If your name is Duffy or Doyle, your ancestors were Danish, if the name is Lynch or FitzGerald they were Norman, but the secret to your ancestry does not lie only in your surname.
The Vikings and the Normans make up two of Ireland’s major indigenous population groups - alongside the Gaels. The origins of both people lie in Scandinavia; the Vikings coming from Norway and Denmark, while the Normans were French people descended from Viking settlers in Normandy.
Now a cross-disciplinary network of academics consisting of scientists, geneticists, historians, linguists, bone specialists, and archaeologists have come together to investigate the population of Ireland’s Viking cities and their hinterland, and they will be in Galway this weekend.
This group – led by Dr Catherine Swift of Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, and Dr Turi King of the Department of Genetics, University of Leicester - will be in Kelly’s Bar, Bridge Street, this Sunday at 8pm.
They use modern scientific techniques and the traditional tools of the historian and archaeologist in an attempt to identify what percentage of the Irish population are descended from Vikings.
They are also hoping to examine the extent to which the Vikings in different parts of the country intermarried with the native Irish. To do this, the experts have identified specific surnames which are found in the medieval records and townland names of Galway city and county.
Most people get their surnames from their father and men also inherit specific genetic material (DNA ) from their father. This is the Y chromosome which is responsible for making males. A Y chromosome type can relate to a particular surname and most surnames are linked to particular regions.
By sampling men with specific surnames in the Galway area, the scientists hope to identify the particular characteristics of the mixed population of local natives and incoming adventurers who populated Galway in the past.
As the scientists are primarily interested in Y chromosomes, they will only collect samples from men. This will be through a swab from cheek cells. Various tests will be done on the Y chromosome DNA. The DNA will not be altered or used for other purposes.
At the end of the study the scientists will return individual Y-chromosome results to participants. The information given will be strictly confidential. If information we gain about your DNA is ever published in scientific papers, it will be completely anonymous.