DNA tests prove Scots clan are Viking not Irish By Jenny Kane - January 15, 2015 59 34193
DNA tests on a Scottish clan have destroyed their claim to royal Irish ancestry – and proved they are Vikings.
For centuries the MacNeil clan based on the Hebridean island of Barra have claimed to be descendants of a Ireland’s “greatest” King, Niall of the Nine Hostages.
But hundreds of cheek swabs taken from Barra MacNeils as far away as Canada and Australia have proved that the blood of fierce Norse raiders runs through their veins.
The finding comes from the MacNeil Surname Y-DNA project run by genealogists Vincent McNeil and Alex Buchanan. Clansmen from all over the world including Scotland, the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia have provided DNA samples.
MacNeil remains the main surname on Barra on the southern tip of the Outer Hebrides with a population of just 1,000.
For centuries the MacNeils have believed they descended from Niall of the Nine Hostages through an 11th century Irish prince who emigrated to Scotland.
But the DNA project has not found a single match to Ireland.
“We can say we can re-write the history of the Clan MacNeil,” said genealogist Vincent MacNeil, from Nova Scotia, Canada.
“We don’t have one participant from Barra that matches the O’Neills of Ireland.
“If you look at the history of the Clan MacNeils we are probably of Norse descent.”
He added: “We have legends and myths that have been passed through generations.
“But mother nature knows who we are. Oral history is wonderful and often there is truth in to. But everybody’s family history is in their DNA.”
The clan was infamous throughout Scotland and beyond for its Viking-style pirating and great seamanship.
MacNeils raided the seas from their base at Kisimul Castle in Birlinn vessels – boats similar to the Viking longships.
Western Isles MP, Angus MacNeil, who also lives on Barra, said: “The MacNeils were a notoriously pirating clan. It’s no surprise we have Norse DNA.
“Maybe we are the last vikings.”
The MP joked: “‘Conquer or die’ is the clan motto. Given the size of the island we ended up on we must have been better at the dying then the conquering.” more at link