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Kimberly Powell

Are You Descended from Irish Nobility?

By January 18, 2006

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A survey published in the February issue of The American Journal of Human Genetics indicates that as many as two million to three million Irishmen living today may carry the blood of early Irish kings in their veins. Men of European origin -- with Irish surnames like O'Connor, Flynn, Egan, Hynes, O'Reilly and Quinn - carry a distinctive genetic signature on their Y chromosomes, possibly inherited from King Niall Noigiallach (Niall of the Nine Hostages), an Irish king of the fifth century A.D.

Scientists have long debated whether King Niall even ever existed, as his storied reign predates the time of written genealogies. According to the New York Times, Niall is said to have consolidated his power by obtaining hostages from competing royal families, including each of the five provinces that then constituted Ireland, as well as from Scotland, the Saxons, the Britons and the Franks. "He is thought to be the patriarch of the Ui Neill, meaning "the descendants of Niall," a group of dynasties that claimed the high kingship and ruled the northwest and other parts of Ireland from about A.D. 600 to 900."

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