Manx Y-DNA Study: – Preliminary Results provide tantalising new glimpses into the early origins of Manx families.

Three years after its start, the Manx Y-DNA study is making slow but steady progress. More than 67% of the indigenous Manx family names are now included in this study, either fully tested or in part, and some new insights are beginning to emerge.

From our knowledge of Manx history we would expect the majority of the population to be of Celtic origin and have early connections to Ireland or Scotland. Also we would expect there to be a proportion of the Manx people who are directly descended from the Scandinavian settlers who occupied the Isle of Man one thousand years ago.

This indeed is the picture that is now starting to be seen in more clarity. Almost a quarter of the Manx population of 500 years ago were still of Scandinavian origin with the remainder of the population at that time showing genetic links to early families in Ireland and Scotland.

Scandinavian Origins: Preliminary analysis of the Y-DNA data is now also starting to provide some indications of when these earlier settlers on the IOM might have arrived from elsewhere. For example it appears likely that the present-day Cain, Keig and Oates families were all the descendants of one individual male Scandinavian settler who arrived on the Island around 1000AD. Their Y-DNA profiles are so close to each other that this is the inescapable conclusion.

We know also that the male ancestors of the Callow, Casement, Killip, Brew, Kinley, Kaighen, Karran, Kneale, Looney and Shimmin families probably all came from Scandinavia as well, and possibly in a similar time period. The Kaighen and Karran families are not closely related genetically although the possible similarity in the sound of their names might lead one to suspect that was the case.

Irish Roots: The Crellin and Garrett families (and probably Crennell) show a specific genetic marker which is more popularly attributed as defining the Uí Néill dynasty of early Ireland. Also Brideson and Quilliam show a particular marker which indicates an early origin amongst the Leinster Irish families. The Manx Crowe family show clear genetic connections to the O’Meagher family of Ireland also.

Scottish Connections: The Clucas family possesses a specific genetic marker which places their early family in Scotland. Similarly the Faraghers and Creers may also find some early connection in Scotland.

Others: There are also a number of other families (Kelly, Christian, Moore, Quark, Callister, Corlett, Gawne, Watterson and Morrison) which show Celtic DNA profiles, but at this stage the level of testing and definition is still not sufficient to be more precise about when and where from they arrived on the IOM.

What Happens Next?

A significant number of Manx families still remain either not fully tested or not tested at all and so more men are needed to take part! Important Manx families not yet involved in the study at all include Curphey, Hutchen, Kennaugh, Kennish, Kinrade, Kerruish, Kinvig, Kissack, Leece, Maddrell, Quayle, Qualtrough, Teare and Sayle. A number of other families are partially tested with, in most cases, just one more man being required to clarify the individual Y-DNA profile for that family.

So any Manxman who is interested in this study and wishes to take part should check the website at and see if his family name is covered.

It is expected that the study will require a further 2-3 years’ work before enough families are included to justify a conclusion and broadcasting of the results – and in that time further knowledge of the detailed structure of the male genetic tree will become available as well as new analytical techniques. It is hoped that greater insights into the precise timing of the arrival of individual families on the Isle of Man will also become possible.

So we would welcome anyone who is interested in supporting this invaluable project, either by including a male family member for testing or even by providing some financial support for others to be tested. If you wish to help contact John Creer via the study website at

A full copy of the Three Year Report can be seen here:-

30 thoughts on “Manx Y-DNA Study: – Preliminary Results provide tantalising new glimpses into the early origins of Manx families.

  1. What a great study and blog. My family is of Manx descent living in the United States. Original couples names were Watterson and Sayle.

    • There is some very deep Y-DNA research in progress on the Manx Wattersons. So watch this space later this year. If you want more information please feel free to contact me off-list. Regards


  2. This is fantastic – I have asked my brother (an original Corkhill) to participate. I found out some years ago that our name Corkhill – translates back to Thor-kell which is obviously Scandinavian so I’m interested to see if our DNA confirms this. Particularly as it has been previously mentioned that it might confirm the higher incidence of cancer in our line (see Icelandic origins). I am happy to contribute to any research if there is any requirement.

