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Blood of the Irish: What DNA Tells Us About the Ancestry of People in Ireland

Updated on December 28, 2015
The red-hair gene is most common in Irish blood.
The red-hair gene is most common in Irish blood. | Source

Blood of the Irish

This article has been updated to include the latest research sequencing the genomes of remains of ancient Irish people , published at the end of 2015.

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 simply a Celtic people, related to the central European Celts, the truth is much more complicated, and much more interesting than that ...

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. Although the modern Irish have been shown to share many genetic similarities with Scottish and Welsh populations, and to differ somewhat from the English, due to repeated waves of migration to the island they also have close genetic relations with people further afield. In fact, some of the Irish's closest DNA links are with quite unexpected regions!

Medieval  map of Ireland, showing Irish tribes.
Medieval map of Ireland, showing Irish tribes.

Irish origin myths confirmed by 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, the soldier from Spain. Modern DNA research has actually suggested that the Irish are close genetic relatives of the people of northern Spain.

What we do know is that the modern Irish are descended from a number of waves of migration with some ancestors coming from as far away as the Middle East and the Russian Steppes. 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 travelleled around the seaboard of Europe quite freely.

Early Origins of Irish DNA

The earliest settlers came to Ireland around 10,000 years ago, in Stone Age times. 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.

But 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 - and the assumtion 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.

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.

You can link to the study here:

Closest genetic relatives of Irish today

Today, the closest genetic relatives of the Irish in Europe are to be found in the north of Spain in the region known as the Basque Country. The Irish also share their DNA to a large extent with the people of Britain - especially the Scottish and Welsh.

DNA testing through the male Y chromosome has shown that Irish males have the highest incidence of the haplogroup 1 gene in Europe. While other parts of Europe have integrated contiuous waves of new settlers from Asia, 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.

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 of early settlers who probably migrated west across Europe, as far as Ireland in the north and Spain in the south.

You can read more about National Geographic's 2013 'Genographic' project in the west of Ireland here:

The Kingdom of Dalriada c 500 AD is marked in green. Pictish areas marked yellow.
The Kingdom of Dalriada c 500 AD is marked in green. Pictish areas marked yellow.

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.

How DNA reveals ancestry

This hub explains really well how DNA origins can be traced through the male Y chromosome:


Read more about the origins of the people of Ireland

Click on a title to read more about the history of the Irish people:

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.

A spoof (and very funny) exploration into the characteristics of all Irish-blooded males can be read at this link: Identified genes include IMG or the Irish Mother Gene and the GK (MF) S Gene Kelly-Michael-Flately-Syndrome which explains the inability of the Irish man to move his hips while dancing!


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  • SilverGenes 5 years ago

    Your hubs are so interesting to read! I learn something new every time. I think it's fascinating about the Basque connection. And then we have the stories of the surviving sailors from the Spanish Armada who made it ashore in the north. You know, if we keep going back far enough with our DNA we will find out we have nothing to fight about anymore! :) Rated UP!

  • Simone Smith profile image

    Simone Haruko Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

    I agree with SilverGenes- your Hubs really are so fascinating- and I was surprised by the Basque connection as well. Who would have thought?? Very cool Hub.

  • Marie McKeown profile image

    Marie McKeown 5 years ago from Ireland

    Thanks guys - I aim to please! I think you are right SilverGenes; at the end of the day we are all descended from the same African mother if you go back far enough. We should be thinking of ourselves as a human family!

  • Alastar Packer profile image

    Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

    The Basque people have always been unique. Marie this is an outstanding Hub and recently finding out my Scot-Irish roots makes it all the more personal. Excellent research and write.

  • Nell Rose profile image

    Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

    Hi, Thank you! lol I have always said that the Irish were originally from Spain! everybody thought I was making it up! I think that the original reason was the similarity in certain words, like Guarda and Guardia, the name of the police force. To me that was the give away. Thanks I can now show everybody that I was right! this was fascinating. I remember reading that when for example Scotland and Ireland always said they were Celtic it actually was the southern English who have the most Celtic in them, like boadicca was a red headed Celt. I would love to find out my DNA as on my fathers side, he was a red head, and on my mothers side, my gran had bright red hair flowing down to the ground! I think somewhere along the line we must be either Celtic or as you said, from Spain! rated up! fascinating! cheers nell

  • Marie McKeown profile image

    Marie McKeown 5 years ago from Ireland

    Thanks Nell Rose! You were right the Irish ancestors seem to have come from Northern Spain - but the language similarities are not because of this! Irish words like 'Garda' come from English or Latin language in more modern times. The ancestors of the Irish came so long ago that the Spanish language didn't exist at that time. The Gaelic Irish language shows connections to Northwest France, Wales and Scotland. English used to be Celtic too, but Romans and Anglo-Saxons started to push them westwards. There are various DNA testing services available now - but make sure you check out what you are paying for. I have the impression some are more reliable than others. I think there are some hubs on the site about this very topic!

  • Nan Mynatt 5 years ago

    Having been a history teacher in the US, we were taught that the Swedish People migrated down to Ireland and England and Europe and killed off the countrymen there and took their land, and possessions. The Swedes did not have refinery like the British Island and other countries there. The Swedes killed off the whole families and they didn't have to. We are taught that they were very Barbaric. My mother's side of the family is from Ireland, and my father was Scotish. I have celtic type blood. I have not done any DNA analysis yet, but I know that my blood type reflects the Swedish blood type. So I think they stayed and married the Irish women, and scotish as well. The Nordics were inhabitants of the area, and I never heard of the Spanish people intergrating, with the Islanders.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    This was a fascinating read. As a hobby-level genealogist, I've found I have Irish ancestors a good many generations back... and possibly some Scottish, as well. My husband wisecracks that "The Irish & Scots 'got into everybody at some point!' "

    I also have some French ancestry, and the Basque region shares a corner with France as well as, we are, indeed, a motely crew, we humans!

    Voted up!

  • lone77star profile image

    Rod Martin Jr 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

    Marie, an outstanding treatise on the Irish.

    I have long felt an affinity to the Irish and those with red hair. It seems that Hungarians and Ukrainians have a high incidence of red or auburn, too.

    The Basque connection is most intriguing. I've also seen a chart of Western Europe of the percentages of type "O" blood and it seemed to be highest in Ireland and in the Basque country.

    I've also seen reference to Rh-negative being particularly high in Basque and in Georgian regions.

    What an interesting tapestry lies below the details of history!

    And one genetic study found that Basques, Finns and some Native American tribes share in the rare mtDNA haplogroup X.

