Posted by Mike Mulligan on March 16, 2015 in AncestryDNA, Research, United Kingdom

Saint Patrick’s Day is a time of year when those with Irish heritage around the world celebrate being Irish. With the launch of AncestryDNA in the UK & Ireland we have an opportunity to show a different view of Irishness using genetics.

Using DNA

With AncestryDNA, all customers receive a unique estimate of their ‘genetic ethnicity’ – where in the world their ancestors may have lived hundreds to thousands of years ago, based on their DNA. For example, an AncestryDNA ethnicity estimate can tell someone how much of their DNA likely came from Ireland – anywhere from 0% to 100%.

As the first results of UK & Ireland tests come through we can start to build up a picture of ethnicity estimates not just for individuals but averaged across all those born in the UK or Ireland*. What is particularly fascinating about the map below is that it has been compiled using just AncestryDNA results. It does not use historical data about migration patterns or self-reporting from customers about how Irish they think they are. What we are seeing on the map is just what the DNA tells us.

AncestryDNA Irish Ethnicity

Irish Ethnicity in Ireland

 Region Irish Ethnicity
Connacht 76.7%
Leinster 71.8%
Munster 71.4%
Ulster 51.9%

Average Irish Ethnicity Estimate across Ireland

Not surprisingly, the highest average Irish ethnicity estimates are found in Ireland. However, within Ireland we are seeing some provincial differences. Historically inward migration to Ireland has come from the south and east through Leinster and Munster. The genetics appears to agree with the history here. The highest estimates found anywhere in the UK & Ireland are found in Connaught with 76.7%, with Munster and Leinster on 71.4% and 71.8%

The ethnicity estimate for Ulster is lower than the other provinces around 51.9%. This also is what you might expect but attributing the different estimate in Ulster to the 17th century plantation is perhaps too simplistic. The connections between Ulster and Scotland are deep going back many centuries and continuing to the present day. As a child growing up in Donegal, one of the best parts of the summer was the influx of Scottish cousins home for the holidays (it made for some epic football matches).

Irish Ethnicity in Scotland & Wales

Region Irish Ethnicity
Southern Scotland

46.6%

Northern Scotland

38.1%

Wales

31.3%

Isle Of Man

30.5%

Average Irish Ethnicity Estimate for Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Man

Moving across the Irish Sea we see those areas with close historical ties show higher Irish ancestry. Echoing the results in Ulster, Southern Scotland shows the highest Irish ancestry across Great Britain with an average of 46.6%. The short distance from Ireland to Scotland, 13 miles at one point, makes it a natural destination for many Irish emigrants. Glasgow, Paisley, Dumfries, are all places well known to Irish emigrants over the centuries and into modern times.

Travelling down from Scotland we see Wales has the next highest Irish ancestry. Showing once again the close ties of the Celtic nations, the average Irish ancestry across Wales is around 31.3%. Let us not forget the most famous Irish immigrant from Wales was Maewyn Succat, who is perhaps better known to us today as Saint Patrick.

Irish Ethnicity in England

Region Irish Ethnicity
Lancashire

26.7%

South Border

26.6%

North West Midlands

25.4%

Yorkshire

22.0%

London

21.8%

South East

20.8%

South West Midlands

19.7%

Middlesex

19.5%

Home North

18.5%

South East Midlands

17.8%

Midlands

17.7%

South Central

17.6%

North East Midlands

17.6%

South West

17.5%

Kent

17.2%

West Anglia

16.9%

East Anglia

15.4%

 Average Irish Ethnicity Estimate across England

Finally looking at England we see generally the lowest Irish ancestry across the UK and Ireland. Across England the average Irish ancestry ranges from 26.7% in Lancashire down to 15.4% in East Anglia. Once again perhaps we are seeing the echoes of history. The cities of Liverpool and Manchester have long been a destination for those leaving Ireland. Just as Scotland was natural destination for emigrants from Ulster, so too the ‘boat to Liverpool’ was a common refrain for many Dubliners seeking new opportunities.

As I mentioned before, it is early days for these results. As more people take the AncestryDNA test in the UK & Ireland we will gain a much better understanding of the genetic makeup of these islands. It is certainly an exciting time with much to learn.

 

If you would like to learn more about AncestryDNA, or to order your kit, click here.

Have you taken the AncestryDNA test? Please share your stories with us on Facebook and  Twitter or email stories@ancestry.co.uk.

 

 

*All AncestryDNA users in this study consented to participate in research.

Mike Mulligan

Mike is a Principal Product Manager at Ancestry, based in our Dublin office. Mike has been doing on family history since he was young growing up in Donegal surrounded by generations of cousins.

24 Comments

  1. Paul Ó Duḃṫaiġ (@dubhthach)

    Given the high rates in Britain, could it be case that you are seeing actually very deep ancestry corresponding to the linguistic situation in the Iron age (eg. speakers of one language family in both islands). If i recall the ancient-DNA from Hinxton points to Iron age sample clustering with modern Irish/West Scottish.

  2. You have a very large are of Scotland lumped together. I suspect there are stronger links to Ireland in the southern edge of that large area than there are in the North or Shetland for example. Could do with breaking that area up a little using, say Scottish counties?

