Monday, July 25, 2022

Seanchas in ancient Ireland

This verse was written in a text of Féineachas in the 8th Century and describe the three most important groups in ancient Ireland:
Batar trí prímcheinéla i nHére, .i. Féini 7 Ulaith 7 Gáilni .i. Laigin.
There were three primary kinships in Ireland, i.e., the Féini and Ulaidh and Gáilióin, i.e., the Laighin.

But, what does it mean? In 2011, Gerald A. John Kelly M.A. Celtic Studies prepared a 70 page document about the Hoy/Hoey family as well as dozens of emails. This information comes from of his work. This list explains this quote.

  • Féineachas is Brehon Law.
  • nHére or Érainn. This originally referred to a single group of people who were noted on Ptolemy's Map of ireland. The Dál Fiatach were one of them.
  • The Féini. These were a non-Érainn people who lived in the west of Ireland. They became the O'Neills.
  • 7 is an abreviation for agus or in Béarla (English), 'and'.
  • Ulaidh was the kingdom of Ulster which was originally all of the north until forced east by the Féini who became the Northern O'Neill. The Dál Fiatach were the principal tribe of the Ulaidh in historical times.
  • The Laighin occupied the center of Ireland until driven south by the Féini who became the Southern O'Neill.
 Until the 17th Century, Seanchas was defined as the combination of law, history, and genealogy - the interwoven foundation of Gaelic society.

The Derbfhine

In early Ireland and Gaelic Scotland, the normal property-owning unit and unit for dynastic succession was the Derbfhine. For a royal Derbfhine, any male member of a king's derbfhine: son, uncle, brother, nephew-might succeed him. The members of the Deirbhfhine (those who could be elected as next King/Chief) were classified as Flaith (Princes). The title and authority were not inherited by primogeniture.

It was the basic unit of society, comprising all the patrilineal descendants over a four-generation group, i.e., back to common great-grandfather. The derbfhine held typical five or four rath/tech i.e. homesteads, which formed a Baile. Twenty Baile form a Tuath or Tricha Cet, the basic small kingdom level.

The Family of Hoy/Hoey - Sloinne Ó hEochaidh

The royal derbfhine of the Dál Fiatach, first took a surname soon after 1000 AD to honor their king Eochaidh who had died at the battle of Cráeb Tulcha in 1004 AD against the Northern O'Neill. They became the Desendants of Eochaidh - the Ó hEochaidh. In the 1659 'census', the English wrote it as O'Hoy which became Hoy and finally Hoey.

The first known reference to a person using the surname Hoy was Flagherty Ó hEochaidh in 1019 AD.

Some early spellings of the name often seen in the Irish Annals are these:

  • Ua hEochaidh
  • Ua hEochada
  • Ua hEochadha

The first king to be recorded with this surname was Donn Slebhe Ua hEochadha who died on 1091 AD.

The grandson of Donn Slebhe Ua hEochadha took a new surname after him and became the Mac Duinnshléibhe (McDunleavy). His 5 sons mostly used the new name and became the last 5 kings of the Dál Fiatach. The last king of the Uladh was Ruaidhrí Mac Duinnshléibhe who died in 1201 AD. 

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Sunday, July 24, 2022

The Dál Fiatach of Ancient Ulster

The medieval Irish dioceses were based upon the borders of the dominant small kingdom at that location. Francis J. Byrne says that when the Dál Fiatach split the Cruithin in two in the Eighth Century and created the new entities called Dál nAraide and Uí Echach Coba, the borders of Dál Fiatach became the borders of medieval the Diocese of Down  seen to the left. The Dál nAraide land became the Diocese of Connor and Uí Echach Coba the Diocese of Dromore.

"On the east, the Rhogbogdioi occupy the area around the cape of Rhogbogion and may be related to the Dál Riata of early history who founded a kingdom in Argyll in Scotland in the fifth century. To the south of them are the Darinoi, whose name may be connected with the name Dáire, presumably an ancestor deity. It is interesting to note that Dundrum in County Down in the territory of the Dál Fiatach is known as Dun Droma Dáirine."

