Saturday, February 13, 2016

How to Participate, the Scots-Irish DNA project

Ouachita Mountains, Arkansas
It is easy to participate in the Scots-Irish DNA project.  The project's home is with Family Tree DNA of Houston, Texas.  It is a Y chromosome project and the goals are to assist participants with their genealogy, family history, and to locate kinfolk that remained in Ireland and Scotland and to find the geographic point of origin of the family.

Scots-Irish immigrant ship 1762
The Scots-Irish DNA project uses the Y chromosome paternal test. The Y chromosome is only carried by men and is handed down from father to son.  This makes it a powerful tool for paternal line research.  While only men carry the Y chromosome, both men and women participate in the project.

For a male who is in a direct paternal line of a Scots-Irish ancestor the process is easy; join the project, order the test and await the results.  An example: a man named Campbell is a direct paternal descendant from an immigrant from Ireland to the Colonies in 1730.  His Y chromosome test will reveal his related Campbell family branches, in Ireland, Scotland, and in the Diaspora. 
For women, and men who are researching a non direct paternal line, it is a little more complex.  Both groups need to do an autosomal DNA test to locate a male relation that is in a direct paternal line of the family they wish to research.  When one is located, that male can proxy test and provide the Y chromosome needed to research that line.  The autosomal test is used to confirm kinship with that paternal line.

An example:  A man wanted to research his father's mother's father's family.  While he carries their autosomal DNA, he does not carry their Y chromosome.  He did the autosomal DNA test, located a female cousin of that line, he then had her brother do the Y chromosome test and in this manner obtained the needed Y chromosome to research the paternal line of that family.

To join the Scots-Irish DNA project one goes to the project's page and asked permission to join.  The project is limited to true Scots-Irish families so a note stating that the participant is 'Scots-Irish' is required.

For women and men who are researching non direct paternal lines, they will do the autosomal test first; locate a male of direct paternal descent of the family they are researching, have him do a proxy Y chromosome test, then join the Scots-Irish project using that Y chromosome results.

There is a stereotype of all Scots-Irish being descendants of Ulster Scots that in turn were descendants of Lowland Scots who settled in Ulster during the Ulster Plantation in the seventeenth century.  It is true that many were, it is also true that many families that were Scots-Irish have other origins.  As many as 35% of the Scots-Irish are of Highland Scots ancestry, usually from mid and northern Argyll or Lennox.  There two areas in the Highlands were influenced by the reformed church movement in Scotland at an early date and also had migration to the north of Ireland beginning in the 1500s and continuing into the 1600s.  Two of the most numerous 'Scots-Irish' surnames are Campbell and MacDonald, both of Highland Scots origin. 

Other families also became Scots-Irish.  In east Donegal and in the Bann valley area, there was many native Irish families that converted to the reformed church and later the Presbyterian faith, and also were part of the Ulster migration to the New World in the 1700s. 

There were also a number of Welsh and English families that were living in Ireland and participated in the Ulster Migration and that became part of the Scots-Irish society in the Colonies.  In the Colonies the process continued, with Platt Deutsch, American Indian, and others, marrying into and became allied to and part of the Scots-Irish community here.

While most Scots-Irish came from the nine counties that make up the province of Ulster in the north of Ireland, some Scots-Irish came from other parts of Ireland.  By the 1700s there were families of Scottish origin living in many parts of Ireland and some Scots-Irish have ancestors that migrated to the Colonies from Mayo, Sligo, Dublin, Cork, etc. 

The criteria we use at the Scots-Irish DNA project is, does your family consider themselves 'Scots-Irish.'   One of the goals of the project is to collect data on the origins of the Scots-Irish and to add to the information we already have on them.   Most of the families that are participating are 'Ulster Scots'  and have ancestors from Ulster that immigrated to the Colonies in the 1700s, but as the project grows we are getting families that originate from other parts of Ireland who are very much Scots-Irish.

To join the project:  Scots-Irish DNA Project

Scots-Irish DNA Project results:  Results 


  1. I am a descendant of Andrew McFadden and Sumersett McFadden ... I have done DNA for myself and my uncle who is a direct descendant ... can that DNA result be used for this project?

  2. If he tested with Family Tree DNA and did the Y chromosome test, yes. Just use the 'manage projects' page to join.

  3. All my life I thought I was Irish. Turns out I am a Scot-Irish. My 5x great grandfather was Rev.William Martin. I know he and and his father were from Northern Ireland. I’m fairly certain his family migrated from the lowlands of Scotland in the 1600’s. What I don’t know is where in the lowlands they were from.