Monday, 21 September 2020

More surprises for the Mayo O'Malley's

Over the last few weeks, two members of the project have received their Big Y results. One of these sets of results has created an entirely new subgroups of the Mayo O'Malley's and provides further evidence of  the extent to which the O'Malley surname was adopted by people in and around Mayo. 

The two members with new Big Y results both currently sit within Group 3a and are:
  • POM-6481 * (16 Sep 2020)
  • JOM-2256 (2 Sep 2020)
the project member’s unique ID consists of his initials followed by the last 4 digits of his kit number.

An addition to Group 3a

The results for POM-6481 indicate that he is closely related to the other Big Y-testers in Group 3a (the main subgroup of the Mayo O'Malley's). In fact, he sits on the same downstream branch as 5 other project members, characterised by the SNP marker FT86146 (see previous blog post here). Two of these 5 participants sit on a further downstream branch, characterised by FT145889, as illustrated below. The FT86146 branch was formed about 1350 AD. The branch further upstream of that (namely BY35759) was formed about 1100 AD, and the one above that (BY35730) was formed about 800 AD. These crude estimates will evolve as we get more Big Y data.

You can see from the diagram that the majority of people below BY35730 bear the surname O'Malley (or related variant) apart from a single Burke and a single Donaho (this suggests that the latter two may be O'Malley's by DNA but carry a different surname, probably due to a surname switch occurring sometime in the recent or distant past). 

Group 3a members sit on or below BY35730

The Creation of a new Subgroup

The results for JOM-2256 are quite a surprise.

His terminal SNP is reported to be A10526. We can see where this sits in relation to the other members of Group 3a by comparing their SNP Sequences (i.e. the sequence of SNP markers that characterises each branching point in the Tree of Mankind, down to the respective downstream branches on which they each sit):
  • R-M222 > S658 > DF104 > DF105 > BY35731 > BY35730
  • R-M222 > S658 > DF104 > DF105 > A10528 > A10526
From this, it is clear that the common ancestor would have carried the SNP marker DF105 ... but this particular marker is some 1900 years old, which is long before the introduction of surnames (about 1000 years ago in Ireland). So there is no way that this pre-existing Group 3a member shares a common ancestor with the other members of Group 3a within the last 1000 years, and therefore, he must have got his O'Malley surname from an entirely different source. He should therefore be moved out of Group 3a and into his own specific subgroup.

Some of you may have noticed that the SNP Sequence for this new subgroup (which I have called Group 3f) is similar to the SNP Sequence for Group 3e:
  • Group 3e ... R-M222 > S658 > DF104 > DF105 > A10528 > Y96240 > BY71053
  • Group 3f ... R-M222 > S658 > DF104 > DF105 > A10528 > A10526
However, the common ancestor between these two groups (namely A10528) would have lived about 1700 years ago (well before the introduction of surnames) and thus they should be considered to be completely separate subgroups of the Mayo O'Malley's.

It is not unusual that the O'Malley surname is associated with a variety of genetic signatures. The O'Malley's were a powerful clan and would have taken a lot of people under their wing, and many of such people would have become O'Malley's in the process, as a sign of loyalty to the Clan Chief. In fact, in her biography of Grace O'Malley, Anne Chambers states that Grace eventually became “a matriarch, not merely of her own followers and extended family, but of neighbouring clansmen, whose chieftains had either died in the numerous conflicts of the period, or who had abandoned their obligations to protect their dependent followers.” Many of these people may have taken the O'Malley surname as a mark of respect for or fielty to Grace.

And this raises the question: which of the Mayo O'Malley subgroups identified so far, goes back to the man who originated the O'Malley surname? and which adopted the O'Malley surname over the course of time? and when did this surname adoption occur? These are topics for a future blog post. But for now let's focus on this new O'Malley subgroup.

The diagrams below show where the new subgroup sits on the Tree of Mankind. The first diagram shows that JOM-2256 sits on a new sub-branch somewhere below A10526 but currently he is the sole occupier of that particular sub-branch. He has 15 Private Variants (i.e. unique SNP markers) so if someone does the Big Y test in the future, and matches one (or more) of these Private Variants, that particular variant / SNP marker will no longer be "private" but will be shared by two people, thus creating a new sub-branch below A10526. 

The other point to note is that the 15 Private Variants indicate that the common ancestor he shares with his genetic neighbours in this portion of the Tree of Mankind lived approximately (15 x 84 =) 1260 years ago (so roughly about 700 AD). This is about 300 years prior to the advent of surnames.

