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FAQ & Help.

Why do some menu items not work properly?
What is Molecular or Genetic Genealogy?
Why is the test for males only?
What tests are recommended?
What are the origins of my name and Ulster names?
What do I do when I receive notification of a match?
How can I obtain help understanding my results?


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Molecular Genealogy or Genetic Genealogy is the use of DNA science to research one’s family history and genealogy. Most genealogist have encountered the infamous "brick walls" in their research. These "brick walls" occur when there are no primary paper records and your research dead-ends. DNA testing can confirm paternal relationships and go around these brick walls. You can connect to other families with your surname that could have information relevant to your family or confirm a connection that you believed was there but had no proof. Since the nature of Ulster Heritage is one of immigration and Diaspora, the DNA testing can allow you to locate and meet family members around the world and in Ulster.

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Males Only - We use the paternal Y chromosome DNA test. The Y chromosome is passed from father to son. For this reason, it is a male only test!

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Recommended Tests - We recommend the 37 or 67 marker test because these tests provide more data. We find the 67 marker test particularly useful. It is a case of the more markers you have, the more useful data you will have. Because the populations of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, etc., are remarkably homogenous, the 12 and 25 marker tests will produce many matches and not all of them will be truly relevant. Tests that appear tantalisingly close on the 25 marker test will often be revealed as a non-match when put to the 67 marker test. This will effectively eliminate false leads that waste time. And conversely interesting cusp matches on the 25 or 37 often stay true on the 67 marker result, proving they are a relevant match.

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Gaelic origin surnames: Most Ulster surnames are from Gaelic origins. This is true for Ulster Scots, Native Irish, and Hebridean and Highland Scottish origin families and even Norman families often took Gaelic surnames. Most Gaelic surnames have multiple anglicised forms. The County Antrim name of Mac Eáin for instance is anglicised as Johnson, Johnston, McCain, McCane, McKain, McKane, McKean, McKeen, etc.

Be aware that there are multiple forms of any given Ulster surname and incorporate this into your research. Make sure you tick the ‘allow non surname matches’ on your Family Tree Settings page.

Another example of this is the Sean Gall Norman family named Bisset. This family used the surname Mac Eóin and this became anglicised as McKeon and McKeown. All four names, Bisset, Mac Eóin, McKeon, and McKeown can be the same surname in Counties Antrim and Down. Pay attention to matches not only of your surname, but also to any of its variations and try to educate yourself on other surnames used by your family.

Anglicised surname forms can change from Parish to Parish, even from township to township. The name McCaughan is from the name Ó Catháin when from the Ballintoy area, yet a McCaughan from Coleraine may be from the Mac Eacháin family. Some names were anglicised by a translation and others kept their Gaelic name but put it into English or even Ullans orthography. The very English sounding surname of Hazelwood comes from an old Ulster name, Mac Conchollachoile (Son of the Hound, or ‘protector’ of the Hazelwood) and is an example of a surname being translated. The name McKane on the other hand is an English language phonetic rendering of the name Mac Eáin. The name Maoldearg meaning tonsured red-haired man is anglicised as Reid, an Ullans version of Red.

The world of Ulster surnames is sometimes complex, there are cases where a family took a maternal surname due to some social or local political reason or a son taken his fathers forename as his surname. Often local histories around Ulster will have accounts of these occurrences. DNA testing can help researchers work around such obstacles and get to the real but hidden story. A match can lead to additional information such as in-law families, geographic locations, that when combined with some traditional genealogical work can produce very full histories.

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Match Notification: When you receive notification of a match, you will also have the email address of the match. The best way to proceed is to email the person and compare notes. Some very stunning genealogical breakthroughs have taken place using this simple procedure. Even with non-surname matches, often, there is an easy and logical explanation of the different surname. Many times, it is just a case of a child losing a father at a young age and being raised by his maternal relations or perhaps being adopted by a step-father. Other times it could be a variation of your own surname that you did not recognize

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Help is Available: If you feel a little overwhelmed don’t despair, often a trained eye can spot patterns and connections in your results not recognizable to the average researcher. Someone who has the Gaelic language and is knowledgeable of the history of Ulster, the southern Isles and Kintyre, can examine your results and put them into an understandable and meaningful form that can give you insight into your family’s history and useful avenues of research.

Professional help is available for a modest flat fee by contacting Barry McCain.

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