    I have also found linguistic clues which tie Basques to Etruscans and Georgians; linguistic and cultural clues which tie Basques to some Native American tribes, Etruscans, Hungarians, Finns, Georgians, Sumerians, Dravidians and Mon-Khmer. Each of these speak an agglutinative language, and have had matriarchal, matrilineal or highly-egalitarian societies, now or in the past.

    And the Georgians live in a land once known as Colchis, which held the Golden Fleece, guarded by a golden dragon. And the princess Medea helped her new Greek lover put to sleep the dragon so he could steal the fleece. And years later, after being betrayed by one man after another, she fled Athens, flying away on a golden dragon. Did she have the gumption and resentment to form a society without men? In many of those agglutinative languages, the word for "mother" is "ama" or similar. What better word to name her new band of women than "Ama-Atlan" (Amazon) -- after the old motherland from whence all these people may have come -- mother Atlantis?

    Scientists aren't looking for Atlantis, partly because there is too big a stigma attached to it. Careers can be ruined by associating with the "A" word. And yet we have proof that an Atlantis-like event occurred 9620 BC -- right when Plato said the fabled island was swallowed whole.

    And Plato's location for Atlantis is right where a geologist could expect to find mountain (or island) building -- a tectonic plate boundary. The stretch of the Africa-Eurasia plate boundary between the Azores and Gibraltar is one of the most tortured and enigmatic boundaries on Earth.

    Below those waters may lie the real home of the Irish -- the land some have referred to as the home of the "red" ones. The land where ruddy copper was highly prized.

  • Marie McKeown profile image

    Marie McKeown 5 years ago from Ireland

    There's a lot of fascinating ideas in your comment, lone77star - I think you could write on hub based on it! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I'll still be sticking to the Irish coming from Spain as my personal theory, though!

  • Naim Hasan profile image

    Naim H 5 years ago from Dhaka

    i guess you have spent a lot of time on this topic. great hub!!

  • lone77star profile image

    Rod Martin Jr 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

    Marie, sounds good. But before Spain?

  • Marie McKeown profile image

    Marie McKeown 5 years ago from Ireland

    Before Spain is anyone's guess!

  • Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

    Tracy Lynn Conway 5 years ago from Virginia, USA

    Another great hub on a really interesting topic! My husband who is from Co. Clare always tells me that his very dark kinky curly hair is from his Spanish ancestors, I couldn't argue and geographically it made sense. I will share this hub with him. I find ancestry fascinating and although all humans are one big family it is interesting to see the ancestral road we took to get to where we are.

  • Basque guy 5 years ago

    Why were the irish and the british people lied to? This pisses me off...

  • Basque guy 5 years ago

    The Basques are the original europeans and get this...according to scientists the direct descendents of the cromagnon man.So you guys can be proud...=)You descend from sweet and good people,id know...1 more thing some people say the basques are of a holy bloodline =O

  • Marie McKeown profile image

    Marie McKeown 5 years ago from Ireland

    I don't think we were lied to. I think we created mythologies about ourselves that we are different...

  • Frank DoonanI 5 years ago

    I disagree that the Greeks considered the Celts Barbaric. The Celts were long time trading partners and military allies with the Greeks, and fought with them against Pheonicia. There are numerous references to Celts in Greek literature.

  • john 5 years ago

  • Paul Mckeown 5 years ago

    I must be a mixture,I am Tall,Dark and Blue Eyed.My skin Tans in the Sun.I have a lot of Ginger if i grow a beard.My Dads parents were Irish and we are all dark haired infact my Dad looked like a Spaniard.However I grew up in the lone star county of Yorkshire and The Worlds one Big Onion!!!

  • Alice 5 years ago

    The connection to the Basque for Irish and British people is now no longer in vogue. The theory before was because of the preponderance of y R1b of both populations ignoring the fact that R1b is the majority haplotype for nearly all of Western Europe. Genetics have advanced more and R1b has now been broken down into several clades and surprise surprise the Irish aren't particularly related to the Basque. Are the Basque noted for fair skin and red hair? The subclade that is common in Ireland is different than the subclade found in the Basque. The Irish subclade is virtually absent in the Basque and Spain and vice versa. The new information has been updated on Wikipedia and most other genetic sites. The y chromosome also would only show some ancestral relationship and not how close 2 populations were. That would have to be done by autosomal dna. The Irish/British are quite distant to the Basque on autosomal dna.

  • Marie McKeown profile image

    Marie McKeown 5 years ago from Ireland

    Thanks Alice for the update - will research and revise as appropriate...

  • Just History profile image

    Just History 5 years ago from England

    Ah well that is why in our family I have the fair skin and blonde hair (dad had the auburn) and my sister the dark hair and dark skin! A great hub and one which I wish those who continually see racial differences would take the time to read and think about as we are all in the end members of one big family!

  • From Asturies 5 years ago

    I'm from Asturies in he north of Spain,(footbollers David Villa and Juan Mata are from Asturies). I have ancestors redhaired, and blonds, I also have red haired friends and they don't have any relation with Ireland, they are completely spanish. I'm not an expert in genetics. But there is something in common between the brittish and the spanish. They built the biggest empires in human history.This explain why the languages of such small countrys is so worlwide spoken.(Asturies kingdon was the origin of Spain and Portugal)

  • AMANDA 4 years ago

    I must say I was taken by your writing, my family has always said we are Irish/ Scottish on mom's side and my fathers is German. I was told our family goes back to the Celtic times, we have alot of red heads in the family on both sides. However we also have the blondes and so dark brown it's almost black, in fact my graandfather was blonde until 21 then almost over night it turned black. People have always looked at pictures of my mother and said she looked as if she was Romanian, or Spainish or even Italian due to her being 5'8 and 105 as she was prekids, and she had the most bone straight black/brown hair with brown eyes and her skin has always been an olive colored does not sound like many irish or scottish that I have seen. I have always kinda in my own way thought of the celtic tribes as more like a mixture of different races because that was how many books made it out to look. If anyone has any more information on it I would love to hear about it

  • Marie McKeown profile image

    Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

    Hi Amanda. The Gaelic-speaking people of Ireland (sometimes called Celts) were a mix of tribes but they seem to have spoken the same language and to have been closely genetically related. In Scotland the original inhabitants were known as the 'Picts'. Gaels from Ireland later moved to the West Coast of Scotland, Anglo-saxons moved into the eastern lowlands and some vikings settled in places like Orkney and the Outer Hebrides.

    Hope this helps!

  • laura 4 years ago

    I enjoyed your article about the Basque connection to Ireland. My mother's great-grandparents are the McManus and Boyd families from the County Kerry.They came to the USA in the early 1900's. We have black hair and hazel-brown eyes,short height. My mom said we are Black Irish.Is our colouring the Spanish DNA ?

