COMPARISONS OF McNEES Y CHROMOSOME TO IRISH
GENETIC PROJECTS BRINGS NEW CONCLUSIONS
By James R. Manees
Descendant of James McNees (1710?-1792) of Co. Antrim, Ireland, Lebanon Co., PA.,
Amherst Co., VA; buried in Henry Co., VA)
The recent comparison of my Manees Y-chromosome’s genetic signature to those of other participants in several ongoing Irish genetic projects by Clan Donald USA Project Director Mark MacDonald of Dallas, TX, has brought about tentative conclusions about our relationship to the MacDonald clan. Our matching to a Glengarry MacDonald and to a MacDonald of Keppoch, whose territories were around the area of Loch Ness in Scotland, previously seemed to imply that our ancestor was also originally from that region. In the recently completed 28 marker test (an improvement on the 12 marker test done two years ago), although I matched the Glengarry MacDonald, Michael “Scotch” McDonald of MO and Marvin Ronaldson of IL (the Keppoch MacDonald) on 27 of 28 and on 25 of 28 genetic markers, respectively (and came almost that close with two other MacDonalds who had, significantly, traced their origins back no further than to the north of Ireland), Mark MacDonald now believes that we all have common origins not in Scotland, but in County Down, Ireland, sometime before 1600, and are not actually related to any branch of the MacDonald clan at all. I also matched 27 of 28 markers with a McKeen from ME who traces his ancestry to the north of Ireland as well. Neither I nor any of these individuals appear originally to have been either MacDonalds or McKeens (O’Cahans.) This McKeen diverged on six, seven, and eight markers, respectively, from three other tested O’Cahans in another project from Ireland, yet these three, interestingly, matched another MacDonald from our project, indicating this MacDonald was originally an Irish O’Cahan. This shows how fluid were the comings and goings of the Gaelic people back and forth between Ireland and Highland Scotland prior to 1608, leading to stabilized surnames sometimes reflecting those of the other island.
As to the County Down connection, Mark MacDonald’s recent comparison of our test results with results from the Trinity College-All Ireland Project, and a separate project funded by Patrick Guinness of the brewing company, have revealed significant matches with Irish McGuinness signatures from counties Derry and Armagh (including unique signatures at DYS 390, 392, and 461), as far as they can be seen, a problem being that these Irish projects have often chosen a number of different markers to test than the Clan Donald USA project. Mr. MacDonald is currently trying to negotiate with Patrick Guinness to agree to test some of these McGuinness signatures at our other markers in order to confirm his theory, which is that our McNeeses, Meneeses and Maneeses, as well as these particular McDonald, McKeen and Ronaldson families, all have common paternal origins with the Magennisses of Iveagh, County Down, Ireland. If correct, this would mean that our ancestors were all progeny of a common paternal ancestor from that area, two of which crossed into Highland Scotland to later take the MacDonald and Ronaldson surnames of the clans which they were fighting for, probably as Galloglass (hired soldiers), while the ancestor of the Maine McKeen went north to the area around Dunseverick, Ireland, and took the O’Cahan surname, which became McKeen under the influence of the Scots who settled in the Ulster Plantation beginning after 1608. The progeny who remained, probably moving only slightly to the north in the Massereene district (south Antrim), just north of the Upper Iveagh Barony in County Down, once a periphery of Magennis territory prior to 1600, took our forms of the Magennis (McEnos) surname in the early modern period.