"Woluntioi is one of the more recognisable tribal names on the map. It is undoubtedly connected with the Ulaid, occupying an area between Isamnion, possibly Emain Macha, and the Buvinda (the Boyne river) on Ptolemy's map. In the early historic period they were known as the Dál Fiatach and occupied the area between Dundrum Bay and Belfast Lough. Their historic centre was at Dún-Dá-Lethglass (Downpatrick), originally a secular rather than a religious site."

Archaeology Ireland, Heritage Guide No. 21 - Ireland in the Iron Age Map of Ireland by Claudius Ptolemaeus

"This study of the people known as Dál Fiatach, or Ulaid, is not a history of Ulster as a whole. They and the Dál Araidi were the two leading population-groups in N.E. Ireland from the third to the twelfth centuries. The ancient name of Ulster was Ulad, and it included the whole country north of the Boyne and across to the Shannon. It subsequently shrank to the limits of the present counties of Antrim and Down. The Dál Fiatach were predominant in Down. Their records were kept in the monasteries of Saul and Downpatrick and have survived in a compilation of history, tradition and genealogies, known as Senchus Sil hIr. There are other sources for their history, viz., the Annals, the Ban-shenchus, the lives of saints."

"They hold an important place in the life of St. Patrick, for when he landed at Inber Slainge in Loch Cuan, i.e. Strangford Lough, he landed in Dál Fiatach territory. His first converts in Ulster were people of this stock. Dichu was a chieftain of Dál Fiatach. His brother, Ros, helped Patrick to revise the Senchus Mor. They and their kindred held all East Down and the Ards. The early monasteries and schools of Bangor, Moville, Nendrum, Saul, grew up in their midst. St. Finnian of Moville, St. Domongort and St. Tuan of Boirche, St. Mael Cethir of Kerry, Iarlathi, third bishop of Armagh after Patrick, St. Samthann, all traced their descent from Dál Fiatach."

"Members of the race have left their names on the map to this day in Slieve Donard, Ben Madigan, Glengormly, Rademan, Dunsy Island. In the Annals and the Book of Rights they are the leading people in east Ulster from 600 a.d. down to the Norman invasion, 'The Irish have twelve kindreds of noble birth : six in Leth Cuinn = Northern Eire, Dál Cuinn, Dál Cúin, Dál Araidi who are the Picts, Dál Fiatach who are the Ulaid'. Professor McNeill considers this statement to be of great antiquity."

Margaret Dobbs

Margaret Dobbs from he Glens of Antrim, translated many ancient documents and wrote about many others

The Dál Fiatach
Author(s): Margaret E. Dobbs
Source: Ulster Journal of Archaeology, Third Series, Vol. 8 (1945), pp. 66-79
Published by: Ulster Archaeological Society

Read her work on the Dál Fiatach here (PDF)

Thursday, July 21, 2022

The Genetic Genealogy of the Hoy Family

McEvoy 2006 - M222 Hoys

In recent years, the new science of Genetic Genealogy has been developed which applies DNA analysis to Genealogy. It uses three types of DNA from a human cell. These are the following:

  • mDNA - Mitochondrial DNA, passed only from the mother to daughter/son, mutates less than the others and useful for ancient lines.
  • yDNA - Y-Chromosome DNA, only in males and passed from the father. Mutates quickly and useful for ancient lines.
  • aDNA - Autosomal DNA, everything but the sex-chromosomes (X and Y), useful for cousin matches. The X-chromosome is of limited use.

yDNA measures the changes between parts of the Y-chromosome and how it affects people's descendants. The Y-chromosome is unique to the male line, as are surnames.

There are two kinds of analysis called STR and SNP.

STR was the first developed and the less accurate. The changes occur very often which leads to a lot of uncertainty. An early STR analysis from 2006 is shown in the graphic here.

SNP was developed later and is much more definite. The changes seldom occur and are very rarely repeated. This is not useful for finding cousins (as of now) but is very useful in tracking the movements of peoples and tribes going back hundreds or thousands of years.