  • laura 4 years ago

    I posted a question last week regarding my Irish heritage and the Spanish connection to the County Kerry.I just got the results of my DNA test and it confirms my Black Irish heritage is from Spain, Portugese and the Spanish Canary Islands.

    It's exciting to begin exploring my new found heritage

  • Marie McKeown profile image

    Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

    Hi Laura - that is exciting! Good luck with researching your heritage. Our family histories can be so rich and fascinating. At the end of the day we are all descended from people who came from different places and backgrounds.

  • Terry Jones 4 years ago

    My Grandmother was an ONiell. The Family Coat Of Arms has a small blue spot at the bottom with a fish showing. I researched this and that fish on a blue sea designates that the O'Niells crossed the water from Spain. It makes sense now.

  • Marie McKeown profile image

    Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

    That's cool. The O'Neills were once the most powerful clan in Ireland. They claim to be the descendants of Niall of the Nine Hostages, an Irish king in the time of St Patrick....

  • editorsupremo profile image

    editorsupremo 4 years ago from London, England

    Hi Marie

    A very interesting hub. I was particularly interested in reading about the Irish antecedence because I am descendant from the Irish on my father's side. He was not white but he did have freckles and a lighter complexion for a black man born in Barbados, and my maiden name was 'Mahon', which if I remember is a city in Spain.

    I inherited the Irish gene as a result of slavery. The story goes that the Irish were sent to Barbados as indentured slaves to work the land for the English but because they could not cope with the searing heat the work was left to the black slaves brought in from Africa. Eventually some of the Irish took over the plantations from the English, had relationships with the black slaves and created a new race of Bajans who were light skinned with Irish surnames.

    If you go to Barbados today you will meet many with surnames like 'Daly' 'MacMahon' 'Murphy' 'MacDonald''Lynch' or 'Sweeney'

  • Marie McKeown profile image

    Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

    Hi Editorsupremo,

    Thanks for sharing about your fascinating family history. I have also heard about Irish slaves who were transported to the Caribbean. Apparently many people on the island of Montserrat are descended from Irish people brought there as slaves. Today it is the only place outside of Ireland which celebrates St Patrick's Day as an official holiday!

    Mahon is actually an Irish surname, though I don't know what it's original meaning was in Gaelic. It might be a city in Spain also - I don't know about that one!

  • diegomaher 4 years ago


    My dad (black hair blue eyed irish) also told the story of the black irish being descendants of the shipwrecked armada sailors...guess that could have been a story to explain the various types of hair and eye color and probably stature of the irish. Anyhow, the Maher family occupied central ireland since the origin of the name around 1000 ad. My reasoning is that my ancestory weren't very ambitious so didn't move but when we came to the USA also stayed in central Iowa for several generations. Great reporting from you, really appreciated.

  • Marie McKeown profile image

    Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

    Thanks for sharing. I am always amazed how many people have some Irish ancestry. And how many people like finding about out the Irish side of their family history!

  • Sean 4 years ago

    My mom claims that im only what i am if i trace back 5 genereations...Now, i hav pure red hair but my great grandparents are from Cuba, i looked up my family last name and it says we're from the Asturias, which is right next to the Basque Country which leaves me to belive im related to the Irish, especially since i have light skin, a buncha freckles on my nose and the red u think i could be Irish?

    P.S. My grandma is from France, do u think she might be part Irish?

  • Marie McKeown profile image

    Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

    Family history is a fascinating subject, and most of us have a complicated one! Red hair can come from Ireland, but also Scotland, northern France and Scandanavian countries like Denmark. There also seems to have been Celtic culture in the north of Spain - so maybe your red hair comes from there? If you have some family names among your ancestors which begin with 0'.. or Mc... that could be a sign you have Irish ancestors.

  • paige 4 years ago

    i just found out i have irish in my blood but i also have alot of indian.i have blue eyes and brown skin isn't exactley pale but not exactley tan.i do have freckles on my body but not on my my blue eyes come from my irish heritage?

  • Marie McKeown profile image

    Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

    A lot of people in Ireland have blue eyes, and quite a few have freckles. There is a good chance you have them because of yout Irish ancestors!

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    Jason 4 years ago from Vilonia , Arkansas

    this is a great article. i have always wondered about this as we now know that there were people in Ireland thousands of years before the celts started their mass migration across Europe.

  • CeltMawr profile image

    CeltMawr 4 years ago

    My understanding is that being a Celt was, and is, determined more by cultural nuances than by genetics. The Celts shared a common language & religious & artistic traditons. The term 'British' as used today is a misnomer - again my understanding is that it was used as a propaganda tool by Elizabeth I of England as she imposed her state Protestant religion on Wales, Cornwall & on Ireland & began a drive to destroy the Celtic languages in those countries. The term 'British' was an attempt to 'lump together' peoples of very different cultural backgrounds & traditions, and this is still being done today. Personally, I think the contemporary drive to stress how much the 'British (i.e English) have in common with the Irish is more politically driven than anything else. Are we going to see Elizabeth II reinstated as Queen over Ireland, perhaps in return for a bribe of a bailout ?

  • Marie McKeown profile image

    Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

    I don't think you are going to see Elizabeth II as queen of Ireland! However, what I do believe is that the Irish can be confident enough in their own identity to recognise their connections to the British, as well their many differences. That may be political, but it is also political to insist that the Irish are a pure celtic race with connections to their neighbours. A lot of violence has been done in the name of that point of view.

  • ahorseback profile image

    ahorseback 4 years ago

    Only know one thing about the Irish blood in me , I love that red haired celtic princess in your hub picture !......:-} She makes me think of Kathy Ryan ........"cherish the ladies "....!

  • EndaMac profile image

    Enda McLarnon 4 years ago from Belfast

    An interesting take and a very good hub. I don't agree however that violence was a result of Celtic culture. There has been violence in Ireland for many hundreds of years and mainly between the Irish Kings and those hungry for land.

    The first known people in Ireland from the Mesolithic times is intriguing and I visited Mountsandel not that long ago to get a better understanding of those people. I think the best we can say is it is pure speculation as to where those people came from.

    The DNA version you offer is however extremely interesting indeed.

  • Lisa HW profile image

    Lisa HW 4 years ago from Massachusetts

    Very nice Hub. With Scottish and Irish ancestry, I enjoyed reading it. It pretty much explains my glow-in-the-dark complexion that makes me look like a ghost in pictures. On a more serious note, I'm not a big fan of emphasizing, or believing, "pure anything" about any group of people. I'd hope the world would have come a lot farther in its thinking than that at this stage in history. :/

  • connorj profile image

    John Connor 4 years ago from Altamonte Springs

    Yes! The Black Irish link is indeed more than just ship wrecked survivors... My father and I have the olive skin, dark eye browse, thick hair... In particular, during the later part of his life you would swear he was Spanish...

