Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The Kavanagh Clan DNA Project

The Kavanagh clan in Leighlinbridge, Carlow

The Cavanaugh/Kavanagh Y-DNA project
was initiated to complement genealogical research for members of the Caomhánach Clann (web site location: www.kavanaghfamily.com) and other interested parties. Cavanaugh and Kavanagh are the two most common of some 200 derivations of the Gaelic Caomhánach. The eldest son of Diarmaid MacMurchadha (Dermot MacMurrough), Domhnall carried the nickname Caomhánach and was the King of Leinster from 1171 to 1175.

The Kavanagh inauguration

World-wide, thousands of people carry a surname derived from Caomhánach, but do not know the history of their name or where their ancestors came from. Many others do know the history of their surname but can't determine where in Ireland their ancestors came from. Standard genealogical research many times can go no further when records are not available to support either family lore past down through the generations. Well intentioned elders may have told stories, tales and yarns that through the passage of years became family "facts". It is a natural tendency to believe Grandma and Grandpa but unfortunately, family lore often cannot be documented. For example, records were destroyed by fire, either by accident or deliberately by invaders. Until DNA testing was available keys to finding the truth could not be found. This is called by many researchers, "Hitting the brick wall."

Y-DNA testing promises to unlock the past and assist people find their roots. Generations can be skipped if matches are made with people who have been successful with standard genealogical research. If their research is accurate, a positive match may lead to where one came from. One issue we have had to deal with is some people who claim to be able to trace their ancestry back hundreds of years refuse to submit to DNA testing. While DNA is a tool for aiding research by narrowing down possibilities, it cannot prove with certainty who one is. On the other hand, DNA testing can prove with100% certainly who you are not. I believe many people do not really want to know the truth, therefore refuse to participate with testing.

We have had some significant success in putting people whose test matched together. It must be thrill to discover you may have a relative you didn't know existed. Over time, my hope is that more Caomhánachs will submit to DNA testing and more family researchers will find the key to unlock their past.

The project website is at:


The family cost of arms may be seen at:


Mark R. Cavanaugh

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