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An Exploration of Irish Surname History through Patrilineal Genetics
Due to Ireland’s secluded geographical location, its genetic structure is a popular topic of study. The indigenous inhabitants of Ireland remained undisturbed for a long period time, allowing for a distinct genetic population to be created. This peace was disrupted by conflict with invading forces, such as the Nordic Vikings and Anglo-Norman forces. However, these historical events helped to shape both the culture of Ireland and the ancestry seen in the Irish population today. In Ireland, quite like many countries around the world, the male’s surname is passed from father to son, just as the Y-chromosome. The relationship between Irish surnames and their corresponding Y-haplogroups was examined to determine if common and rare Irish surnames can be genetically linked to the historical invasions listed above. The surnames chosen for this study were selected based on their prevalence in Ireland, rare or common, and their proposed historical origin, Irish, Norse or British. To discover any possible patterns in surnames and Y-chromosomal DNA, Y-haplogroups were generated from the DNA of 630 Irish male subjects using an assay specifically developed for the region. The assay contains twenty single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that were selected to further resolve the R1b-L21 Y-haplogroup for Irish ancestry, the most prevalent haplogroup in Western Europe, and Ireland in particular. Additional Y-STR data was also generated to examine recent surname history within the collected individuals. Each surname was examined to determine whether one haplogroup occurred more frequently and with this method, distinct patterns in Irish surnames and geographical locations were discovered. In addition to resolving Y-surname history patterns, it is also believed that this assay may be beneficial in determining if an unknown DNA sample is of Western European origin and even in some cases, if a more specific Irish origin can be predicted.