Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

Irish DNA Atlas Project Launched

21 October 2011

Today at the ‘Back To Our Past' show at the RDS, the Genealogical Society of Ireland and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland launched an important All-Ireland project to create a collection of DNA samples from individuals of Irish origin, which will be used to explore human genetic variation in the Irish population.

Over the past decade or so genealogists from around the world have become increasingly intrigued by the possibilities afforded through the advances in genetic genealogy to augment or confirm our traditional record based research.

This new project is aimed at promoting an awareness, appreciation and knowledge of genetic genealogy.

Operationally the project has two strands, genealogy and genetics.

  1. to further our knowledge of the population history of Ireland and its connections with other populations in Europe and
  2. to help us understand how genes influence health in Ireland through the creation of a resource for use as ‘healthy' controls in researching how genes influence common diseases in Ireland, including (though, not confined to) diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

The collection and scientific analysis of this type of data, may make it possible to identify genetic risk factors for disease and with this information, improve the nature of future treatments, including drug design or indeed lifestyle decisions on how to prevent the development of disease in the first place.

As the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland is one of Ireland's foremost health research institutions, this project will have both a national and an international dimension involving researchers in a number of different fields.

This joint project will compile an ‘Irish DNA Atlas' through the collection of genealogical information and DNA samples to investigate the diversity of the Irish genome, which is a valuable, yet largely unexplored, resource of the Irish nation.

As an island population on the edge of Europe, Ireland has a rich cultural heritage that is the product of a number of ancient migrations from the neighbouring island and from mainland Europe.

Understanding and preserving this history enriches our culture. Although historical records and archaeological studies have uncovered many wonderful aspects of Irish history, there are many questions left unanswered.

Irish DNA Atlas

(L-R) Rory Stanley, Society President; Dr. Gianpiero Cavalleri, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland; Pádraig Ingoldsby, Society Cathaoirleach and Séamus O'Reilly, Director of Archival Services, Genealogical Society of Ireland.

The ‘Irish DNA Atlas' will provide valuable information on the migration and settlement patterns across the island of Ireland - from our first farmers to the plantations of sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

This research will assist historians and archaeologists in their analysis of existing records or studies.

The project is not only concerned with the movements and interrelationships of population groups, it also has an immensely valuable contribution to make to the study of the health of the people of Ireland.

The project is headed by Dr. Gianpiero Cavalleri, a genetic scientist at RCSI. The genealogical aspects of the project will be directed by the Genealogical Society of Ireland through its Archive & Research Centre - An Daonchartlann - based at the Carlisle Pier, Dún Laoghaire Harbour, Co. Dublin.

Participants are sought from all parts of the island of Ireland who can trace their eight great grandparents to a general area - for example, south Co. Wicklow / north Co. Wexford - areas within say 30kms radius of the main homestead.

Each participant will be given a Birth Brief (Ancestry Chart) by the Genealogical Society of Ireland which should be completed back to, at least, the eight great grandparents.

Participants are free to choose whether to partake in both the ‘historical' and ‘health' studies or indeed, just the ‘historical' if they so wish.

The data collection is by a simple mouth swab which is forwarded directly to RCSI for analysis.

The Genealogical Society of Ireland published a newsletter detailing the various aspects of the new project which is available on-line at

If you are interested in taking part in the project email