Thursday, 19 January 2023

NEW Group Time Tree feature reveals branching pattern within Group 2 (the Farrell's of Annaly, Longford)

FTDNA recently introduced a new feature that Project Administrators have been asking for for quite some time. It is called the Group Time Tree and (like Alex Williamson's Big Tree), this one has surnames of all Big-Y-tested individuals, together with their MDKA (Most Distant Known Ancestor), and the specific downstream branch of the Tree of Mankind on which they sit. But in addition, it includes the most advanced TMRCA estimates (Time to Most Recent Common Ancestor) for each branch in the Tree. In other words, it has a user-friendly Timeline. And this is something that has been missing from other versions of the Tree of Mankind.

This new feature allows us to see how closely any two groups within the project are related to each other. And indeed it can show how all the groups in the project are related to each other - see the diagram here, which shows (not surprisingly) that everyone within the project shares a common ancestor who passed down the SNP marker M168 and lived about 63,000 years ago (around the time when the ancestors of present-day non-Africans first emerged from the African continent).

But it really begins to provide potentially-useful genealogical data when we start looking at the branching structure WITHIN a particular group, and seeing how individual group members are related to each other within the last 1000 years (i.e roughly since the advent of surnames).

Group 2 - the Farrell's of Annaly (Longford)

This is the largest group within the project, currently boasting 72 members. Of these, over 30 of them have done the Big Y test. Previous analyses (here and here) suggest that this group are the descendants of the Farrell clan of Annaly in Co. Longford

The overarching SNP marker for Group 2 appears to be BY28646 because all the men in Group 2 named Farrell fall under this branch. In addition, TMRCA estimates indicate that the common ancestor who passed on this SNP marker to all the people in Group 2 would have lived about 974 AD (95%CI 664-1219) - see here. This date of 974 AD is consistent with the approximate timescale for the emergence of surnames in Ireland (roughly 900-1250 AD).

Figure 1: Group 2 - the Farrell's of Longford ... see the full diagram here
(click to enlarge)

However, there is also a clear branching structure within the group, since 974 AD, and this may correlate with known genealogical information about the various branches of the Farrell Clan of Annaly.

Four major branches below BY28646 have been identified so far (see the diagram above) ... and more branches will likely emerge as more people do the Big Y test. The largest of these 4 branches is BY93145 and most of the Big-Y-tested members of Group 2 sit on this branch. The common ancestor of people on this branch lived about 1121 AD (95%CI 831-1349). This branch in turn has two major divisions:
  • the BY126923 branch (common ancestor c.1424 AD)
  • the BY176936 branch (common ancestor c.1227 AD)

By the 1400s, the O'Farrell clan had divided into two major sub-clans, the O'Farrell Bán (Bane) ruling North Annaly and the O'Farrell Buí (Boy) ruling South Annaly. There is a good account of the clan history on the website here.

The two downstream branches mentioned above could potentially represent the two major sub-clans - the question is: which is which? Big-Y testing of O'Farrell descendants with a family history of descent from one or other of the sub-clans could help answer this question.

Maurice Gleeson
Jan 2023

Monday, 27 April 2020

Group 19 - a new group of Farrell's with origins in Africa

With the arrival of a new Farrell to the DNA Project, a new genetic group has been formed with origins in western Africa.

The group consists of three members - one Farrell & 2 Ferrell's. Although all three participants are not close matches (they each have a Genetic Distances of 4/37 to each other), they are close enough to warrant grouping together. As a result I have placed them together in a new genetic group (Group 19). You can see this on the Results Page here …

This latest group of Farrell's belongs to Haplogroup E, sub-group M132 - we know this because one of the three participants did some SNP testing (many years ago). This group sits on a particularly isolated branch of the Tree of Mankind and you can see it below and here …;name=E-M13 .

This E-M132 branch is 48,800 years old, so it is quite far “upstream” on the Tree of Mankind. In the diagram below you can see that there are 44 branches below it. We could get further information on which downstream branch the group members all sit if two or more of them were to do the Big Y test.

This branch has probable origins in western Africa. In fact, you can see in the diagram above that the top countries in which it is found are Ghana (10), Mali (8), Gambia (7) & Senegal (3). Only 2 people on this branch report Irish origins. More information about the genetic origins of this particular branch can be found here …

Looking at the matches for these three group members, ancestral locations for their matches include, Tennessee, South Carolina, & Virginia, so the common ancestor for Group 19 probably comes from somewhere in southern USA.

