2.5.2.5 Celtic Tribes

0 Contents 2 Background 2.5 Societal 2.5.2 Vistas 2.5.2.6 Y-DNA

 Timeline 2.5.2.6.2

2.5.2.6.1 British and Irish surnames and Y-DNA

Introduction

Relationship of selected British surnames and Y-DNA haplogroups, from King and Jobling 2009. Click to enlarge in new window
Both Y-DNA and surnames are handed down from father to son, so can links be found between the two? This has proved a fruitful area of research. It is not always practicable though. Certain British and Irish surnames, such as Brown, Davies, Jones, Murphy, Smith, Taylor, Williams and Wilson, are so common that there will be hundreds if not thousands of unrelated lineages with the same name. The occupational name Smith dominates the league table in England and Scotland. It is shared by 1.3% of the British populace.1R. McKie,The Face of Britain (2006), p. 174; A. Moffat and J. F. Wilson,The Scots: A genetic journey (2011), p. 198. It is also common in Ireland, no doubt reflecting English or Lowland Scots immigration in part, but it can also be an Anglicisation of McGowan (Mac Gabhann son of the smith), which is also a Scottish surname of the same meaning. South of the border McGowan appears most strongly in Lancashire, where it reflects Irish immigration into Liverpool. The dominance of the Smiths is not surprising, if we consider that every village in the Middle Ages would need a smith. The McGowan DNA Project is attempting to disentangle some of the many lineages that we can expect.

Jones (meaning son of John) is the most common name in Wales and found so widely in England too that just over 1% of British people are so named.2R. McKie, The Face of Britain(2006), p. 174. Murphy (descendant of Murchadha) is the commonest surname in Ireland and has been carried into England and Scotland by Irish immigration. Other common Irish names are Kelly (descendant of Ceallaigh) and Sullivan (descendant of Suileabhain).3P.H. Reaney and R.M. Wilson, Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames, 3rd edn., revised (1997).

Yet surprisingly often a surname is so unusual that many of its male carriers find themselves also sharing the same Y-DNA haplogroup. The unexpected fact is that the great majority of people in Britain have uncommon names.4R. McKie, The Face of Britain(2006), p. 174. Turi King and Mark Jobling recruited 1,678 men bearing 40 British surnames in a range from rare to common, and compared their results with a control group randomly chosen. Closely related men were excluded. The results were illuminating. As you can see in the chart from their paper, certain surnames, such as Werrett and Titchmarsh, are almost fixed for a single haplogroup, in this case R1b1 (P25). Since that is a very common haplogroup in Britain, it may be more impressive that 95% of the Herricks tested fell into haplogroup I, while 87% of the Attenboroughs were E1b1b1 and 79% of the Swindlehursts were R1a. By contrast the commonest name - Smith - produced a mixture of haplogroups very similar to the random control group. In other words they reflect the pattern of haplogroups in the British population as a whole.5T.E. King and M.A. Jobling, Founders, drift, and infidelity: the relationship between Y chromosome diversity and patrilineal surnames, Molecular Biology and Evolution, vol. 26, no. 5 (May 2009), pp.1093-1102.

As King and Jobling point out, many Irish names, including Ryan, O’Sullivan, O’Neill, and Byrne, each with around 40,000 bearers (0.8% of the population), show substantial major clusters within networks. This is very different to the finding for British names, where those with more than c. 10,000 bearers (0.02% of the population) show no significant clustering at all.

To check the British distribution of a British surname in 1881 and 1998 seeGreat Britain Family Names Profiling. To check its distribution in 1891, use the surname search on Ancestry.co.uk. University College Cork is creating an Atlas of Irish Names from the 1850s Griffith's Valuation. A few sample maps are online: Brennan, Carney, Collins, Connolly, Foley, Kenny, Kerr, King, Moran and Quinn.

