The research was conducted by Laoise Moore at the Smurfit Institute of Genetics at Trinity. Ms Moore, tested the Y chromosome that is passed only paternally, from fathers to sons. She examined DNA samples from 800 males across Ireland.
The results were published in the American Journal of Human Genetics. Her findings: the highest concentration of related males were in north-west Ireland, where one in five males had the same Y chromosome. Fellow Trinity researcher, Dr. Dan Bradley, then consulted genealogical experts who provided an updated list of people with surnames that are genealogically linked to the last known relative of the "Ui Neill" family, which means "descendants of Niall."
"The frequency [of the Y chromosome] was significantly higher in that genealogical group than any other group we tested," said Dr Bradley, whose surname is also linked to the medieval warlord. Other modern surnames tracing their ancestry to Niall include Gallagher, Boyle, O'Donnell, O'Reilly, O' Rourke and O'Doherty. O'Brother, lucky charms indeed!
Who was this Niall Noigiallach? (Pronouncing that last name produces a lot of flying spittle, by the way). He was the fourth and youngest son of an Irish High King and an enslaved daughter of the British King. He sired 12 sons, and all of them became powerful kings as well. He's often called Niall of the Nine Hostages because he took nine hostages: 5 Irish provinces and one from the Saxons, Britons, Scots, and French during his raids. On one of these raids, Naill captured who was to be the future St. Patrick. St. Patrick eventually escaped back to Britain, but returned Ireland and was central to it's conversion to Christianity.
While scientists were uncovering just how vast Niall's genetic reach had become, they were reminded of the recent research done concerning Ghengis Kahn (pictured right). Kahn was the 13 century conquerer of Asia, and it was found that more than 16 million men are descendants of this warlord. What's up with all these people TODAY tracing their genes back to these powerful individuals?
"It's another link between profligacy and power," Dr Bradley said. "We're the first generation on the planet where if you're successful you don't [always] have more children."
So all you people of Irish blood, have a great weekend celebrating your culture, your heritage, and the strong possibility that you're all related to an Irish stud known as "Hard as Niall."