Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Ulster Heritage DNA Project Update, late April 2008

notes from the Ulster Heritage Y chromosome DNA testing

We have recently updated the results page so that now every participant has been placed into one of the categories either by haplogroup or by family or clan group. Some interesting cases coming in, an example would be the two McCown families. Both come from the Gaelic surname Mac Eogháin but the two groups not related. This is not unusual as any given Gaelic surname will have several non related families using that surname, even more than several with surnames taken from popular given names like Eáin, Eogháin, Dónaill, etc.

In the surname books you will find a name like McDonald and a one-size-fits-all explanation of its origins, usually to the Scottish clan for that particular surname; the reality is there were dozens of men named Dónail from south Cork to the north tip of Scotland, whose sons took his name and whose descendants now know carry the anglicised name of McDonald. With our McCowns one group appears to be native Irish, a sept of the MacGuire clan, and the other appears to be Argyll in origin and probably came to Ireland in the 1400s or 1500s as a Gallóglach family.

Jim McKane, our Ulster Heritage Lord of the Web, has returned to Canada from his wintering in Arizona. While away his basement flooded, so he’s been busy. Jim has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and has 13 grandchildren, so he’s not easily flustered. He has managed to keep our main website updated despite the flood and has even added another E-book. This is The Vital Records of the Scots-Irish from the Parish of Magilligan. In it you will find notes on Scots-Irish families and also many native Irish and Hebridean families from Magilligan Parish in County Derry. The E-books are available for a nominal price.

You can also find Rev George Hill’s classic, The Stewarts of Ballintoy in the E-book selection. This is one of my all time favourite little books about the history of north Antrim. The book has some of the views peculiar to Victorian Ulster sensibilities, but that really just adds to the colour of the book. It is an excellent read and has information on the Irish clans native to north Antrim, the Gallóglaigh clans that moved there in late medieval times, the Hebridean families that moved there to work of the McDonnells who controlled that part of Antrim, and the Ulster Scot settler families.

We now have the Ulster Heritage mtDNA project running, so all with Ulster maternal lines are welcomed to join. This is also a chance for our ladies to participate, as both male and females can do the mtDNA testing.

The link to the UH mtDNA Project is on our main web site: http://www.ulsterheritage.com/

All participant families that have a clan or family organisation are urged to send us a link so you can be listed. Visit the ‘Clan’ page of our main website to see how we do this. This is a new feature, but we already have the Clann Mhig Uidhir (the McGuires), Clann Mhic Eáin (the McCains), and Clann Uí Laithbheartaigh (the Lavertys) listed. The information presented on these Irish clan pages will be unique in that these groups have used Y-chromosome DNA testing to confirm kinship.

Barry R McCain

Monday, 28 April 2008

Canadian Gaeilge Event

An Irish Language Weekend is being held in the Toronto area (Keswick)Dates: 30 May - 1 June 2008

The Facility is beautiful: http://www.lorettomaryholme.ca/contact.php

The price is low: $120 (including 2 night's accommodation, and all meals from Friday night to Sunday lunch).Application Form Attached as PDF. Tá fáilte is fiche roimh tosaitheoirí ag an deireadh seachtaine seo, ach is ócáid a óireann cainteoirí líofa agus cainteoirí dúchais fosta. Is deis dúinn bailiú le chéile le haghaidh comhluadar agus spraoí, ceol agus deoch a roinnt le chéile trí mheán ar dteanga, dílis féin.

For details contact:

Aralt Mac Giolla Chainnigh, Dr, Capt, PPCLI, kenny-h@rmc.ca

The Ulster Heritage mtDNA Project Up and Running

The Ulster Heritage mtDNA Project is now up and running. This project uses mitochondrial DNA that is passed in one’s maternal line. It is open to both male and female participation. The website from the project is located at:


Mitochondrial testing can be used for genealogical research, but it is also reveals the deep ancestry and ethnicity of one’s maternal lines.

Anyone that has maternal Ulster ancestry may participate in the project.

Barry R McCain

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Importance of a Healthy Native Tongue

15ú Aibreán 2008
right, the Donegal Gaeltacht

Medical Matters: Gaeilge may be now seen as sexy and fun, but for many fluency is vital for their health, writes Dr Muiris Houston...

The Irish language received a major boost as part of Brian Cowen's election as the new leader of Fianna Fáil. By going beyond the obligatory 'cúpla focail' he impressed many with his fluency and, in particular, his ability to take "live" questions from journalists in our native tongue. Comedian Des Bishop has also made an impact with his TV series In the name of the Fada. The US native now includes an Irish language stand-up routine as part of his repertoire and also performs a rap song as Gaeilge. Suddenly, Irish is part of the zeitgeist.

