The Isle of Man: Historically a more closely-knit community than we think!

The Isle of Man is only small in physical size (221 square miles) and its population relative to its neighbours has always been small also. Until the 19th century the majority of the population worked on the land or sea and lived in, or close to, the countryside.

Any movement of the population was largely limited to farmers seeking new farmland to rent or people marrying someone from another parish. In this rural community it was common for marriages to take place between neighbouring families and, over the centuries, many of them ended up related to each other in some way or another, within a parish or surrounds. The result of this is that the community of the Isle of Man has always been closely-knit and everyone tended to know or know of their near family relatives. Anyone researching their own Manx family history today will find that fact out quickly and see the same range of other Manx surnames marrying into their own ancestral family.

Those people living on the Isle of Man, whose families have lived there since the last 500-1000 years or so, are identified by their range of unique family names. In early times individuals were originally only known by their single or personal names. Such personal names were often nicknames or descriptive (e.g. Duggan = “little dark man”) but around 1000 years ago the Celtic patronymic system of names started to be adopted.

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The Incidence of Non-Paternal Events (NPE’s) in men of Manx origin


One of the challenges that genetic genealogy researchers face when carrying out Y-DNA testing on groups of men within a family surname study is to identify which male haplotype profile actually represents the ancestral genetic line for that family. Various studies suggest that the possible incidence of non-paternal events (NPE’s) may be a significant factor to be dealt with.

An interim analysis of the results being obtained from the ongoing Manx Y-DNA study is able to provide a new and relevant perspective on this issue

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William Alfred Clucas: The forgotten casualty

William Alfred Clucas, Douglas Promenade War Memorial.

William ‘Alfred’ Clucas, Douglas Promenade War Memorial.

The name William Alfred Clucas (1889-1914) may not be one that immediately springs to mind in connection with the Manx history, but Alfred or ‘Alf’ as he was more commonly known, has something of an inauspicious honour (as far as my research can tell) of being the first Manxman killed during the First World War, a hundred years ago today (26th August 1914).

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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:-

Early ramblers on the Isle of Man

Thomas Denton[1] in his perambulations around the Island in the late 1680s, makes little mention of the state of the roads or tracks, perhaps they were similar to those he encountered in Cumberland, and elsewhere, and therefore unnoteworthy. David Robertson[2] who toured the Island in 1791, is likewise uncritical, however he did notice ‘the bevy of country-lasses, going at that early hour to Douglas-market’. They were seated on small horses with panniers; one side of which were filled with the produce of their little farms[3], and the other generally balanced with pebbles.’ This at least proves that even the young women from ‘little farms’ used horses to transport their goods to market. Whether the lack of a cart is due to insufficient produce, poverty, or the unsuitability of the roads is perhaps open to question.

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