  • Dardia profile image

    Darlene Yager 4 years ago from Michigan

    I have been thinking of doing one of those DNA tests to learn more about my "mutt" family. We are a big blend of nationalities. I have Irish on both my mother's and father's side. Scottish on my father's side along with Norwegian. My mother's side there is French, English, Pennsylvania Dutch, and Native American. I wouldn't be surprised to find many more. As a matter of fact I am curious to what else there is in my genes. After reading this hub I am more intrigued.

    Wonderful Hub!

  • Marie McKeown profile image

    Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

    The dark skinned Irish are a mystery, there is no doubt - there just weren't enough survivors from the Armada wrecks to explain it...

  • Marie McKeown profile image

    Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

    Good luck with your investigations Dardia. I have often thought of getting one of those DNA tests myself!

  • JohnGoodwillie 4 years ago

    The generally accepted story is that the black-haired people are the people who came here as hunter-gatherers possibly from Spain, and the red-haired people are the Celts who brought their language later, many of them also from Spain (as recounted in the legend of Míl na Spáinne) but after the Celts had first settled in western Spain. If there is evidence that the original inhabitants were red-haired, I would like to hear it.

  • Marie McKeown profile image

    Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

    I am not aware of any definitive evidence about what the original inhabitants of Ireland looked like. Early histories, which are not always reliable, spoke of a people called the 'fir bolg' who were short with dark hair and brown eyes... But then where did the blue eyes, red hair, blond hair etc come from?

  • woad2112 4 years ago

    The fair skin and black hair is a Celtic trait as the Celts originated in Asia. The people of the Basque region were also Celts. If you look at the Basque language, it is very recognizably Gaelic. The red hair is a gift from our Nordic brethren who through multiple raids and invasions spread their genetic code amongst the people of Ireland. It could be why there is a close genetic relationship between the British and Irish. The British are more Germanic than Celtic as many Angles, Saxons, Jutlanders, as well the Nordic/French/Frankish Normans settled in Britain and intermingled with the Celtic Britons to form the British people as we know them today. Compare them to the very Celtic Welsh and you will see a big difference.

  • Marie McKeown profile image

    Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

    Thanks for your interest in the topic, although I don't completely agree. I have heard the Basque language and I did not notice any similarity to Gaelic. Gaelic is an Indo-European language, but Basque is not - it is very different. I agree the population of Britain today is descended from many different places - the original inhabitants were what we call 'Celtic'. Apparently, as you move westward across the island of Britain, the DNA gets closer to that of Ireland.

  • Dubhlain 4 years ago

    Ah well there is no doubt about me. I was an auburn haired blue-eyed freckled Irishman with a Gaelic name from west of the Shannon. Now I'm a white haired Irish exile.

    Si an saol.

  • Goldenkeys 4 years ago

    Some people on here have strange thoughts ! One of the most famous redhaired people was King David of Israel{ of bibilical fame} who was the bloodline of Jesus.The Israelis are a swarthy, dark eyed and dark haired race? Alexander the Great was a blonde haired Greek warrior not Germanic ! Are Greeks not a dark haired, swarthy race.Just because you have red hair does not mean your of Irish descent nb Scottish people have the highest incidence of red hair approx. 3%

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    Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

    I agree, not everyone with red hair is Irish or Scottish - but those two countries have the highest incidence, even though it is still quite rare! I also happen to know that Israelis have many different looks. Alexander the Great I have never met so can't comment!

  • ginadica 4 years ago

    here is an interesting page about lineage etc.. a reconstruction of a Basque skeleton. may be a good point of reference on the appearance of ancient basque people.

    My own family were from county Kerry and the last name is sullivan apparently they are an ancient clan and at some point in time left Ireland and went to Spain, they then returned to Ireland and perhaps brought some Spanish/basque blood with them? my grandmother was dark eyed with olive complexion and black hair very wavy as well.

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    Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

    Ginadica, thanks for sharing about your family, that's interesting! Maybe some of your ancestors were 'Wild Geese'. After the Irish lost control of the island to the British, quite a few Irish men went abroad to seek their fortune as soldiers in Europe - some went to Spain.

  • JonnyNI 4 years ago

    Black Irish is a myth created by members of the Irish diaspora to explain their dark hair, olive skin, brown eyes, this has most likely come from breeding with other peoples. In Ireland there are very very few people like this. Although there are lots of people with black hair freckles and blue eyes, if you don't believe me come here and see for yourself. I am Irish born and bred and my ancestors most likely came from the northern Iberian peninsula around 2000 years ago I am haplogroup R1b1a2a1a1b4b. I am blonde with grey eyes my family are blonde or redhead with blue, green or grey eyes.

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    Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

    I am also Irish born and bred so I know what most people in Ireland look like, and I know I have also met a few Irish people with surprisingly dark features. I think the idea of the 'black Irish' will continue to be a mystery ...

  • puddingrace 4 years ago

    Thousands of years ago, before aviation, and when travel across land was still difficult, long distance travel by sea was probably the easiest of options. The inhabitants of these islands have probably always been a bit of mix.

    What perhaps is more bizzare, is ginger haired people in Afganistan?! Does anyone know the reason for that?!

    The ginger haired people in South America makes sense (e.g. the Welsh settlers)....but I can't find any information that makes the link for g-h people in the Middle East....unless it links back to the white slave trade of the Arabs (west coast of Ireland being a popular 'harvesting ground'.

    Does anyone have any info on this (ginger haired people in Afghanistan?

  • puddingrace 4 years ago

    Spain has a coastal border with Africa, and from Spain to UK/Ireland is just a sea journey away....and in the late BC and early AD times, travel by sea was far easier than travelling overland on road transport or, because it hadn't yet been invented, aviation.

    We have been mixing with 'darker' people for a couple of millenium (min!)......unfortanately, we have become a bit confused because, somewhere along the way, they got written out of history.

    The Romans had black soliders and generals, and we were trading with the North Africans long before the Romans invaded Britain (which, in geograhical terms, is hardly a million miles away from the island of Ireland).

    'Black Irish' is hardly some cryptic mystery!

  • stonelord 4 years ago

    Irish dna is very European; less that half of a% is from outside of Europe. There is also no real evidence that there were many black soldiers in the Roman Army in Britain (which had very limited connections to Ireland anyway.) North Africans, yes--but they are caucasian!

