Wednesday, 20 May 2009


I had an email today from someone in Surrey, England enquiring whether the name 'McIlhagga' relates to the name 'McHarg'. He had read that I had begun to research this question using the new science of DNA analysis. One would only get into this if all other avenues of searching had closed down. The issue was this: a McHarg DNA Project had approached me wanting to know whether I had any proof of the two names being connected, perhaps one being a variant of the other. Doubtless they had got this possibility from one of the authors who had linked the names. If you look up MacHarg in MacLysacht's The Surnames of Ireland it simply says, 'Tyrone name is an earlier form of Maharg. See MacIlhagga'. Under MacIlhagga he has 'A Scottish name found in Co.s Antrim and Derry. MacElhargy, MacIlhargy and Maharg are variants of it'. Robert Bell in The Book of Ulster Surnames follows him. I disagree. George F. Black in The Surnames of Scotland, in a longish section on MacHarg doesn't mention MacIlhagga. In all my research into the clan name I have come across many variants, but never McHarg, nor indeed MacElhargy nor McIlhargy.

So I had my DNA analysed! I opted to have a 37 'markers' test which is meant to give you a very accurate comparison of your genes with those of someone else. The 'super test' goes up to 67 markers. As a result you are told your 'haplogroup' and what it means and you are told the names of the people who 'match' you. My haplogroup is R1b1c which apparently is the most common group of people in European populations. It is believed to have expanded throughout Europe as humans re-colonized after the last glacial maximum 10-12 thousand years ago. Surely I was going to find a DNA match? But no! Out of the tens of thousands of people who have been tested I do not (yet) have anyone who matches me exactly with 37 markers, nor even with 25 markers! I know that 6 MacHargue and one McHarg men have been tested, but not one of them appeared in my 'matches' - not even down to 12 markers!

Is this enough to say that there is no link between McIlhagga and McHarg and that the two names are definitely not related? Well, not quite. I am the only McIlhagga who has been tested and although I do not know of any breaks in my ancestral line - I don't know of any putative fathers - there may have been one, way back. The only way to progress this search is to have more McIlhaggas tested. Only results from a number of tests would endorse my views on the relation of the clan to the McHargs - or not! But who knows, will anyone else come forward to have their DNA analysed?

No comments:

Post a Comment