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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 Science of Scottish Surnames

Highlander ChiefWhen 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 population migrations that included Irish tribes, Vikings, Anglo-Saxons, and Normans, not forgetting the contribution of the native Picts. Surnames in Great Britain can usually be classified as follows;

  1. Patronyms; are a component of a personal name based on the name of one's father, grandfather or an even earlier male ancestor. (‘son of. . .’): Bateson, Jeffreys, Watson, MacGregor (Scottish- ‘son of Gregor.’ 
  2. Some patronyms denote group membership: Haldane (‘half-Dane’); Wallace (‘a Celt’)
  3. Occupations or status: Fisher (fisherman); Wright (maker of machinery or objects); Franklin (feudal status term).
  4. Specific places: Charlesworth (Derbyshire, England), Darlington (Co. Durham, England), Crick (Northamptonshire, England),
  5. Landscape features that reflected where ones ancestor lived: Bridges; Ford (river crossing); Southern
  6. Nicknames or characteristics: Darwin (‘dear friend’); Hodgkin (pet form of Roger); Short, Tall, Black, Brown.

Patronyms (denoted by Mc/Mac’) constitute a significant minority of surnames found in Scotland. This may simply reflect the fact that the ancient Picts appear to have adopted the customs of the arriving Irish tribes. Since science has demonstrated that many, if not all of the Irish Clans had a single founding ancestor this could potentially apply to Scottish surnames particularly those beginning with Mc/Mac. Given the fact that even Lowlander Scottish families seem to have adopted the Clan system this ‘one man one Clan’ hypothesis may well ring true for Scotland as a whole and for many Scottish surnames, be they Highlander, Lowlander, Gael or Saxon. However one drawback is that Patronyms when based on common personal names like Donald, may have given rise to unrelated Clans using similar surnames and found in different areas of Scotland. So for example  if your surname is McDonald you may be left wondering which Clan your ancestors belonged to. Here too DNA can provide the answer. This is because the surnames of one’s medieval MacDonald ancestors neighbours are reflected in your DNA matches, so that if your ancestor was a MacDonald from the Isle of Skye then matches will occur to surnames like MacLeod and MacKinnon, while an ancestor from the MacDonald’s of Glencoe will match Stewart’s or Menzies.

So is there any evidence to support the one man one clan hypothesis in Scotland? At present the answer is NO, until scientific studies like those by MacEvoy et al., are done for Scottish surnames we will not know the answer. But having said that Scotland is exceptionally lucky in that the ‘Clan Territories of Scotland’ are exceptionally Viking-Scots 'Gallowglass'well documented which facilitates the process of using one’s DNA results to pinpoint an ancestor to a specific area. And it is because of this that I have been able to pinpoint the Scottish Genetic Homeland of 3 individuals who had no idea of their medieval or in some cases even their Scottish ancestry. One Case Study that shows the process working for a person with a Highlander Scottish background, but there are 2 others showing the process working for contrasting Lowlander Scots, one border Reiver and another from the Viking-Gaels of Galloway. (click here to view Case Studies).Border Reivers

And remember if your ancestors lived in a pinpointed area over 1,000 years ago when surnames became common, then they were most likely there prior to leaving for towns and cities across the world, and your distant relatives probably still live there even today. That’s the beauty of this approach, once you pinpoint a ‘Genetic Homeland’ you can prove it by DNA testing people with your surname in the pinpointed area. 

Irish Origenes

English Origenes