    The main 'invasions' of Ireland came after the Ice Age and in the neolithic. The nearest refugium in the Ice Age was Spain. The neolithic migrations also came down the Atlantic seaboard from Iberia. These are your megalith builders, the people who built Newgrange and the like. Newgrange itself has Iberian similarities; Knowth is like the tombs of Brittany. The mutation in the Irish R1b that makes it distinct from the R1b of Basques seems to have occurred in ancient Brittany, always used as a jumping point into Britain and Ireland. Recently R1b of the 'celtic' strain has been found in the Beaker people who were metalworkers who lived later in megalithic times.

    Regarding hair colour--43% of the Irish have hair in the dark brown category (the most common) , and the further west you go, the darker it gets. Black hair run upwards of 3%. Red is 10%, not that common, but more so than on the continent...but not any higher than Wales/Cornwall and less than in Scotland. Blonde is about 15% and the rest light and medium brown.

    My grandmother was black haired, olive skinned and dark eyed and there is no one non- Irish in the traceable family tree, nor is the tested dna anything 'exotic.' Her surname & mother's maiden names were 'proper' Irish names btw. I myself have dark hair, hazel brown eyes and skin that has a pale olive tint; this look is very dominant through all my family. By the dna and the long 'Atlantic' head I am guessing 'neolithic farmer.'

  • dubhagan 4 years ago

    I had heard about a Spanish connection but I heard it differently. I heard that the Celts were inhabiting the northern half of the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal), but were driven out by the Romans, forcing the Celts to sail up to Ireland and settle there. However, when in Iberia, many had intermixed with the Iberians, an ethnic group inhabiting the southern half of the peninsula. The Iberians had a typical Mediterranean look: Olive skin; dark, thick hair... all the features associated with the "black Irish" look. This mixture was known as Celtiberian (

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    Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

    Thanks for sharing... maybe that is where the dark look comes from ...

  • Eric1129 4 years ago

    On my father side the following surnames O' Sullivan, O' Carroll, and McNamara are represented. Interestingly enough, I found that I'm about 40 % Irish, and descend from King Edward the III...I was blown away.

    Here's the link:

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    Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

    Sounds like you have an interesting family history!

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    Suzette Walker suzettetaos 4 years ago from Taos, NM

    This is a fascinating hub. I am not Irish but I have family members who are. I find the Basque relationship to the Irish so interesting. The Basque language is one of the most mysterious in the world - no one knows exactly where it originated. I wonder if there is any connection between it and Gaelic? Well done and well researched! I enjoyed reading this.

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    Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

    I am glad you enjoyed. There is no relationship between Gaelic and the Basque language, which does make me wonder about the DNA connection....

  • alanOCeirin25 4 years ago

    I am from ireland and i can safely say that we are of celtic decent celts have been here since the 6th century bc they mingled with the original inhabitants and just simply wiped them out . if you look at celtic art and weapons and culture they are exactly the same as our germanic and gaulish ancestors not a coincidence. one thing that really annoys me though is that people think that us irish men are small and dark haired and freckly not true im quite tall no freckles just really annoys me that they would think the last of the celtic peoples are small and red haired

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    Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

    I think art experts see some differences between Irish art and Gaulish/German, but a lot of similarities, I agree. I am sorry you get stereotypes for how the Irish should look - of course there is a lot of variation. I don't have freckles either!

  • Muralista 4 years ago

    There is enormous variation in what is termed 'Celtic' (a doubtful Greek term) countries, in terms of looks and stature. There seem to be two waves of immigration to Ireland, at least: 1) the Stone Age 2) The Bronze to Iron Ages. This is borne out by ancient legends, such as that of the origin of the word Scotland. The Scotiae were an Irish people who moved, before the Dalriada, into ancient Caledonia(Scotland). They are named, so the story goes, after a Phoenician Queen named Scotia who married a Celtic prince and they moved to Scotland. Indeed, the presence of a Phoenician or Middle-eastern strain in Ireland can be proved: DNA evidence has even found a strange preponderance of a Middle-Eastern semitic haplotype in Connaught.

    We have to distinguish between culture and language and genes, whilst remembering that people can, and have moved around, traded goods, learnt languages, etc. With respect, and at the risk of sounding simplistic, if you go into a Dublin bar today what will you see of traditional Celtic culture? Little:- no Celtic language, clothes, but mobile phones and new clothes and English being spoken beautifully and better than (us) English. Professor O'Donnell of Trinity, Dublin has made major discoveries linking ancient inscriptions from southern Spain and Portugal as the earliest form of Gaelic, known as Proto-Goidelic, confirming the earliest point for the Celtic languages as there. One inscription speaks of an 'Argentannos' or Silver-King. There is an Irish legend that the people came from the south across the sea from a people called the Milesians.

    In my rather unscientific way I see a collection of peoples, possible emigrating from the turbulence of the era of The Sea Peoples, a mixed bag of pirates and exiles from wars, say, between Hittites and Egyptians, natural disasters and so on, who first move to Iberia, thence to Ireland and Scotland. My gaelic-speaking nephew noticed similarities between Berber in North Africa with Gaelic, and you can see in the High Atlas redheads there too. Nine tenths of Spanish people share blood groups with the Berbers and Basques share a unique type with them. That to me speaks volumes.

    I believe the third legend: that the Celts are descended from 'Brutus' an exiled Trojan, or from Troy, as surprisingly credible given the above evidence. The Trojans called themselves the 'Wilios' and I believe the word 'Gael' to be a corruption of 'Og-Wilio', meaning Trojan of The West. There are some words in modern Spanish that derive from an early version of Gaelic, like 'colina' for hill which conserves a Gaelic word 'Col'.

  • Paul Mc Auley 4 years ago

    Hello Marie, great hub. You find out anything more on what Alice posted? Wonder if her full name is Dr Alice Roberts. Almost all of us outside Africa, are the descendants of that small tribe which left it and colonized the rest of the world 70,000 years ago.

    Ps. good to hear that we Irish and the English are closer than what was once thought. Slán agus beannacht.

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    Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

    Hi Paul, thanks for the feedback! I didn't find out any more about Alice's topic, I'm afraid.

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    Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

    Some interesting information - thanks for sharing!

  • justaUser 4 years ago

    I am frustrated many misconceptions here, to many.

    For one, saying "I always knew I was spanish because of my dark skin" is incorrect, the people of the basque country and northern spain are Pale skinned, not olive, maybe a few here and there from southern spain but natively these people are fair skinned. I was in madrid, which has a bit of everyone from over spain, and 95 percent of the people would easily just be considered "white" americans. This stupid view of the spanish perpetrated by latin american media must stop.

    If you have dark skin it likely came from southern russia before it came from the basque. I have spent years in the basque country, they are just as fair as the english or irish. Now for the red hair. Northern spain could collectively have more redheads than of course other parts of spain, but a redhead in barcelona is not going to "omg stand out" you see it, same in italy.

