Mackinlay DNA Project


The Mackinlay DNA project exists to try to answer two questions: 1) who are the Mackinlays, and 2) where do they come from? Neither of these questions will be answered absolutely nor immediately since the science behind DNA testing is still young and results are still open to discussion.

 The Y-chromosome is passed from father to son (only), normally unchanged, although occasionally differences do occur, and it is these ‘mutations’ that show how close or far we are from a common ancestor. There are some excellent introductions and explanations available on the web that can tell you much more about the science behind this than is possible here. For a straightforward introduction, try this website (; if you feel that you would like rather more scientific depth, try; or for the really brave,   Once you have your DNA test results you can put your numbers into the Y-STR database of the University of Leiden and see how many people match your haplotype! (Your DNA score is your haplotype - if your haplotype matches someone else’s on 24 or 25 loci, you are likely related. The actual numbers are taken as a group to define which haplogroup you belong to).

As you may already know, or have read on this website, at least one of the Mackinlay lines traces its origin to a McKinlay who lived in the 17th century, although some genealogies go back further, to the 16th, even 14th centuries, yea, perhaps even to King Alpin. King Alpin’s descendants are said to have become the founders of many clans, including the MacKinnons, MacQuarries, MacAulays and MacAlpines. As of 2002, no one from these clans had undertaken DNA testing but the number of new projects increases weekly so we hope that there will be more information available in due course.  Currently, FtDNA conducts testing for 3512 DNA projects, involving 55,020 different surnames with 76,568 Y-DNA records in the database.

Our hope is that over time it will be possible to understand more of the clann’s history from this project. Certainly there is no doubt that those who find that their DNA matches the bloodline will be able to claim a connection with the traditional genealogies, even if, for their particular family, the paper trail has dried up.

We have decided to use the FamilyTreeDNA company, based in Houston, TX, and the tests are processed by the laboratory at the University of Arizona. FtDNA uses up to 67 markers and this is clearly going to produce results. It is considered very likely that two individuals with the same name (or related name) who share 24 or 25 markers in common will have a common ancestor within the recent past.  One should opt for at least the 25 marker DNA test (but, ideally, the 67 marker DNA test) in order to properly move the Mackinlay DNA Project forward.

It is important to explain one aspect of early clan life which has not been much explored simply because there is hardly any written evidence. Early clansmen might well be related by blood, but they might also be related through community - that is by living together and adopting the surname of the principal leader of the community. Those not related by blood are often referred to as ‘part-takers’(or 'broken men'). When such people moved away from the community, or, over a period of several generations, the name would become fixed as a surname. We see this process happening everywhere when surnames appear - John the son of the cooper becomes John Cooper, James of Glasgow becomes James Glasgow. So, sharing a name does not usually mean sharing a RECENT ancestor.

It is most likely that Clann Mackinlay does, indeed have ‘part-takers’ sharing a common ‘Celtic’, probably Dalriadic culture, AS WELL AS ‘part-takers’ whose paternal ancestry is Icelandic or Viking but whose ancestors over 400 years became entwined with the Mackinlays. We should not be surprised to learn of the Scandinavian/Danish/Norwegian connection since the Viking raiders were well known for their activities all along the coasts of Scotland.

In recent months there has been an increase in the number of books dealing with DNA and genetics published. Many studies to date have concentrated on the maternal line (mitochondrial DNA or MtDNA, for short) since this has been widely used by geneticists in population studies. The use of the Y chromosome is still a comparatively young science and a list of some interesting articles can be found at    Dr. McGregor also recommends The Molecule Hunt by Martin Jones (ISBN 0-140289-76-3), which is as good an introduction to the whole field as he has found (it includes discussion about animal and plant DNA and what these can tell us about the lives of our ancestors). A more technical book, but one which has a great number of articles concerning human DNA, is Archaeogenetics: DNA and the population prehistory of Europe edited by Colin Renfrew and Katie Boyle for the McDonald Institute Monograph series (ISBN 1-902937-08-2). Also, I have found DNA and Family History by Chris Pomery (The Dundurn Group, Toronto, 2004) to be most useful.

The following represents, for “purpose of example”, the kind of data that can be portrayed from DNA testing and is graciously displayed, courtesy The Clan Gregor Society website,  More updated data may be accessed by going directly to the Clan Gregor website.  Once Mackinlay DNA Project data us sufficient, similar results for Mackinlays will be displayed.

Results of Clan Gregor DNA testing to April 2003

click on the charts for a close up view

Table A 10/2002

Table B 4/2003 - see notes

Note: As of May 2003 the number scores for 464 a through d have been adjusted. For comparison purposes please read all numbers in these columns as one number lower than given (e.g. 16 becomes 15). Clan Gregor has been advised of this change by Family Tree DNA. The next update will show these scores with the changed numbers. Since only Family Tree DNA uses these markers at present this will not change the comparisons between results in any way.

From the results from the MacGregor tests shown in Table A above, you will see that two individuals share 25 Markers - kit number 2124 representing the family of MacGregor of Glencarnoch (Chief’s line), and kit number 1774 representing the family of MacGregor of Glengyle. Without question these two individuals are descended from Gregor the name father of the clan.

