Thursday, 23 May 2019

Group 1 - Status Update (May 2019)

Description of the Group
There are 3 people in Group 1 (one additional member since the previous update in 2017). One is a Maley, one O'Maley, and the third is O'Malley. But interestingly, even though they each have a different surname variant, they are all 3rd cousins to each other. They share the same great great grandfather on their direct male lines, namely John O'Maley, born about 1795 in Galway. This is their MDKA (Most Distant Known Ancestor). Their MRCA (Most Recent Common Ancestor) is one generation below this - his son, Michael O'Maley born in Boston, MA in 1845 (see diagram below).

(click to enlarge)
STR Results
All three have done the Y-DNA-111 test which tests for 111 STR markers. Among these 111 markers there are 3 mutations in total - 2 on the descendant line from James 1876, 1 on the descendant line from Joseph 1887, and none on the descendant line from John 1874. This translates into a Genetic Distance of 1/111, 2/111 and 3/111 for the three cousins (as illustrated in the diagram below). As they are 3rd cousins to each other, there have been 4 cell divisions (i.e. DNA transmission events or meioses) along the path of each of their direct male lines from their MRCA (Michael 1845), giving us a total of 12 transmission events for all three cousins together. Thus, over the course of these 12 DNA transmissions (dating from 1845), 3 mutations have occurred. This gives an average of 1 mutation every 4 generations (over the 111 markers tested).

Direct Male Line pedigrees of Group 1 members
(also available on our Pedigree Page)

SNP Results
One group member has done the Big Y test. His terminal SNP was A8611 (Jun 2017) but is now BY37245. The terminal SNP will be further revised as more people do the Big Y test, thus revealing the finer "more downstream" branches in this particular section of the Tree of Mankind.

The SNP Progression for this group is shown below. The SNP Progression is the sequence of SNP markers that characterise each branching point in the Tree of Mankind, starting "upstream" at the SNP marker for the major Haplogroup (Haplogroup I in this case) and ending "downstream" with the project member's current terminal SNP:
  • I-M170 > P215 > CTS2257 > L460 > P37 > M423 > CTS5375 > L161 > S2639 > L1498 > A1150 > A8611 > BY37245
The only other person in the entire FTDNA database who tests positive for the SNP marker BY37245 is someone called Pietz whose direct male line goes back to an O BRYAN from Ireland. The Big Y Block Tree for this portion of the Tree of Mankind is shown below with approximate dates for some of the branching points (allowing 100-150 years per SNP marker). The Group 1 branch (BY37245) is on the far left. This branch is about 3000 years old or more, and is quite isolated from nearby branches. The 2 people on this branch are our Group 1 member and the Pietz individual with the O Bryan ancestor - they share a common ancestor about 700 to 1050 years ago.

Big Y Block Tree with the BY37245 branch far left
(click to enlarge)

Ancestral Origins
We can get important clues to the likely origins of a particular group by examining the surnames and locations of their DNA matches. There are several sources for this information:

  1. the Big Y Block Tree
  2. the relevant Haplogroup & Geographic Projects
  3. the surnames of the STR matches of the individuals within a particular genetic group

As we saw in the Big Y Block Tree above, only 1 other person sits on the BY37245 branch and that is an O' Bryan but with no ancestral location specified (although the surname is most likely to be Irish in origin). Furthermore, the nearby branches to Group 1 on the Tree of Mankind are more than 3000 years old so the surnames & locations of people on these branches are not likely to be hugely informative for Group 1's origins within the last 1000 years. Unfortunately surnames are not displayed on the Big Y Block Tree and only some people have included ancestral origins. Nevertheless, you can see from the flags in the diagram above that "Old World" origins for this part of the Tree of Mankind are centred around Ireland or Britain.

There is limited information on surnames & locations on the Big Y Block Tree because not many people have done the Big Y test. There is potentially more information in the I2a Haplogroup Project (which includes people who have not done the Big Y). The administrators of the project have placed the Group 1 member in the BY37245 subgroup of the Isles B3 subgroup which itself is a subgroup of I2a2b (known elsewhere as I2a1b). [1] In this BY37245 subgroup, two additional people are included - O'BRIEN & CASHIN (Tipperary). (As an aside, it would be very helpful if these people did the Big Y test.) Adjacent branches have surnames and locations which suggest that the deeper origins (3000+ years ago) are in Britain (see Table below). Unfortunately not everyone has included an ancestral location so again only limited conclusions can be drawn from the available data.

