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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.

The Nolans, part of the Dumnonii tribal grouping

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 DumnCollaboonii 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 Leinster Nolan ancestry originated in Devon (England) and Brittany (France) is corroborated by certain key facts/beliefs gleaned from the Irish Annals and pre-Christian Roman history, that is:

  • the Nolans, even today, are widely recognized as the “Ancient Ones” of Leinster

  • the Nolans, within historical times, raised large herds of white cows (e.g. around Tullow)

  • the Nolans’ most distant historically-verifiable ancestor, Ugaine Mor
    (Ard Ri of Ireland c331-300 BC) married a Gaulish princess

The Nolans, part of the R1b-M222 haplogroup

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 around 1550 BCE, i.e. a 1000 or more years before Ugaine Mor, we therefore expect that many 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 genealogies passed down by the druids are, for the most part, accurate and that many modern-day Nolans whose Y-DNA is being tested have an unbroken Nolan paternal line-of-descent.

The Nolans, part of the Connachta tribe

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 fell into the R-Z2959 subgrouping/haplogroup with a common ancestor who lived around 50 CE.  Referring to Irish historical records the author further tentatively identified this ancestor, 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.

The Nolans within the World Family Tree

As of November 2023, the organisation had identified at least 6 descendant lineages/branches for the R-Z2959 haplogroup, with the dominant one being R-S568 in which we indeed find many Nolan lineages such as the “R-M269#01 (County Carlow)” lineage carrying the DNA signature of:

P312 > Z290 > L21 > DF13 > Z39589 > DF49 > Z2980 > Z2976
> DF23> Z2961 > M222 > S568> A10857> Y60251

This line whose most recent common ancestor lived around 1500 CE seems to be the most numerous based upon current Nolan Y-DNA test results. However, given the long association of the Nolan family with County Carlow going back to the 2nd century CE we suspect that there are many more Nolan lineages yet to be discovered.

This indeed seems to be the case based upon my own Big-Y DNA test results (February 2024) which indicate that my most recent common ancestor, issuing from the R-FT84211 node within the World Family Tree, lived sometime around 900 CE and that he was also the ancestor for the lineage issuing from the R-Y60251 node i.e. the afore-mentioned “RM269#01 (County Carlow)” lineage.

This relationship between my lineage (“James Nowland”, issuing from node R-FT84211) and the “R-M269#01 (County Carlow” lineage (issuing from node R-Y60251) becomes clearly evident when we look at the branching which occured over time for the R-M222 haplogroup.

The above diagram clearly illustrates that the R-FT84221 branching (MRCA 990 CE) clearly occured before the R-Y60251 branching (MRCA 1500 CE) and that several other branchings occured further back in time. This makes us suspect that some of the Nolan males who had their Y-DNA tested by the FamilyTreeDNA organisation may belong to lineages issuing from yet older branching nodes.

Exploring the Nolan Project Group Time Tree at the FamilyTreeDNA website we soon discover that the two previously mentioned Nolan lineages and several other Nolan families all have a common ancestor who lived around 750 CE, issuing from the R-Y62520 branching node, as illustrated below.

At the FamilyTreeDNA website, you can also view where the above branch (R-Y62520) of the R-M269 haplogroup fits into a higher level view of the Nolan Y-DNA Group Time tree and which additional Nolan lineages are added to the Nolan family tree.


Modern-day Y-DNA test results are consistent with Nolan family history as reflected in the Irish Annals and, thanks to an increasing number of Nolan descendants having Y-DNA tests done, we are only beginning to discover linkages between the many existing Nolan lineages and the timeframes in which they diverged.

Roger Nowlan,
webmaster for the archive
and a long-time Nolan Clan member


  1. Moore, LT; McEvoy, B; Cape, E; Simms, K; Bradley, DG (2006), “A Y-Chromosome Signature of Hegemony in Gaelic Ireland”, American Journal of Human Genetics78 (2): 334–338
  2. 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.
  3. Anatole A. Klyosov and Paul M. Conroy; “Origins of the Irish, Scottish, Welsh and English R1b-M222 population”
    downloaded on 13-Oct-2023 from
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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.
  7. FamilyTreeDNA Nolan Y-DNA test results table
  8. FamilyTreeDNA Nolan Y-DNA Time Tree graph showing branching over time,20200,31257,190370,190522,190523,203023

Roger Nowlan, webmaster and editor (Email Me )
222 avenue De La Colline, Gatineau, QC, J9J 1T8 CANADA

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