Are you a descendant of Irish King Niall of the Nine Hostages?

Millions of people around the world today are descendants of Niall of the Nine Hostages, the legendary 5th century A.D. High King of Ireland. Wherever the Irish settled, also live Niall’s posterity. Niall was a wise, stout and warlike man, fortunate in all his achievements and conquests, and was therefore called “Mór“ (meaning “Great”). He was also called “Niall Naoi-Ghiallach”, meaning “Niall of the Nine Hostages”, from the nine royal hostages held by him from lands and peoples that he had conquered and made tributary: Munster; Leinster; Connacht; Ulster; Britain; the Picts; the Dal Riada; the Saxons and the Morini (a people of France near Calais and Piccardy).

Niall was the son of Eochaid Mugmedón, King of Tara, and Carthan Cais Dubh (also known as Carinna, who was supposedly the daughter of the Celtic King of Britain). According to legend:

“Young Niall had to survive the malice of his wicked stepmother, Mongfhinn, who left him naked upon a hillside to die. He was found and raised by a wandering bard named Torna Eices. In a prophecy, “Sithchenn the Smith” foretold that Niall would eventually become High King. As a young man, Niall encountered an old hag, who demanded that he and his companions give her a kiss; only Niall had the courage to do so; then the hag turned into a beautiful woman named Flaithius (Royalty), the personification of sovereignty and then prophesied that Niall would become the greatest of Ireland’s High Kings.”

Niall succeeded his uncle Crimthann to become the 126th High King of Ireland. The Irish Annals of the Four Masters states that “Niall began to reign in 379. He was not only the paramount king of Ireland, but one of the most powerful to ever hold that office, and was therefore one of the few Irish kings able to mobilize great forces for foreign expeditions.” Niall travelled to Scotland in order to extend his power and to obtain alliances with the Scots and Picts. He supposedly organized the Dal Riada, which became the name for this conglomeration of Irish, Scots and Picts. He marched to Laegria and sent a fleet to Armorica (France) to plunder. Keating, in his History of Ireland, states that “St. Patrick was brought as a captive to Ireland in the ninth year in the reign of Niall” while Niall was on a raiding expedition to Scotland and France. An Irish fleet went to the place where Patrick (then age 16 and known as Mewyn Succat) lived and, as was the custom of Irish raiders, brought a large number of hostages back to Ireland with them, including Patrick, his two sisters, Lupida and Daererca and approximately 200 other children.

Niall married twice. His first queen was Inne, the daughter of Luighdheach; and his second queen was Roigneach. Niall had at least twelve sons:

1. Eoghan – who gave his name to the kingdom of Tir Eoghain (Tyrone), ancestor of the O’Cahan, O’Cane, O’Daly, O’Crean, Grogan, O’Carolan, O’Gormley and O’Luinigh. Eoghan was baptized by St. Patrick at the Grianan Aileach, and his foot was pierced by the Bacchal Iosa during the ceremony. Eoghain’s son and heir Muireadach (Murray) married Earca, daughter of King Loarn of Dal Riada in Scotland, and by her had many sons and daughters; one of whom was Fergus Mór Mac Earca. From this Fergus Mór descended the kings of Scotland, and through his descendant Queen Matilda, the kings of England, including the royal houses of Plantagenet and Stuart.

2. Laeghaire (Leary) – the 128th High King, in the 4th year of whose reign St. Patrick returned to Ireland to spread the Christian faith in A.D. 432;

3. Conall Crimthann – ancestor of the O’Melaghlin kings of Meath;

4. Conall Gulban – ancestor of the O’Donnell princes, lords, and earls of the territory of Tirconnell (Donegal), and of the O’Boyle, O’Dogherty and O’Gallagher;

5. Fiacha – ancestor of the O’Molloy, O’Donechar and Donaher (Dooner), and for whom the territory from Birr to the Hill of Uisneach in Meath is called “Cineal Fiacha” and ancestor of the MacGeoghagan lords of that territory;

6. Main – whose patrimony was all the land from Lochree to Loch Annin, near Mullingar, and from whom are descended the Fox lords of the Muintir Tagan territory, the MacGawley, O’Dugan, O’Mulchonry and O’Henergy;