Surname origins

European surnames as we know them developed within the last 1,000 or so years, and are younger than that in most cases. The general practice before surnames was for a Christian to be given a single name at the font. Then if it became necessary to distinguish between two persons of the same Christian name, a descriptive word or phrase would be appended, such as John the smith, Thomas of London, William brown or Peter son of John. True surnames developed when that second name was passed down from father to child. In England surname adoption was generally under way in the 13th century, though a tiny handful of surnames arrived or began with the Normans. Some Irish surnames can be traced back further than any others in the British Isles, but not all Irish surnames were fixed so early. In Wales most people only began to adopt hereditary surnames under the Tudors and even in the 19th century some men were still taking their father's Christian name as their surname. In the Scottish Highlands that custom was abandoned in the 18th century, but the clan system resulted in large numbers of people with the same surname. Chiefs of clans increased the number of their followers by attaching men of other descents, who took the clan name.6P.H. Reaney and R.M. Wilson, Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames, 3rd edn., revised (1997), Introduction.

The earliest names of the mass of the English population, rather than just Domesday tenants, appear in taxation returns. The Cumberland Lay Subsidy of 1332-3 records all householders. Most have a descriptive tag, many of which might be hereditary by this time.7J. P. Steel (ed.), Cumberland Lay Subsidy - Fifteenth and tenth, 6 Edw. III (1912). It was originally written in Latin, like the Yorkshire Subsidy Rolls (Poll Tax) for the year 1379, which are also online for the West Riding. At Hoyland Nether in the parish of Wath upon Dearne we findRobertus de Holande & Agnes uxor ejus, which translates as Robert of Holland and his wife Agnes. The surname Holland appears among English people today without de. We might imagine that it implies ancestors from the Netherlands, but here we see that Hoyland Nether was called Holande at the time. Other sources for the name are Holland-on-Sea, Essex and the district of Lincolshire known as Holland.8P.H. Reaney and R.M. Wilson, Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames, 3rd edn., revised (1997).

Place-names

Distribution of the surname Grahamslaw in 1891. Click to enlarge in new window

Holland is one of a huge number of surnames which derive from place-names. Some of these refer to places that were large even in the 14th century, such as London. So we shouldn't expect every man with the surname London to have the same Y-DNA haplogroup. However the majority of places were tiny at the time that surnames were forming. A good example is Rendall in Orkney. All the Rendalls today had an ancestor from this wee spot it seems.9P.H. Reaney and R.M. Wilson, Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames, 3rd edn., revised (1997). Rendall men so far tested carry Y-DNA R1a1a (M17), which Professor Sir Walter Bodmer sees as the best Norse marker, since it is comparatively low in Denmark and Germany.10W. Bodmer, The genetic structure of the British populations and their surnames, paper read at Ancient Britons, Wales, and Europe: New research in Genetics, Archaeology and Linguistics, at the National Museum of Wales Cardiff 4 June 2011. Orkney was settled by Vikings and remained under the rule of Norway until 1231. For other Orkney surnames such as Drever, Flett, Foubister, Harcus, Kirkness, Linklater, Louttit, Sabiston and Sinclair, see Ancestral Orkney.

Another rare surname is Grahamslaw, derived from the farm of that name in the parish of Eckford, in the former Roxburghshire, now Scottish Borders. The house there was a border peel tower, burnt by the English in 1544 and rebuilt subsequently.11The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, An Inventory of the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Roxburghshire (1956). Even by 1891 people of that surname had not wandered far from the Borders.

Occupations

The italicised words in the Yorkshire subsidy indicate occupations. These became surnames too. It is interesting to see that in one case a man surnamed Taylor was a tailor. So he could have taken his name from his profession. However people often followed in their father's footsteps, so it could by his day have been an inherited surname. In Britain overall Taylor is the next most common occupational surname after Smith, at 0.6% of the population, but is overtaken in Scotland by Stewart, derived from the office of steward.12R. McKie, The Face of Britain (2006), p. 174; A. Moffat and J. F. Wilson, The Scots: A genetic journey (2011), p. 198. The Stewart namebecame prominant in royal and aristocratic lineages descended from the High Steward of Scotland, but there was many a humbler steward. The Stewart/Stuart DNA Project results show a wide variety of lineages. Clark and Butcher are other common surnames from occupations.