It has been postulated for many years that the names McNeice, Minnis, Meneese, and Mannice in eastern Ulster may have been a few of the over two dozen variants of the name McGuinness, and this DNA data presently offers support for that proposition. [See Edward MacLysaght, The Surnames of Ireland (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 1985; reprint ed., 1989), pp. 217, 234, and Patrick Woulfe, Irish Names and Surnames (Kansas City: Irish Genealogical Foundation, 1992), p. 395.] (McGuinness or “McEnos” as it was written in the 1600s, also means “Son of Little Aonghus.”) The 1663 Subsidy Roll of the Upper Iveagh Barony for both the taxation of lands and goods, the heart of McGuinness territory (supplied by Kevin McNeice of Boca Raton, FL), shows what appears to have been an intermediate spelling between the forms Maguinness and McNeice for the entries of Arthur Magines, Barnard Magneise, Phelemy Magneisse of Dromly, Arte Magneise of Maghermigee and Donagh Magneise of Covan. See James R. Manees, “Further Investigation of the McNeece Families of the Massereene Barony in S.W. Antrim,” Family Ties: McNees to Menees, Et Al., Vol. X, No. 1 (Feb. 1999): 29. This origin would explain the lack of Presbyterianism among the McNeeses we found settled in the Massereene in the parishes of Glenavy and Aghalee by the time of the Hearth Money Roll of the 1650s, as they now seem not to have been Scottish at all. It is quite probable that some Scottish blood was obtained just prior to the sojourn to PA of James McNees (1710?-1792), our immigrant ancestor, as the tradition in my family was that we were of Scot-Irish origin, and the use of the Christian name James was ubiquitous, this being the name of six Scottish kings up to 1625. (The majority of the new settlers during the Crown’s Plantation scheme in the Massereene district north of Iveagh were, however, of English origin.) It is thus quite possible that our immigrant ancestress Ellen Cardwell (d. 1750?) may have been of Scottish, rather than of northwestern English descent, for this tradition to get started. (Her first husband, who died in Franklin County, PA, Renny Breathitt or Braithwaite, was of English origin, and the continued use of the first name of “Renny” among Breathwitts there as late as 1828 tithe records back in the parish of Lambeg, Tulnacross townland, County Down, Ireland, which borders Glenavy just to the south, is the best evidence we have that our immigrant ancestor James McNees probably already knew Renny and his perhaps coveted wife back in Ireland, and would explain their quick marriage after Renny’s death in the middle 1730s.) It is equally possible that his son James Menees, Jr., (1741-1835) married a woman of Scottish descent in Lebanon County, PA, as nothing is known of his wife other than that her name was “Elizabeth.”
The McGuinness or Magennis sept traces its ancestry back to a fourth or fifth century tribe covering what would become counties Down, eastern Armagh and southern Antrim called the Dal nAraide. The Gaelic Dal Fiatach (the Ulaid proper) came to share a confederation with the Dal nAraide (and its offshoot, the Uibh or Ui Eachach) as well as the Conaille Muirtheimhne, who were all ethnically said to be Cruithin rather than Gaelic, as were the Laigsi of Leinster and the Sogaine of Connaught. The Cruithni of Ireland (pronounced “Kreenee”), which had smaller settlements in Meath and Munster, are thought to have been named as a Gaelic form of the Gaulo-British Pretani (hence the “Pretannic” or Britannic isles) from what would have later become Scotland and western Britain, who must have crossed over to Ireland sometime at the beginning or middle of the last millennium B.C. (It must be remembered, however, that all members of Haplogroup 1, or R1b in the new nomenclature, have non-Indo-European roots in the Upper Palaeolithic inhabitants of the British Isles or northwestern Europe, no matter what Indo-European language, Gaelic or Brythonic, the inhabitants came to speak during the Bronze and Iron Ages.) Most Cruithni elsewhere in Ireland were usually of a more subject status, unlike in Ulster. Despite the confederation shared among these Ulster tribes, early medieval Ireland still saw constant quarrels and local wars for the kingship of Ulster between them. The Magennis ancestor is supposed to have been a bloody warlord named Saran who succeeded in becoming king for a score of years at the ancient royal seat of Emhain Macha in Armagh before being overthrown by the three equally bloody Colla brothers who swept in from the northwest and who interestingly, were the ancestors of a majority of the later MacDonald clan of Scotland, and who were themselves overthrown after seven years, thereafter leaving for the Scottish Hebrides, or so the story goes. The tribesmen of Saran had been forced to move further east out of most of Armagh into Down and southern Antrim. They were associated then most widely with the Uibh Eachach of Down (anglicized to “Iveagh”) which became a territorial name as well, where the Magennises ruled from Rathfriland near Newry. Nearby, at Warrenpoint, the Magennis chiefs were inaugurated in the Middle Ages on the “Footstone of Aonghus,” much as early Scottish kings were inaugurated on a different footstone at Ad Dunadd across the water in Kintyre.