The I2a Haplogroup is thought to have originated in Eastern Europe / Western Asia around the time of the Last Glacial Maximum (approximately 20,000 years ago) and the I2a2b/I2a1b subclade is found in particular high concentrations in Western Ireland (5-10%) and the Scottish Highlands (1-5%). It is likely to have arrived in Ireland before the Celts (i.e. some time before 2000 BC) and thus is a very old genetic group. [2,3]

Another source of information is the surnames of the STR matches of Group 1. The following ancestral surnames (and locations) appear among the STR matches for Group 1 members: CASHIN (Tipperary), CASHEN, VOLLBRECHT, O'BRIEN (Ireland), O BRYAN, GLEASON. In addition, one of the Group 1 members has tested at Genebase where he has a match (Genetic Distance 1/26) to someone called NEALON.

Two O'Malley "clans" are mentioned in surname dictionaries and Ancient Annals, one in Mayo (famous for Grace O'Malley) and one in the old Kingdom of Thomond (on the Limerick / Clare border) but there may be other origins for the surname. O'Brien is a prominent Irish surname with "clan territories" in and around county Clare. In the mid-1800s the highest concentrations were in south-west Ireland (in the province of Munster), specifically the counties Limerick, Clare, Tipperary & Cork (see map below). Gleason was heavily concentrated in Tipperary. Cashen is an unusual Irish surname and distribution maps suggest ancestral origins in the area around counties Kilkenny, Tipperary & Laois (see maps below).

The overlap between these surnames suggests that the ancestral origins for Group 1 (within the last 1000 years or so) could lie somewhere between Clare & Kilkenny. This could tie in with historical associations with the Kingdom of Thomond, but this is merely a theory and would need to be proved.

Distribution of Malley surname in Ireland in the mid-1800s
Distribution of O'Brien surname in Ireland in the mid-1800s
Distribution of Gleeson surname in Ireland in the mid-1800s
Distribution of Cashen surname in Ireland in the mid-1800s

Distribution of Nealon surname in Ireland in the mid-1800s

Possible origins of Group 1 in the past 1000 years
(click to enlarge)
Chicken or Egg?
So which came first? O'Maley, Cashin or O'Bryan? or some other surname? It is difficult to say. Here is what we do know:
  • The direct male line of Group 1 bore the O'Maley name as far back as 1845 (their MRCA).
  • Before that, there may have been an SDS (Surname or DNA Switch), or the O'Maley name may have gone all the way back along the direct male line to the formation of the O'Maley name approximately 1000 years ago. [4]
  • Allowing 30 years per generation, the chances of an SDS between 1000 AD and 1845 are 24-42% (say about 33%) [5]
  • And therefore there is a 67% chance (approximately) that, in this group, the pairing of the Maley name and the DNA signature of Group 1 continues along the Direct Male Line for 1000 years to the origin of their Maley surname.


Where are they from?
  • Group 1 has origins in Galway in the late 1700s.
  • Prior to that their origins are probably Irish but the precise location is not clear. 
  • The close STR match with people called O'BRIEN, GLEASON and CASHIN / CASHEN suggests a possible origin (within the last 1000 years) somewhere between counties Clare & Kilkenny.
How old is the group?
Group members have been carrying the same Y-DNA and surname (with minor variations) since 1845 but prior to that there may have been a Surname or DNA Switch (33% probability since 1000 AD).

Is there an association with an Irish "clan"?
None is apparent at this point in time. However, given the area of their possible origin, there may be an association with the O'Malley's of Thomond (Limerick / Clare).

What are the Next Steps?
More people are needed to join the FTDNA database in order to get closer matches and establish the more precise origins of this group and how long their DNA signature has been associated with the Maley surname.

Maurice Gleeson
May 2019

Notes & Sources
[1] Nomenclature varies due to frequent revisions and is thus confusing. Be warned. Alternative nomenclature for this group is I2a1b.
[2] 12a Haplogroup Project on FTDNA ...
[3] Haplogroup I2 page on Eupedia ...
[4] There are many possible causes for a Surname or DNA Switch (SDS) including swearing allegiance to the Clan Chief, a young widow remarries and her children take her new husbands name, adoption, etc. You can read more here.
[5] The SDS rate is approximately 1-2% per generation. Allowing 30 years per generation translates into roughly 27 generations between 1000 AD and 1845. Therefore the overall SDS rate over this time period can be calculated using the following formula: 1-(0.99^27) to 1-(0.98^27) 

A big thank you goes out to Patti Easton who judiciously complied the O'Malley pedigrees submitted by group members. Patti was co-administrator from 2017 to 2019, when she left to pursue other interests.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Getting the Most out of your Y-DNA Test

There are a few essential actions you should take to get the most out of your Y-DNA test. The main objective of these actions is to make yourself visible to your O'Malley cousins so that you optimise your chances of making a breakthrough in your research. Here are my top tips.