Patronyms

Distribution of Y-DNA Haplogroup I1

There are also plenty of examples in the subsidy rolls of surnames taken from a personal name. Looking at Dalton Magna again, we find Henryson (son of Henry), Gilleson (son of Gill or Giles), Laweson (son of Lawrence), Jacson (son of Jack, pet-name for John) and Adamson (son of Adam). At the same time other people were identified in the form Xfilius Y, which suggests that they actually were the sons of the named father, and had not yet acquired an hereditary surname. The Herrick surname included by Turi King and Mark Jobling in their 40 surname study (above) is a patronym, meaning son of Eric.13P.H. Reaney and R.M. Wilson, Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames, 3rd edn., revised (1997). We might wonder why the sons of various men called Eric would all fall into Haplogroup I. Eric is however a Scandinavian name. So the explanation may be that the haplogroup in question is I1. Curt Herrick - an American not included in the study - had previously revealed his haplogroup to be I1a.14The Herrick Connection (The Herrick Family Association newsletter), vol. 2, no. 2 (June 2006). http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~herrick/HFAnewsletter-June2006.pdf .

The Welsh equivalent of son was map, shortened toap or ab before a vowel, and the Gaelic was mac. Hence the great number of Scottish, Irish and Manx surnames starting with Mac or Mc, such as McDonald and MacLeod. In Scotland these predominated in the former Gaelic-speaking Highlands and Western Isles. In the more populous Scots-speaking Lowlands, the English forms appeared, which explains why the most common patronyms in Scotland today are Wilson, Robertson and Thomson.15A. Moffat and J. F. Wilson, The Scots: A genetic journey (2011), p. 198. The Welsh long retained the system of naming by genealogy, so when they adopted surnames, these chiefly reflected paternal names. Ap Rhys (son of Rhys) became Price or Pryce, while ap Richard (son of Richard) became Prichard or Pritchard. The name David was common in Wales, from the popularity of its patron saint. It gave rise to the surnames David, Daffey and, most commonly, Davies.16P.H. Reaney and R.M. Wilson,Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames, 3rd edn., revised (1997), pp. xix-xx and see under specific names.

 

Metronyms

It was less common to take a surname from a mother's name, but it does occur. Looking at the Subsidy Roll for Caldbeck in Cumberland, we see John, son of Grece, and Thomas, son of Anota. Grece was a woman's name, of obscure origin, which produced the surnames Grace, Gracey, Gracie and Grece. Annot was a diminutive of Ann, pet-form of Agnes. The related name Annette is more familiar today. From these forms come the surnames Annett, Annett, Annetts and Annott.17P.H. Reaney and R.M. Wilson, Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames, 3rd edn., revised (1997).

Anglo-Norman royal family. Click to enlarge in new window.

One female name has spawned an abundance of surnames from Maud to Tillotson. Just as the names of Norman and Plantagent kings - William, Henry, Richard and John - became overwhelmingly popular as male Christian names among the English in the centuries after the Conquest, so Maud, or Matilda in its Latin form, became a popular name for girls. Matilda/Maud was the name of four queens in succession, all important in their own right. William I made a strategic marriage to Matilda (d. 1083), daughter of Baldwin V of Flanders. She was a descendant of Alfred the Great, which would do her no harm in the eyes of the English. Her daughter-in-law Matilda (d. 1118), first wife of Henry I, was the daughter of Malcolm III of Scotland and St Margaret of the English royal house. By this marriage the Norman line gained a legitimate claim to the English throne. Her daughter Matilda (d. 1167), known as Empress Matilda from her first marriage to Emperor Henry V, was Henry I's legitimate heiress, but most of the English preferred to put a king on the throne and chose her cousin Stephen of Blois. This led to a long civil war, in which Stephen's queen Matilda (d. 1151) played a notable part. Historians tend to feel that she led his troops in his absence rather more ably than he did when present.

