Cuindlis Genetics

This page is the bare beginning of a potential project to collect genetic tests results of DNA of McCandlish, McCandless, Conlisk, Quinlish, and related families and see what we can learn from them.

A Cuindlis genealogy project would be interesting for several reasons:

  • Help establish the closeness of connections between two lineages of the same surname for which paper documentation is incomplete.
  • Show a direct familial connection between McCandless, McCanless, etc. families of Ulster and McCandlish, Candlish, McCandelish, etc. families of Scotland (which so far has been often suggested in genealogies without any actual proof).
  • Either prove or provide evidence against a familial connection between the Conlisk/Quinlisk/Cundlish (Ó Cuindlis) families of west-central Ireland and the McCandlish/McCandless (Mac Cuindlis) families of Scotland and Ulster.
  • Demonstrate that a few names that seem only to be found in the diaspora (e.g. McCanlies) are (or are not) directly related.
  • Home in on one or more general locations of genetic concentrations, to try provide some evidence for claims such as that McCandlish originated in Stirlingshire, and that the Conlisk/Cundlish/Quinlisk families originated in Galway.

Aggregate data from Cuindlises around the world would be helpful, but most helpful of all would be genetics from people in Scotland and Ireland, who are of Cuindlis-related names, from lineages that have been there for many generations.

We also especially need someone more intimately familiar with genetic genealogy, who is more competent than the overall website maintainer in interpreting, managing and presenting such data.

So far we have one set of results, from our forum member Kerry McCandlish (originally of Scotland, now in Wales).

Case Study: Kerry McCandlish’s Results

So far, there is Y-chromosome (male lineage) information: Y-DNA marker R-S190, a variant of R-S424, and of R-L21, R-DF21, and R-S3058 more specifically; and with the DYS464a=13 Y-STR marker.

It must be stressed that this is one single data point that needs to be combined with more data to get a broader picture. Kerry’s ancestry is not your ancestry, and his results might have little in common with your own, especially if you are in the Gaelic diaspora and thus part of a broader genetic “melting pot”. Kerry’s results are of particular interest because of his family’s long multi-generational habituation in Scotland. But even then his results may differ sharply from others in the same category; only time and more data will tell.

Haplogroup R1b (also known as R-M343, Hg1 and Eu18) is the most common from Western Europe to Russia and Central Asia, and south to the Sahel region of Africa. R1b with with R1a, found from Scandinavia to South Asia, are believed to have spread from the Pontic–Caspian steppe in Eastern Europe/Western Asia along with the Indo-European languages (see details in discussion of the R-L21 sub-clade, below). R1b’s sub-clade R1b1a1b-M269 dominates in Western Europe.

A branch of this, R-S424 (or just S424, also known as FGC3189 and rs768935040), is a DNA marker in haplogroup R1b (under R-L21, R-DF21, and R-S3058). R-S424 formed about 3900 years ago, with the most recent common ancestor about 3000 years ago. It was originally nicknamed the “Little Scottish Cluster” because so many men with this marker trace their ancestry to southern and central Scotland; it also occurs across the British Isles, less commonly in France and Scandinavia, and curiously in Central Asia. But it is now considered ancestral to the “Little Scottish Cluster”, which is now more narrowly defined by R-S190, a derivative of R-S424.

R-S190 (or just S190, also known as R-CTS2187, LSC1, rs1005507805, or R1b1a2a1a1b3a7d1, and nicknamed Maeatae) formed about 3000 years ago, with the most recent common ancestor about 1700–2000 years ago. It is common throughout the British Isles, and also found in small quantities in France and Central Asia. R-S190 has been loosely associated with the Stirling area of Scotland, believed to have been part of the ancient homeland of the Maeatae, a confederation of Calendonii/Pictish tribes north of the Antonine Wall in the Romano-British period, first recorded by name in Cassius Dio’s Historia Romana (book 77), ca. 230 AD. However, there are serious issues with associating modern DNA-sample distribution with ancient populations (for which we usually have no DNA samples). For a summary of the problems, see toward the end of this article.

At any rate, R-S190 is strongly associated in the “Little Scottish Cluster” with DYS464a=13, which is a variant of the DYS464 Y-STR marker (a Y-chromosome short tandem repeat). DYS464 is the most diverse of the known Y-STR markers, which seems to suggest that variation it in may be more diagnostic than usual as to localized genetic relationships.

Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with R-S190:

  • S3027 / A68 / FGC3182
  • S3032 / A70 / FGC3184
  • S427 / FGC3191
  • Y16747
  • CTS2187 / S190
  • CTS9333 / S307
  • S3029 / FGC7850
  • S309 / FGC3185
  • Y7896 / FGC3205
  • S308 / A71 / FGC7853
  • S3034
  • Z633 / S3028 / FGC3177 / Z36425

The aforementioned R-L21 (a.k.a. R-M529, R-S145, or R1b1a2a1a2c) sub-clade of haplogroup R1b, a group ancestral to R-S424, is found across Western and Northern Europe. The also aformentioned R-DF21, also ancestral to R-S424, is found mostly in western Britain, eastern Ireland, and the Isle of Man between them, but also in the Lower Rhine area of Germany; its sub-sub-clade R-S3058 has been described as “a prolific British Isles lineage”. All of these are associated with the Bell Beaker culture, a proto-Celtic (and proto-Italic, proto-Germanic, and proto-Balto-Slavic) group of the Neolithic era who covered Western Europe from around 2800 BC to 2300 BC, and lasted longer in the British Isles, to around 1800 BC. They later developed (with admixture from outside) into the more distinct cultures of the European Bronze Age (the Urnfield culture, the Tumulus culture, and the Hallstatt culture, the last widely regarded as early Celtic). Genetic studies of Hallstatt remains have demonstrated continuity all the way back to Bell Beaker, but with about 50% admixture from the Western Steppe Herder culture that in the best-accepted models so far is closely associated with the spread of Indo-European languages and (after further admixture with Neolithic early farmer populations) of farming into Europe and much of the rest of Eurasia.

