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The latest talk by Dr Tyrone Bowes at Scottish Origenes can be viewed on YouTube by clicking here. The holy grail of Academic Ancient DNA research is to accurately date the rate at which Y-DNA... More
My first talk since Covid was given at the end of March 2023 at Kihleeshil and Clonaneese Historical Societies Community Centre in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland! The talk 'Rewriting the history of... More
THE hundreds of Y-DNA Case Studies completed at Scottish Origenes have facilitated the production of the Scottish Origenes ethnicity map (pictured). Each Y-DNA Case Study has a pinpointed origin and... More
Research at Scottish Origenes has revealed that about 20% of Scottish surnames are exclusive to a single location within Scotland. Since Scottish surnames are often a genealogical record of one’s... More
Introduction (Updated September 2022) 17th Century Gaelic Ulster was one of the last redouts of the ancient Celtic world. A world that had been eclipsed in Mainland Europe by the Romans over a... More
A simple painless commercial ancestral Y-DNA test ONLY explores the paternal line, and it can therefore be used to pin one’s direct male ancestors to specific locations at specific time points in... More
A surprise finding from 10 years of Scottish Origenes Y-DNA Case Studies was the considerable number of males with Mediterranean-associated Y-DNA Haplogroups. Intriguingly, each Scottish Origenes Y-... More
Oct 2021. Scotland and Ireland are close neighbours, and it is no surprise that commercial ancestral Y-DNA testing and the resulting hundreds of Y-DNA Case Studies conducted at Scottish and Irish... More
What do >300 Scottish Origenes Y-DNA Case Studies reveal about the modern Scots? October 2021. The Y-DNA test explores the male paternal line, and anyone you match upon Y-DNA testing shares a... More
In 2021 Scottish and Irish Origenes launched a new FREE website ( dedicated to the Origenes maps series, where one can zoom in and explore the surnames, clans, castles, and DNA... More
(February 3rd 2021). When commercial DNA testing began it focused completely on Y-DNA STR testing. While Y-DNA STR results can routinely be used to pinpoint a paternal origin, the STRs themselves, as... More
In June 2018 Irish Origenes was commissioned to do a Y-DNA Case Study report for a Mr David McGinnis from Oregon in the USA. In that report (based exclusively on his commercial Y-DNA test results)... More
UPDATED October 2020, NEW (6th) McDonald Case Study Added! The McDonald surname is probably one of the most famous, spawning one of the world’s most notable brands. It is also one of the most common... More
The challenge with modern commercial ancestral mtDNA testing is linking a specific maternal Eve with a precise geographical location. However, pinpointing an origin for one’s direct female ancestor... More
The Autosomal DNA test is by far the most popular commercial ancestral DNA test worldwide (tests like’s, 23andMe, MyHeritage and FTDNA's Family Finder). BUT are you really getting the... More
Previous Scottish Origenes research has revealed how the Irish and Scottish Gaels share a common origin within the Rhineland of Central Europe, and that the progenitors of both groups sought refuge... More
The first ever Plantations Surnames of Ireland map has been completed just in time for the Back to Our Past Event in Belfast in 2019. The map details the precise location where farmers with each... More
Commercial ancestral Y-DNA testing has revealed that up to 40% of all Scottish males (and males with paternal Scottish ancestry) will have a Gaelic origin (the Y-DNA test only explores the paternal... More
Step I: When the Gaelic surname 'MacMichael' becomes Norman 'Mitchell' A change in ‘cultural identity’ can be quite rapid (think modern Americans who are a mix of almost every nation on the planet)... More
Ireland is one of Scotland's closest neighbours, and their shared heritage runs deep; it is reflected in surnames (Mac or Mc?), language (Gaelic) and not to forget their national drink (Whisky or... More
Anybody who has taken a simple painless commercial ancestral Y-DNA test (which only explores your paternal ancestry) will potentially have matched many people with lots of different surnames, and... More
Don Anderson, who is an adoptee from Oregon, has released a book which is a must read for all adoptees wishing to uncover the identities of their birth parents. Its also a must read for anyone... More
The DNA does not lie and upon commercial ancestral DNA testing the people who appear as a genetic match to you share a common ancestor with you, it is merely a matter of when that shared ancestor... More
A Sample DNA Case Study which shows how the NEW Scottish Origenes Surnames, Clans, Castles and DNA maps can be used together with a simple painless commercial ancestral DNA test to rediscover your... More
DETAILING the origin of approximately 4,000 different Scottish surnames, the Medieval territories of 400 of the most prominent Scottish Clans and Families, and the precise location of 1000 Scottish... More
Surname distribution mapping reveals that the Graham surname is associated with Scotland and bordering English Counties. Since farmers with each surname still concentrate in the area where one’s... More
The beauty with the DNA approach to researching one’s ancestral origin is that the DNA does not lie! The area identified in an Irish, Scottish, English or Welsh Origenes personalised DNA report can... More
Surnames evolve over both time and distance, and change usually at the whim of an administrator who simply records an unfamiliar surname as he hears it. In this manner similar sounding surnames... More
At Family Tree DNA’s  annual conference in 2012 I presented results demonstrating that the Scottish 'Valentines' were descended from a MacGregor who had changed his surname sometime in the early... More
I’ve been busy recently doing Case Studies and working on a Surnames and Y-DNA Map of Scotland (previewed here). But this Valentine Case Study is one of my all-time favourites and I’d like to share... More
Sometimes a quite remarkable Y-DNA Case Study comes along that I will try my best to get published in a Genealogical magazine. The latest one published in Family Tree Magazine details the Paterson... More
Every successful Irish, Scottish, or English Origenes Case Study tells an interesting story, some like the Durkin Case Study are easy to solve, others like the MacKenzie Case Study which features in... More
I was a guest speaker for Family Tree DNA at the 2013 Who Do You Think You Are LIVE event in London. The slides for that talk can now be downloaded by CLICKING HERE. This is my second set of talks... More
I was invited by the world’s largest commercial ancestral DNA testing Company 'Family Tree DNA' to give a talk entitled 'Pinpointing a Geographical Origin' at their 8th Annual Genetic Genealogy... More
The Royal house of Scotland sprang from the Kings of the Scots, who constituted only one of the 6 peoples inhabiting the modern lands of Scotland. Yet when Kenneth, son of Alpin, united the Picts and... More
When one thinks of Scottish surnames, one almost always thinks of those that begin with Mc’ or Mac.’ This is an over simplification as Scottish surnames are quite diverse and reflect the various... More
Scotland was first settled roughly 10,000 years ago after the end of the last ice age. The first reference to the people of Scotland comes from Roman sources that referred to the people north of... More

