The Descendants of Niall

Anonymous Contributor
April / May 2006

Are you related to Niall of the Nine Hostages?

In a recent study by geneticist Daniel Bradley and his colleagues at the Smurfit Institute of Genetics at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, which was reported in the February issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics, it is suggested that at least one in every 12 Irishmen worldwide and one in every five in the northwest of Ireland could be descendants of Niall, who on becoming High King in 377 AD, established a dynasty of powerful chieftains that dominated the island for some six centuries.

Modern surnames tracing their ancestry back to Niall include (O’)Neill, (O’)Gallagher, (O’)Boyle, (O’)Doherty, O’Donnell, Connor, Cannon, Bradley, O’Reilly, Flynn, (Mc)Kee, Campbell, Devlin, Donnelly, Egan, Gormley, Hynes, McCaul, McGovern, McLoughlin, McManus, McMenamin, Molloy, O’Kane, O’Rourke and Quinn.

Niall of the Nine Hostages got his name by taking nine key hostages, including Saint Patrick, in raids on his opponent chieftains in Ireland, Britain and France to cement his power. A near mythical figure, he is said to have had 12 sons and to have been slain in the English Channel or in Scotland. His descendants, known as the Ui Neill, were the most powerful rulers of Ireland and maintained their dynasty until the 11th century.

According to Brian McEvoy, one of the team at Trinity, scientists found an area in northwest Ireland where they claim 21.5 percent carry Niall’s genetic fingerprint. This area was the main powerbase of the Ui Neills, which literally translated means “descendants of Niall.” The Y chromosome appeared to trace back to one person.

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

The study also says that Niall “resided at the cusp of mythology and history, but our results do seem to confirm the existence of a single early medieval progenitor to the most powerful and enduring Irish dynasty.”

In addition, the study goes on to say that the chromosome has also been found in 16.7 percent of men in western and central Scotland and has turned up in multiple North American population samples, including in two percent of EuropeanAmerican New Yorkers. “Given historically high rates of Irish emigration to North America and other parts of the world, it seems likely that the number of descendants worldwide runs to perhaps two to three million males,” the study says.

The study suggests a link between powerful men and a strong genetic legacy, as more powerful men would have commanded access to more women, and the siring of offspring was related to power and prestige. One of the O’Neill dynasty chieftains, Turlough O’Donnell, who died in 1423, is said to have had 18 sons with nearly a dozen women and claimed 59 grandsons.

Family Tree DNA ( has posted a special page on its website for customers to compare DNA marker results with those of Niall of the Nine Hostages Visit:

For additional information or answers to specific questions, contact: [email protected] or call 713-828-1438. ♦

31 Responses to “The Descendants of Niall”

  1. Ed Begley says:

    I am Rm222 but my genealogy back to 1150 Cheshire England in Baguley and wythenshawe a group of Vikings settled there 9th century that came from Ireland must of been one of my ancestors

  2. Donnie Alan Blackstone says:

    My 23andme test says I’m a descendant of this line I would like to know more about my line.


  3. Shawn Emmerson says:

    I am R-M269, a descendant of Niall and the Ui Neill Dynasty. I would like to know more of this lineage.

  4. stephanie says:

    My father’s father etc etc traces back to R-M269. I find this interesting and am curious. I would like to learn more. I find it funny, as well. I have a long time friend whose last name is O’Neil. It seems that we might have a common ancestor.

  5. Byron Ogletree Van Cleve says:

    My 23 and me said I had uniall blood line my father was an Ogletree I would like to know what’s the name link

  6. ID Kline says:

    More info on the M222 branch of R1b, and Niall, here:


  7. D. HIGHLEY says:

    I just got my 23andMe results back yesterday and it says I had the genetic marker that connects me to Niall. I knew I had Irish roots but I didn’t know that. I wish I could find the lineage for my ancestry tree.

  8. I just did the 23 and me dna andstery test and it says i am from this line of linage and would like to learn somemore about it

  9. 269 here … got the same notice you all did. Michigan back to Canada then back to Jersey line…heard there were 4 brothers that came over late 16’s early 17’s. John and Elizabeth (Stiff) Fleming is as far back to a guarantee as I go though. Let me know what ye find ya?

  10. Jeffrey Wood says:

    My Paternal linage R-M269 around 10,000 years ago then was later transformed to R-A151. I live in Western NY. The Wood name is based on the British Isle but not sure were the Irish linage come in.

  11. Chi says:

    I recently discovered through 23andme that I share a paternal ancestor with niall. Haplogroup rm269 which turn to rp311 today. Never knew I would find something like this in my dna. I would like to learn more even possibly meet the ones who kept they’re records.

  12. stephen bradley says:

    my 23andme results say i’m R-M222 and my ancestor was Neil…I like so many others are related, so i would like to know more…pretty cool to be related to a king.

