Who we are, and who are we?
The Fitzpatrick y-DNA project has found there are several large and distinct groups of Fitzpatricks. Aligning the results of the study with historical records has enabled these larger genetic groups to also be defined by broad geographic locations. They are Fitzpatrick of Ossory, Ó Maol Phádraig Bréifne (Fitzpatrick/O'Mulpatrick of Bréifne), Mac Giolla Phádraig Ulaid (Fitzpatrick/Mac Gilpatrick of Ulster), Mac Giolla Phádraig Laighin (Fitzpatrick/Mac Gilpatrick of Leinster), and Mac Giolla Phádraig Dál Cais (Fitzpatrick/Mac Gilpatrick of the tribe of Cas). These genetic groups fit within those identified by McLysaght as the Clans who were to take the surname Fitzpatrick.
However, the y-DNA project has also revealed the incredible genetic diversity of Fitzpatricks; there are a quite remarkable 54 distinct STR-haplogroups. As expected for a surname that arose in Ireland, the majority of Fitzpatrick haplotypes are associated with those classified as Gaelic or Norse. The most common are R-M269 and I haplotypes. Also represented are haplotypes D-PH43, E-M2, J-M172 and Q-M252, associated with East Asian, Sub-Saharan African, Caucasas/Levantine and Indigenous American origins, respectively.
Three haplogroups (28% of members) show evidence of shared ancestry with other Fitzpatricks from ca. 850-950 AD, i.e., at the dawn of the age of surnames (Ó Murchadha, 1999) in Ireland;
13 haplogroups (7% of members) have no shared ancestry with any surname group from ca. 850 AD;
12 haplogroups (46% of members) from ca. 1300-1600 AD;
12 haplogroups (12% of members) from ca. 1600-1900 AD; and,
14 haplogroups (7% of members) are strongly associated with another surname.
For many in a small number of the large haplogroups, who identify with Bréifne or Leinster, a patrilineal descent from an ancient Pátraic ancestor (e.g., a Mac Giolla Phádraig or Ó Maol Phádraig appears feasible. Also, for 13 single-member haplogroups a patrilineal descent from an ancient Pátraic ancestor cannot be discounted since they have no post-surname connections whatsoever. There are large numbers of Fitzpatricks among four haplogroups, identified alongside Ossory, Munster and Bréifne, who show patrilineal descent from a Pátraic surname during the Late Middle Ages (ca. 1250-1500 AD). The DNA project continues to disrupt the historical narratives of the Ossorians but the origins of the large group of Munster Fitzpatricks will only become clearer via a regime of NGS testing, which is scheduled for 2021. Bréifne has more diverse patrilineal associations with Pátraic surnames than any other kingdom of Ireland.
Many of us have a strong understanding of who we are as Fitzpatricks. But for many the question is, "Who are we?" Whatever being a Fitzpatrick means to you, the Fitzpatrick Clan Society warmly embraces all with connections to the Fitzpatrick surname.
The Clans we know
Fitzpatrick of Upper Ossory
Very much has been written about the Fitzpatricks of Upper Ossory and much of that recorded relates to the line of Barnaby Fitzpatrick (ca. 1478-1575) who was created the Baron of Upper Ossory, by Henry VIII, in 1541.
Many Fitzpatricks who trace to Ossory (i.e., essentially, modern-day Kilkenny and Laois) are readily identified by their distinctive Y-DNA signature, which is shared by Anglo-Irish surname groups. The Y-DNA evidence points to the probable Norman roots of the most documented of all Fitzpatrick septs, challenging the long held beliefs they descend from the ancient Giolla Phádraig dynasts.
Ó Maol Phádraig Bréifne (O'Mulpatrick of Bréifne)
The swathe of territory that is Bréifne has a history of powerful chieftains, conflict and upheaval. Fitzpatricks have long been present in Bréifne with historians recording both Ó Maol Phádraig and Mac Giolla Phádraig throughout the country.
The DNA study has identified at least three different haplotypes associated with Bréifne Fitzpatricks, but with the surname Ó Maol Phádraig being absorbed into Fitzpatrick in the 17th Century it is not trivial to determine who is who.
Mac Giolla Phádraig Ulaidh (Mac Gilpatrick of Ulster)
Edward McLysaght identified the Mac Giolla Phádraig Ulaidh who he referred to as MacGilpatricks, having “an older form of Fitzpatrick almost peculiar to Ulster”.
In the 1901 census Fitzpatricks were significantly more numerous in Ulster than Ossory, being found especially in Counties Cavan, Down, Fermanagh, Monaghan and Antrim. Without the benefit of modern science it can be understood that McLysaght, quite naturally, probably assumed these Ulster MacGilpatricks, who later became Fitzpatricks, were all one clan.
It is now understood from the DNA project that Ulster Fitzpatricks are several distinct genetic groups, but by far the largest are haplotype FGC11134…BY12234. Targeting this group with advanced DNA testing has led to the knowledge they represent one of the oldest Pátraic lineages in the wider Fitzpatrick clan.
Mac Giolla Phádraig Laighin (Mac Gilpatrick of Leinster)
The Y-DNA haplotype of Laighin clans has long been identified as Z255. To date we have identifed two distinct Fitzpatrick lineages that are Z255. The Z255...FT366005 group trace their seventeeth-century ancestry to Colonel John Fitzpatrick, who settled in Barbados, and their deeper ancestry is shared with a large O'Carroll surname group from ca. 850 AD. This raises the obvious question: are these Fitzpatricks the descendants of Cearbhall, king of Ossory (843-888 AD)?
A second group, Z255…BY2849 are numerous. To date we have been able to identify one of their pre-sixteenth-century homelands as Ghráinseach Mac Giolla Phádraig (Grange Mac Gilpatrick) in western Kildare. Fitzpatricks are still found in that area today, but more numerous branches of the clan are found in southern Co.Louth and southern Co.Down, where they appeared in the seventeenth-century.
Mac Giolla Phádraig Dál gCais (Mac Gilpatrick of Cas)
Our Dalcassian Fitzpatricks have been readily identified by their distinct genetic markers, which show they are an ancient surname clan under haplotype Z253...L226, hence sharing a common ancestry with Ó Briain Tuamhain (O’Brien of Thomond) and Ó Cinnéide Tuamhain (O’Kennedy of Thomond).
Mac Giolla Phádraig Dál gCais probably arose in south-west Ireland ca. 1000-1200 AD, but with centuries of upheaval and people-movement across Ireland it is of little surprise to find some members who trace their more recent origins to Co.Galway,
Co.Mayo, and Co.Roscommon.