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The Origin of the Scottish Gaels as revealed by their DNA!

Commercial ancestral Y-DNA testing has revealed that up to 40% of all Scottish males (and males with paternal Scottish ancestry) will have a Gaelic origin (the Y-DNA test only explores the paternal line). It also reveals that the Gaelic genetic signature dominates Western Scotland with an almost perfect east/west divide as marked by the distribution limit of Gaelic Scottish surnames (see attached image). However, the origin of the Gaels has remained a mystery until the advent of modern commercial ancestral DNA testing. DNA testing has revealed that the Scottish and Irish Gaels share common origin, probably not a surprise given the shared language (Gaelic), common surnames (typically denoted by Mac’ or Mc’), common sports (Irish Hurling, Scottish Shinty) and national drink ‘Irish Whiskey’ or ‘Scotch Whisky.’ However, the concept of the Scots being descended from a ‘tribe’ from Ireland who invaded Scotland does not hold true (if that were the case then Scots Gaels would have earlier detectable links with Ireland, they simply don’t, the reverse is true with Gaelic Irish males having earlier detectable links with Scotland). In fact the term ‘Scotti’ appears to have been a term used by the later Anglo-Saxons to describe someone who spoke Gaelic. What the DNA shows is that Ireland was swamped within a very short time by a ‘Proto-Gael’ people who poured in from Western Scotland. BUT when and where did these Proto-Gaels (who would go on to form the distinctive Scottish Gael and Irish Gael identity) come from? Were the Proto-Gaels the Prehistoric inhabitants of Scotland, who one day decided to invade and turn Ireland Gael? The answer is NO! If you are a Scottish male of Gaelic origin, then your paternal ancestors are relatively recent arrivals, having first stepped foot in Scotland approximately 2,000 years ago!

If you have Gaelic paternal origins then some of your most distant genetic relatives revealed upon Y-DNA testing will reveal their ancestors within modern Bohemia, and it is there in the western borderlands of the modern Czech Republic that the journey of the Gaels as recorded by their DNA began (see attached image). At some point the ‘Keltoi’ people of Bohemia began crossing the Erzegebirge Mountains into modern Southern Germany, where they followed the River Main towards the Rhine. At the height of Celtic Hallstatt and La Tene Cultures the settlement of ‘Glauberg’ which lies close to the area where the River Main joins the Rhine became a Centre of Supra-regional importance. Glauberg also marks a crucial point of divergence. The hundreds of Irish, Scottish, English and Welsh DNA studies that I have performed over the years have revealed that the Celts would use the Rhine to spread throughout Central Europe. Those that spread north would give rise to the ‘Celtic’ tribes that would come to dominate the modern area of Belgium and the Netherlands, before making the short crossing into Britain and giving rise to the Britons (including the Picts of Northeast Scotland and the Ancient Britons of Strathclyde click here). But the ancestors of the Gaels (the Proto-Gaels) were part of a Celtic group that headed south colonizing the upper reaches of the Rhine, spreading towards modern Switzerland and even crossing the Alps into what is now Northern Italy. The rise of the ROMAN EMPIRE would change everything!