7. Cairbre – ancestor of the O’Flanagan of Tua Ratha and “Muintir Cathalan” (Cahill);

8. Fergus – ancestor of the “Cineal Fergusa” (Ferguson) and O’Hagan;

9. Enna;

10. Aongus (Æneas);

11. Ualdhearg; and

12. Fergus Altleathan.

During his long reign, High King Niall pillaged Wales, Scotland, England and France. Irish annalist Keating stated that “Niall having taken many captives returned to Ireland and proceeded to assemble additional forces and sent word to the chief of the Dal Riada, requesting him to follow with all his host to France.” Niall set out on this new adventure with Gabhran, chief of the Dal Riada, to plunder France. Also with this group was Eochaida (son of Enna Cinsalach, King of Leinster), who had been banished from Leinster, and who had ambitions to replace Niall as the next High King of Ireland. Niall marched with his victorious army of Irish, Scots, Picts, and Britons into France, in order to aid the Celtic natives expel the Roman Legions, and to conquer that portion of the Roman Empire. Encamped on the River Leor (now called the Lianne) near Boulogne-sur-mer in 405 A.D., as Niall sat by the riverside, he was assassinated by Eochaida, supposedly in revenge for some “wrong” done to him by Niall. The spot on the River Lianne where Niall was murdered is still called the “Ford of Niall.” Niall had been High King of Ireland for twenty-seven years. He played an important role in breaking Roman power in Britain and France. Keating states that “Wales ceased to be controlled by the central government from 380-400 due to Niall.”

Niall died a pagan, but after the spread of Christianity in Ireland, his descendants (the Uí Néill) became foremost in promoting and endowing the early Christian Church in Ireland; and nearly 300 of them were canonized as saints. He was the founding ancestor of the great Uí Néill (O’Neill) royal dynasty that would control most of Ireland for the next 1200 years as kings, chieftains, earls, abbots and bishops. For nearly 700 years, the Uí Néill stronghold was the Grianan Aileach, a massive ring fort still standing atop Greenan Mountain, five miles west of modern day Londonderry (Derry):

Curiously, part of Niall’s story occurred in England in 1919. That year, archeologists discovered a hoard of Roman silver, dating from Emperor Valens (365-378 A.D.) to the early reign of Emperor Honorius (395-423 A.D.). This find was comparable to 1,506 Roman silver coins from a 1854 excavation in County Londonderry, which dated from the reign of Emperors Constantius II to Honorius. The hoard created great debate among English historians as to how these coins came to be in England. These and other hoards had coins from earlier times up to Honorius, but none beyond. There were approximately 13 finds altogether. Who brought these coins to England and Northern Ireland? After Roman Emperor Theodosius I died, Franks, Saxons, Picts, Scots and Irish began to sack the European Continent. Honorius eventually succeeded his father Theodosius as Roman Emperor and then sent the Roman legions, under the command of the Vandal Stilcho north to deal with the raiders. Stilcho was successful in putting down raiders on the Continent, but he could not stop the raiders coming from Ireland. The Roman historian Claudian makes it clear that “the most formidable onslaught had come from Ireland under one powerful leader acting in co-operation with the Picts and Saxons.” Professor Sir William Ridgeway stated that the coins found in the excavations mentioned above were brought back by Niall’s companions after his death and buried. The interest created by the coin hoards helped uncover much that is now known about Niall.

Even 1600 years after the assassination of King Niall, a surprisingly large percentage of the population of northern and western Ireland remain his posterity. A study, published in the American Journal of Human Genetics (February 2006 issue), conducted at Trinity College Dublin, revealed that a striking percentage of men in Ireland and Scotland share the same chromosome, suggesting that one in twelve Irishmen are descendants of Niall. In this study of the Y chromosome, which is passed down only through the male line, scientists found a hotspot in northwest Ireland where 21.5% of the male population carry Niall’s genetic fingerprint, says Brian McEvoy, member of the research team at Trinity College.

This hotspot coincides with the historic stronghold of the Uí Néill.

“The Y chromosome in question appears to trace back to just one person” says McEvoy. “There are certain surnames that seem to have come from the Uí Néill. We studied the association between those surnames and the genetic profile. It is his (Niall’s) family.”

