I have been managing yDNA projects for over eight years. The first, I helped to set up is the O’Shea yDNA Project (set up in 2003) as this is my maiden name, while the second project is the Ireland yDNA Project (set up in 2006). I have not blogged on this topic before but I feel the time is well overdue. I am the administrator of both the projects mentioned above.
I believe passionately in the use of yDNA in tracing paternal lines. Only men have yDNA so a man has to represent a family in a yDNA test. This is a disadvantage as sometimes there is no-one left in the male line to test. Leaving aside this obvious disadvantage, the advantages of using yDNA are many. If your paper trail fizzles out, yDNA testing can help to find connections to others and help to find relatives. It can help to focus your attention on a particular location which may be useful in your genealogical research.
In a general sense, yDNA can help understand migration out of Africa (about 60,000 years ago) to all corners of the globe. The Genographic Project has focused on this area of human history and migration, exclusively. However, all yDNA testing involves learning more about our Deep Ancestry to a lessor or greater extent. As yDNA testing technology evolves, testing gets more and more able to work out the specifics of our paternal line.
DNA Research in Ireland
There is almost no media exposure for DNA testing in Ireland, even as part of population analysis. However, in the recent past, the Smurfit Institute of Genetics did produce some very interesting research papers which dealt with Irish yDNA.
A landmark series for RTÉ One, Blood of the Irish explores the most fundamental questions about the Irish population; who were the first people to settle here and where did they come from? Why are the oldest Irish human remains less than 10,000 years old when just 100 kms away in Britain, human traces go back 700,000 years? Did the first Irish arrive overland on an ice bridge, or on a small fragile boat blown ashore by the winds of chance? The series combines cutting edge science, the latest archaeology and superb visuals to bring this enthralling topic to our screens for the first time.
There is to be a tv program called Blood of the Travellers on RTE on the 22nd may 2011.
The origin of Ireland’s Travelling people is a subject that has been debated for many years. Some say they are related to Romany gypsies or some other ethnic group that arrived here over the past 1000 years, others say they have been a community in Ireland long before the arrival of the Celts and subsequent invaders, while more say they are ‘settled Irish people’ who ‘took to the road’ during times of famine and eviction in the years since Oliver Cromwell.
Now for the first time this subject has been approached using the tools of DNA technology. Over the past year Olympian Francie Barrett has collected 40 Traveller DNA samples from every corner of Ireland. This DNA has been analysed by a team of scientists from The Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, The University of Edinburgh and Ethnoancestory.com to unlock the history of Ireland’s Travelling people.
What About Genetic Genealogy Tourism?
I have tried to raise the topic of DNA testing, in recent times, in the context of the Irish effort to “reach out” to Irish diaspora, but it falls on deaf ears. The Irish want to attract the Irish diaspora back to Ireland as “genealogical tourism” to boost the economy and there is a pilot scheme in East Galway which aims to get in touch with people abroad who know they come from the parishes in that area. See: http://www.irelandxo.org/
What about all those who don’t know which parish they come from? Recently, an American who is holidaying in Ireland was given my email address (by an acquaintance of mine who knows I promote the Ireland yDNA Project) to discuss DNA testing with me. This man is actually in Co. Galway and thinks his ancestors were from there but no-one can help him with his paper trail as his ancestors emigrated too early (1700s). Where is the help for people like this? I think the Irish government is missing a golden opportunity to help both the people still in Ireland and the people who emigrated.
There are nearly 4,000 people in the Ireland yDNA Project, which is run through Family Tree DNA , most of whom are from the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. If more Irish men got involved, it would help their families reconnect with descendants of relatives who emigrated in hard times. Of course, it would help the Irish Diaspora find their Irish origins.
Overall, I see it as a win-win situation. No doubt, more of the diaspora would visit Ireland to see their relatives, their home townland, ancestral cottage or region where their ancestors lived.