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According to the “Annals of the Four Masters” aka “the Annals”, the Carlow Nolans descend from a 2nd century Irish prince, Eochaidh Fionn Fuathairt, who was exiled from Tara in Co. Meath settling on lands in Leinster which had earlier been granted to him and his posterity in perpetuity by the king of Leinster.
When the Normans came to Ireland in the late 1100s, the Nolans (O Nuallains) were the lords of these lands with their chief seated in what later became known as the barony of Forth in county Carlow.
In this article we seek to determine where this family, the O Nuallains, and its related families according to the Annals, e.g. the O hUallachains, fit in the world family tree.
It is also an opportunity to verify that modern Y-DNA test results for Nolan descendants are consistent with what the Annals tell us about the early genealogy of the O Nuallains.
Nolans – Part of Dumnonii
In an early DNA research paper, authors Anatole A. Klyosov and and Paul M. Conroy identified a cluster of R1b-M222 haplotypes which included Nolan and other related families and suggested that these families had Dumnonii ancestry.
In particular, the authors write:
“In Ireland Dumnonii are known as Fir Domnann. Dumnonii areas in the Isles are highlighted on the map in Fig. 19. According to some historical sources (O’Rahilly, 1946), the Dumnonii confederation of tribes initially came from the region of Gaul called Armorica, modern day Brittany in France. O’Rahilly (ibid.) suggested that the Dumnonii of Devon were related to the Dumnonii of South Western Scotland and to the Laigin (Fir Domnann) in Ireland. The Dumnonii in Devon and Cornwall, and later Ireland and Scotland, lived in small farmsteads, heavily defended, and were largely pastoralists, raising cattle (Cunliffe, 2005). … The obtained data suggest that the M222 lineages in The Isles likely originated in Devon, England and either from there or Leinster, Ireland, to South West Scotland. In Leinster, the Dumnonii – known as the Fir Domnann or Laigin – conquered all of Western Ireland, Connacht, and birthed the dynasty known as the Connachta, which in turn gave rise to the Uí Néill dynasty of Northern Ireland.”
That the Nolan ancestors came from Devon (England) and Brittany (France) is consistent with long-standing traditions about the Nolans of the Barony of Forth, Co. Carlow i.e. those of: 1) Nolans being the “Ancient Ones” of Leinster, and; 2) Nolans raising large herds of white cows. It also consistent with what the Annals write about the Nolans’ most distant historically recognized ancestor Ugaine Mor (Ard Ri of Ireland c331-300 BC) being married to a Gaulish princess.
Nolans – Part of R1b-M222
In 2006 Moore et al. [*] hypothesized that all male descendants having the following twelve markers
were descendants of Niall of the Nine Hostages, an Irish Ard Ri (High King) who ruled towards the end of the 4th century AD. However, in 2011, Howard and McLaughlin [*] showed that these markers were common to the segment of the human male population referred to as the R1b-M222 haplogroup (a subset of the more inclusive and better known R-M269 haplogroup) and that, based upon the ordering of mutations on a dated phylogenetic tree, the ancestor of this branch of the human family tree (R1b-M222 haplogroup)would have lived much earlier, in fact a few thousand years before, debunking the Niall of Nine Hostages hypothesis of a common ancestor dating back to the 4th century AD.
For Nolan researchers this becomes significant once one realizes that, according to the Annals, Niall of the Nine Hostages was descended from Conn of the Hundred Battles, a brother of the well recognized Carlow Nolan ancestor, the 2nd century Irish prince, Eochaidh Fionn Fuathairt, and further up the line from Úgaine Mór, the first historically-proven Ard Ri of Ireland (c331-300 BC). The Annals further tell us that Cathair Mor, the recognized 2nd century ancestor of the O hUllachains was also descended from Úgaine Mór .
