IrelandsDNA seek participants for new study

IrelandsDNA, in collaboration with Eneclann, are seeking male carriers of the MacPARLAND (MacParthaláin) surname for a new study.  In a piece for the newsletter, Dr Gianpiero Cavalleri, Biomedical Research Lecturer at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and founder of IrelandsDNA, explains how DNA is of use to genealogists and describes IrelandsDNA’s work.  Dr Cavalleri’s research at the RCSI is in population genetics, understanding how the nature of genetic variation in the Irish population and how this variation has been shaped by historical events.

For millennia migrations were pushed out from the middle east and southern Europe, eventually ending in Ireland, the westernmost edge of the great Eurasian peninsula.  Ireland was the last landfall before the limitless horizons of the mighty Atlantic, and its peripheral location has been fundamental in finding the answers to the question – who are the Irish and where did they originally come from?

DNA testing can light pathways back into Ireland’s past as it tells immense stories of deep ancestry, generations beyond the reach of genealogy or written records. All of the Irish are immigrants who travelled from the east, the south and later the north to the farthest end of Europe.  DNA can trace their origins and often even the centuries when they arrived. Those who left Ireland more recently unknowingly carried these stories inside them, in their DNA, no matter how far from home they travelled.

Scientists can unlock these secrets by testing for what are known as DNA markers. Each of us inherits 6 billion letters of DNA, 3 billion from our mother and 3 billion from our father. Occasionally tiny errors of copying are made in reproduction and it is these minute changes that we call markers. They arise in particular places at particular times, and skilled geneticists can locate a marker’s origin and date its creation. By looking at the frequency of genetic markers in modern populations, geneticists can also track the movement of a marker across the globe.

IrelandsDNA is a new company founded with the goal of improving and communicating our understanding of Irish ancestry from the perspective of genetics. There are a number of strands to our research, but much of the work focuses on realising the full potential of the Y chromosome for understanding ancestry.

The Y chromosome is the single largest piece of DNA inherited as a block, and studies have shown that there is about one new genetic variant per generation. This means that complete Y chromosome sequences should, in theory, allow us to reconstruct a family tree of all men on earth, which is accurate to a couple of generations! In reality it is not simple to read all the letters of the Y chromosome, although a very refined tree can be built.

Early Y chromosome trees included very few markers – typically 37 markers – which restricted the accuracy of historical interpretation. As we improve resolution, the potential for improved interpretation increases too.

In collaboration with Eneclann, IrelandsDNA are initiating a study of the MacPartland surname, to shed light on its origins. The goal of the study is to examine whether all MacPartlands descend from one recent progenitor, or whether different branches exist within the surname group.

The origins of the MacPartland/MacParthaláin name

Edward MacLysaght wrote that the most common spelling of this name was “MacPARLAND derived from the forename – Parthalán or Bartholomew, one of the twelve apostles.”  Other variant spellings of the name include MacParlan, MacPartland, and MacPartlin.  Further variants of this name include MacFarland and MacFarlane, although the latter commonly indicates a similarly named family of Scottish origin.  In rare instances, this name has been changed almost beyond recognition to ‘Bartley’.

We are seeking male carries of the MacPartland surname to participate in this study. All that’s required to participate is a saliva sample! All participants will receive a free IrelandsDNA test.  For further information please contact



This entry was posted in Research Tips.