on July 24, 2013:
Very interesting hub, and I have to tell you that I only saw it because it was FB shared by Julian Lennon (son of John) - how good is that!
My GG Daddy came emigrated out in 1841 and my daughter has those features.. red haired, fair skinned and a fiery temper when raised!
Tilly on July 24, 2013:
Awesome and very interesting article, I've always wondered where red hair comes from and why it's so abundant in ireland. Thanks for sharing.
Patrick Garvey from Manheim, Pennsylvania on July 12, 2013:
The Irish and Basque do not share the same R1b branch Y-DNA clades and it is known that the "Celts" per se may not have been an R1b people at all. Celtic Culture is a social phenomenon not heriditary or genetic specific.
In that regard it is well to remember that while Ireland did adopt "Celtic" language and culture the Basque did not. This is the reason why the Basque and Irish both in some ways slightly genetically related, with high levels of R1b specific DNA, do not share a common ancestral heritage nor language.
Marie McKeown (author) from Ireland on July 09, 2013:
You have a lot of interesting questions which unfortunately I cannot answer! I hope you will let me know if you research these topics, what you find out.... I think Irish culture has been influenced by people who have arrived from different parts of Europe at different times. What I do know is that the R 1b-14 gene is more common in the west of Ireland, which is traditionally the area where people are descended from the original inhabitants of Ireland - so it must go back a long way in time...