The McEvoy 2006 DNA paper and M222

The first work that was important for Irish Genetic Genealogy was done in 2005/2006 by Brian McEvoy of Trinity College Dublin. He used STR data from a sample of a few hundred surnames drawn from the phonebook throughout Ireland. Among the names were Haughey and Dunleavy. Haughey can be a phonetic rendition of Ó hEochaidh. The 1659 spelling of O'Hoy in Pendar's work was from an English viewpoint. In Ireland, Hoy is now Hoey and pronounced closer to Haughey. The last five kings of the Dál Fiatach were brothers who changed their surname from Hoey to MacDunleavy after Dunleavy Ó hEochaidh who was a king who died in 1091. After the Normans drove the Dál Fiatach out of County Down, the MacDunleavy were known to have become the hereditary physicians to the Cenél Chonaill in southwest Tir Chonaill (Donegal) near their base in Donegal Town.

From Griffith's Valuation from 1856 in Donegal, we find the almost all Haughey clustered in far southwest Donegal near Glencolumbkille and the MacDunleavy in the same area. The graphic above is taken from McEvoy's work for the Haighey/MacDunleavy and compares a living Hoy at the top with McEvoy's results. He identified several markers called haplotypes among the STR data. Among them were R1b, M222 (subgroup of the former), and 'I' which is likely pre-Bell-Beaker and associated with a subgroup of the Uladh and the Maginness and McCartan lines in west County Down. We can see the closeness of the living Hoy with the M222 men.

This link will show the Hoy family connections to these Donegal men.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

The Royal Sites of the Táin Bó Cúailnge of Ancient Ireland

The Royal Sites of the Táin Bó Cúailnge of Ancient Ireland

Map of Iron Age Ireland

This verse was written in a text of Féineachas ('Brehon Law') in the 8th Century:

Batar trí prímcheinéla i nHére, .i. Féini 7 Ulaith 7 Gáilni .i. Laigin.
There were three primary kinships in Ireland, i.e., the Féini and Ulaidh and Gáilióin, i.e., the Laighin.

These three kinships which have been remembered for two millennia through poems and stories, have been associated in recent times with four ancient Iron Age sites located in the central area of Ireland.

Iron Age Royal Sites of Ireland
  • Rathcroghan - Cruachain of the Connachta, the Féini, located in Connacht and Ulser as the O'Neills
  • Navan Fort - Emhain Macha of the Ulaidh, the Men of Ulster
  • Knockaulin - Dún Ailinne of the Laighin, located around Tara
  • Tara - Teamhair na Rí, Sacred to all three kinships

Navan Fort - Emhain Macha of the Ulaidh, The Men of Ulster

Articles by C.J. (Chris) Lynn
Articles by J.P. Mallory
Articles by Ann Hamlin
Articles by Helen Steele
Articles by The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA)
Video of the Figure of Eight Structure
'Time Team' (English television) video about the Navan Fort area (YouTube)

Knockaulin - Dún Ailinne of the Laighin

Articles by Gerald A. John Kelly
Articles by Bernard Wailes

Rathcroghan - Cruachain of the Connachta, the Féini in Connacht and the O'Neills in Ulser

Articles by John Waddell

Tara - Teamhair na Rí, sacred to all three kinships

Articles by Edel Bhreathnach

The Four Ancient Royal Sites of Ireland
  • The Four Royal Sites of Ancient ireland

Early Migrations into the Isles


Map of Ireland

The Genetic Genealogy of the peoples of Ireland and Great Britain had been the same from the end of the last Ice Age until the Anglo-Saxon period. Even today, 'The People of the British Isles' DNA study found Anglo-Saxon DNA generally in the southeast half of England with a maximum of 38% in the far southeast nearest the Continent. Recent DNA work has shown that there were three waves of migration into western Europe after the last Ice Age. There were people from the earlier time called the Paleolithic (Old Stone Age), but these lived in southern Europe in the Pyrenees area, Italy, and the Balkans.

The waves began as the ice receded throughout Europe and the first wave into the Isles began around 8,000 BC. (There are remains of a hut from about 7000 BC at Mount Sandel, County Derry.) Mount Sandel, a Mesolithic Campsite. These Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) people are called Hunter Gatherers and were not yet settled in a single permanent place. It was Western Hunter Gatherers (WHG) who made their way to Mount Sandel. (There are different labels for various related HG group across Eurasia.)