As a general recommendation, all project members should join any relevant Haplogroup or Geographic Projects. There are several reasons for this:
  1. the Admins of these projects have a wider overview of neighbouring branches of the Tree of Mankind and may have some specific insights that would benefit our project members in their family tree research.
  2. adding your data to these projects helps the Admins with their analysis. I work closely with a lot of these Admins and they often provide very useful insights to the Farrell DNA Project, including recommendations on further testing for specific subgroups.
Thus, all three members of Group 19 should join the following projects and ask the Admins for any insights or recommendations they may have:

There are also some useful Facebook groups that may be helpful, in particular DNA Tested African Descendants at This is a great place for asking questions, sharing information, and helping others.

The group members should also swap genealogical information with each other and see if they can spot any clues as to their possible common ancestor (perhaps a common location).

Maurice Gleeson

April 2020

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Getting the most from your New Big Y-700 Results

The Big Y test changed to a completely new technology earlier this year. It now covers 50% more of the Y chromosome than previously. And so it is anticipated that the new test will discover additional SNP markers that the old technology did not detect. Furthermore, the new SNPs should be able to more accurately date the various branching points on the Tree of Mankind.

It also gives us approximately 700 STR markers whereas the previous test only gave approximately 500 STRs. As a result, the old test is called the Big Y-500 and the new one is called the Big Y-700. Going forward, all new Big Y orders will use this new technology.

For those who did the old test, it is possible to upgrade from the Big Y-500 to the Big Y-700. But for everyone who does the new test, or upgrades from the old version to the new version, it is essential that you upload a copy of your results to the Big Tree so that we can get some essential additional analyses. You will find instructions for doing so on the Big Tree website here and on the Y-DNA Data Warehouse website here but I include a briefer summary below.

What do you get from your Results?

Your results should be analysed within a week or two and you can check them by navigating to your particular portion of the Big Tree. For members of Ryan Group 2 (for example), their Terminal SNP is M756 and you will find this branch on the Big Tree here (see screenshot below). The diagram nicely illustrates their placement on the Tree of Mankind and the surnames of the people sitting on neighbouring branches to their own. This information can be very useful for determining the geographic origins of your particular direct male line and for determining if your name is associated with an Ancient Irish Clan.

Project Administrators can use programmes like the SAPP tool to generate Mutation History Trees and determine the likely branching structure of your particular "genetic family" from the time of surname origins up to the present day. This process can also help identify which Ryan's (for example) are more closely related to each other and which are more distantly related. It is also possible to date the branching points within the Mutation History Tree using SNP data as well as STR data. This process is likely to become more accurate with the advent of the new Big Y-700 data and the identification of new SNPs. It is anticipated that the new data will reduce the number of "years per SNP" from about 130 to about 80 years per SNP. You can read more about this here.

You can also click on your surname above your kit number for an analysis of your Unique / Private SNPs. These may prove useful in the future for defining new downstream branches in the Mutation History Tree and for dating new branching points. But this very much depends on new people joining the project and undertaking Big Y-700 testing (so that we can compare apples with apples). And as this is a new test, it is likely that we will have to wait some time before we begin to see real benefits from it.

Creating a Link to your Big Y results

In order to create a downloadable link to your Big Y results, first log in to your FTDNA account and go to your Big Y Results page ...

Then click on the blue Download Raw Data button ...

Then you need to create a link to two separate files - your VCF file and your BAM file. The VCF file is used for placing you on The Big Tree. The BAM file is used for high-end technical analysis by the folks at the Y-DNA Data Warehouse. You can see some of the results so far on their Coverage Page here (and if you like you can search for kits by surname, including your own).

1) to create a link to your VCF file, right click on the green Download VCF button, and then click on "Copy link" from the drop-down menu. You will later paste this link into the the "Download URL" box on the Submission Form.
Alternatively you can simply (left) click on the green Download VCF button and this downloads a 10 MB file to your computer. This can then be directly uploaded via the Submission Form below. However it is preferable (and less problematic) to generate a link instead.
2) to create a link to your BAM file, click on the green Generate BAM button. You will then get a message that "Your Big Y BAM file is currently being generated" (see below). This generates a very large BAM file ... but it takes several days to prepare so you will have to come back to this page in a few days time! Put a reminder in your diary / calendar!