1) Add your O'Malley Ancestral Line as a Comment on our Post your Pedigree Page. This will potentially help other people to connect with you. It would help if you could provide it in the following format:
1) James O'MALLEY b c1835 Ardagh, Co.Longford, d 12 Nov 1879 Keenagh, Co. Longford, m 13 Apr 1860 Maria COYLE, Keenagh, Co. Longford
2) Mortimer O'MALLEY b 1861 etc ... (birth, death, marriage details)
3) Abigail O'MALLEY b 1890 ... (as above)
4) Francis KENNEDY b 1914 … as above, but not including dates for a) births <100 years ago, b) marriages <75 years ago, or c) deaths <50 years ago
5) BOM (father)
6) DOM-9482 (test taker = initials plus last 4 digits of kit number)
Researcher's email address: someone AT
Link to online tree: (insert your link here)

2) You should also add your MDKA information (Most Distant Known Ancestor) including dates & locations for both birth and death. The format we recommend is the same as the one above, but you may have to abbreviate it as only a certain number of letters (50) are allowed in this field. Location of birth is the most important piece of information so make sure this gets in there. Here is an example:
James O'MALLEY b1835 Kilcullen, Co.Kildare, d1879 New York
To add this information, simply click on your name in the top right of your homepage - Account Settings - Genealogy - Earliest Known Ancestors ... and then go to Direct Paternal Ancestor and enter the above information in the first field entitled "Name and Birth/Death Date". This is important. If you don't put it all on the one line it will not show up on the Results Page.

This is what your results will look like to the general public. Recognise anyone? No. Exactly! That's the point. Your anonymity is preserved.

3) Optimise your Privacy settings so that your potential cousins can see your results. This will still preserve your anonymity, but will allow them to see your surname, your Earliest Known Ancestor, your ancestral locations, and the string of numbers representing your DNA results:
  • Hover over your Name in the top right
  • Click on Account Settings, then the Project Preferences tab, then scroll down to Group Project Profile and then click on the "Opt in to Sharing" slider.

4) Join the relevant Haplogroup & Geographic DNA Projects

Your results will reveal your haplogroup (your branch of the Tree of Mankind). Once your results arrive, make sure you join all the relevant projects as these will assist us in the further analysis of your data and in particular your deep ancestry (where in the world your particular ancestors originated several thousand years ago). The projects are run by volunteer project administrators and they are a rich source for advice, guidance, and support. Frequently there is an associated mailing list or Facebook group you can join to keep abreast of up-to-date developments (this is a fast-moving field).

Relevant Y-DNA haplogroup projects identified thus far include the following:
Relevant Y-DNA geographical projects include the Ireland Y-DNA Project, but there may be more.

You can see if there are any other relevant projects to your research on these lists below:

Maurice Gleeson
May 2018

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

What can Y-DNA Results tell us?

Most people who join surname projects (like the O'Malley DNA Project) start off with the Y-DNA-37 marker test. This tests 37 STR markers, and you can later upgrade to 67 or 111 STR markers. Some people also do SNP marker testing, either via a special "SNP Pack" or the Big Y test. So there are two types of DNA markers - STR markers and SNP markers. You can read more about them here.

Each type of marker gives different kinds of information. The SNP markers help define the exact location that someone sits on the Tree of Mankind, whilst the STR markers give an indication of how closely two people are related within the last several hundred years. Both types of marker can provide crucial information that helps the interpretation of the overall data and allows us to draw specific conclusions about each of the genetic groups within the project.

But DNA data is not the only type of data that we analyse. We also analyse the direct male line pedigrees that project members have provided, and in particular the birth location of each MDKA (Most Distant Known Ancestor).

On an individual level, a simple Y-DNA-37 test may help you identify people to whom you are closely related. An exact match at 37 markers (i.e. no mutations; Genetic Distance = 0/37) suggests that you and the other person have a 50% chance of being related on your direct male line within 5 generations and a 95% chance of being related within 8 generations. The probabilities are even stronger for an exact match at 67 markers (50% probability within 3 generations, 95% probability within 5 generations) and 111 markers (3rd cousins or closer). Thus your own individual Y-DNA results can help you with your personal family tree research.

