Posted by Ancestry.com.au on January 11, 2019 in AncestryDNA, Ireland

When we launched Ancestry’s detailed genetic regions in March last year, we knew it was a major step in the journey for us to empower customer journeys of self-discovery. Back then, we were proud to have the granularity in our database to be able to detect 13 distinct genetic regions in Ireland, helping tell the story of Irish migration throughout the world.

Now 18 months and 10 million DNA tests later, we are even prouder to offer 92 distinct regions in Ireland. We now have the capability to break the Irish population down by province, county and in some cases, parish!

Our DNA science team has made this possible by combining Ancestry’s unique DNA network of over 10 million customers and over 80 million family trees. Remember this is neither the beginning nor the end of the journey – the more DNA samples that are added and family trees that are built the greater the granularity that will become available.

New regions reveal new insights into Irish migration

The granularity of these new regions is already prompting us to research further into Irish history to match some of our new regions to known migrations and where we can, point to new ones. Some notable examples include migrations from Clifden and Connemara to county Cork in the late 1800s. Movement from Leinster to the US and Australia in the early 1900s and, of course, migrations during the famine from the west coast in the 1850s.

A key feature of the history of Irish migration that we see confirmed through these new views is that migration from Ireland happened in distinct waves.

  • In the early 1800s it was primarily Presbyterian flax farmers from Ulster seeking new opportunities in Pennsylvania. This was driven by the Penal Laws in Ireland which affected Presbyterians just as much as Catholics.
  • Post Famine in the 1850s we see a major spike in migration from Connacht and Munster to the east coast of the Unites States and Canada. Greater granularity in DNA communities in these regions (and Donegal) today is a direct result of how hard hit these regions were by the famine in the 1840s.
  • Whilst there was post-famine migration in Leinster too, it is in the early 1900s that the population of the province begins to migrate at scale. Most of these travelled for economic opportunities to the United States and Australia.

A key feature for all these migrations is that by leveraging our historical records and DNA database we see secondary migrations within North America. These show that after the initial waves settle on the East Coast, their descendants begin the American dream by moving to new towns being established in the interior.

Seeing more detail in personal results

Looking at my own results, I have seen an evolution from Eastern Ulster (this was quite a large region in the old algorithm – stretching from Antrim to Wicklow) as my primary origin region to South East Leinster. It is a great relief to a proud Leinster supporter to say that my province is in my DNA, but it also more accurately reflects the birth locations in my family tree.

Using Ancestry’s matching algorithm coupled with new regions, I have been able to knock through a long-standing brick wall in my family tree by leveraging a fourth cousin match (from a member in the US) with strong links to the Wicklow, Carlow and Wexford community.

These new regions are available now for all of our AncestryDNA users. Log in to your AncestryDNA account today to review your updated results.


This blog post was written by Dave Rooney, Direct or International Analytics for Ancestry IE and originally appeared on the Ancestry UK blog.

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