Maud or Maude is the most obvious surname from this Christian name, but variants include Mahood, Mawhood, Mald, Malt, Mault, Mold, Mould, Moulds, Moult, Mowat, Mowatt, Maudson, Maulson and Maltson. From Till or Tilly, the pet-form of Matilda, come Till, Tille, Tilley, Tillie, Tillet, Tillett, Tillott, Tillotson and Tilson.18P.H. Reaney and R.M. Wilson, Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames, 3rd edn., revised (1997), see under Maud and other specific names.

Nicknames

Another class of surname is derived from nicknames or descriptive names, such as Cruickshanks, Moody, Proud, Scattergood (spendthrift) and Wise. Colouring was an easy way to distinguish those of the same Christian name, so we have Fairhead, Redhead, Blacklock and the very common Brown, Black and White. One of the most common surnames of this class in Scotland is Campbell, from the Gaelic cam beul (crooked mouth). Similarly Cameron is from the Gaelic cam shron (crooked nose). Little could describle someone small, or be a joke-name for a giant, like Little John in the Robin Hood legend. From the Old French curt, meaning short, we have Curtin, though in Ireland this surname is an Anglicised form of MacCruitín, meaning son of the hunchback. 19P.H. Reaney and R.M. Wilson, Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames, 3rd edn., revised (1997), pp. xlii-xlv and see under specific names. While we would expect multiple lineages for the common nicknames, hunchbacks are rare in the population, so it was well worth conducting a DNA project for the Irish Curtins. The results are surprising. The largest group are Curtins from Munster and they carry Y-DNA J2. This is a rare haplogroup in Ireland, perhaps a relict of Neolithic farmers. In the Middle Ages some members of a family so named served as poets and tutors to the O'Briens of Thomond.20M.C. O'Laughlin, The Book of Irish Families, Great and Small (2002), p. 61.

Landscape features

Landscape features made a convenient way of distinguishing between men of the same name in the same parish. One might live by a wood (Wood), another by a fen or marsh (Fenn, Venn, Marsh), and another on a hill or under it (Hill, Uphill, Underdown). Originally such names would include by the or at the (atte or atten in Middle English), part of which sometimes fused with the name of the feature to create surnames such as Byfield, Noakes (at the oaks) or Nash (at the ash). Some man-made features made good landmarks too, such as bridges (Bridge, Bridges, Brigg, Briggs) and gates (Gate, Gates, Yate, Yates). In some cases the first person so named might have been the keeper of a bridge or gate.21P.H. Reaney and R.M. Wilson, Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames, 3rd edn., revised (1997), pp. xvi-xvii; J. Titford,Penguin Dictionary of British Surnames (2009), pp. 5-6. We see such a surname developing in Dalton Magna, Rotherham parish in 1379 - Radulphus By the yate. However some people with the Yate surname may have originated from Yate in Gloucestershire, itself originally meaning gate.22A.D. Mills, English Place-Names (1993). Surnames derived from a landscape feature found in many places seem unlikely to lead back to a common ancestor. We would expect multiple lineages. The Yates DNA Project has confirmed expectations for that surname, showing a wide variety of Y-DNA haplogroups.