But you get additional value from your Y-DNA results by joining DNA projects - surname projects, haplogroup projects & geographic projects. And at this project level, your Y-DNA results can tell us a lot about the deeper origins of your specific genetic group. Here's how ...

In most projects, distinct genetic groups can be identified from the DNA data. These are groups of people who all share a broadly similar genetic signature, suggesting that they all descended from the same common ancestor some time in the last 1000 years or so (i.e. "within a genealogical timeframe", or "since the advent of surnames"). The key questions that we can ask about any genetic group within a project are:
  • Where are they from?
  • How old is the group?
  • Is the group associated with a specific Irish "clan"?

And as the Y-DNA database has grown, various DNA projects have indeed been able to identify the genetic signatures of specific Irish "clans", thus connecting people with their deeper Irish roots and a history that few may have imagined.

Brian Boru (941-1014), High King of Ireland 

One of the earliest examples of this is the O'Brien DNA Project. The Administrators of this project worked closely with Haplogroup Project Administrators to identify a specific signature for the "tribe" of the Dal gCais (pronounced Doll Gash), one of whose most famous descendants was Brian Boru, 1st High King of Ireland, who was killed at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. [1] The evidence collected in support of this conclusion (that a specific signature is that of the Dal gCais) includes the following:
  • a specific Y-DNA signature (called the Irish Type III STR signature, which is associated with the L226 SNP marker) is in turn associated with: 
  1. a significant surplus of Dal Cassian surnames (e.g. O'Brien, Casey, McGrath, Hogan, etc)
  2. a higher frequency in the clan territories of the Dal gCais (centred around Clare & Limerick)

Distribution of L226 is strongest in Dal gCais territories

So Y-DNA results can help you identify matches with whom you share a fairly recent common ancestor (on your direct male line) and can link you up to the deeper origins of your surname and where it came from. This can be particularly helpful for descendants of the Irish Diaspora, many of whom do not know from which part of Ireland their ancestors originated. Knowing the deeper ancestral locations of your surname can be a starting point for focussed documentary research.

We will see in subsequent posts how the deeper origins of the various groups within the O'Malley DNA Project are coming close to identifying specific DNA signatures of specific O'Malley "clans". One group shares a probable connection to Grace O'Malley (the Pirate Queen), and another shares a connection to Brian Boru.

Maurice Gleeson
May 2019
[1] Dennis M Wright, 2009. A Set of Distinctive Marker Values defines a Y-STR Signature for Gaelic Dalcassian families. Journal of Genetic Genealogy, 5(1):1-7. Available at

Monday, 13 May 2019

Recruitment to the Project (May 2019)

The O'Malley DNA Project currently boasts a total membership of 125 people. These members have done a variety of different DNA tests as follows:
  • 71 have done a Y-DNA test (for tracing the father's father's father's line) 
  • of these, 67 have done the Y-DNA-37 test (i.e. 37 STR markers) 
  • 44 have done Y-DNA-67 
  • 29 have done Y-DNA-111 
  • 31 have done a mitochondrial DNA test (i.e. mtDNA, for tracing the mother's mother's mother's line) 
  • 56 have done a Family Finder test (i.e. autosomal DNA, useful for connecting to cousins on any ancestral line) 
  • 54 have done either FF or mtDNA but not Y-DNA (adding these numbers to the numbers who did a Y-DNA test gives the project total of 125)
  • 24 have done the Big Y test (the ultimate Y-DNA test - it helps identify your exact placement on the Tree of Mankind)

Further information on the tests that members have taken can be seen on the Project Statistics page.

Below is a graph showing recruitment to the O'Malley DNA Project since its inception in 2005. Recruitment has been very steady over the years but there was a noticeable jump in the recruitment rate following the last O'Malley Clan Rally in 2017. Prior to this the recruitment rate was 4.6 members per year whereas afterwards it increased to 35.5 members per year.

(click to enlarge)
Because the timeline (X-axis) on the above graph is not linear, a more accurate representation of the recruitment rate can be seen in the graph below.

(click to enlarge)

So the project is progressing well and we may see a further jump in recruitment following the upcoming Clan Rally in June 2019 (21st-23rd).

Maurice Gleeson
May 2019

Previous Updates on the DNA Project

The O'Malley DNA Project has been running since 2005. Annual updates have been published since 2017 on the FTDNA website here, and are copied and pasted below in reverse chronological order.