Uploading your VCF file

Having created the first link (to your VCF file) and copied it, click here to go to the Y-DNA Data Warehouse and fill in the form with your standard information - email, kit number, surname of your paternal MDKA (Most Distant Known Ancestor), and (most importantly) the link to your file - you do this by pasting the link you copied earlier into the "Download URL" box underneath the heading "Raw Data Upload" at the bottom of the page.

If you want to upload the actual file itself (rather than a link), click on the blue Direct tab under "Raw Data Upload" and then click on the "Choose File" button and attach the file from where you downloaded it onto your computer (on my laptop, the "Choose File" button appears to be slightly hidden under some text but it works if you click on the start of the text). 

Don't forget to tick the checkbox to confirm you agree with the Data Policy and then click the blue Submit button.

Uploading your BAM file

Several days later, come back to this same place to get a link to your newly generated BAM file. So, navigate to your Big Y Results page, and after clicking on the blue Download Raw Data button, you will find that the BAM file has been generated. DO NOT DOWNLOAD IT - you don't need to and it is way too big. Instead, click on the green Share BAM button and then the green Copy button in order to copy a link to your BAM file. You will share this link in the next step.

Then go to the Y-DNA Data Warehouse and fill in the same form as before BUT ...

  1. select Other for the Testing Lab
  2. enter your Kit ID Number 
  3. leave everything else on its default setting
  4. paste the link to the BAM file in the "Download URL" box underneath the heading "Raw Data Upload"
  5. tick the checkbox to confirm you agree with the Data Policy and then click the blue Submit button

Maurice Gleeson
Aug 2019

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

The Farrells of Donegal: And Associated Families

Good news folks - Sam Hanna's book about the Donegal O'Farrell's has at last been published. Entitled The Farrells of Donegal: And Associated Families, you can buy it online at ... and

Below is the foreword to the book and a synopsis of the chapters. It would make a great Christmas gift to yourself!!
Maurice Gleeson 
Dec 2018

Sam Hanna’s book on the (O) Farrells/Ferrells spans an incredible 1,400 years, set in the context of the political, social and economic landscape of Ireland. To explain the origin of the Donegal O’Farrells, he goes back to the Early Christian era c.655, and identifies an eponymous ancestor among the Cenél Conaill called Firghil who was related to Colum Cille. To dispel any doubt about the antiquity of the name, he cites references in manuscripts such as the ‘Annals of the Four Masters’in 1087, the ‘Annals of Connaught’ in 1014 and the ‘Book of Fenagh’ in c.950.

The main focus of the book is on the Farrells in the post-Plantation period, in particular in the barony of Tirhugh in southeast Donegal from c.1626/7. It was in this region that the family came to prominence, securing land leases and forming marriage alliances. As leaseholders on the Hamilton and Conolly estates around Ballyshannon and Donegal Town, they acquired some status by the eighteenth century; they were not only “strong farmers” but they had all the trappings of gentry, playing prominent roles in the church, land management and business.

The book is more than a history of one family. In a lucid and flowing style, Sam Hanna charts the social and political history of west Ulster, including the barony of Tirhugh, incorporating the Rising of 1641, the bitter antagonism between Orangemen and Ribbonmen, the impact of emigration and the relationship between landlords and tenants. He has employed the traditional tools of the genealogist and historian – wills, maps, leases, army lists, hearth money rolls, and church records. Using a comprehensive range of tables, maps and flow charts, he has identified significant Farrells in other parts of Ulster, which he has included in a database, thus providing the groundwork for further study.

The author has also presented new methods of research using modern technology. His use of DNA evidence has opened up challenging avenues for genealogists across the globe, thus creating an international dimension, far beyond Tirhugh. As the study of family history has expanded into a popular growth industry of the digital era, this monumental study will provide a welcome template for genealogists everywhere. As a classical piece of research and a model of historical analysis and methodology, there is no doubt that Sam Hanna’s book stands as the “gold standard” in relation to the study of family history. He has raised the bar in the demanding discipline of family research and historians are universally grateful to him for his magnificent achievement.

Dr Seán Beattie, Editor, Donegal Annual Culdaff, Co. Donegal, Ireland
January 2018

Chapter one seeks to trace the evolution of the Uí Fhearghail/(O) Farrells in two of their earliest points of origin – contemporary Longford and Donegal, from the end of the first millennium to the early modern era. The origin of the Farrells in southeast Donegal – closely associated with the seventeenth century Plantation – is proposed.

The second chapter places the seventeenth century Plantation of Ulster into historical context, with a particular focus on the area relevant to Farrell involvement – Donegal, west Tyrone and the city of Derry/Londonderry. The following two chapters present a database of Donegal Farrells for the same period, and outline their participation in contemporary events.