You will also see in Table A that kit number 2125 (although not necessarily typical of the Roro line) representing the family of MacGregor of Roro, has 24 out of 25 markers in common with Glencarnoch and Glengyle. This is entirely consistent with a split from the main family branch in the 14th or 15th century. Kit number 3346 (MacGregor 1) belongs to an individual whose genealogy is not rooted in a paper connection, but who is nevertheless clearly of the MacGregor bloodline, having 25 out of 25 markers in common with the Glencarnoch and Glengyle branches. In this case the project member can confidently associate himself with a descent from Gregor the name-father of the clan despite not having the paper evidence to do so.

Next, compare the results for kits 2363 (Macgregor 2) and 2726 (McGregor 3) and you will see that while these are close to the bloodline they are not from the same immediate ancestor as the four just mentioned. Neither are these two individuals directly related to one another.

What we see is that it is more than likely all six of these individuals do share a common ancestor, but that that ancestor lived perhaps two thousand of years ago, long before the adoption of surnames. and probably somewhere in Ireland . It seems likely then that the all those MacGregors in the project who do not have the bloodline DNA signature were ‘part-takers’. We can also see that the one result which has been carried over from the Oxford Ancestors tests (MacGregor 5 OA only on tree) demonstrates a completely different pattern of marker results and one which is commonly associated with Icelandic/Norwegian stock.

If we now bring all the MacGregor results together we can see that, except for the Icelandic/Norwegian one just mentioned, all lie within the Gaelic/Celtic group (Haplogroup 1) but display a wide diversity suggesting that the adoption of MacGregor surname in the 14th and 15th centuries is completely in line with other clans where adoption of the laird or landowner’s surname was common, and that for the most part those who did so were probably part of the wider Dalriadic, or even pre-Dalriadic, culture originally associated with Ireland. These conclusions have to be speculative at this stage, although with more contributions to the project and increasing testing by laboratories of ‘British’ DNA, we should eventually be able to offer greater precision in dating and linkage.

The chart below also shows results for individuals having surnames historically related with Clan Gregor. Here we can see two MacAdams, one Gregory, one Shankland, one Stirling, one Grier and 2 Griggs. None of these results match the MacGregor line though most are Haplogroup One and therefore possibly Irish in origin. The Nevins test (chart only) is clearly Viking but at the moment interpreting the Stirling result is problematic. We could even be looking here at a signature that is the result of Roman activity!

It should be said that it is still not clear how to identify the DNA signatures for the original population of Scotland who first arrived after the last glaciation and whom the archaeologists identify as hunter-gatherers. It is also not possible to distinguish between Scots and Picts at this time. This is likely to prove quite difficult to achieve.

One or two final comments: as mentioned earlier we have been able to make a comparison between these DNA results and some results for Grier and Grigg.   The markers show that the individuals who have tested are not related to the MacGregor bloodline, and are in fact quite unrelated. This will not necessarily be true for everyone with these names and some matches may be found in due course.

A Word About Other Clans

We have been able to compare some Campbell and some Stewart data with that of the MacGregor project. It is important to say that we have no idea to whom this information belongs, whether from a ‘proved’ bloodline or from a ‘part-taker’, but what is clear is that there is a reasonably close connection with the MacGregor bloodline (18 out of 21 in the case of two Campbells and 23 out of 25 for one Stewart) which helps to confirm a common Dalriadic origin - our histories are clearly more intertwined than we knew and for longer than just the last 700 years.

Clan Gregor is keeping in touch with the Stewart project because the origin of that clan should be Brettonic and, therefore, some interesting comparisons will be possible. However, there is a catch - there is a well attested and documented tradition that the MacGregors of Ardinconnel adopted the surname Stewart and fled or went to Ireland becoming in due course Marquesses of Londonderry! If the Stewart individual tested could be proved to be connected to the Londonderry line, this would be very interesting!

click on an image for a close up view

Original - October 2002

Updated - April 2003 - see notes for details

All the results have been entered into a ‘phylogenetic tree’, developed by Fluxus Engineering. Dr. McGregor has labeled it to make the information clearer and thinks this helps to clarify some of the genetic distances involved, as well as showing the clustering associated with haplogroup 1.

As indicated earlier, the more people who take part in this programme the more we will understand about our origins. I encourage you to contact me via email. Why not take part in the adventure? As Dr. McGregor wrote to one enquirer on the Clan Gregor webpage, “kinsmen are united by blood or by community, by descent or by association, but DNA is about exploring our deeper past”.

Please remember that only males can take this test although it is quite usual for this to be organised by a member of the female line on behalf of brothers or cousins. The tested individual should bear the Mackinlay name, a spelling variant or a supposed alias. Mitochondrial DNA testing is available to both genders but does not link with paternal DNA inheritance at all.

All of the above detail on the DNA project is graciously “reproduced” from the Clan Gregor website through the courtesy of:

Dr. Richard McGregor
Chairman, Clan Gregor Society
DNA Project Coordinator

Please see for more details