finding your roots

Rediscovering my Irish Ancestry

Dr Tyrone Bowes June 12, 2012

Irish Origenes

Growing up in Ireland with such a notable English surname like ‘Bowes’ (the English Queens mother was Bowes-Lyon) I was always curious as to my origins. In 2004 I purchased a YDNA 37 marker test to see if I could solve this mystery. But what one gets with that test are the names of potentially many individuals with lots of different surnames with whom one shares ancestry. As a scientist this was like an itch I could not scratch! How on earth could I match many individuals with diverse surnames? The answer which I discovered in 2010 is actually surprisingly simple. If you think about it, 1000 years ago one’s ancestor lived in a particular area when he first picked a surname, he was surrounded by others with whom he shared ancestry but who crucially picked other surnames……jump forward 1000 years and there will be many descendants of those few individuals some of whom will today purchase a Y-DNA 37 marker test. Hence what you get with this test is a snapshot of your medieval ancestors neighbours from around 1000AD. Now since surnames could still be found concentrated in the areas where they first arose, one can examine surname distribution maps for the surnames that appear as ‘genetic matches’ (as revealed by the DNA test result) see an area where they all cluster and reveal where their ancestor lived 1000 years ago! The truly remarkable thing is that one’s distant relatives still live in the pinpointed ‘GENETIC HOMELAND’ so you can go to the area and recruit people for DNA testing and confirm the link.

In this manner I discovered that my ancestors originated in Couty Laois in Ireland. All of the surnames of the people I matched localised to that area. When I examined the area I found references in the placenames of that area to my ancestors; Bowe’s crossroads, Toberboe (Boe’s well) and Aghaboe (Boe’s field). We then recruited people called Bowe or Bowes from the area for DNA testing and they were shown by the results to be related to me (we shared a distant common ancestor). I can therefore say with scientific certainty that my ancestors lived for 100′s if not 1000′s of years in County Laois in Ireland, leaving their mark on the placenames and in the DNA of that areas current inhabitants…. truly my Genetic Homeland! So how did my Bowes surname come about? Well most Irish surnames were anglicised as the Irish language disappeared being replaced by English, so my Irish surname (what ever it was) probably sounded like Bowe, and the ‘s’ was added later. The attached file show’s the evidence of my ancestors presence in Couty Laois and of my genetic cousins the O’Carroll’s and Dooley’s. I have created a number of websites called Irish Origenes, English Origenes, and Scottish Origenes to help others make sense of their Y-DNA results and pinpoint their own Genetic Homeland

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  • velda

    June 14, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Fascinating! Thank you for sharing that information. I have ancestors both in Scotland and Ireland on my father’s paternal side. I would be quite interested in having my Y-DNA tested.

  • Garth Tuttle

    June 20, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    Not all Irish are Celts. Some have Viking ancestory, some Norman, and a few (in Ulster, mostly ) later-day English.
    Furthermore, the last name in question need not be the source of a connection – some of us have mothers – we cary some of their DNA as well as our father’s – and when a woman married, if there was a surname at all, it would be the husband’s … most ‘nobles’ bty had surnames (I mean outside of Ireland ) long ere any others

  • Susan Shuyler

    June 28, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    How expensive is it to do Y-DNA testing? According to family history, I have a Choctaw Indian Great-Grandmother, but there are no birth records. Wondering if DNA testing could help explain the connection.

  • Peter Butler

    October 30, 2012 at 11:30 am

    My family also come from Aghaboe, Farran Cross Roads, we have links with Butler , Delaney, Phelan and Carroll.

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The basic drive to discover who we are and where we come from is at the core of the new 10-part PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the 12th series from Professor Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. Filmed on location across the United States, the series premieres nationally Sundays, March 25 – May 20 at 8 pm ET on PBS (check local listings).

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