Sykes

The distribution of the Sykes surname in 1881. Click to enlarge in new window

Geneticist Bryan Sykes was naturally interested in the origin of his own surname, which derives from the Old English sic or Old Norse sik, meaning a small stream or gully. The surname Sykes (which is the plural form, meaning streams) is common in Yorkshire.23P.H. Reaney and R.M. Wilson,Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames, 3rd edn., revised (1997). A similar surname is Brooks. Here is another good example of a landscape feature widely found, but Skyes felt that genetics could disprove the expection of multiple origins. He tested 48 men of his surname and found that 21 of them carried the same haplotype within the Y-DNA haplogroup R1b. From this he argued for a single origin for his surname about 700 years ago. He saw those Sykes chromosomes not belonging to his core haplotype as originating either from illegitimacy or mutation.24B. Sykes, and C. Irven, Surnames and the Y chromosome,American Journal of Human Genetics, vol. 66 (2000), pp. 1417–1419. Subsequent testing has changed the picture.The Sikes/Sykes Family DNA Project has found 18 men matching the core haplotype of the Skyes study, but 29 falling into the haplogroup R1a1a, both having some traceable origins in Yorkshire, and lesser numbers of other R1b haplotypes, with a sprinkling of other haplogroups entirely. Once again the expectation of multiple lineages is upheld.

However in some cases where we would expect multiple origins, it may be that certain lineages have died out in the direct male line since the creation of the surname, leaving a single line in modern men. This is most likely to happen where the origin was geographically restricted in the first place, being derived from a local dialect.

 

MacDonald

Distribution of R1a1a in the British Isles
Distribution of the MacDonald surname in Scotland in 1891. Click to enlarge in new window

MacDonald or McDonald is the most common of the Scottish surnames with themac prefix, carried by about 0.53% of Scots.25A. Moffat and J. F. Wilson, The Scots: A genetic journey (2011), p. 198. The McDonald chiefs trace their descent to Somerled mac Gillabrigte, 12th-century King of the Isles. Somerled's name is Scandinavian - meaning summer warrior, though his father's and grandfather's names are Gaelic, expressive of the hybrid Gaelic–Norse culture of the west highlands and islands at that time. From a base in Kintyre, Somerled conquered the Isles by 1159. On his death in 1164, some of his territory was seized by his brother-in-law, which led to a long struggle for lordship of the Isles. Finally Robert I of Scotland (1274-1329) granted most of the Isles to Angus Og MacDonald of Islay, descendant of Somerled's son Ranald. From Somerled's son Dugald descend the clan MacDougall.26M. Lynch, Oxford Companion to Scottish History (2001), pp. 346-7; W. D. H. Sellar, Somerled (d. 1164),Oxford Dictionary of National Biography(2004).

As mentioned above, Y-DNA R1a1a (M17) is seen as a Norse marker. So it is interesting to find that a specific haplotype of R1a1a is carried by the chiefs of Clan Donald (who include Ranald MacDonell of Glengarry and Willaim McAlester of Loup as well as those of the MacDonald surname) and 25% of the total MacDonalds tested. Other McDonalds (12%) carry the Pictish type of R1b-L21. 27A. Moffat and J. F. Wilson,The Scots: A genetic journey (2011), pp. 192, 198; B. Sykes and J. Nicholson, The Genetic Structure of a Highland Clan (online at oxfordancestors.com).A complication of clan surnames in Scotland and Ireland is that followers could adopt the clan name. This mixture of Norse and Pictish reflects the complex history of the Isles, with a Gaelic-speaking south and Pictish north both coming under Scandinavian sway.28M. Lynch,Oxford Companion to Scottish History (2001), pp. 346-7.

MacLeod

Dunvegan Castle, Isle of Skye

Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye has been the stronghold of the clan chiefs of MacLeod since the Middle Ages.

MacLeod means son of Ljotr (Old Norse meaning ugly).29J. Titford, Penguin Dictionary of British Surnames (2009). So there can be no doubt here that we are looking for a Viking ancestor, claimed in clan histories to be related to the Kings of Man. The genetic signature of the MacLeods is not R1a1a however, but the newly discovered R1b-S68/L165. The distribution of this marker is characteristically Norse, appearing in Norway, Sweden, Orkney, Shetland, and the core MacLeod territory of Lewis, Harris and Skye. 30A. Moffat and J.F. Wilson, The Scots: A genetic journey (2011), p. 192.

