2019 Cultural Summit Speakers

Muirchú and the history of fifth-century Ulster’ by Patrick McDonagh

Irish history in the fifth century is usually depicted as an obscure and shadowy realm. This paper analyses Muirchú’s Life of St Patrick, in particular its narrative of war between the Uí Néill and the Ulaid over the body of St Patrick. By doing so, it seeks to explore what information the Life provides on the history of late fifth-century Ulster and correspondingly when St Patrick died.

Biographical note
Patrick McDonagh is a PhD student at Trinity College Dublin, researching the transnational lordship of the Mortimer family in Britain and Ireland.

'The Annals of the Four Masters as a source for Irish clan history’ by Bernadette Cunningham

The chronicle of Irish history commonly known as the Annals of the Four Masters (Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland) was one strand of a research project masterminded in the early seventeenth century by the Irish Franciscan community at the College of St Anthony in Louvain in the Spanish Netherlands. The initiative was inspired by contemporary European trends in the writing of national histories.

The historical entries included in the Annals of the Four Masters were researched and written in Ireland in the early 1630s, by a team of professional scholars led by the Franciscan lay brother Mícheál Ó Cléirigh, working alongside historians from the learned families of Ó Duibhgeannáin and Ó Maoil Chonaire. Over a period of four years, this team of historians produced a new master narrative of Irish history, drawing on older manuscript material preserved by the learned families to which they belonged. They wrote in Irish, still the dominant language throughout the island of Ireland. The work was translated into English in the mid-nineteenth century, in an edition that is still of special value for the history of the clans of Ireland.

This talk will discuss the sources available to the Four Masters and what kind of information they chose to preserve, so as to illustrate the value and limitations of the Annals of the Four Masters for modern researchers interested in the history of Irish clans.

Biographical note
Dr Bernadette Cunningham is deputy librarian at the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin and honorary editor of Irish History Online. Her research interests are in early modern Irish culture and history, particularly the Irish manuscript heritage. Her most recent book is Medieval Irish pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela (Dublin, 2018). Her other published books include The Annals of the Four Masters: Irish history, politics and society in the early seventeenth century (Dublin, 2010); Calendar of state papers Ireland, Tudor period, 1568-1571 (Dublin, 2010); Calendar of state papers Ireland, Tudor period, 1566-1567 (Dublin, 2009); with Siobhán Fitzpatrick, eds, Treasures of the Royal Irish Academy library (Dublin, 2009); O’Donnell histories: Donegal and the Annals of the Four Masters (Rathmullan, 2007); with Edel Bhreathnach, eds, Writing Irish history: the Four Masters and their world (Dublin, 2007); with Raymond Gillespie, Stories from Gaelic Ireland: microhistories from the sixteenth-century Irish annals (Dublin, 2003); The world of Geoffrey Keating: history, myth and religion in seventeenth century Ireland (Dublin, 2000); with Máire Kennedy, eds, The experience of reading: Irish historical perspectives (Dublin, 1999).

'Analysing and understanding Y-DNA results and Y-DNA projects’ by Patrick Waldron

Men with an interest in their surname history should not only join the relevant surname or clan group, but should also submit a DNA sample for Y-chromosome analysis. Women do not have a Y chromosome, so should find a male relative with the relevant surname to swab.
The Y-chromosome, like the surname, is passed virtually unchanged from father to son, with just occasional mutations. Over tens of thousands of years, these occasional mutations add up to give a wide distribution of different Y-DNA signatures today.
This talk will explain the once-in-the-history-of-mankind SNP mutations which are used to assign men to progressively smaller and more recent ‘haplogroups’ and to place them on the haplotree or ‘tree of mankind’, with the ultimate objective of identifying surname-specific SNP mutations. It will also explain how the more common STR mutations and their varying mutation rates can be used to estimate the number of generations to the most recent common ancestor of two men.
It will also explain how surname or clan groups can set up surname DNA projects, hosted by FamilyTreeDNA.com, and show how the tools provided to project administrators can be used to investigate and explain the surname origins and history.
DNA kits will be available at discounted prices after the talk for those who have not yet swabbed.

Biographical note
Paddy Waldron has degrees in mathematical sciences, economics and finance. The statistical component of these subjects inspired his initial curiosity about drawing genealogical inferences from genetic data. He has used DNA to solve adoption cases and is co-administrator of the Clancy, Durkan, Marrinan, McNamara and O'Dea surname projects and the Clare Roots project at FamilyTreeDNA.com.

Paddy has recruited hundreds of people to genetic genealogy in Clare, Limerick, Mayo and other ancestral heartlands via the DNA Outreach IRL project. He has also served terms as chairperson of the Clare Roots Society and the Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations.  For more information, see his website at http://pwaldron.info/.