    Best wishes

    • Hi Maggy,

      Thanks for your interest. One Cork(h)ill has already been tested and this does suggest that the Cork(h)ills are of Scandinavian origin, but we need more male Manx Cork()ills to be tested to confirm this – so your brother would be ideal. I will contact you off-list to discuss the matter further.
      Thanks again


      • Fab my email address is

        Just in case you are not sure – Corkhill and Corkill I believe were related and possibly one from the north and one from the south from what I can remember – I spoke at length with the historian (I think his name was George Cowley) but it was about 25 years ago! In fact, I think my Dad’s own brothers chose to drop the H out of their name.

  3. You said the modern name Cain; would Caine w/ the E on the end perhaps be Scandinavian as well? My ancestor was Philip S. Caine. Related to Quirks and Bridesons as well. Much thanks. Nicole Caine Tanata

    • It appears that Cain and Caine are used interchangeably in old documents on the Isle of Man referring to the same family. So there is unlikely to be any significance in the different spellings.
      At the moment there appear to be possibly two Cain(e) genetic families living possibly on the IOM but much more research is needed to explain/understand this.

  4. We had a Watterson and a Sayle marriage in 1827. Would the male Watterson bloodline be too diluted in Sayle to be useful for testing now?

    • Hi Alisande,

      We are only testing the y-chromosome present only in men. So only the male descendants of a male Watterson and female Sayle marriage, whenever, will possess the Y chromosome and be capable of being tested. I hope this helps.


      • I am in the US but I have a Watterson brother and Uncle and male cousins… Would they work? It was a long time ago – but there are a bunch of them still here.

  5. Hi Alisande,

    All male Wattersons who are descended from the isle of man should show the same or very similar y-DNA profile. I will contact you separately to discuss further.


  6. Brilliant study. Good to know I’m from good Viking stock !!

    The historical records from about 1250 says McNel (Kneale) a chieftan and large land owner in the north and 3 sons (Dugald, Thorquel, and Molmore) were sent on a mission by King Harald (Harald Olafsson) for some rebellion on the island. Also says the McBrews were attached to the McNels and the McCorkills were also part of the same force.

    Seems those Scandinavian families stuck together!

    • Glad you found it of interest Chris. A fair bit of progress has been found since that update and we suspect that the Kneales and Leeces might also share the same Scandinavian male ancestor as each other. As the study develops we are seeing more and more Manx families, with different unique Manx family names today, who share a single common male ancestor on the Island before family names were adopted.


  7. Good work! I would like to learn even more about my heritage. My great grandmother Josiephien was born as a Keig on Isle of Man. she moved to the US in her teens with her brothers Robert and Bill Keig. So where does this leave me two generations later?

    • Fred,

      The male Keigs are of Scandinavian ancestry, but this is only via the male line and so your g grandmother being female would not share that. Her brothers however would however. This is not to say that you may possess some Scandinavian DNA inherited from another ancestor, but not via the Y- chromosome. Regards

  8. Hi, would be interested to know the origins of my family Gawne, I know we’ve been around a while like but any ideas as to where the name came from in the first place? Everyone tells a different story, some say Ireland (Gawn) and like (Kermod) we both had “E” put on? Other books say there’s a Welsh link?? I’d always assumed it descended from Scotland. I’d be interested to know if you could help?? Keep up your good work with DNA, it’s fascinating and great to know there’s such dedication in this field.

    • Our results on Gawne are incomplete I am afraid. The one test so far indicates a Celtic origin but at least one more male Gawne is needed to be tested and more analysis. If you have any willing male Gawne relatives? cheers

      • I will ask my cousins, hopefully they’ll be willing. Thanks John, I will come back with this.

      • Ramsey, my father, grandfather and greatgrandfather, I don’t know much more than that. I believe there is a line in Douglas related to us. Thanks John, I’m currently enjoying the TT Races!!!!

  9. Pingback: Manx Y-DNA | North American Manx

  10. I was tested (DNA) by Penn State University with these results. 67% British Isles, 19% Scandinavia, 7% Southern Europe, 7% Middle East. I was always told that our family (Watterson) came from the Isle of Man in the 1830’s and settled in western Pennsylvania.
    I hope the results help prove this. Thank you for work.

  11. Pingback: Manx Y-DNA – North American Manx Association

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