  3. Margaret Green

    My MtDNA shows up as Basque region of Spain. My mother was from Donegal & my father from Glasgow, but they were 2nd cousins. 3 out of 4 G/P’s were Irish.

  4. I agree with Paul: my understanding of the long-term history of the region from Roman times onwards would suggest that what AncestryDNA calls “Irish” ethnicity, with outward migration from Ireland, might be more accurately described as Celtic, with cross-migration across the Irish Sea over millennia.

  5. Colleen McCloskey

    I am very interested in the connection between Ulster (specifically Donegal) and western Scotland.
    Back when Ancestry was offering yDNA testing, I had my father tested, resulting in an E1b1b haplogroup, which is rare in Ireland,
    Deeper testing on another site gives me close matches, all of whom are in Scotland.
    How did such an old haplogroup get to Scotland and then Ireland? It is most commonly found in Morocco.

    Unfortunately, Ancestry no longer provides yDNA testing, so any research done on the current wave of atDNA will not shed any light on this question.

    Still, I’m very interested in the process and will be watching for refinements in the base populations that define the Irish.

    BTW, my father tests at 97% Irish, despite the rare haplogroup. Go Irish!

  6. Colleen McCloskey

    I started testing my cousins living in Ireland, bringing over test kits purchased in the US whenever we go over to visit.
    I’m guessing they would be counted as US data, given that the kits were mailed in the US?

  7. Colleen Maguire Phebus

    It will be interesting to see if the DNA results for non native Irish will be updated to reflect these new findings and how this information can help further our research.

  8. Danny Sheridan

    I am 3rd-5th generation American, my DNA says I’m 93.6% Irish/British from another DNA testing company. All my ancestors are Irish. I was born on West Side of NYC. My paternal is R1b1b2a1a2f* Mom is Kla3a

  9. John James

    Kevin, I’m with you! I like all Mr. Mulligan has presented so far. However, if I knew more about English and Irish genetic ancestry in County Cork I might have a better idea about how to proceed with a brick wall of mine: my g g g grandfather whose name (Edward Joseph Harding, who lived in Cork City in the mid 19th century) could be construed as either English or Irish. Perhaps others are in a similar situation.

  10. scwbcm

    I am also interested in a response to Paul’s comments. I would also be interested in the Scandinavian that should show up in Ireland. I had expected Celtic to be far more widespread. And pre-celtic to be even more widespread. Many of the local descriptions given to areas throughout England seem to mention Celtic artifacts. This graph seems to indicate that the DNA is not as far back and is really more Irish than Celtic or pre-celtic.

  11. scwbcm

    “Cornwall is the traditional homeland of the Cornish people and is recognised as one of the Celtic nations, retaining a distinct cultural identity that reflects its history.”

    If this is suppose to be Celtic than it seems to be departing from linguistic studies of the past?

    I wonder what will happen with the artifacts previously considered Celtic but found in England?

  12. scwbcm

    “Cornwall is the traditional homeland of the Cornish people and is recognised as one of the Celtic nations, retaining a distinct cultural identity that reflects its history.” Wikipedia

    If this study is suppose to be Celtic or pre-celtic than it seems to be departing from linguistic studies of the past and conclusions such as the above, concerning Cornwall.

    I wonder what will happen with the artifacts previously considered Celtic but found in England?

  13. John Inglesby

    Hi there , I am from Liverpool so no surprise to see high percentage of Irish, 94 percent Irish 5 percent british with 1 percent trace near east, My Irish Ancestors started coming over from the potato famine onwards and although lived in Liverpool all this time just seem to marry other Irish descendants, My cousins in Ireland are convinced they came from Flanders, if this was true would it not show as western European in My DNA, and do I have enough evidence to disprove their theory

  14. Marco

    Hi I got a pretty high amount of Irish DNA in my test. Both my parents got tested and had the same. No surprise from my mom because we’re aware of her Irish ancestors. However my father’s DNA concerned me. Him being Bolivian, he got 10% Irish along with 72% Native American as two main regions. Is it possible that 10% Irish got mixed up with Basque genes? I’ve beem hearng about the Basque-Irish connection and I know the Spanish (and the Basques) have had a much greater presence in Bolivia than the Irish

  15. O'hAnluain

    Does anyone know how accurate these tests actually are? My test came back and look fairly correct, but my friend who took the test showed his DNA as 60% British and Irish even though both his parents are from Northern Ireland and their parents before them.Does this make sense? And no they did not come from England and migrate , they came from the south.Thank You

  16. Tina

    I would love to see the countries broken up as well. Ireland has been separated but Scotland, Great Britain, the Isle of Man and Wales have yet to be. My ? now is if a number of your family are from the Isle of Man where does that show up in your ethnicity? Ireland or the other?

  17. john Inglesby

    Mine came back as 94 percent Irish 5 percent British.
    been to Ireland once on Holiday, All my Family have lived in Liverpool for generations, but it looks like Irish married Irish, even though they had had never set foot over there, probably catholics marrying catholics
    which has kept the Irish genes so prolific, funny to see though with this high level of ethnicity, that I am more Irish than most of the Irish, haha

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