None of this is suprising, of course (except perhaps to those who believe in the Arthurian-era fairytale that the Britons were actually descended from the Scythians/Sarmatians). We should not wonder that there is genetic continuity in Western Europe, including the British Isles, dating back to prehistory. Even when invasions happened (and many of them happened in Scotland, England, and Ireland from prehistory to the high middle ages) invading men typically started families with local women, and invading forces typically were a warrior elite who made serfs of the local population rather than wiping them out (land with a labour force being much more productive than empty land). Some interesting reading is Blood of the Isles a.k.a. Saxons, Vikings, and Celts: The Genetic Roots of Britain and Ireland by Bryan Sykes.


There are other considerations than the warning above that a very small (in this case one-person) sample can’t tell us anything reliable about an entire family’s background.

Such genetic markers pre-date the emergence of surnames, so any given marker is going to correspond to many surnames. The reverse is apt to also be true, because surnames, unlike Y chromosomes, were not always inherited in orderly fashion from father to son (especially in Scotland where adoption of the name of a clan was common); the same surname often has multiple derivations; the same families often had multiple names (some of which could coincide with those of other families); and people move and intermingle, and always have. That said, names derived from Cuindlis may be in a better position than average, because even the given name was rare, so the number of instances of a patronymic from someone of that given name turning into a modern surname independently is probably quite low. Contrast this with, say, Smith or its equivalents in other languages like German Schmidt and Irish [Mac]Gowan (Irish Gaelic Gobhann); any number of completely unrelated people would have arrived at such a surname because it was their occupation. Then there’s the convergence problem; e.g., the Scottish name [Mac]Gavin can be independently derived from the same Gaelic root as Gowan, or from Gaelic Gábháin ‘danger’, or from the Welsh and otherwise Brittonic name Gawain, or from Norman French Galvin, Gauvain, among other possible sources. Next, consider that names of various large Scottish clans like Campbell and [Mac]Gregor were often assumed by unrelated crofters and other retainers living on clan lands (meanwhile many Gregors, during a period of proscription of their name, adopted other names and didn’t change back when the proscription was lifted). Cuindlis and its derivatives probably have it pretty easy.

It should be kept in mind also that every human on earth today has a common ancestor at about 3,500 years ago, and a whole lot of common ancestors by about 5,000 years ago. This, and the fact of the doubling of ancestors at each generational step backwards, means that Y-chromosome (male) and mitochondrial DNA (female) ancestors we can trace with genetics are only a decreasingly meaningful sliver of our ancestry the further back we go; into prehistory the genetics verge on not meaningful at all (except in comparison to other achaeo-genetic samples). Even genetics companies claiming you have a Viking ancestor or a Roman Legion ancestor has been sharply criticized as being pseudo-scientific and akin to “genetic astrology” (see this article for an overview). Many of Western Europeans’ genes are actually from the Near and Middle East, and even in the British Isles there’s a significant portion of North African (via ancient to medieval Spain) markers. Having an identifiable marker associated with, say, Ulster doesn’t provably make you “more” north Irish than someone who lacks it, since most of our ancestors’ contributions to our ancestry have been snipped out of our genome at one generational divide or another. Which genes you happened to get from the many, many of them that were possessed by all of your innumerable ancestors is something of a “genetic lottery”.

Genealogical genetics is thus more useful toward the modern end of the spectrum (e.g. identifying your close cousins) than in deeper time.

Amateur phylogeography in particular – the assigning of origin places to specific genetic markers – is rather dubious and should be taken with a grain of salt. For example, an attempt has been made to identify various sub-sub-clades of R-DF21 with particular medieval Irish dynasties/tribes/clans, based on the geography of the concentrations of “the surnames associated with those tribes forming a cluster with DF21”. However, the actual surname correspondences do not well agree with historical Gaelic genealogies, so that particular project seems to be confusing the genealogical picture more than elucidating it. (For details, see the project’s homepage.) The disappointing results are probably because of the poor correspondence between genetic marker distribution today and historical places of residence, as well as people taking on kin-group (clan, tribe, etc.) names after moving or after having their area change dynastic hands.


“R-S424: FGC78902 * S424/FGC3189 * Y2836/FGC7849”;; 21 July 2023; Y-Chr Sequence Interpretation Service; (accessed 2023-09-11).

“R-S190: S3027/A68/FGC3182 * S3032/A70/FGC3184 * S427/FGC3191”;; 21 July 2023; Y-Chr Sequence Interpretation Service; (accessed 2023-09-11).

“DNA Marker: S424”;; 2023; Genetic Homeland LLC; (accessed 2023-09-11).

“DNA Marker: S190”;; 2023; Genetic Homeland LLC; (accessed 2023-09-11).

“R-DF21 Computed Origin Near Isle of Man”;; 12 January 2020; (accessed 2023-09-11).

“R-S3058 Likely Born or Migrated to Scotland or Northern England by 1900 BC”;; 12 January 2020; (accessed 2023-09-11).

Various Wikipedia articles, most of them linked in the text, but also “H1b” and a few others.

Last modified 2023-09-11 by SMcCandlish.