13 Apr 2018
Group 3 update
This group now has 27 members (up from 22 in January) but has been split into 5 distinct sub-groups - 3a, 3b, 3c, 3d & 3e. The reason for this split is because Big Y results have indicated that the subgroup are in fact quite distantly related to each other (as described in the update below from 1 Dec 2017). However new Big Y results have helped clarify the situation:
  • Subgroup 3a ... M222 > DF106 > DF104 > DF105 > BY35730 > BY35759 ... this is a completely new branch of the Tree of Mankind (discussed below).
  • Subgroup 3b ... M222 > DF106 > DF104 > DF105 > DF85 ... no one has done the Big Y test as yet and until this happens we cannot define which branch of the Tree of Mankind this group sits on. It may be related to Subgroup 3c below.
  • Subgroup 3c ... M222 > DF106 > DF104 > DF105 > DF85 > S673 > S668 > BY11548 > A10680 (Melloy B3380) - this branch has Kilcoyne, Claycomb, Lloyd, Craig, Galyean & Gallagher as genetic neighbours.
  • Subgroup 3d ... M222 > DF106 > DF104 > DF105 > ZS8379 > BY11707 > A11227 > A11427 > BY21143 (Malloy B2799) - this branch is primarily associated with people named Molloy (x4) and Malloy (x2) and probably represents the Firceall Molloy's from Offaly.
  • Subgroup 3e ... M222 > DF106 > DF104 > DF105 > A10528 (Molloy 310572) - this branch is associated with the surnames McFadden, Cryans, Lindsey, John & Fullerton.
The 3 Big Y results for Subgroup 3a suggest that this group sits on a completely new branch of the Tree of Mankind. This new branch is characterised by the SNP markers BY35730 & BY35759. The latter SNP marker (BY35759) is only found in 3 people within the entire FTDNA database - two called O'Malley & one called Donaho. The other SNP marker (BY35730) is only shared by 4 people in the entire database - the O'Malley & Donaho people described above and a third person called Maley. There are several points to note about these results:
1) this subgroup has several members from Mayo (everyone needs to supply me with their earliest known ancestor information and not everyone has). This could indicate that this group is related to Grace O'Malley. Please send me your earliest known ancestor information if you have not done so already (name, birth year, birth location).
2) It could be that the Donaho individual has had a surname switch earlier in his direct male line ancestry and is in fact a Donaho by name and an O'Malley by DNA. Or he could represent a family genetically related to the O'Malley's just prior to the introduction of surnames 1000 years ago (approximately). Further Big Y results from other Subgroup 3a members will help to clarify which of these two scenarios is the most likely.
3) it may be that we are very close to identifying the genetic signature of Grace O'Malley. Only further in-depth analysis by Alex Williamson and his colleagues will tell us this (see below)

Members of all the Group 3 subgroups should join the R-M222 Haplogroup Project. They should also send their Big Y data to Alex Williamson for additional (free) in-depth analyses (instructions here). Alex will add the data to The Big Tree which will place Group 3 members in a very nice graphical representation of the Tree of Mankind, and will help dating the age of each branch and when the O'Malley's of Subgroup 3a split away from their genetic neighbours. 
Maurice Gleeson

7 Dec 2017

A new genetic group has been discovered and has been named Group 4. It consists of two individuals (Maley & Meally) with a Genetic Distance (GD) of 1/67. They also match people called Phelan, Whalen & Markham, some of whom have done the Big Y and sit on this particular branch of the Tree of Mankind, characterised by the SNP Progression below. It is likely that these Group 4 members would also sit on this branch or somewhere close by, and this could be confirmed by Big Y testing ...  
  • R-P312/S116 > Z290 > L21/S145 > DF13 > Z39589 > CTS1751 > Z17966 > Z17969 > Z17967 > BY596 > BY595 > FGC35783 > S22219
It is difficult to know how old this group is as the two members are quite closely related. A review of their pedigrees (pending) might reveal a common ancestor. At this stage we don't know if there was a DNA switch in the last 1000 years or if this group carries the DNA of the founder of their surname. Of note, their GD to their Phelan, Whalen, & Markham matches is mainly 5-7/67 so the connection is not close.

