After spitting in a tube my adult children sent me for Fathers’ Day last year, then mailing it out and waiting six weeks, ancestry.com sent me DNA results. My sputum — or 98% of it at least — matches that of people living today in three regions of Ireland: the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal; County Mayo in west/central Ireland; and the southwestern counties of Cork and Kerry.
None of this surprised me. Those DNA findings confirm forty years of research into my ancestors and three trips to the country of my ancestors, but one thing did puzzle me at first. The McLaughlins I met while traveling in Inishowen told me the Gaelic version of our name — MacLochlainn” translates to “Of the Vikings” so I expected to find DNA traces from Scandinavia. Viking raiders started raping and pillaging the Irish coast during the 9th century, then established settlements in many places over the next 400 years. They founded Dublin itself, so many Irish should have Scandinavian DNA after all that.
Further research into ancestry.com's site explained it. My DNA profile matches people living in those regions of Ireland now — many of whom would likely have Scandinavian ancestors, whereas people living in Denmark, Norway, or Sweden would not tend to have Celtic ancestors from Ireland. The Irish didn’t raid or settle in those colder regions, so my DNA would not match many people now living in those countries.
Most historians agree that Celtic people first settled in Ireland only 2500 years ago — around 500 BC. There were already people living there when the Celts arrived, but historians disagree about who they were or where they might have come from. Some claim they arrived from northern Iberia and I’ve read claims of migration from North Africa, the Fertile Crescent, and what is now Russia going back 5000-8000 years. Recent DNA research at Dublin’s Trinity College offers corroborating evidence for these claims.
After Vikings were assimilated, the British took over large parts of Ireland by the 14th century and did not get along with native Irish. Some Irish accepted British conquerors but most continued to resist and were banished westward to rocky hills and bogs “beyond the pale.” The “pale” was line of wooden stakes driven into the ground as a boundary. That now-familiar English phrase has come to mean “outside the bounds of acceptable behavior” and both meanings were applied to my ancestors by British conquerors.
The rest is here.