The A10526 branch on FTDNA's Big Y Block Tree
(click to enlarge)

The A10526 branch on The Big Tree
(click to enlarge)

Pay special attention to the neighbouring surnames in the second diagram above. There are no O'Malley's in this portion of the Tree (as yet). Neighbouring surnames include McFadden, Cryans, Lindsey, Fergus, and John, all of whom share a common pre-surname ancestor who carried the SNP marker A10526. 

Surname Distribution Maps of these neighbouring surnames perhaps give us a clue as to the geographic origins of this new O'Malley subgroup, namely northwest Ireland, possibly Mayo, Sligo or Donegal ... which is close to the ancestral territories of the Mayo O'Malley's. This is also in keeping with the birth location of the Most Distant Known Ancestor of JOM-2256, which was Swinford, Co. Mayo (his information is on our Pedigree Page and on his family tree on Ancestry here). 

Distribution of neighbouring surnames in the 1800s

Consequences of the New Discovery

Because JOM-2256 sits in an entirely different section of the Tree of Mankind, he forms a completely new subgroup and I have called this Group 3f. Furthermore, based on his STR markers, there is one other person who matches him relatively closely and therefore probably belongs in the new subgroup too. And so I have placed the two of them together in Group 3f.

They appear to have a Unique STR Pattern (i.e. exactly the same values on specific STR markers), characterised by the following values for the specified STR markers:
  • dys439 = 11
  • dys389ii = 29
  • CDYb = 40

STR signature of JOM-2256 & his close match IN42779
showing the exact same mutations on three STR markers
(dys439, dys389ii, & CDYb)

Looking at the STR matches of JOM-2256 and his close match IN42779, there is clear evidence of Convergence, characterised by the excessively high number of matches, most of whom have entirely different surnames. Convergence is when two or more STR signatures happen to match by chance, simply because the mutations in the STR values have evolved in such a way that the STR signatures approximate each other (i.e. they become close matches). This has the effect of making the men who own the STR signatures appear more closely related than they actually are. The vast majority of these excessive matches will be "chance matches" who share a common ancestor a long time before 1000 AD. 
  • JOM-2256 ... 983 matches at 37 markers, 647 matches at 67, & 124 matches at 111
  • IN42779 ... 839 matches at 37 markers

Convergence is a well-established problem with those who sit on the M222 super-branch of the Tree of Mankind. The resultant chance matches may make people look related within the last 300 years when in fact the common ancestor may be 3000 years ago. The only way to distinguish which of these excessive matches is closely related and which are much more distantly related is to do SNP marker testing, preferably using the Big Y test. This explains why people who were originally all grouped together in Group 3 have been split out over time into (currently) 6 distinct subgroups (labelled 3a to 3f). Progressive Big Y testing has identified by degrees that some Group 3 members are not close matches to each other after all and consequently they have been reallocated to different subgroups.

Incidentally, M222 is a SNP marker that would have been carried by an ancestor of Niall of the Nine Hostages, which (as far as the O'Malley's are concerned) is completely in keeping with the ancient genealogies. Niall's eldest brother Brian was the 6x times great grandfather of Maill from whom the O'Malley surname derives, although it was not used as a surname for a further 7 generations. 

  • One of the sets of recent Big Y results has identified an additional subgroup of Group 3.
  • This new Group 3f contains the Big Y tester (JOM-2256) as well as one of his close STR matches that probably would test positive for A10526 if they were to do the Big Y test.
  • We do not currently know for how long this subgroup has been carrying the O'Malley surname - it could have been 200 years, it could have been 900 years. Further Big Y testing will help clarify this.
  • We also don't know if the new subgroup goes all the way back to the man who originated the O'Malley surname, or if they bore a different surname prior to adopting the O'Malley surname. However, the latter theory seems more likely, given that the largest numbers of Mayo O'Malley's still fall into the (now depleted) Group 3a. What Group 3f's surname was prior to O'Malley remains unknown at this point.

Next Steps
  • JOM-2256 should upload his Big Y data to the Big Tree for additional (free) analyses (that will help with branch-dating). Instructions can be found here.
  • Member IN42777 should consider Big Y testing in order to clarify how long Group 3f have carried the O'Malley surname. The test is cheapest during the Christmas Sale when there is usually a discount of $100 or more.
  • More Big Y data is needed from Group 3 members in order to accurately group project members in the appropriate subgroups.
  • More project members are needed - if you find an O'Malley among your matches who is not in the project, please invite them to join and give him the link to the project's Home Page. Everyone is welcome, women and men, no matter what DNA test they have done. 
Together we will advance the study of the O'Malley surname, heritage and legacy.

Maurice Gleeson
Sep 2020

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 ...