The actual “Son of Aonghus” surname McEnos or Magennis seems to be a reference to one of this line, a king of Ulster, Oengusa mac Aitid, who was killed in the eighth or ninth century, or his son that some genealogies give him, Oengus Og (Aonghus the Younger), perhaps the “Little Aonghus” himself. The first to adopt this name as a proto-surname seems to have been Domhnall Mac Aenghusa at the end of the tenth century, though the name only seems to have stabilized to become what appears to have been an early surname in Ireland in the late fourteenth century with Art Magennis who, according to the Annals of the Four Masters, gave “a great defeat” to “the English and the people of Orior. O’Hanlon, Chief of Orior, and great numbers of the English were slain on this occasion. Art Magennis, Lord of Iveagh, in Ulidia, was treacherously taken prisoner in the house of Mortimer.... Magennis ... sole prop of the hospitality of Ireland in his time, died of plague at Trim, where he had been detained in prison by the English.”
The Magennis sept was among the first to receive a coat of arms and a crest (this latter was the Celtic martial symbol of the boar.) It is this coat of arms which appeared on the 1996-1998 issues of Family Ties. I had used it because of its supposed application to all who carried a “Son of Aonghus” derived surname, regardless of origin. It turns out though, assuming Mark MacDonald’s theory is completely confirmed, that it was indeed an appropriate representation, as it is this coat that was originally obtained by the Magennises, from whom we spring. Although we do not, it turns out, descend from any MacDonald connected individuals, despite our match and near match genetically with three participants who presently carry that name, it is my involvement with the Clan Donald USA Genetic Project which has helped bring our true origin to light, making that detour a necessary step along the way. Last year I participated in the expanded 37 marker test through the MacDonald group’s connected to Family Tree DNA in TX. I have never received a report on the results from Clan Donald, and can only conclude from Family Tree’s posting that my DNA match with the several individuals described above does not extend to this expanded test; ie., I must be over four markers away from their readings. It is a shame that the Armagh McNeice who originally participated in the twelve marker test with whom I shared 11 out of 12 markers (the other not shared being a fast-changing mutation), lost interest, as it would have been interesting to see how closely another McNees would have been to my particular DNA in the 25 or 37 marker test. He had concluded his McNees ancestors had probably come from Antrim as well, but had evidence that those McNeeses who remained Catholic and did not emigrate seemed to have self-segregated onto lands further west along the south shore of Loch Neagh in Armagh by the late eighteenth century. To my knowledge, no other McNees or Menees has taken one of these tests through Clan Donald USA or Family Tree DNA at this time.
The only other data I have are the postings from Family Tree DNA on “Recent Ethnic Origins.” No names are given here, but as of November 2005, it showed that on the 37 marker test, I shared 36 markers with one individual from Wales (out of 134), one from Ireland (out of 980), and one from Scotland (out of 939). I also shared 35 markers (a two step mutation) with three individuals from Ireland (out of 980) and three from Scotland (out of 939). I shared 34 of the 37 (a three step mutation) with five individuals from Ireland and two from Scotland. On the 25 marker test, I had an exact match with ten others from Ireland (out of 1748), fifteen from Scotland (out of 1687), one from Wales (out of 261) and three from Britain (out of 831). I had 24 out of 25 markers in common with 53 from Ireland (out of 1748), 23 from Scotland (out of 1687), 6 from England (out of 4041), and 1 from Germany (out of 977). Thus, it would seem that Ireland does contain the most individuals who share a majority of the markers composing my genetic signature, followed by Scotland (no breakdown of region was included, but I would guess the signature more matched those from the Highlands or Galloway in the southwest as opposed to Lothian.) If any Menees wishes to participate in this ongoing project, please see the FamilyTree DNA site and contact Mark MacDonald, of Clan Donald USA, with whom I initially participated.
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