    People keep describing the spanish as brown eyes, like blue eyes is rare.

    Northern spain it can be 1 in 3 have blue eyes, and in the rest of spain its between 20-49 percent and even in the brownest eyed region, its around 10 isn. For people who say, that is not common, as far as trailts go, 1 in 4 as a whole (spain) is extremely common. Sometimes in spain they are not aware the english speaking world has all these stereotypes about them.

    There is a whole towns in russia where tons(more than 50 percent) of people are redheaded, the vikings loved redheaded women. It's likely that redheadness originated in the east due to some mutation. The fact that scottland and northern ireland has more redheads clearly shows people of the same sexual selection living together. I highly doubt they are native, highly. The vikings also enjoyed northern spain as well, and that's all we have *documented*. I'm sure they made many trips there that has been lost in history. Like I said redhair in Russia is not uncommon and that's far from scottland, and its even more unlikely the scottish invaded / settled ireland, people moved west, hence the lower population of ireland and scottland.

    Next, Spain is very dry, Northern Spain aka Green spain is great for growing and agriculture. It's very practical to assume that a ship could have headed north a few days, found some land, and came back with the news. The idea and usage of a boat goes back further than we can probably ever imagine.

    As for the british isles, when the Romans went there, they wrote that, the British looked like the Gauls, aka the people of France. We will take their word for it. Also its even more likely if you look at r1b rates that the basque or the northern people of what is now known as spain, could have just migrated up the north of france and then into england and ireland, ireland would have been more exempt from future invasions so possibly more original settlers.

    The King Alred the great book, mentioned when he had people study the british in 1000AD that the original british were from Armenia. Who knows if this is true, some think the writer meant to write Amorica (northern france) this could very likely be the case as well. I guess the only thing that makes it rather interesting, is that armenia had a megalithic religion (as did northern france) it has its own stone hedge kind of thing etc. The name for the creator of the basques or what not in basque mythology means grandfather in armenian. Also many have linked the basque language to Chechen, a language spoken not to far from armenia today.

    The better thing to assume is that at one time, a considerable portion of europe if not most, spoke the basque language. What did the irish speak before the arrival of the celtics? We don't know.

    But please be considerate and respectful and don't use american made myths (or possibly northern european) for this matter , to further a purpose if connecting yourself to more places. As for how I feel about it, the english, spanish, and french are all pretty much the same people. Sure spain had a few more invasions, sure england had more from the germaniacs , also the norse in the north, but truth is there is so many migrations and settlements that we do not know of.

    I could back from a trip in spain here recently. I had people asking me if I stood out because I'm white and not Spanish. It's scary to assume these same people vote.

    best regards! long live anthropology

  • maccarthaigh 4 years ago

    And i always thought the spanish got there black hair from the moors

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    Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

    I think you are frustrated from some of the comments above? There are quite a few ideas expressed above which are not part of my article. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, the subject is obviously very important to you!

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    Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

    I think that these topics will continue to be debated for some time to come!

  • justaUser 4 years ago

    The english started this long ago. The best way to beat and convince your people to hate them is to deracialize them.

    I could talk from today till tomorrow on this subject and with many who have been anglosized on race will truly never accept it. If you are in ireland or britain and you are convinced you got some darker skin because of basque ancestry, you are looking in the wrong direction.

    Some roman soldiers raping british women from north africa would be a much more likely situation. All these stories about black irish and spanish armada are just stories and just that. I invite everyone to visit the basque country and truly tell me you can tell a difference between them and a typical irish person. I would say the idea of the spanish being dark skinned is about the same as people who think all irish people are redheads. Of course the irish know better. The only part of spain that people could say is darker than the rest of northern europe is the deep south. Even then, its only a percentage and they have a more outdoor culture.

    Most spaniards do not have black hair, northwest light brown and blonde are quite common, the middle is a mix, the south is dark brown with some very dark shades near black. As a whole they do not have black hair though.

    The funny thing is spaniards are very racist against non white people. Which is very sad, although its declining its still bad. Some people think spaniards are a bunch of latin americans, which just perpetrates racism to others such as latin americans(spaniards look down upon them heavily, more so the elite).

    If it makes you feel better to think you got dark brown hair and skin that tans from the spanish armada or basque ancestry, don't let me stop you. Truth is, there is a good chance most of western europe was basque at one point.

  • Becky Blanco 4 years ago

    Really great article Marie! Thank you. My moms family came from Ireland, her maiden name is Maher. Moms side (Maher lineage) is dominated by blue eyes, and light hair. Also an affinity to Celtic magic and psychic gifts (my mother and grandfather were very gifted) but unfortunately haven't been able to trace my Maverick ancestry whatsoever, no records to be found! Bummer, so I can't check facts.

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    Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

    Thanks for sharing. I hope you will find out more information about your other ancestry sometime!

  • anonymousR1b1 4 years ago

    I'm not sure why you think this news is so surprising, and I've never heard anyone refer to Basques, or "proto-basques" as non-celtic. The language groups of both populations are called "celtic". It has been known for a long time that a deep connection existed between these two populations and the question had been which one originated the other. So, that the R1b1 originated in Spain isn't surprising at all.

    Couple this with the fact that deep linquistic similarities exist between the basques and the Armenians raises the same question there; which originated which. While it is common belief that the progression was westward, these assumptions are not necessarily the only explanations. It could be that "proto-basques" colonized several areas of the world after the last ice age. I think that is the next big question.

  • jfcassidy95 4 years ago

    Hi Marie

    Interesting stuff. In response to Alice's points ( I think Alice's surname name is Alice Lin - I may be wrong) see the wiki link to the current research: - Must say I'm disappointed about the lack of connection to Basques - have met a few Basque who are visually similar to Irish. Dark hair, marble skin freckles.. the movements of people over time tell a different story to our political leaders...

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    Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

    I agree - it is more important to try and find out an accurate history than just believe what political leaders tell us!

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    Marissa D. Carnahan 4 years ago from Nevada

    Interesting article! I am part Irish so I love reading anything informative about the history and culture of Ireland.

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    Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

    Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Peterman33 4 years ago

    Interesting story and comments. I agree, a lot of misconceptions out there. I'm of Irish descent on both mother and father's side and we're tall/light brown hair. We were all toe heads as kids and this isn't from Viking blood. What I read about the vikings is that they didn't leave much of a genetic footprint in Ireland at all for the short time they were there before my ancestors kicked their butts back to Norway.

