Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Maine Gaeltacht DNA Project

Last week, I profiled the genealogy holdings and services at the Maine Irish Heritage Center (MIHC) in Portland. The jewel in the crown at MIHC, though, is undoubted the Maine Gaeltacht[1] DNA Project.

It was started in 2011 and is essentially an attempt to trace the genealogy of Irish immigrants to Maine via the traditional paper trail and DNA. To date it has collected information on more than 142,000 such immigrants and their descendants and 535 people have participated in autosomal DNA tests.[2] The well known Irish genetic genealogist, Maurice Gleeson, has described it as "the most advanced DNA project of its kind in existence."[3]

The project is named so due to the high number of Irish immigrants who came from the Irish speaking areas of County Galway, such as Connemara. What makes the project even more valuable is that many people from Connemara have submitted samples for DNA testing.

The project was profiled in the Portland Press Herald newspaper back in March. The article gives an excellent overview of the project and what it has achieved so far. Members of the project traveled to Ireland last year to present a lecture at the Back to Our Past Genetic Genealogy Ireland conference. You can watch that presentation below (53 mins).

If you want to participate in the project you can contact the MIHC online.

[1] Irish word for an Irish speaking area.
[2] Bouchard, Kelley. Thanks to DNA ancestry project, Mainers with Irish ties find family. Portland Press Herald. 17 March 2016. Available online at http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/17/thanks-to-dna-ancestry-project-mainers-with-irish-ties-are-smiling: accessed 3 April 2015.
[3] Ibid.

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