The origins of this group are likely to be Irish, given that 2 of the 7 members on the S22219 branch of the Tree of Mankind are Irish, and given that 6 of the surnames on that branch are Irish. Where in Ireland they are from remains to be defined but their pedigree review (pending) may help, as might a review of their close neighbours in relevant Haplogroup Projects (which they should join).
Maurice Gleeson
1 Dec 2017
Group 2 update
Membership has grown to 12 members (up by 5 since June). Two members have done the Big Y test (357319 & 350664) and their results have identified a further downstream sub-branch on which they sit, characterised by the newly discovered DNA marker DC735. As a result they now sit in Group 15C of the R-L226 Haplogroup Project. Because only O'Malley's have tested positive for this SNP marker, it is quite probable that this particular SNP marker characterises the Group 2 O'Malley's. The new SNP Progression for Group 2 is as follows:
  • R-M269 … > P312/S116 > Z290 > L21/S145 > DF13 > ZZ10 > Z253 > Z2534 > FGC5618 > L226 > FGC5660 > Z17669 > A10950 > DC29  > DC362 > DC735
Both members have been asked to send their data for incorporation into The Big Tree (instructions here) for additional (free) analyses, so that this new sub-branch can be added to the tree and the age of the branch can be calculated. If Group 2 represent descendants of the original bearer of the O'Malley name, the age of DC735 should turn out to be about 1000 years old.

Group 3 update
This group now has 22 members (up from 9 in June). In addition, 3 more members have done the Big Y test (Molloy 310572, Maley 43481, & O'Malley 590113 - the latter's results are expected in Jan 2018). These additional results paint a very confused picture for this group. The genetic family tree for the 4 members with Big Y results can be drawn as follows:
  • M222 > DF106 > DF104 > DF105 > ZS8379 > BY11707 > A11227 > A11427 > BY21143 (Malloy B2799) - this branch is primarily associated with people named Molloy (x4) and Malloy (x2) and probably represents the Firceall Molloy's from Offaly.
  • M222 > DF106 > DF104 > DF105 > DF85 > S673 > S668 > BY11548 > A10680 (Melloy B3380) - this branch has Kilcoyne, Claycomb, Lloyd, Craig, Galyean & Gallagher as genetic neighbours and may represent the genetic signature of the Mayo O'Malley's (see June update below).
  • M222 > DF106 > DF104 > DF105 > A10528 (Molloy 310572) - this branch is associated with the surnames McFadden, Cryans, Lindsey, John & Fullerton.
  • M222 > DF106 > DF104 > DF105 (Maley 43481) - this SNP marker is not yet on the Big Tree and is not yet in the R-M222 Haplogroup Project so it is not possible to ascertain which surnames are its nearest genetic neighbours.
This indicates that the 4 people with Big Y results thus far are all distantly related to each other, with no common ancestor (DF105) until at least 1800 years ago. Thus they represent a disparate group of "unrelated" people who all bear similar surname variants, but which appear to have arisen at different points in time. The results of the 5th Big Y test may reveal which of the terminal SNP markers above represents the "true" SNP marker that characterises the Mayo O'Malley's. 

The above results serve to emphasise how important Big Y data is for anyone who belongs to the M222 branch of the Tree of Mankind ... Convergence is widespread and chance matches are common, even with similar surname variants.

Again, all members of this group should join the R-M222 Haplogroup Project and send their Big Y data to Alex Williamson for incorporation into The Big Tree (instructions here) and for additional (free) analyses, so that each sub-branch can be added to the tree and the age of each branch can be calculated.
Maurice Gleeson

25 June 2017
An analysis of the project was presented at the O'Malley Clan Rally at the Claregalway Hotel in Galway, Ireland. This was recorded for YouTube and can be seen here ...
In brief, there are 3 genetic groups identified thus far within the project. Group 1 (2 members) has origins in Galway, Group 2 (7 members) has origins in Limerick, and Group 3 (13 members) has probable origins in Mayo. There is an Ungrouped section of 14 members who either 1) represent the only member to test thus far from a rare branch of the O'Malley's; or 2) there has been a Surname or DNA Switch (SDS or NPE) somewhere along their direct male line and they are O'Malley by name but carry someone else's Y-DNA . This could arise due to adoption, illegitimacy, legal name change, etc.

Group 1 consists of 2 closely related individuals (Genetic Distance 2/111) with the same common ancestor, namely John O'Malley born c.1795 in Galway, making them 2nd to 3rd cousins. One member has done the Big Y test and has thus identified the branch of the Tree of Mankind on which they sit, namely ...
  • I-L460 > P37 > M243 > Y3104 > L161 > S2639 > L1498 > A1150 > A8611 (which is about 3000 years old)
This places them in Haplogroup I2, subgroup I2a1b, which appears to have emerged some time during the bronze age in Britain/Ireland. In the I2a Haplogroup Project, they are grouped under I2a2b ‘Isles-B3’ which only contains 13 members and there is no close connection to any of them.
Thus, given the current data, it is not possible to say how long this genetic group has carried the O'Malley name, or where it originated 1000 years ago. Additional matches and additional Big Y testing will help address these questions.