Anything that acknowledges and modernises our attitudes to our native tongue is good for doctors and patients. If you are not feeling well, and your thoughts and feelings come naturally to you as Gaeilge, then it is important that you can express these in a spontaneous way. I am lucky enough to have been brought up speaking Irish and have retained some fluency in the language. The first opportunity to use it in a clinical setting came when I worked as a surgical intern in St James's Hospital, Dublin.

At the time, the urologists at the hospital received regular referrals from Donegal, with the result that every Friday afternoon, a half-dozen or so men in their 60s and 70s were transported to Dublin by the North Western Health Board. All had developed symptoms suggesting problems with their bladders or prostate glands and arrived on a Friday to be ready for surgery first thing on Monday morning.

The job of the lowly intern was to 'admit' these patients - a task that went well as long as their minibus arrived around lunchtime, but could lead to unwelcome additional work for the Friday night on-call doctor if the patients' transport was delayed.

On one of these Friday afternoons I met a gentleman from Gaoth Dobhair in the heart of the Donegal Gaeltacht. While taking a history from him, his speech was hesitant and stilted. The thought that he may have had a mild intellectual disability crossed my mind. However, once the initial ice was broken, I asked: 'An bhfuil Gaeilge líofa agat?'

Suddenly he smiled and visibly relaxed and began to chat animatedly in the most beautiful Donegal blas.

The purest Donegal Irish sounds closer to Scots Gaelic than it does to the Munster or Connaught versions of our native tongue. Suddenly the shoe was on the other foot: the patient was in full expressive flow about his symptoms leaving the doctor floundering in an effort to catch up. Which, it must be said, if there is going to be an imbalance in the doctor-patient relationship, is no bad thing.

The memory that has stayed with me since that day is the transformation of a man from a halting, hesitant storyteller to an animated, expressive raconteur of his personal medical history. I like to think that the extra effort I made in communicating with my patient that day gave him a sense of empowerment he may not otherwise have experienced.

Now I practise in an area with a high percentage of native Irish speakers. Many consultations are bilingual affairs, which naturally drift from Gaeilge to Bearla. However, I am conscious that my grasp of technological terms as Gaeilge is weak, so when discussing the finer details of investigations or treatments, I veer towards English.

But when it comes to the patient's own story and their concerns, some prefer to tell it in their native tongue. And I enjoy listening to them.

In 2006, the HSE West published a book by Dr Nicola De Faoite, a Galway GP, titled: Leaganacha Leighis: An English-Irish Phrasebook for Medical Personnel. Its stated aim is to 'enhance the ability of medical professionals to speak Irish to patients from the Gaeltacht'.

Acadamh na Lianna is the organisation of Irish-speaking doctors. It celebrates its 40th anniversary this year with a conference in the Ardilaun Hotel in Galway from May 23rd to May 25th. Chaired by Harry McGee of The Irish Times political staff, the contributors will include Rosmuc GP, John McCormack, who will speak on the importance of the Irish language for GPs working in Gaeltacht areas.

It's good to see Irish portrayed as sexy and fun in the media. But for a significant percentage of the population, it is actually important for their health that they can express a personal narrative in their native tongue.

Dr Houston is pleased to hear from readers at mhouston@irish-times.ie but regrets he is unable to reply to individual queries. The Ulster Heritage Magazine thanks the Irish Times and Dr Muiris Houston for their kind permission to use this article. Go raibh míle maith agaibh.

© 2008 The Irish Times
Irish Times - Lthch: Muiris Houston

Monday, 14 April 2008

Ulster Heritage DNA Project News April 2008

As the Ulster Heritage DNA Project grows it continues to uncover fascinating details into the history of many of Ireland’s leading families. Often this is from following the paternal descent of a family, but also, there are clan and dynastic groups that are appearing as the results are gathered. The UHDP has also announced they are to add mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) which will allow families to research their maternal lines.

Dál Riada Haplogroup:

Over the last two years as the results come into the UHDP a collection of DNA matches appeared which some researchers call the Dál Riada group, so called because the men in the group have ancestors that are from the historical kingdom of Dal Riada, i.e. from the Bann Valley east to the sea and then south to Belfast and then mid Argyll around the historical capital of Dal Riada, Dunadd in Kilmichael Glassary.

Dunseverick in north Antrim, capital of Irish Dál Riada

The Irish of Dál Riada colonized Argyll in the 5th and 6th Centuries and this Irish kingdom existed both in northeast Ulster and mid Argyll for several centuries. The kingdom reached its height under Áedán Mac Gabráin (anno domini 574-608). The Dal Riadians were called the Scotti in Latin from which the word ‘Scot’ is derived. But to totally confuse the uninitiated into Ulster history, the Latin word Scotti means Irishmen. The shifting nature of the nomenclature used to describe these Gaels is complex and probably has started more than a few heated arguments, but at least the DNA testing is allowing us to better understand them as a group.