Chapter five endeavours to collate west Ulster Farrell records for the eighteenth century, and proposes the original nucleus in the barony of Tirhugh from which the Farrells subsequently expanded. It attempts to understand the decline of Farrell fortunes – although numerically successful, from an extended family with considerable position and influence in the seventeenth century, to that of mostly undertenants by the end of the eighteenth.

The following chapter proposes a classification of Tirhugh Farrells and outlines their evolution during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A comprehensive database of eighteenth century Tirhugh Farrells is presented. The ensuing detailed discussion of the use of DNA testing to investigate Farrell origins is complemented by a comprehensive analysis of the results.

Subsequent chapters feature the early genealogical details of each of the Tirhugh Farrell dynasties – Original, Rossnowlagh, Ballybulgan, Legnanornoge, Ballydermot, Ballintra and Virginia. Many descendants are traced from the eighteenth century to the present day, with insights given into the lives of some individuals. In addition, some of the salient aspects of southeast Donegal’s political, social, and physical landscapes during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are featured. The final chapter summarises the main findings of the work and makes suggestions for further research.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

FTDNA Thanksgiving Sale

There are some incredible discounts in the current FTDNA Sale which lasts from now until Nov 22nd. And there will probably be a Christmas Sale after that. So now is the time to start thinking about getting that upgrade or that extra kit.

Below are the sale prices and they are the lowest I have ever seen.
Y37 for just $99 ...
Family Finder for just $49 ...
and $100-140 off Big Y upgrades.

This feels more like Crazy Eddie's Second Hand Car Deals!

If you have any questions about your own particular situation, just drop me an email.

Maurice Gleeson
Nov 2018

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Update on Farrell Group 4 (Nov 2018)

Some new results have come in for Farrell Group 4 since the last update in Dec 2017. You will see from the diagrams below that in December of last year there were only 5 people with SNP results. That number has now increased to 9:
  • Member BD-6155 did the FGC5494 SNP Pack
  • 3 members completed Big Y testing (JF-7935, JGF-9768, HF-1095)
Farrell Group 4 (R1b-GF4) in Dec 2017
Farrell Group 4 (R1b-GF4) in Nov 2018

So what do these new results tell us?

Firstly, many more people have SNP data and this allows us to place this group further downstream on the Tree of Mankind (by "downstream" I mean closer to the present day). Three of the four members who have done the Big Y test now all sit on the downstream branch characterised by the SNP marker called BY163677 (Farrell, Farrell & Ferrell). The fourth one sits on the branch above this - BY59055 (Farris).

And this could be a very interesting and important distinction. It appears to separate out the Farris branch from the Farrell / Ferrell branch - something we have been trying to do for quite a while. Ideally another Farris should do the Big Y in order to confirm this distinction and to identify downstream sub-branches on the Farris part of the tree.

FTDNA's version of the Tree has BY163677 branching off from BY59055

Thus, combining the data from FTDNA & The Big Tree, we can define the revised SNP Progression for this group as follows (the SNP Progression is simply the series of SNP markers that characterise each branch of the Tree of Mankind from the upstream branches to the downstream branch on which the Group 4 Farrell's sit):
  • R-P312/S116 > Z290 > L21/S145 > DF13 > FGC5494 > FGC5561 > FGC7448 > FGC5496 > FGC5521 > Y18844 > Y18846 > BY10339 > BY33481 > BY59055  > BY163677

The main SNP markers (in bold) are highlighted by yellow dots and underlined in red in The Big Tree diagram below. Note that the morphology of The Big Tree is slightly different to FTDNA's version and does not distinguish between BY163677 & BY59055 (i.e. it thinks they are the same). This will change when the two remaining Big Y testers from Group 4 upload their data to The Big Tree.

As described in the update I gave at the Farrell Clan Gathering in June (see video here from 11:45), this branch of the Tree of Mankind is fairly isolated from other branches. The nearest genetic neighbours to Group 4 (two men called Janssen & Virtue respectively) are connected by a common ancestor some 2300 years ago. So this is a very rare branch of the human evolutionary tree.