Modern surnames tracing their ancestry back to Niall include (but are not limited to) (O’)Boyle, Bradley, (O’)Cahan, Campbell, (O’)Cane, Cannon, (O’)Carolan, (O’)Connor, (O’)Crean, (O’)Daly, (O’)Devlin, (O’)Dogherty, (O’)Donaher (Dooner), (O’)Donechar, (O’)Donnell, (O’)Dugan, Ferguson, (O’)Flanagan, (O’)Flynn, (Mc)Kee, (O’)Donnelly, Egan, (O’)Gallagher, (Mc)Gawley, (O’)Gormley, (Mc)Geoghagan, Grogan, (O’)Hagan (O’)Henergy, Hynes, (O’)Kane, (O’)Lunney, (Mc)Caul, (Mc)Caully, (Mc)Govern, (Mc)Loughlin, (Mc)Manus, (O’)Melaghlin, (Mc)Menamin, (O’)Molloy, (O’)Mulchonry, (O’)Neill, (O’)Reilly, (O’)Rourke and Quinn.

The study also confirmed the genealogical and oral traditions of Gaelic Ireland, and is a “powerful illustration of the potential link between prolificacy and power.” Though medieval Ireland was Christian, divorce was allowed, people married early and concubinage was practiced. Illegitimate sons were claimed by their fathers and their rights were protected by law. “As in other polygamous societies, the siring of offspring was related to power and prestige.” The study points out that one Uí Néill chieftain, who died in 1423, had 18 sons with 10 different women and counted 59 grandsons in his male line alone.

The “Niall” chromosome has also been found in 16.7% of men in western and central Scotland and has turned up in multiple North American population samples, including 2% of European-American New Yorkers. “Given historically high rates of Irish emigration to North America and other parts of the world, it seems likely that the number of descendants worldwide runs to perhaps two to three million males,” said the study.

The genetic signature of the Uí Néill can be found at http://www.ysearch.org: http://www.ysearch.org/research_comparative.asp?uid=G4EF6&vallist=M5UKQ

There is a Facebook page, Descendants of Niall of the Nine Hostages, at: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=21196410630

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26 Comments

Filed under Florida Irish History

26 responses to “Are you a descendant of Irish King Niall of the Nine Hostages?

  1. Richard K McKeever member R-M222 Study

    One ancient family name you left out of your study was McKeever/ MacIver/ M’Ivor. The history is there, even in Scotland where the M’Ivers were known to be a landed people before the arrival of the Campbell’s of Argyle. Clan Robertson even mentions the M’Iver’s comming to their aid in old documents dated long before the Campbells’s were there. Many McKeever’s / McIvors today in County Armagh all carry the R-M222 genes as many Irish Campbells do. There is also much to be said for the way Campbells, and McIvers often interchange their surnames, and that there is also a bond between the two clans that has lasted since before the use of surnames became popular. If you check most historical census’s you will almost never find a Campbell, without a McIver near by.

  2. Thomas Hintze

    Im told im an ancestor the Heremon (died 1564 B.C.) and Niall is a decdent.

  3. WyoCowboy

    My Uncle did a whole lot of genealogy and says that our family descended from Nial. My biological father’s name was John Neal and the Neal family changed their name from O’Neil when they came to the American Colonies in the mid 1700’s. Some of the Neal’s fought in the American Revolution and later ancestors fought in the Civil War. This is all very interesting.

  4. I am an Ua Cearnachain or Carnahan Family and am also M222.

  5. Please stop using the L’Derry term. As an Irish person I find the use of English/Planter terminology highly insulting. The name of the area is Derry or Doire in Irish.

  6. Just found out through DNA Testing that I also belong to the R-M269 haplogroup.

  7. Matthias Mulvey. Family buried at Clommacnoise.
    Relations:
    1179 d: Melaghlin O’Mulvey, Chief or Muintir-Eolais.
    1315 d: O’Mulvey. ditto
    1378 d: O’Farrell O’Mulvey. ditto
    1486 d: Teige O’Mulvey. ditto

  8. Andrew Evans

    I am an Evans, and a descendant of Niall, based on my DNA.

