My Ancestor was the High King of Ireland.

When I say that I’m internally screaming it can mean one of two things: I’m either really pissed or really excited.  As of late, I’ve been extremely angry and it’s usually written all over my face.  I believe my resting bitch face is becoming more permanent as I get older.  And I’m becoming too careless to conceal it from everyone.  But when I’m excited, I use ALL-CAPS in every conversation that involves the very thing I’m excited about.  I don’t give a shit if it seems like I’m shouting–I’m excited and you’re just going to have to deal with it…

My dad finally got his 23andMe results back after a brief delay.  (And by brief delay, I mean that his sample somehow got tampered with en route to the lab, so he had to re-do it.)  23andMe provides a way for you to share your DNA results with any of your fellow relatives.  And I think that’s probably why I love it so much. You can exchange email addresses which will give you the opportunity to compare both your ancestry and (if you paid the extra money for it) your health.

Since my dad shared with me his results, I was able to receive what’s called a Paternal Haplogroup Report which displays the results of my biological father and any male relatives on my direct paternal line.  I can match similarities and point out the differences in our reports. With these results, I was able to see the migrational patterns, any possible ancestors in my paternal line and the overall genetics of my paternal haplogroup.  I know, I know–I’m getting extremely scientific.  And believe me, it took some serious time before I could fully absorb this information in order to regurgitate this information to you.  It’s like we’re on Bill Nye…

I’m a firm believer that in order for us to truly understand our ancestry, we have to look at the migrational patterns of our oldest ancestors.  Where were they walking around? How did they survive during harsh weather conditions? What did they eat? These are just some of the questions I ask myself whenever I’m diving into this kind of research–because I’m a big ol nerd.  This information below provides some background knowledge of those migrations…

  • My paternal stems from R-M269 which supposedly is one of the prolific paternal lineages in Eurasia.  This particular paternal line came to be about 10,000 years ago among the people of the Fertile Crescent who grew plants and domesticated animals.  About 8,000 years ago, the first farmers and herders were beginning to drift into Central Asia and north into the Caucasus Mountains.  Some had even reached the Black and Caspian Seas.  It was there that they lived as pastoral nomads–herding cattle and sheep across grasslands.  Meanwhile, their neighbors in the south had been engaging in bronze smelting.  Those bronze tools later moved north which developed into a new steppe culture called the Yamnaya–also known as the late Copper Age to early Bronze Age culture. 
  • Around 5,000 years ago, perhaps triggered by a cold spell that made it difficult to feed their herds, Yamnaya men spilled east across Siberia and down into Central Asia. To the west, they pushed down into the Balkans and to central Europe, where they sought new pastures for their herds and metal deposits to support burgeoning Bronze Age commerce. Over time, their descendants spread from central Europe to the Atlantic coast, establishing new trade routes and an unprecedented level of cultural contact and exchange in western Europe.
  • The men from the steppes also outcompeted the local men as they went; their success is demonstrated in the overwhelming dominance of the R-M269 lineage in Europe. Over 80% of men in Ireland and Wales carry the haplogroup, as do over 60% of men along the Atlantic Coast from Spain to France. The frequency of R-M269 gradually decreases to the east, falling to about 30% in Germany, 20% in Poland, and 10-15% in Greece and Turkey. The haplogroup connects all these men to still others in the Iranian Plateau and Central Asia, where between 5 and 10% of men also bear the lineage.

My paternal haplogroup, R-L21, traces back to a man who lived less than 10,000 years ago.