  13. Ivan says:

    I found out I also have a lineage to this . Even though I’m mainly Iberian. Very interesting

  14. David Torres says:

    Hello, I took a 23andme DNA test. The results are incredible. It states that through my paternal side I hail through R-M269. Thanks Ui Niell Dynasty. In a 1,000,000 years I would have never thought this. Is this a hoax or could it be real? You see I am Latin.

  15. Vivian B. Malone Mirabal says:

    My DNA from. says I am a Decscedent of this Dynasty. I would like to know more of this ancestral family.

  16. Giovanni Jorgensen says:

    paternal haplogroup is R-A151. R-M269 common ancestor


  17. Robin Bolt says:

    (My dad, surname Lynch) R-A212 is relatively uncommon among 23andMe customers.
    Today, you share your haplogroup with all the men who are paternal-line descendants of the common ancestor of R-A212,
    1 in 1,700, it also states the following but I have no idea how the names morphed, though Lynch has variations. The spread of haplogroup R-M269 in northern Ireland and Scotland was likely aided by men like Niall of the Nine Hostages. Perhaps more myth than man, Niall of the Nine Hostages is said to have been a King of Tara in northwestern Ireland in the late 4th century C.E. His name comes from a tale of nine hostages that he held from the regions he ruled over. Though the legendary stories of his life may have been invented hundreds of years after he died, genetic evidence suggests that the Uí Néill dynasty, whose name means “descendants of Niall,” did in fact trace back to just one man who bore a branch of haplogroup R-M269.

    The Uí Néill ruled to various degrees as kings of Ireland from the 7th to the 11th century C.E. In the highly patriarchal society of medieval Ireland, their status allowed them to have outsized numbers of children and spread their paternal lineage each generation. In fact, researchers have estimated that between 2 and 3 million men with roots in north-west Ireland are paternal-line descendants of Niall.

  18. Brian Smith says:

    My 23andme testing found genetic Y-Chromosome markers that led to Haplogroup R-L20, which placed Niall of the Nine Hostages as an ancestor, further research discovery puts lines ancestry back Zerah or Zarah son of Judah meaning the Abrahamic line leading straight back to Shem to Noah to Adam in the Bible. However, its linking the paternal line from 19th Century England back to him, any clues on this? My ancestor was a stone and brick mason born in 1861 immigrated to the US in 1886 and he was born in Yorkshire, England. Could his ancestors been MacGowen or a similar spelling, a name given to Irish “Smiths” in workers of metal?

    • elle says:

      traditional stories say that Queen Tamar and her sister from the tribe of Levi travelled to ireland and portugal respectively from Israel and settled about 593 bc. from here we get the J dna. but if people are finding its really r-20 hey, that may be. maybe J is maternal.

  19. Eddie Figueroa says:

    I did a 23 & me DNA test and found out that I have R-M269 in my blood line and I would like to know further information about my lineage.

    • Robert O'Donnell says:

      R-M269 is a haplotype back a few thousand years. My last connection to this path is L21 about 4.5 millennia ago long before Niall. Back in time to the Euro-Asian Steppes. SO, I am not descended from Niall. R-M269 does not make you a descendant of Niall. It identifies you as a descendant of someone long before Niall that he descended from!

      If you want to know about relatively recent times do an extensive test for your haplotype, I’m A89 not descended from Niall nor an O’Donnell of the north. An O’Donnell of the south. Just another anglicized name. BTW I have CTS4466 in my past and distant relatives in Spain.

      • O'Neill says:

        I am A89, my surname is O’Neill. Can trace back to 1770s, Munster. But as you correctly say, I am also not a descendant of Niall. Always assumed with the surname would have descended from the O’Neill clan.

  20. Alexandra Pino Graf says:

    Looking to find more information on this paternal haplogroup

  21. MSR says:

    I am R-A212 with CTS4466 the whole R-M269 thing. We have no idea of the identity of my now deceased father’s father. My son and I are attempting to learn more about who this mystery man was. It was a well-kept secret that his mother and her sister took to the grave.

  22. Roman Sanchez says:

    I’m just another one of the bunch that comes from the dynasty.

  23. Alex says:

    23andme said that my paternal parent witch is my dads side said I was related to niall the high King of Ireland I know my mom has a lot of Irish in her my dads mexican but I have a lot more things in me a lot more it’s cool how 23and me works

  24. 23andMe says im R269
    Ui Niall Dynasty

  25. Noboru David Garcia says:

    My 23and me DNA said I have this too. Descendant of Niall of the nine Hostages.

  26. Sid Hall says:

    My y-DNA is R-A212, also tracing back to Niall. I find my Hall line in NY in the early 1800s and my first ancestor says his father was born in Scotland but have been unable to trace other Halls in this lien so far. Any connections?

  27. Joe Flood says:

    Unfortunately for this theory – on the one hand, R-M222 is considerably older than Niall, dating back to 100BC It had a massive expansion in Northern Ireland, the Isles and Western Scotland following a major population bottleneck caused by an unspecified disaster. See my L21 paper

    On the other hand, there is nothing at all to connect Niall to R-M222.

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