Given that the common ancestor for the R1b-M222 haplogroup lived 1000 or more years before Ugaine Mor we therefore expect that most modern-day Nolans whether they be O Nuallains or O hUallachains will test positive for inclusion in the R1b-M222 haplogroup. This, of course, assumes that the modern-day descendant whose Y-DNA is being tested has an unbroken Nolan paternal line-of-descent and that the genealogies passed down by the druids are accurate. Despite this limitation, we expect that many modern-day Nolans will indeed test positive for inclusion in the R1b-M222 haplogroup.
Nolans – Part of Connachta
In a recent DNA research paper, Tibor Fehér (2023) established that, in Ireland around 500 CE, there were roughly 150 “genetic tribes” or tribal groupings, the main one being the R1b-M222 haplogroup, a subclade of the more numerous R1b-L21 haplogroup (R1b-L21>DF13>DF49>M222).
Using the same BigY-DNA test results, the author was also able to reconstruct a picture of the genetic make-up of Ireland around 500 CE. In the map given below he identified the areas where each “genetic tribe” was dominant. In particular we see that the Connachta “genetic tribe”, coloured in orange, dominated in the north-west and, not surprisingly for Nolans, also in Leinster in areas later known as the baronies of Forth in counties Carlow and Wexford, also coloured in orange.
Based upon an analysis of the available BigY test results for the Connachta “tribal grouping” (R1b-M222), the author also determined that most of those testing positive for inclusion within the Connachta haplogroup fell into a lineage whose common ancestor lived around 50 CE i.e. the R-Z2959 haplogroup. Referring to Irish historical records the author further tentatively identified the “Adam” for this line, as being Tuathal Techtmar (c40-100 CE) or his son Fedlimid Rechtmar, both High Kings of Ireland in their day. Recognizing that the latter is the father of Eochaidh Finn Fuathairt, the undisputed 2nd century ancestor of the O Nuallains, we therefore expect that many modern-day Nolans will test positive for inclusion in the R-Z2959 haplogroup.
Nolans – within World Family Tree
As of November 2023, the FamilyTreeDNA.com organisation had identified at least 6 descendant lineages for the R-Z2959 haplogroup, these being:
As expected, looking at available Y-DNA project test results for Nolans (FamilyTreeDNA.com) we do find that many of them do belong to the R-S568 lineage identified above and carrying the DNA signature of:
- P312 > Z290 > L21 > DF13 > Z39589 > DF49 > Z2980 > Z2976 > DF23> Z2961 > M222 > S568 (TMRCA=50BC) > A10857 > Y60251
Of course, for various reasons, not all modern-day Nolan descendants will test positive for the lineage identified above. Also, in the grand scheme of things much more Y-DNA testing by Nolan descendants is required before we can clearly identify all the many Nolan lineages which have emerged since the 4th century BC when the most distant Nolan ancestor, namely Ugaine Mor (Ard Ri C331-300 BCE), lived.
- Moore, LT; McEvoy, B; Cape, E; Simms, K; Bradley, DG (2006), “A Y-Chromosome Signature of Hegemony in Gaelic Ireland”, American Journal of Human Genetics, 78 (2): 334–338
- Howard, W.E. and McLaughlin, J.D., 2011. “A dated phylogenetic tree of M222 SNP haplotypes: exploring the DNA of Irish and Scottish surnames and possible ties to Niall and the Uí Néill kindred”, Familia: Ulster Genealogical Review, 27, 33.
- Anatole A. Klyosov and Paul M. Conroy; “Origins of the Irish, Scottish, Welsh and English R1b-M222 population”
downloaded on 13-Oct-2023 from https://www.academia.edu/8010655/
- Tibor Féher (2023, EMANIA, Bulletin No. 26); “High Resolution Paternal Genetic History of Ireland and its Implications for Demographic History”
downloaded on 13-Oct-2023 from https://www.academia.edu/107278216/.
- O’Rahilly, TF (1946, re-printed 1964, 1971,1984) “Early Irish History and Mythology”, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, Dublin ISBN 0-901282-29-4
- Cunliffe, Barry (2005) Iron Age Communities in Britain: an Account of England, Scotland and Wales from the Seventh Century BC Until the Roman Conquest, 4th ed. pp. 201-206.
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