Another interesting aspect of the Dal Riada haplogroup (DNA signature) is they appear to have distant links to an area in northwest Spain associated with the Austure. The Austure were a Q-Celtic speaking tribal group in what is now modern Asturias west into Galicia to the sea and then south into the mountains in northern Portugal.

Dunadd, capital of Dál Riada in mid Argyll

Was the Dal Riada group the movers and shakers in east Ulster and did they lead the Irish colonisation of what is now Scotland? Was this Dál Riada dynasty the rivals to the Niall of the Nine Hostages dynasty? The Dal Riada group outnumbers the Niall of the Nine Hostages haplogroup by more than two to one in the UHDP results. This probably reflects participation in the project by a large percentage of men whose ancestors are from east of the Bann, but still given the Ulster wide scope of the UHDP, it is an impressive statistic.

Ulster mtDNA Project:

For several months now the UHDP has wanted to open the project up to people wishing to research their maternal lines. The UHDP was set up to study surnames and uses Y-chromosome tests, for this reason they are open only to men. The Y-chromosome is only passed from father to son making it the perfect tool to research surnames. Mitochondrial DNA testing is more complex and more expensive, but will help those who are interested in tracking their maternal lines. The mtDNA tests are getting better and more affordable and the UHDP agreed it was time to add this test to the project.

Ulster Clans and Families:

Among the Irish clans participating in the UHDP, the Ó Catháin clan results are perhaps the most dynamic. They are, just as their history says, from the Niall of the Nine Hostages group and several of the septs that the seanachaithe say descend from the Ó Catháin line, such as the McHenry family of Ballyrashane, are indeed a DNA match to the Ó Catháin men. To date every Ó Catháin man from the Dungiven area has been a DNA match to the group. Details of one line located can not be given out for privacy concerns, but the UHDP does acknowledge the descendants of Manus Rua Ó Catháin of Dunseverick, the famous general under Montrose, have been located. Other clans and families that are having great success at locating their members via DNA testing the McGuires, McAmis, McCains, Henrys Elders, Hamiltons of Abercorn, and Wallaces to name a few.

Information on the UHDP, the Ulster Heritage mtDNA Project, and the Ulster Clans and families is located at: http://www.ulsterheritage.com/

Dunadd photo courtesy of www.darkisle.com

Barry R McCain

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

A lot of Ulster Folk in Texas...

People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors. -- Edmund Burke, 1790

The quote above from Edmund Burke sent in by Leonard J. McCown, of Irving, Texas and who is a participant in the Ulster Heritage DNA Project. His people came from Ulster to the Colonies early, his family of Gallóglaigh descent, real Gaels to the core.

I liked this quote and wanted to post it as Burke was an Irishman of great wisdom and insight, probably more relevant today than in his own day when you really stir it about, but also to mention how much early Texas was shaped by the Irish from Ulster that settled there circa 1820s into the 1860s and beyond. Their finest day being 6 March 1836, which if you were born in the Southland you know what happened that date. In this part of the Diaspora we often have a dinner and raise a glass to the lads that day...

mise le meas,


Gaeilge News in North America


The 2008 Conference of the North American Association for Celtic Language Teachers will be held June 12—14, 2008 at the Madog Center for Welsh Studies, at the University of Rio Grande in Rio Grande, Ohio.
Please visit our website (www.naaclt.org) for more information and to register. Registration closes 16 May 2008.

Abstracts are invited for twenty-minute talks, each followed by a ten-minute discussion period. Appropriate topics include, but are not limited to, issues dealing with the teaching, learning, promotion or appreciation of any of the Celtic languages or cultures. Abstracts may be submitted by April 18, 2008 to Kevin Rottet (krottet@indiana.edu).

Aralt Mac Giolla Chainnigh, Dr, Capt, PPCLI, kenny-h@rmc.ca
Department of Physics, RMC, Box 17000, Stn Forces, Kingston, ON, Canada, K7K 7B4
phone: (613) 541-6000 ext 6042, fax: (613) 541-6040
freagraí as Gaeilge le do thoil, oiread agus is féidir

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Diaspora vibes... in Oxford MS, McCains in concert

Donovan McCain and Conar McCain perform an original song written by Donovan, with Jesse Pinion on lead guitar. Conar is the young lad, just 14 years old, on the Hofner bass, his mentor, via videos and CDs, Pater's old albums, etc., is Sir Paul McCartney, it shows too, nice bass there lad. Recorded live on the Ole Miss campus Fall 2007. Conar and Donovan McCain are part of that Antrim McCain family, so much in the news of late. Video footage curtesy of Miss Jamie Johnson.