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Clan McGregor:

an example of a DNA surname project

The Clan McGregor DNA surname project is a large one based, not surprisingly, in Scotland. Currently there are about 300 members involved in the project, and the overall aim is to try to establish who belongs in the McGregor clan by looking at similarities in the DNA of people who take the test and join the project.                          


Here are some of the issues and problems that the project hopes to be able to solve:


  • All men with the MacGregor surname are thought to have descended from one common ancestor, called Gregor. However, as with many surnames, MacGregor may have developed from different origins - some people called Greirson or Grier were thought to be part of the clan but it now turns out that they originated in Ireland, and are descended from the Irish royal line from Niall of the nine hostages.
  • During troubles during Scotland's turbulent history, various members of the clan MacGregor used aliases and these 'false' surnames have been passed down the generations. Using DNA evidence, the project has managed to identify the aliases of Bain and Stirling and have shown that members of these families were originally MacGregors who changed their name. Similarly, true MacGregors, as identified by DNA testing, are today called Campbell, Pressly and McNab.


  • DNA analysis has revealed some goings on during the history of the MacGregors/McGregors. There is evidence that non-MacGregor DNA has got into the male line, perhaps in cases where the paternity of a child was hidden from those at the time. Individuals can't be identified now, but the DNA never lies...


  • The DNA tests have also revealed information about the origins of surnames, which ties in with our current theories of how this happened during the medieval period. The MacGregor clan DNA is also found in people with the surnames Magruder, Grieg, some Stirlings, some Gregorys, and possibly some McGehees The ancestors of these families, now with completely different surnames were probably closely related at a time when surnames were not passed down so uniformly.  

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