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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

R1b-M222 haplogroup within the World Family Tree

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, was not only dominant in the north-west but also in two pocket areas in Leinster historically associated with the Nolan family, the baronies of Forth in counties Carlow and Wexford.

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 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 Fionn 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 for the R-Z2959 haplogroup, with the dominant one being R-S568.

The S568 lineage is the grouping where according to the FamilyTreeDNA organisation we find highest concentration of Nolan Y-DNA test results, most notably those associated with the “R-M269#01 (County Carlow)” lineage issuing from the A10857 node (highlighted in yellow in the above diagram) having the Y-DNA signature of …. > M222> S568> A10857> Y60251.

Based upon current FamilyTreeDNA Y-DNA test results, this Nolan lineage whose most recent common ancestor lived around 1500 CE is the most numerous one and also the only one currently associated with County Carlow. This seems a bit strange given the long historical association of the Nolan family with County Carlow going back to the 2nd century CE. We therefore suspect that there are more Carlow Nolan lineages yet to be discovered, most likely currently listed as “ungrouped” in the Y-DNA test results table. A case in point is my own family for which BigY-DNA test results indicate that I am related to the “R-M269#01” lineage but going back to around 900 CE.

This split in Nolan lineages between my lineage (“James Nowland”, issuing from node R-FT84211) and the identified “R-M269#01 (County Carlow” lineage (issuing from node R-Y60251) is clearly illustrated in the Y-DNA branching diagram given below.

This branching diagram also shows us that there were several earlier branches in the Nolan family tree between the 2nd century when Eochaidh Fionn is known to have lived in County Carlow and the 1500s when the common ancestor to the main Carlow Nolan lineage (R-M269#01) lived.

Exploring the Nolan Project Group Time Tree at the FamilyTreeDNA website we are able to identify a third Carlow Nolan lineage issuing from node R-Y6250 in the human family tree and having a common ancestor with the other two Carlow Nolan lines (R-M269#01 and mine) going back to around 750 CE. The relationship between these three Carlow Nolan lineages is illustrated in the diagram given below (part of the larger Nolan project group time tree).

If interested, at the FamilyTreeDNA website, you can view where the above R-Y62520 branch of the Nolan family tree fits into the overall Nolan Y-DNA Group Time tree which maps all current BigY-DNA test results.


Modern-day Y-DNA test results are consistent with Nolan family history as reflected in the Irish Annals as regards the Carlow Nolans (O Nuallains), however further research and possibly many more Y-DNA test results are required to establish whether there is Y-DNA link between the O Nuallains and other related families as predicated by the Annals, for example, that Ugaine Mor, Ar Ri of Ireland (c330-300 BCE) is a common ancestor to both the O Nuallains (Carlow Nolans) and the O hUllachains (Galway Nolans).

It should, however, be noted that even though there may be no DNA evidence linking the two major Nolan lines, documented past collaboration between the two lines witnesses to there being a very close bond between the two lines. This is most notably reflected in the fact that , in the late 1500s, the O hUllachains adopted the same English surname as for the O Nuallains of Carlow i.e. Nolan. This long-standing friendship between the two families likely originated in the 2nd century when Eochaidh Fionn, the ancestor of the O Nuallains, sided with Cathair Mor, the ancestor of the O hUllachains, in his fight against Conn of the Hundred Battles (Eochaidh’s brother), to retain his right to rule as Ard Ri of Ireland.

Roger Nowlan
NolanFamilies Research Group facilitator
& webmaster for the NolanFamilies archival website


  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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