Medieval Irish warlord boasts three million descendants

I meant to blog this last week, so I am just sticking it in the archives.

Up to three million men around the world could be descended from a prolific medieval Irish king, according to a new genetic study.

It suggests that the 5th-century warlord known as “Niall of the Nine Hostages” may be the ancestor of about one in 12 Irishmen, say researchers at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. Niall established a dynasty of powerful chieftains that dominated the island for six centuries.

In a study of the Y chromosome – which is only passed down through the male line – scientists found a hotspot in northwest Ireland where 21.5% carry Niall’s genetic fingerprint, says Brian McEvoy, one of the team at Trinity. This was the main powerbase of the Ui Neills, which literally translated means “descendants of Niall”.

McEvoy says the Y chromosome appeared to trace back to one person.

“There are certain surnames that seem to have come from Ui Neill. We studied if there was any association between those surnames and the genetic profile. It is his (Niall’s) family.”