Group 2 has 7 members, with two sets of close cousins - one related to a Michael O'Malley born 1780 in Murroe, Limerick; the other related to a Denis O'Malley born 1793 in Cappamore, Limerick. The largest Genetic Distance (GD) of 14/111 generates a midpoint estimate for the age of this group of 240 years, which equates to a common ancestor born around 1710 AD (assuming that 1950 is the average year of birth of the group's members). Without more members and more Big Y data, we cannot say at this stage for how long before 1710 that this group has carried the O'Malley name.

Two members did the R-L226 SNP Pack and thus identified a downstream branch of the Tree of Mankind on which they sit, namely ...
  • R-M269 … > P312/S116 > Z290 > L21/S145 > DF13 > ZZ10 > Z253 > Z2534 > FGC5618 > L226 > FGC5660 > Z17669 > A10950 > DC29 (which is about 3000 years old)
This places them in Haplogroup R1b, sub-branch R-L226 which appears to have emerged in Ireland at least 1450 years ago and is the hallmark of the Dalcassian group of surnames associated with Brian Boru. The results also identify a further sub-branch below L226, namely DC29, which is at least 800 years old and therefore emerged some time before 1200 AD.

A review of the surnames associated with this branch of the Tree of Mankind was undertaken, based on data from The Big Tree and the R-L226 Haplogroup Project, (where they are grouped in Group 15 of that project). This indicated a predominance of several of the "genetically close" surnames in and around County Clare (namely O'Loughlin, McInerney, and to a lesser extent Slattery & McNamara). This suggests a Clare origin for this group, which is in keeping with Woulfe's Surname Dictionary which describes "a Thomond family who were chiefs of Tuath Luimnigh a district in the neighbourhood of the city of Limerick". It would be interesting to track down the ancient texts referring to this particular sept / clan and see if the associated surnames include the "genetically close" surnames identified.

Thus, given the current data, it is not possible to say how long this genetic group has carried the O'Malley name prior to about 1710, but there is some good evidence that it originated in County Clare and may represent the descendants of the Tuath Luimnigh. Additional matches and additional Big Y testing will help address these questions.

Group 3 has 13 members, 4 with MDKAs (Most Distant Known Ancestors) from Mayo, 2 others from Ireland, 2 from England, 1 from Scotland, and the rest from the New World (mainly USA). The members belong to Haplogroup R1b, subclade M222, which is renowned for a high incidence of Convergence, resulting in many Chance Matches. This was detected in this group too because 2 members had done the Big Y test (Malloy B2799 & Melloy B3380 - note the surname variants). Despite the fact that their Genetic Distance (based on STR markers) is 7/67, they sit on different branches of the Tree of Mankind (A11427 & A10680 respectively), and their common ancestor carries the SNP marker DF105 which is at least 1800 years old. Thus they cannot be related within the last 1000 years since the presumed introduction of the O'Malley surname. Thus, any matches within this group must be treated with a degree of caution until downstream SNP testing (e.g. with the Big Y) has confirmed that members have been accurately grouped in this group.

In fact, it turned out that the Malloy B2799 member is more closely related to Molloy's from Offaly with whom he shares the same terminal SNP marker (A11427). This makes it more likely that the results of Melloy B3380 are more representative of this group.

Because of the uncertainty surrounding "true matches" within this group, estimating the age is more unreliable than with other groups within the project. The best estimate (using a GD of 15/67) gives a midpoint estimate of 20 generations, which equates to about 600 years, which equates to a crude year of birth of 1350 for the group's common ancestor. But we need more members and more Big Y data to generate a more accurate estimate.

The range of Genetic Distances between Melloy B3380 and other group members (comparing 67 marker results) is 15/67 (1 member), 14/67 (1), 11/67 (3), 10/67 (1), 8/67 (2), and 7/67 (3). In addition there are several people in the Ungrouped section that may very well belong in Group 3 - their surnames, kit numbers, & GD are: Curley 591619 13/67, Malia 577761 10/67, McGovern 509238 10/67, Mullin 228786 8/67. Only Big Y testing will determine whether or not they should be placed in this group.