  9. Lochlainn Mac Néill

    I recently had my YDNA which links me directly to Niall of the Nine Hostages. I am Scottish and fall within the NW Irish and Lowland Scots. I am a member of the M222 Project.

  10. David Hoaglan

    I too just discovered I belong to the R-M269 Group. My surname is Hoaglan of which little is known. perhaps a spinoff of “Hagan”. Looking for more connections.

  11. puna

    Yes, I’ve just a few questions. If one’s last name is Neal, then it’s right to assume that they are a fairly direct, it not direct, descendant of Niall line as in High Kings. Correct?

  12. Lynley Sewell

    I grew up with the name McKechie but have since found out it was McCaughey in Ireland then changed when forebears went to Scotland.
    Also told we are descendants of Niall of the Nine Hostages!

  13. Logan Jergens

    DNA testing has me as a direct descendant of Niall. Through birth certificates and baptism records I have previously traced back my ancestry to 1781 Koln, Germany with the original surname of Goergens. I am very interested in the 1200 year gap between Doire and Koln. The Nine Years War and the Flight of The Earls makes sense. Does anyone have some further information concerning this?

  14. KM

    Both my husband and son carry the M222 mutation. Last name is Molen and we live in the western United States. I had a suspicion for a long time that my husband was very much Irish, Scottish, English or a combination of all three because of physical traits and personality traits the family carries, i.e. ink spots, curly dark hair, blue eyes, stocky build, blonde eyelashes, very fair skin and freckles. The DNA finally proved it. We know the spelling of the name was changed permanently to Molen around 1830 or so in America but haven’t figured out exactly what it was beforehand. Previous to 1830 it’s often found written as Maulden, Moulden, Malin, Molden, Molten, Mouldon, Moulton, Maulding with Maulden and Moulden being the most common. I notice that this Molen ancestry line has large families with unusual longevity on their side. They also have a history of wealth, success, political involvement (strong political and religious involvement), and I’m finding that leaving a legacy is very important to them. Thought I would throw in those descriptors in case others of this group noticed similar patterns in their families as I feel these patterns are often passed down for generations and passed down much longer than I ever realized they could be.

  15. Your history on this subject is very biased. The Kings of the Southern Ui Neill actually did not want the spread of Christianity in Ireland, hence St. Patrick cursing Cairbre, because of his reluctance to accept Christianity. Tuathal Mael Garb, his son, became King during this fiasco, and also rejected Christianity in Ireland, then he was murdered, and a Christian sympathizer was placed on the throne. The records were changed, and Eoghan was placed as King after Niall, forever changing history, and the rightful Kings of Ireland from the Southern Ui Neill branch of Cairbre and Tuathal Mael Garb, the man who completed Niall’s Conquest of Brega, which was to usher in the rightful King of Ireland, and only his descendants to follow. From the point of his murder, a Christian King was placed on the throne, and the Crown went to Scotland, then England….in which it never should have…only Tuathal Mael Garb’s descendant’s are the rightful heirs to the throne, but if you do your research, his genealogical records were changed in 1172, and history was rewritten, and his family persecuted from Meath, and it happened again in the 17th century. The Crown doesn’t belong in England, nor did it belong in Scotland, and there should be a King sitting upon the Irish throne today, that of Tuathal Mael Garb’s descendants, who have been wrongfully persecuted since his murder for not accepting Christianity in Ireland. Do your research, and see for yourself. I say bring the Crown back to Ireland!!

  16. Jesse Conner

    Just found my Y dna matches Niall, my name is Conner

  17. Neila Kelly

    I am Neila Kelly, believed to be a descendant of Niall.

  18. Cody Neal

    I too believe I am a descendant of king Niall

  19. I am a Strahan Descendent, and a Descendent of Naill. This was proven by The Strahan Clan Dna Profile Study Results, in 2011. I would like more Info about Naills Descendents, and how I could possibly trace my Ancestors back to him.

  20. Linda

    My grandson’s FTM YDNA links him directly to Niall of the Nine Hostages.
    R-M269 and Niall of the Nine Hostages Badge
    His last name is White, or so we believe. His father and grandfather used the last name White. We have no other info of that lineage. Is this a known Irish name from descendants of Niall of the Nine Hostages?
    Linda

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