The winner in the 2014 Never Say Never contest must definitely be Clan MacNeil of Barra, a fine group of skillful seagoing warriors who understood themselves to be descendants of the great Irish legend Niall of the Nine Hostages through an 11th Century Irish invading prince. Wrong.
A few years ago Clan MacNeil undertook a clan genealogy and DNA project. MacNeil clansfolk from right across the globe were swabbed for DNA – enough for serious scientists to begin to draw conclusions. One conclusion was fairly stark: not a single hit for the Emerald Isle. No wild irishmen in the bunch.
Well, that pretty much takes care of Niall of the Nine Hostages for MacNeils of Barra, 1000 of whom still reside on the isle. But if not Irish, what?
Vikings of course. Duh. What do we know MacNeils for? Stealthy coastal seamanship in very norse – like Birlinn vessels. The Clan MacNeil motto is “Conquer or Die”. They effectively raided the seas around Scotland for centuries from their base at Kisimul Castle. At least norse ancestry shouldn’t be that much of a surprise for MacNeils and it should be a good fit.
The impact of this development is likely to ripple through the rest of the Scottish clan and family community. Some histories will be confirmed by DNA study. Some, clearly, will be rewritten. We never stop learning and everything can change. Some folks find that satisfying. Others perhaps find it a bit terrifying. What are your thoughts on DNA projects and their tremendous impact on a clan or families history?