Several members did the R-M222 SNP Pack and together with the Big Y results of member B3380, this suggests that they sit on the downstream branch of the Tree of Mankind characterised by the SNP marker A10680 (or a branch nearby). The SNP Progression for this branch is as follows:
  • R-P312/S116 > Z290 > L21/S145 > DF13 > Z39589 > DF49/S474 > Z2980 > Z2976 > DF23 > Z2961 > M222 > DF106 > DF104 > DF105 > DF85 > S673 > S668 > BY11548 > A10680
This places them in Haplogroup R1b, sub-branch R-M222, which appears to have emerged in Ireland at least 2000 years ago and is the branch to which Niall of the Nine Hostages apparently belonged. The results also identify further sub-branches below M222, including DF105 (at least 1800 years old), S668 (at least 1500 years old), BY11548 (at least 1000 years old). 

A review of the surnames associated with this branch of the Tree of Mankind was undertaken, based on data from The Big Tree and the R-M222
 Haplogroup Project, (where they are grouped in Group 92.2 of that project). This indicated a predominance of one particular surname (i.e. Kilcoyne) in County Mayo. This suggests a Mayo origin for this group, which is in keeping with the Surname Dictionaries of MacLysaght and Woulfe (among others) which describe one branch of the O'Malley's as being "a Connacht family who were chiefs of the two Umhalls now the baronies of Burrishoole and Murresk in the west of Co. Mayo and were particularly celebrated as naval commanders being called the Manannans or sea-gods of the western ocean and having a considerable fleet always under their command". This particular group of O'Malley's gave rise to Grace O'Malley (GrĂ¡inne Mhaol), the celebrated sea captain and Pirate Queen who controlled the waters off County Mayo for much of the 1500s.

A next step in the research would be to consult the ancient genealogies for the Mayo O'Malley's and determine if any of the surnames that allegedly "sprung from the same stock" are indeed genetically related to Group 3. This would help confirm that they are descendants from the Mayo O'Malley's. Additional matches and additional Big Y testing will also help address these questions.

Maurice Gleeson

4 May 2017
Membership now stands at 55 with 11 new members since February.

14 Feb 2017
As the project grows, more genetic families will be identified. The challenge will be to try to identify the ancestral origins of each. This is where the MDKA information is most important (MDKA stands for Most Distant known Ancestor). So too is “downstream SNP testing” as this will help us place each genetic family on the Haplotree (Human Evolutionary Tree) revealing who their nearest neighbours are. These nearest neighbours may help tie specific genetic families to the ancient annals and genealogies. I am using this technique with my other projects and currently Gleeson Lineage II is the most advanced example.

Melia being R-M269 indicates a common ancestor with Malley … but the connection is thousands of years ago. Downstream SNP testing will be needed to define the “characteristic SNP Signature” for the "O’Malley clan” and to see if it is the same as that for the Melia surname … and I use inverted commas because we already know there are several O’Malley genetic families - the question is which one goes back to the originator of the surname, and where did the other ones come from? Time and "More recruits, more MDKA info, more downstream SNP testing” will tell. 

Clustering them all together (Melia, Maley, Malley, etc) in the same project makes sense for now. We may even throw in a few Malloys for good measure, if nothing else but to illustrate that they are indeed members of a different genetic family, related to the O’Malley’s some 2000 year ago perhaps (and therefore not really related at all).

Maurice Gleeson
6 Feb 2017
Following a reanalysis of the results by the new Project Admin (Maurice Gleeson), the members were divided into 3 major genetic groups:
  • an I-P37 group with Maley/O’Maley as the dominant surname and apparent origins in Galway (but both these individuals have the same common ancestor)
  • an R-L226 group with O’Malley as the dominant surname and origins in Limerick (again 2 pairs within the group share the same common ancestor)
  • an R-M222 group with Malley/O’Malley as the dominant surname but of uncertain origin (other than “Ireland”)

Further SNP testing is recommended as follows:
  1. people in I2-Group 1 (Galway) should do the I2-P37 SNP Pack (unless a known close Maley relative has already done the Big Y test or similar downstream SNP testing)
  2. people in R1b-Group 1 (Limerick) should do the R-L226 SNP Pack (unless a known close O'Malley relative has already done the Big Y test or similar downstream SNP testing)
  3. people in R1b-Group 2 (Ireland) should do the R-M222 SNP Pack (unless a known close Maley/Malley/O'Malley relative has already done the Big Y test or similar downstream SNP testing
Anyone who has only tested to 12 markers should upgrade their test to 37 markers. It is not possible to group them otherwise.

Maurice Gleeson

O'Malley Groups 1, 4, 5 & Ungrouped - update 2021

This is the last of the series of articles describing our Project Update 2021. Previous updates dealt with Group 2  (Limerick), the Group 3 ...