If you read all of that–I applaud the fuck outta you.  I know it was a lot to stomach.  And I wouldn’t have blamed you if you hit the fast-forward button on it.  Believe me–I had to re-read that several times just so I could absorb it.  But here’s where shit gets interesting.  According to a  brief report by 23andMe, my most common ancestor is Niall of the Nine Hostages who was the King of Tara in northwestern Ireland in the late 4th century C.E…

I think the best way I could sum up how I felt in that moment was almost similar to Mia from the Princess Diaries.  And I think I also said shut-up at that moment.  King? Ireland? 10,000 years ago? My head nearly popped off my shoulders and rolled away.  I couldn’t believe it.  I was linked to Irish royalty.  Here I was having a moment about one of my ancestors–someone that I share a connection with.  This individual who existed 10,000 years ago is linked to me.  It was like meeting a long-lost relative for the first time. You had no idea that they’ve existed and here you are–unveiling a piece of information letting you know that you share genetics with them.  So, who was this guy?

Who was Niall of the Nine Hostages?

After scouring several resources, I found some information about my ancestor.  Niall of the Nine Hostages was the Irish ‘High King’ at Tara, an ancient center of Ireland from A.D. 379 to A.D. 405.  Niall of the Nine Hostages who was better known as Niall Noigiallach was a powerful ruler and very promiscuous.  The Uí Néill dynasty–the “descendants of Niall,” trace back to just one man with the haplogroup R-M269.  

150,000 Scots– a full 6 percent of the population are genetically-related to him!  “The genetic code inside Scots and Irish men reveals that Noigiallach made multiple female conquests, resulting in 12 legitimate sons and many more illegitimate offspring.”  Niall knew that to continue his legacy–he had to spread his seed as much as possible.  This tree uncovers the fruits of his labor…

“The Uí Néill ruled to various degrees as kings of Ireland from the 7th to the 11th century C.E. In the highly patriarchal society of medieval Ireland, their status allowed them to have outsized numbers of children and spread their paternal lineage each generation. In fact, researchers have estimated that between 2 and 3 million men with roots in north-west Ireland are paternal-line descendants of Niall.”–23andMe

What’s the story behind Niall Noigiallach?

Before the birth of Niall, Eoachiad was the High King of Ireland.  Eoachiad was married to his wife Mong Find.  Together–they had four sons; Brian, Aillil, Fergus and Fiachra.  Although he had fathered these children with his wife, his heart had belonged to someone else.  King Eochaid had taken a hostage from the King of the Saxons and her name was Caireann.  And Mong Find absolutely hated her.  As a result, she made Caireann carry water from the well all by herself for the entire household.  Eventually, Caireann realized that her indiscretions with the King led her to be pregnant with his child.  As a result, Mongfind made her work even harder in hopes that she would have a miscarriage.

But Caireann was strong enough to get through Mongfind’s horrible tasks.  One day during her usual trip to the well, she gave birth to a son on the grass.  Since she lived in fear of Mongfind and the safety of her child, she left him there.  Picking her water buckets back up, she carried water back into the house.  She was so terrified of that horrible lady that she left her kid there and no one else wanted to feel the Queen’s wrath.  That is fucking nuts.

Walking along the area of the well, a poet by the name of Torna came across the baby in the grass and picked him up.  After he held the boy in his arms, he had a vision.  He realized who the boy was and that he would grow up to be the greatest King.  Raising the boy in secret, he named him Niall.  He raised him as his own and didn’t let him near Tara until he was fully grown and ready to take his rightful place on the throne.

When it came time to travel back to Tara, Torna and Niall saw Caireann carrying buckets of water from the well.  Niall rushed over to his mother and told her to put the buckets down.

“What are you doing dressed in rags?”  He said.  “When you are my mother, and I am the King of Ireland’s son?”

You tell em’ Niall.

Caireann claimed that the Queen would never allow Niall to step forward and claim his rightful place.  Regardless of what she had said, Niall took her inside and dressed her in purple robes.  The Queen was irate.  Despite of how his wife felt, Eochaid was happy to see his son.  The people of Tara were elated to see Niall.  Niall was wise, handsome and noble.  Mongfind demanded the King to choose an heir.  But Eochiad didn’t want to choose.  In an effort to figure out who was next in line, he consulted his Druid Sithchean who orchestrated a test to find out who of the King’s sons should take his place.

