The O'Malley Clan Rally 2022 took place over the weekend of June 24th to 26th and it was such a joy to be able to meet with people face to face after 2 years of virtual gatherings. A good time was had by all - it was a great opportunity to meet old friends, and make new ones.
The goal of the Finding Grace project is to identify the Y-DNA signature of the great great grandfather of Grace O'Malley, the Pirate Queen (1530-1603). Only men have a Y-chromosome, so Grace herself would not have possessed any Y-DNA or passed it on to her descendants. However, her father (Owen) would have had Y-DNA, which he would have received from his father (Cormac), who got it from his father (Owen), who got it from his father (Dermot). Grace O'Malley was born about 1530, and allowing 30 years per generation, her great great grandfather, Dermot, would have been born about 1400 AD, so we refer to him as Dermot 1400.
Using extensive genealogies available from various sources (e.g. Burke's Landed Gentry, the Genealogical Office in Dublin), we have identified 13 reported descendants of this Dermot 1400, who sit on 3 major lines of descent (Lines 1, 2 and 3 in the diagram below). Line 1 represents the O'Malley's of Ross House and Achill, Line 2 is the Kilmilkin O'Malley's, and Line 3 is the O'Malley's of Ballyburke.
|The 3 lines of descent from Dermot (born about 1400 AD)|
(click to enlarge)
We initially tested these reported descendants with the Y-DNA-37 test. This assessed 37 STR markers on the Y-chromosome and was a useful first step in trying to establish if the test-taker was likely to belong to Group 3a within the O'Malley DNA Project. Group 3a is the largest group within the project and is the most likely to represent the descendants of the O'Malley Clan of Mayo. However, there are eight "Group 3" groups (ranging from 3a to 3g), all with similar DNA signatures, and it is not always easy to say which of these eight groups a test-taker belongs to based purely on the results of their Y-DNA-37 test. This question can really only be answered definitively by doing the Big Y test.
So, after the initial Y-DNA-37 testing, the next step was to upgrade people to the Big Y. This assesses over 800 STR markers and over 200,000 SNP markers and allows the test-taker to be placed on a very specific branch of the Tree of Mankind (a.k.a. Y-Haplotree). And this revealed our first surprise - Line 2 does not belong to Group 3a.
In fact, Line 2 belongs to Group 3g. The two groups (3g and 3a) are indeed "related" in that they share a common ancestor, but this ancestor would have lived about 1700 years ago, well before the introduction of the O'Malley surname (about 1000 AD). Further analysis revealed that the O'Malley surname has been associated with Group 3g for at least 300 years and probably more like 450 years. Prior to this, there may have been a surname switch from Burks / Burke / Bourke, and there may have been an additional surname switch prior to that. But the Take Home Message was that the Group 3g O'Malley's were a well established lineage that probably goes back to the time of Grace O'Malley herself.
The next Big Y results came back for Line 1 and these identified a new branch underneath the pre-existing FT86146 branch. This new branch was characterised by the SNP marker FTA85293, and also sitting on this branch were the O'Malley's of Michigan. The results for Line 3 arrived the week before the Clan Rally, just in time for a further reconfiguring of the "genetic family tree". These last-minute results revealed not only that Lines 1 and 3 were closely related, but created an entirely new branch for them in the Mayo O'Malley portion of the Tree of Mankind. This new branch falls just underneath FTA85293 and is characterised by the newly-discovered SNP marker FTC67000, and only Line 1 and Line 3 members sit on this branch.
This tells us that the people on Line 1 and Line 3 are more closely related to each other than they are to any other branch within Group 3a. They definitely share a common ancestor with each other, and this ancestor was born after the common ancestor they share with the rest of the group. The question is: is their common ancestor Dermot 1400, the great great grandfather of Grace O'Malley, as described in the extensive genealogies? or is it someone else?
There is always the possibility that the extensive genealogies are incorrect, and we cannot automatically assume that the common ancestor is Dermot 1400. We need additional data before we can arrive at this conclusion. And in this regard there are several lines of enquiry that we can undertake.
Firstly, we can look at the age estimate for the newly identified FTC67000 branch and see if it fits with what is reported in the extensive genealogies. If Line 1 and Line 3 members share Dermot 1400 as a common ancestor, then the FTC67000 branch on which they sit should have an age estimate that is close to 1400 AD.
The recently-introduced "Discover More" feature on the FTDNA website uses a new age estimating technology that provides us with better age estimates for the various branches of the Tree of Mankind. Using this new feature, we can now assign updated age estimates for each of the branches associated with Group 3a. The age estimates are referred to as TMRCA estimates, where TMRCA stands for "Time to Most Recent Common Ancestor". The TMRCA estimate for the new FTC67000 branch reveals that it falls somewhere within a 95% range (Confidence Interval) of 1366 to 1826 with a central estimate of 1643 AD.
|TMRCA estimate (with 95% Confidence Intervals) for FTC6700|
(Note: CE refers to Common Era and is equivalent to AD, Anno Domini)
So this tells us that the TMRCA estimate for the new FTC67000 branch is "not inconsistent" with a common ancestor born about 1400 AD. The proposed date falls within the 95% range (albeit at the extreme lower end) and this makes it possible that Dermot 1400 was the common ancestor of Line 1 and Line 3. The interesting point to note is that the central estimate differs from the 1400 date by almost 250 years, and this is perhaps unexpected. It could even suggest that the common ancestor between Line 1 and Line 3 was born some time after Dermot 1400. This is a possibility that we need to bear in mind moving forward. And if it is ever proved to be the case, then this would point to the extensive genealogies being incorrect.
The branch immediately above the Line 1 & 3 O'Malley's (the FTA85293 branch, which incorporates the Michigan O'Malley's) has a TMRCA estimate of 1473 AD (95% CI 1187-1678), and the branch above that (the FT86146 branch) has a TMRCA estimate of 1373 AD (95% CI 1167-1535).
However, these TMRCA estimates will continue to evolve over time as more people do the Big Y test and more data accumulates that can be applied to these age calculations. And as this evolution occurs, we may see the 95% range shift, and the central estimate for the new FTC67000 branch may move closer to 1400 ... or may move away from it. Two additional sets of Big Y results are expected within the next 8 weeks and these may alter these TMRCA estimates (which FTDNA update on a weekly basis). This will be an interesting one to watch!
The second line of enquiry is to attempt the validation of the extensive genealogies by generating proof arguments for each generation in the line of ascent from each test-taker in Line 1 and Line 3 back to their reported common ancestor, Dermot 1400. This means moving step-by-step up each O'Malley pedigree and proving that each person in the direct male line is the son of the father above him. This exercise will be relatively easy for the generations born in the 1900s and 1800s as there are relatively good records available. But once we hit the 1700s and 1600s, the available information will be relatively sparse and proving a connection between reported father and reported son may be a lot more challenging.
This work is already underway and will take many months to complete, but an update on the current status will be shared at the next public lecture on Finding Grace, which will take place in Westport House on Saturday August 13th. Further details are currently available on the Clan website here.
The adventure continues ...