Notes

  1. R. McKie, The Face of Britain (2006), p. 174; A. Moffat and J. F. Wilson, The Scots: A genetic journey (2011), p. 198.
  2. R. McKie, The Face of Britain (2006), p. 174.
  3. P.H. Reaney and R.M. Wilson, Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames, 3rd edn., revised (1997).
  4. R. McKie, The Face of Britain (2006), p. 174.
  5. Turi E. King and Mark A. Jobling, Founders, drift, and infidelity: the relationship between Y chromosome diversity and patrilineal surnames, Molecular Biology and Evolution, vol. 26, no. 5 (May 2009), pp.1093-1102.
  6. P.H. Reaney and R.M. Wilson, Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames, 3rd edn., revised (1997), Introduction.
  7. J. P. Steel (ed.), Cumberland Lay Subsidy - Fifteenth and tenth, 6 Edw. III (1912).
  8. P.H. Reaney and R.M. Wilson, Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames, 3rd edn., revised (1997).
  9. P.H. Reaney and R.M. Wilson, Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames, 3rd edn., revised (1997).
  10. Walter Bodmer, The genetic structure of the British populations and their surnames, paper read at Ancient Britons, Wales, and Europe: New research in Genetics, Archaeology and Linguistics, at the National Museum of Wales Cardiff 4 June 2011.
  11. The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, An Inventory of the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Roxburghshire (1956).
  12. R. McKie, The Face of Britain (2006), p. 174; A. Moffat and J. F. Wilson, The Scots: A genetic journey (2011), p. 198.
  13. P.H. Reaney and R.M. Wilson, Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames, 3rd edn., revised (1997).
  14. The Herrick Connection (The Herrick Family Association newsletter), vol. 2, no. 2 (June 2006). http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~herrick/HFAnewsletter-June2006.pdf
  15. A. Moffat and J. F. Wilson, The Scots: A genetic journey (2011), p. 198.
  16. P.H. Reaney and R.M. Wilson, Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames, 3rd edn., revised (1997), pp. xix-xx and see under specific names.
  17. P.H. Reaney and R.M. Wilson, Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames, 3rd edn., revised (1997),
  18. P.H. Reaney and R.M. Wilson, Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames, 3rd edn., revised (1997), see under Maud and other specific names
  19. P.H. Reaney and R.M. Wilson, Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames, 3rd edn., revised (1997), pp. xlii-xlv and see under specific names.
  20. M.C. O'Laughlin, The Book of Irish Families, Great and Small (2002), p. 61.
  21. P.H. Reaney and R.M. Wilson, Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames, 3rd edn., revised (1997), pp. xvi-xvii; J. Titford, Penguin Dictionary of British Surnames (2009), pp. 5-6.
  22. A.D. Mills, English Place-Names (1993).
  23. P.H. Reaney and R.M. Wilson, Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames, 3rd edn., revised (1997).
  24. B. Sykes, and C. Irven, Surnames and the Y chromosome, American Journal of Human Genetics, vol. 66 (2000), pp. 1417–1419.
  25. A. Moffat and J. F. Wilson, The Scots: A genetic journey (2011), p. 198.
  26. M. Lynch, Oxford Companion to Scottish History (2001), pp. 346-7; W. D. H. Sellar, Somerled (d. 1164), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004).
  27. A. Moffat and J. F. Wilson, The Scots: A genetic journey (2011), pp. 192; B. Sykes and J. Nicholson, The Genetic Structure of a Highland Clan (online at oxfordancestors.com).
  28. M. Lynch, Oxford Companion to Scottish History (2001), pp. 346-7.
  29. J. Titford, Penguin Dictionary of British Surnames (2009).
  30. A. Moffat and J.F. Wilson, The Scots: A genetic journey (2011), p. 192.

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