    I grew up in a classic Irish American neighborhood in the 70's when neighborhoods of Irish still lived together in Catholic areas. There were and are a lot of GIANT Irish Americans, I'm talking like 6'6" tall. I have family like this, myself I am 6'3". I'm not sure if there are still giant Irishmen left in Ireland but their descendants are all over the US. My wife is North African. . The North Africans colonized the Spanish peninsula for hundreds if not thousands of years. It's so close from north Africa to southern Spain. This is where the dark spanish skin and curly hair comes from. The Andalusians are very close looks wise and culture wise to Moroccans and Algerians. In North Africa today you'll find many have light skin/brown haired, green eyes and red hair as well. North African (Morocco/Algeria) has an arab language and muslim religion but don't assume that the arabs took over the whole race and another misconception is that they're "arabs" at all. They don't consider themselves as such and in France for example, it's an insult to the N.Africans when they're called "arabs" by the white French. The western Algerians and Moroccans maintain their own blood, especially the Kabyle who maintained their own ancient culture despite the arab conquest. The middle east though is filled with red haired folks. If you research the mummies of urumchi in the Chinese gobi desert you'll see 6,000 year old mummies with red hair. Red hair has been around for a long time and happen to be quite a few in Ireland but I always learned this was from the Norman invasions. Don't forget Flanders has lots and lots of red hair and freckles.

    So if you look to the irish and you compare to Spain I think you'll find as good an explanation for the irish as there is. Spain is made up of Basque in the North, German gothic blood on the east side (Queen Isabella was tall, blond haired, and blue eyed) and olive skin/dark curly haired north African blood in the south. All of these types of people appear to be in Ireland today or in the Irish diaspora.

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    gary knutson 3 years ago from Wisconson

    I just started finding out about my Norwegian heritage & now I run across your Celtic & Irish stuff . Great hubs!!!!!

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    Marie McKeown 3 years ago from Ireland

    Thanks - glad you enjoyed!

  • max aguirre 3 years ago

    really nice article! i enjoyed reading it.

    north spaniards are the forgotten celts. all in their culture is celtic, they even play bagpipes (different to the ones in the brit archipielago).

    dont get wrong with south and north spain. the arabs never toke over the northern Spain (Catalonia, Aragon, The Basque Country, Asturias and Galicia). the traditional image of the brunette black hair bullfighter is 100% southern, the south was under arab rule for 8 centuries and that naturally change the population.

    I, as almost any other argentine in the world I have spanish (basque and aragonese) and italian mix blood. and i can tell you that any one in my spanish side family have blonde/reddish hair and very light skin.


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    Art Division 3 years ago from London

    Great article!

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    Emmanuel Kariuki 3 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

    Very enlightening. It seems the truth is always encapsulated in the DNA which often confirms some forklore and you have crafted a really good hub. Voted up.

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    Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

    Fantastic analysis! Are there elements of the Basque language in Irish Gaelic? I understand that the Basque speak a completely unique language that is unrelated to any other known language. It would be interesting to know if there were any residual elements of this language in the old Irish tongue.

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    Marie McKeown 3 years ago from Ireland

    Hi Mel,

    One of the interesting things is that there is no relationship between the Basque and Gaelic languages. Gaelic is part of the Indo-European family of languages, but Basque is one of only 3 languages still spoken in Europe which is unrelated (the others are Hungarian and Finnish). So the mystery continues... What is interesting is that Gaelic-style music is indigenous to North West Spain which suggests a cultural connection...

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    Gallaecian Mist 3 years ago from Galiza

    I think Mary put the finger on the key question. Music is a trace, but what about the anthropology of the different areas of Spain? Is anyone of them closer to the Irish one than others? What about the languages that were spoken on ancient times? What happen with the "pre-Roman" languages, how long have been spoken? If Basque does not look like Gelic, what about an area were we can find places such, Carnota, Bando, Corna, Tragove, Corcubión, Lugo, Entrimo... etc? What about archaeological links? Megaliths? Cup and Rings art? Bronze age? Beaker Culture? But, we can always forget it and talk abot the great pedigree of the Basques, that legendary people, wich fight for national liberation is famous worldwide for many reasons. If most of western Europe is related to R1b group, what about the spaecific sub-groups? For example R1b-14 very common one amog Irish speaking people? Where about in Europe can we find a high frecuency of this? In the Basque Country? Or maybe in another inmentionable stateless nation?

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    catmafia03 3 years ago from Collinsville, Oklahoma

    Marie, this is facinating. I recently did genetic testing from and my mtDNA is H3 which goes back to the Pyranees during the last Ice Age. I can trace back 10 generations, but I am still in Colonial America and I want to find her story. Much of my ansestry is from Wales, England, and some Scotland; and I just recently added a few lines that were in Ireland but I'm not sure how long they had been there.

  • TBarrett 3 years ago

    My grandparents were directly from Ireland, mum was 1st generation Canadian and I'm first generation American. I was told by someone along the way that my dark, curly hair was due to a Spaniard slipping in to the line. This article definitely provides a lot of insite - thanks!

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    Marie McKeown 3 years ago from Ireland

    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...

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    Patrick Garvey 3 years ago from Manheim, Pennsylvania

    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.

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    BrandyMD 3 years ago

    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.

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    John Harper 3 years ago from Malaga, Spain

    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!

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    Mary Kelly Godley 3 years ago from Ireland

    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.

  • DGMJD03 3 years ago

    Now I know where my brother-in-law came from!!

  • Renee Kohler 3 years ago

    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.

  • Renee Kohler 3 years ago

    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.

  • bobbickel 3 years ago

    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.

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    Jim Drummond 3 years ago from Rugby, Warwickshire

    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.

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    Swinter12 3 years ago from Earth

    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 !

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    Marie McKeown 3 years ago from Ireland

    Glad you enjoyed!

  • Dubhlain 3 years ago

    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.

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    Marie McKeown 3 years ago from Ireland

    An interesting perspective Dubhlain - where did you come across it? Is there a book on the subject?

  • Dubhlain 3 years ago

    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.

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    Treathyl FOX 3 years ago from Austin, Texas

    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.

  • Marie McKeown profile image

    Marie McKeown 3 years ago from Ireland

    A good point!

  • Joseph C Durkin profile image

    Joseph C Durkin 3 years ago

    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 profile image

    Marie McKeown 3 years ago from Ireland

    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.

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    bethperry 3 years ago from Tennesee

    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 profile image

    Marie McKeown 3 years ago from Ireland

    Fun story! I think Irish men just aren't natural dancers...

  • Joseph C Durkin profile image

    Joseph C Durkin 3 years ago

    I'll agree with that Marie I couldn't dance even if my life depended on it!

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    Jim Drummond 3 years ago from Rugby, Warwickshire

    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!