Sithchean told the five sons of the King to go into the forge to make weapons.  But Sithchean locked them inside and set the forge on fire.  This test would determine who would save what from the forge.  Brian emerged carrying a hammer which symbolized strength.  Fiachra carried out some beer which symbolized beauty and science.  Aillil carried out a set of weapons which symbolized vengeance.  Fergus came out with a bundling of kindling which symbolized impotence which meant that he wouldn’t be able to bear children.  Niall was the final one to emerge out of the forge with an anvil.  The anvil meant solidarity.  Niall was the one who should be King.

Annnnnnddddd cue the most epic Disney scene of all time…


But of course, Mongfind wasn’t having any of this.  She instructed her sons to fight with one another.  And if Niall should come between them, they were to kill him and make it appear as an accident.  As instructed, the men began to fight and before Niall could end it–Torna stopped him.  He said that they had to settle this matter amongst themselves.  The Queen was against the announcement of Niall’s results of the ‘druid test’—she was against the people of Tara knowing that Niall was next in line and she was doing everything in her power to prevent him from taking his place on the throne.

(The entire time I was reading this story, I kept screaming to myself; SPEAK UP KING EOCHAID–KING EGGNOGG-WHATEVER YOUR NAME IS.)

During this whole predicament, the five sons of the King went hunting.  Their hunting excursions were the true meaning of ‘roughing it’.  Hunting game far from home, they would make a fire and cook what they’d capture.  But they realized during their trip that they had forgotten to bring water.  Rookie mistake.  Once they had concluded a long day of hunting, they were extremely thirsty and in desperate need of water.

Fergus, set out to find water for the rest of the group and stumbled upon a well.  Blocking the resource was a hag.  The hag had crooked skinny limbs, spotted skin, and she was blackened with dirt.  Her fingernails were long with dirt caked underneath.  The hag’s teeth were jagged, and her hair was greasy.  This lady was real haggard looking–aka me on a Friday night.  Fergus asked her if he could get a drink from the well.

“Yes, you may.  If you give me a kiss.”  She said.

“I’d rather die of thirst.” He said as he ran away.

When Fergus returned without water, Aillil and Brian set out to find some.  They also encountered the hag and refused her.  Fiachra gave the gruesome hag a kiss on the cheek.  She didnt give him any water and promised that two of his decendants would be Kings.  And lastly, Niall set out searching for water.  When he came across the hag, she offered him the same fee as the others.

“Not only will I kiss you.  I will lie down with you.”  He said.  Taking her into his arms, he laid down with her in the grass.

Oh shittttttttttttt.

Suddenly, the nasty hag transformed into a beautiful woman.  She confessed to him that he was going to be King and allowed him to take water from the well.  Although she was allowing him to bring back the water to his brothers, she forbid them to drink the water from the well until they promise to let Niall be king.  After his brothers swore to give up their rights to being King–they were able to have the water from the well and they all embarked on their journey back to Tara.  Once they got home, Eochaid and Mongfind asked how their hunting had gone.  The brothers had announced that Neil should be the new King.

Niall became King and in an effort to bring peace, he dominated all the provinces of Ireland, Britain, and Scotland.  He took hostages from each province to ensure they would not cause any trouble.  Capturing the nine hostages led him to have the name–Niall of the Nine Hostages.  From that point forward—all the Kings of Ireland after that were immediate descendants from Niall of the Nine Hostages.

Maybe I’m biased, but I think this whole story is my new favorite thing now.  Some have argued that this whole story was only made up for children.  (I’m a giant child so there’s that.) But I can’t help but believe in it.  And the best part is—I’m living out his legacy.




Did you enjoy my post? Be sure to leave me a comment below!


Are you related to Niall?  Have you written a post about him?  I want to read it!  Be sure to shoot me an email: so we can connect and collaborate!

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