Group 4 Farrell's on the Tree of Mankind
(click to enlarge)

We can calculate crude dates (and I mean very crude indeed) for when these various branching points arose:
  • DF13, FGC5494, FGC5496 ... 4300 years old (from YFULL)
  • FGC5521 ... 4200 years old (from YFULL)
  • BY10339 ... 3500 years old (from YFULL)
  • BY33481 ... 3100 years ago (crude calculation from The Big Tree)
  • BY59055 ... 2300 years ago (crude calculation from The Big Tree)
  • BY163677 ... some time in the past 1000 years?? 
  • Common Ancestor of two Big Y Farrell's ... about 200-300 years ago (+/-200 years ... yes, very crude indeed)

If everyone did the Big Y test, then we would probably find that most of the group members sit on the branch of the tree characterised by the SNP marker BY59055 (or the branch below it - BY163677). The reason why the people who did the SNP Packs sit higher up the tree than the Big Y testers is because the SNP Packs do not test for as many downstream SNP markers as the Big Y. But if the SNP Pack testers did the Big Y, I would guess that most of them would also sit on the BY59055 branch.

Only two of the four Big Y testers have uploaded their results to the Big Tree. It is essential that the others do so too - instructions here. Doing so will likely split up the BY59055 / BY163677 SNP Block (it contains 23 SNPs) into several downstream sub-branches, and will look more like the branching structure depicted in the FTDNA tree, thus potentially splitting the Farris branch from the Farrell branch.

I will post a further update when the two remaining Big Y test results have been uploaded to The Big Tree.

Maurice Gleeson
1 Nov 2018

Update 26 Nov 2018

Two more of the 4 Big Y testers have uploaded their data to the Big Tree. Alex Williamson has now analysed the data and the morphology of the tree has changed accordingly.

This is what it used to look like (on the left) compared to what it looks like now (on the right):

The updated Big Tree (on the right) - the large SNP Block below BY59055 has been split

The first thing to note is that the large block of 23 SNPs (headed by BY59055) has now been split in two, and then in two again.

  • there is now a 21-SNP block from which all the 4 group members descend
  • below this, there are two branches:
    • the first is a Farris (167989) all on his own 
    • the second is a 3-SNP block starting with BY164250, and an additional two branches emerge from this:
      • a single Ferrell (369768)
      • a branch characterised by the SNP BY178261, on which two Farrell's sit (631095 & 467935)
We can also estimate some crude dates for when the various branches split apart (and I emphasise these are crude - the actual dates could be +/- 200 years on either side of these estimates). Allowing for 100 years per SNP, and assuming the year of birth of all people who tested is about 1950, the following crude approximations are obtained.

Crude date estimates for the various branching points in Farrell Group 4

So, what do we learn from these new results?
  • the Farrell's of Group 4 still sit on a relatively isolated branch of the Tree of Mankind with their nearest genetic neighbours being related some 2300 years ago
  • the Farris individual appears to split off from the rest of the group about 1600 AD
  • The Farrell's in this sample appear to be related by a common ancestor born about 1400 AD
  • We might get a slightly better estimate of the dating of the branching points if we were to rerun the SAPP Programme, taking these new SNP data into account. And that is something that can be done in due course.
  • FTDNA have changed the names of the terminal SNPs to reflect these new developments.

Maurice Gleeson
26 Nov 2018

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Current status update (video from Clan Gathering July 2018)

The Farrell Clan Gathering was held in Longford from 16th-20th July 2018 and on the Friday, I gave an update on the current status. You can watch this long presentation (almost 2 hours) on YouTube where it is in two parts:

Alternatively you can watch the videos embedded below. To see them in full screen view, you simply click on the video and then the square icon in the bottom right of the video.

The presentation contains the following sections and you can jump ahead to the relvant section by simply moving the red circle along to the appropriate position on the timeline at the bottom of the video:

  • The Farrell name in historical context ... 0:08:50
  • Overview of DNA for genealogy ... 0:21:15
  • Overview of the Farrell DNA Project ... 0:41:10
  • The DNA Results for each genetic group:
    • Results for Group 1 ... 1:01:00
    • Results for Group 2 ... 1:10:00
    • Results for Group 3 ... Part 2 - 0:09:05
    • Results for Group 4 ... Part 2 - 0:11:45
    • Results for Group 5 ... Part 2 - 0:19:15
    • Results for Group 6 ... Part 2 - 0:21:45
    • Results for Group 7 ... Part 2 - 0:24:10
    • Results for Group 8 ... Part 2 - 0:26:00
    • Results for Group 9 ... Part 2 - 0:27:05
    • Results for Group 10-15 ... Part 2 - 0:29:00

Maurice Gleeson
Oct 2018