  • Marie McKeown profile image

    Marie McKeown 3 years ago from Ireland

    Interesting - thanks for sharing and good luck with investigating your origins!

  • Colleen Swan profile image

    Colleen Swan 3 years ago from County Durham

    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.


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    Stephanie 3 years ago from Texas

    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!

  • Marie McKeown profile image

    Marie McKeown 3 years ago from Ireland

    Thanks Stephanie!

  • BigBlue54 profile image

    BigBlue54 2 years ago from Hull, East Yorkshire

    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 profile image

    Marie McKeown 2 years ago from Ireland

    Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge!

  • zoetropo 2 years ago

    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.

  • Esnuni profile image

    Esnuni 2 years ago

    Yes, Im from Spain, and I look Celt & Swedish. They discovered that celts who came from Austria & Hungary setlte before in Spain & then move up.

    Spanish people commonly we are Celt-Iberian mix. I became from celts, also from Goths & Visigoths who came from Sweden & settle in the north around the 400 b.c. they were like 250 mil. people and they had their own kingdom in Toledo.

    You can see here the tribes of Britain, so interesting.

  • Marie McKeown profile image

    Marie McKeown 2 years ago from Ireland

    Thanks for sharing the link to that article - very interesting!

  • BigBlue54 profile image

    BigBlue54 2 years ago from Hull, East Yorkshire

    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.

  • Esnuni profile image

    Esnuni 2 years ago

    The answer is inside each person DNA test. So in the future everybody will have their own code since just born. If now all the population will have it, we will make statistics of real origins of the people.

    Tip: Find your "Genetic Homeland"

    One technique for locating the region in which your surname originated is to note the surnames of any close matches (1-5 mismatches, say) to your Y-DNA on 25 or 37 markers. You can determine the distribution of these surnames, as well as your own, in the 1881 Census of Great Britain at this website:

    You can then look for areas where the highest distributions of these surnames overlap to narrow down the regional origin of your surname within the British Isles. For a more detailed description of this method of identifying your paternal "Genetic Homeland," please visit Tyrone Bowes's site

  • BigBlue54 profile image

    BigBlue54 2 years ago from Hull, East Yorkshire

    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.

  • Esnuni profile image

    Esnuni 2 years ago

    Hi, bigblue yes I agree with you. Not only the surname its enough, you need allways the Dna test. this is on the article but its not exact.

    My Goth- Swedish surname didn't have it, cause they change it for the name of the village in Spain they settle. So there are a few people with it. Im strawberry blond with hazel eyes. I feel inside in my caracther more germanic than latin of course, in my behavior, mentality, Im allways on time, I dont need the siesta, I work hard & organized, many things... Im a bit foreigner in my own country :)

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    Charles Dawson 2 years ago from Virginia Beach, VA

    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 profile image

    BigBlue54 2 years ago from Hull, East Yorkshire

    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.

  • Esnuni profile image

    Esnuni 2 years ago

    Hi bigblue, thanks for the info. But my strawberry blond hair came from celts, that I have roots from them too, not only goths.

    At the end we are all related in the past, thats the funny thing of it & the richnest. I have been living for a year in London & I felt at home, cause the people were very similar in origin to me. I dint felt foreign, was so nice.

  • BigBlue54 profile image

    BigBlue54 2 years ago from Hull, East Yorkshire

    Well we all came originally from Africa via the Middle East.

  • Joseph C Durkin profile image

    Joseph C Durkin 2 years ago

    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 profile image

    BigBlue54 2 years ago from Hull, East Yorkshire

    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.

  • zoetropo 2 years ago

    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%.

  • zoetropo 2 years ago

    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 2 years ago

    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).

  • Joseph C Durkin profile image

    Joseph C Durkin 2 years ago

    Hi BigBlue, yes I was aware of the kingdoms, but not the fact they called themselves english.

  • BigBlue54 profile image

    BigBlue54 2 years ago from Hull, East Yorkshire

    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.

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    Don Colfax 2 years ago from Easton, Pennsylvania

    Wow. Very informative and well written. I haven't looked much into my cultural history but wow. Thank you!

  • BigBlue54 profile image

    BigBlue54 2 years ago from Hull, East Yorkshire

    I think Marie has to be commended for an excellent Hub which has provoked a very interesting and informative discussion. Well done Marie

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    thom w conroy 2 years ago

    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.

  • Sean Evans profile image

    Sean Evans 2 years ago from GTA

    Very interesting article and one I enjoyed a lot.

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    Goringe Accountants 2 years ago from London, UK

    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?!

  • Marie McKeown profile image

    Marie McKeown 2 years ago from Ireland

    Quite a few families dropped the 'O' to fit in with the anglicisation of the country.

  • BigBlue54 profile image

    BigBlue54 2 years ago from Hull, East Yorkshire

    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.

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    Angela F 2 years ago from Seattle, WA

    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.)

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    Barbara Bethard 2 years ago from Tucson, Az

    wonderful hub Marie!

  • Saire Schwartz 23 months ago

    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!

  • Lee Cloak 22 months ago

    Fantastic hub, great, very interesting, thanks!

  • Holly22 profile image

    Christine and Peter Broster 22 months ago from Tywyn Wales UK

    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.

  • Oliver Kloessoff 21 months ago

    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.

  • Marie McKeown profile image

    Marie McKeown 21 months ago from Ireland

    You're too kind, but thanks!

  • BigBlue54 profile image

    BigBlue54 21 months ago from Hull, East Yorkshire

    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.

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    Sandeep Rathore 16 months ago from New Delhi

    Informative hub, thanks.

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    marwan 15 months ago

    HI I'M From Gulf I was surprised me origin Irish test DNA Love realize Genuine

  • zoetropo 14 months ago

    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.

  • Sunardi profile image

    Sunardi 13 months ago from Indonesia

    This hub makes me curious about Ireland, wanna explore the history and the literature books. I hope I could one day.

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    Dave Sumner 10 months ago from United States

    Having recently gotten around to havning DNA testing done I found this Hub to be quite fascinating. Thanks!

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    Cynthia 10 months ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

    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.

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    David Reed 10 months ago from US

    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.

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    Linda Robinson 8 months ago from Cicero, New York

    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? :)

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    srsddn 6 weeks ago from Dehra Dun, India

    Quite interesting, Marie. There is lot more which research can dig out. Thanks for sharing.

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    Laurianne Behrens 3 weeks ago

    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.

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    Lori Kleist 2 weeks ago

    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.

  • SandraMynameis profile image

    SandraMynameis 2 weeks ago

    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.

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    Marie McKeown 12 days ago from Ireland

    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.

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    Marie McKeown 12 days ago from Ireland

    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.

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