The Celts would dominate Central Europe until the emergence of the Romans. The DNA studies performed for males with Gaelic Irish or Scots origin reveal that they invariably share a common paternal ancestor that lived between 2,000 and 2,600 years ago within the area located between the Rivers Moselle and Rhine, which forms much of the modern borderlands of France and Germany. The DNA points to an exodus of Proto-Gaels from that area approximately 2,000 years ago. With every human exodus there are push and pull factors, and historically we know that that this area was conquered by the Romans in 58BC (Battle of the Vosges) who fortunately also recorded the tribes they found there including the ‘Nemetes’ and ‘Tribocci’ whose territory hugged the western bank of the Rhine (see attached image). The Romans were brutal. Roman Conquest was crushing, involving slaughter, slavery and assimilation for the lucky few. Julius Caesar himself described the Battle of the Vosges in The Gallic Wars as follows; ‘then at last of necessity the Germans drew their forces out of camp and disposed them canton by canton, at equal distances, the Harudes, Marcomanni, Tribocci, Vangiones, Nemetes, Sedusii, Suevi; and surrounded their whole army with their chariots and wagons, that no hope might be left in flight. On these they placed their women, who, with disheveled hair and in tears, entreated the soldiers, as they went forward to battle, not to deliver them into slavery to the Romans.’ Caesar of course won the day, and after their defeat by the Romans the inhabitants of the lands between the Rhine and Moselle (those not enslaved) faced a dilemma; assimilate or flee (some would stay, and be absorbed by Rome, and their descendants’ would in time become French or German)! But the Proto-Gaels who chose to flee could not go west or south (areas already controlled by the Romans), nor could they go east as the ‘true’ Germanic tribes were constantly buckling against the eastern border of the expanding Roman Empire. Their only option was to follow the Rhine north into Britain and exile among their distant cousins ‘the Britons.’

The exodus of Proto-Gaels (a mix of defeated ‘Celtic’ tribes from between the Moselle and Rhine) had begun; they sailed down the Rhine and poured into Britain. By the time they arrived in Britain these exiled Proto-Gaels were probably quite distinct from their distant Briton cousins, with the Britons speaking what would eventually become the ‘Welsh’ language, and the Proto-Gaels speaking what would eventually evolve into Irish and Scottish Gaelic. But the Romans under Julius Caesar were literally hot on their heels and he himself would invade Britain less than 3 years later in 55 and 54 BC. The shock of a Roman landing in Britain must have been immense, it propelled the Proto-Gaels north, they would not stop until they settled permanently beyond the Clyde Estuary and the Firth of Forth in Northern Scotland (although the DNA does suggest a small group that broke off and sought refuge in Devon and Cornwall in the far Southwest of England). In summary, the majority of Proto-Gaels would keep one step ahead of the Roman advance and would settle in the inhospitable lands of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, or cross the sea into what the Romans aptly named ‘Hibernia’ (land of winter); both of which lay beyond the reach of permanent Roman settlement. The Antoine Wall (begun in 142 AD) would mark the northern most limit of the Roman Empire and stretched from the Clyde to the Firth of Forth in Scotland (see attached image). Free from Roman persecution the descendants of the Proto-Gael refugees would evolve into the Scots and Irish Gaels that would shape the modern identities of Scotland and Ireland. The Gaels from Scotland and Ireland would in turn plague Roman Britain for centuries with raids (one such raid would later bring to Ireland a Romano-Briton slave boy known as Patricius).

The Celts that remained in Central Europe would be subsumed into the peoples and nations that evolved over the following millennia, and today males with a ‘Celtic’ Y-DNA signature have contributed in part to the modern Czechs, Southern Germans, Northern Italians and Belgians. Besides their DNA, their legacy can be found in significant archaeological evidence, some linguistic traces (e.g. Asal and Esel mean Donkey in modern Gaelic and German respectively), and of course historical accounts of victorious Roman Generals. Other subtle clues can still be found! For example the Celtic ‘Boii’ gave their name to their original homeland of ‘Bohemia,’ with Boii translating as ‘the Herding or Warrior people.’ It can be argued that the Gaels were more pastoralists than cultivators, and remarkably ‘Bo’ in modern Gaelic can mean ‘cow’ and/or ‘victory’ (Gallaimh Ubu is the cry of Galway’s Gaelic football and Hurling fans). The great warrior Queen of the Britons who fought the Romans was Boudica (‘the Victorious one’) of the Iceni tribe. In addition, my own surname ‘Bowes’ is an anglicized form of Gaelic Irish ‘O’Boy’ (Grandson of the Victorious one); a reference perhaps to a notable founding paternal ancestor who was victorious in some battle fought in the Irish Midlands approximately 1,000 years ago?  

I have added a 2 part DNA study commissioned by Margaret Nolan (contact: for a gentleman named Burns (the Scottish form of the Irish ‘O’Byrne’ surname) which has helped me to reconstruct the story of the Gaels. In the first Case Study I demonstrate how commercial ancestral Y-DNA testing can pinpoint an origin for one's paternal ancestor 1,000 years ago when Gaelic surnames first appeared (click here to download Part I). Part II demonstrates how one’s more distant genetic matches allow one to reconstruct one’s ancient paternal ancestral journey (click here to download Part II). What will your DNA reveal? Contact Scottish Origenes to find out about a suitable painless commercial DNA test for you (CLICK HERE), or for a FREE CONSULTATION on your DNA test results.

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