Rathlin Man


Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland


Do you remember hearing about cases where scientists recover prehistoric DNA from the skeletal remains in an ancient burial site only to discover living descendants? It’s us! (Along with a few million other people, but who’s counting?) We’re here to focus on the ancestral origins of Guthrie Family Group 2A and the revelations found within its Y-DNA.

Our earliest known relative lived on Rathlin Island, the most northern point of Northern Ireland off the coast of County Antrim….4,000 years ago! This island is also only 11 miles away from the coast of the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland, so it is quite easy to see that our ancestors might have migrated in one direction or the other. Those who study migration patterns of early human populations say that our origins can be found in the Pontic Steppe on the shores of the Black Sea. These people made their way across Northern Europe eventually settling in ancient Ireland, and are now considered to be the precursors to the Celtic people.

At a time long before surnames came into common use, this man is technically not a Guthrie by name, but our direct paternal line DNA is a genetic match, so we do share ancestry.

Three male skeletons were recovered from a burial cist (pronounced ‘kist’), a stone-built grave discovered behind McCuaig’s Bar in Church Bay. The bones were dated to approximately 2026-1534 B.C. Exactly when and why these men arrived on Rathlin Island, or how long they lived there will remain a mystery.

High quality genome testing was performed. Y-DNA is inherited directly from father to son on the male chromosome, while Mitochondrial DNA is inherited directly from the mother and is found in both male and female descendants.

Geneticists determine our origins by examining genetic markers and studying migration patterns. Haplogroups are the designations given to the various human population, which are broken down into related subgroups that continue to branch into smaller subsections that eventually form our modern family trees. The presence or absence of specific markers (SNPs) within the results determines inclusion within a subgroup.

Rathlin1 / RM127
mtDNA: U5a1b1e

Rathlin2 / RSK1
mtDNA: U5b2a2

Rathlin3 / RSK2
Y-DNA: R-L21
mtDNA: J2b1a 

Not only does the Guthrie sample 24607 from GFG2A match Haplogroup R-L21, but more specific testing shows matching to its subgroup R-DF21. This is the same for Rathlin1 and Rathlin2. The Big Tree, a phylogenetic tree for the R-P312 YDNA Haplogroup created by Alex Williamson lists our Guthrie kit’s official placement under the section for P312>Z290>L21>DF13>DF21 that includes Rathlin1 and Rathlin2.

Rathlin1 Haplotree Results:   Z30233+ and FGC3903-
GFG2A Kit#24607 Results: Z30233+ and FGC3903-

The primary Haplogroup listed for most of GFG2A is Haplogroup R-M269. This is one of the most common in Europe, but it is also just the broadest category on our part of the human Haplotree. Half of established Guthrie Family Groups originate from R-M269. Consider that back in the early caveman days, we were all related, but over time our groups migrated to new locations becoming distinct from one another and carrying unique genetic markers and traits that were passed on only to their descendants. 

Additional subclass testing is required to confirm a specific haplogroup by discovering whether an individual’s DNA is positive or negative for various SNPs. Take a look at our Y-DNA Colorized Results Chart to see how our Haplogroup is listed. Most have R-M269 in RED (Unconfirmed Haplogroup based on the raw Y-DNA results). Results in GREEN are confirmed at different levels of SNP testing. R-L21 and R-DF21 are confirmed ‘downstream’ findings. The next level is R-Z30233 with our current listing as R-BY57462.

When Rathlin1’s results were compared to other data collected by researchers studying other Irish groups, it was found that it was positive for Z30233, but negative for FGC3903, unlike previous discoveries. Our participant is the first in the R-DF21 and Subclades Project with identical results. This means that all men in GFG2A can also infer their relationship to Rathlin1. He may or may not be a direct paternal ancestor, but these results appear to indicate that we definitely share one.

Rathlin1 “probably had a light hair shade (61.4%) and brown eyes (64.3%). However, each Rathlin genome possessed indication of at least one copy of a haplotype associated with blue eye color.” Also interesting to note is that Rathlin1 was a genetic carrier of hemochromatosis, known as the ‘Celtic’ disease. It is an inheritable recessive genetic disorder that causes excessive retention of dietary iron. The markers for this disease are found commonly (11%) in the modern Irish population. As it happens, RWG (Kit#24607) has also had testing done at 23andMe to include genetic health data, which showed that a marker for hemochromatosis was present.

Guthrie kit 24607 is specifically listed in a small sub-grouping containing Rathlin2 and one other kit.

Men from GFG2A in our Y-DNA project are encouraged to upgrade their kits to include Big-Y tests or the SNP Packs for R1b-DF21/R1b-L21. Join the R-DF21 and Subclades Project when your results are in. It would be great to provide more genetic proof of our connection to Rathlin1 and Rathlin2.


Source information from Alex Williamson’s Big Tree and Peter Biggins.

Haplogroup R1b: R-P25 (aka R-M343)
The most frequently occurring paternal lineage in Western Europe, as well as some parts of Russia and Central Africa. Everyone in the Haplogroup R1b descends from this prehistoric man.

P312 MAN
4120 BC to 3880 BC
Men with the P312 mutation lived around 5,880-6,120 years ago (about 196-204 generations).  This mutation is the most common SNP across much of Western Europe.

3880 BC to 3040 BC
Western Europe
Men with the L21 mutation lived about 5,040-5,880 years ago (about 168-196 generations).

L21 is sometimes referred to as the “Atlantic Celtic” SNP. In their book The Scots, A Genetic Journey, Allstair Moffat and James F. Wilson say L21 “could be said to be the most emphatic signal of the Celtic language speakers of the British Isles. It is found in England, Wales, and Scotland, and it is almost certainly characteristic of those farming communities who may have spoken early forms of Celtic languages in the centuries around 2,000 BC.”

3040 BC to 2800 BC
Western Europe|Men with the DF13 mutation lived around 4,800-5,040 years ago (about 160-168 generations).

2800 BC to 2680 BC
Men with the DF21 mutation lived around 4,680-4,800 years ago (about 156-160 generations).

Known descendant branches from DF21 Man include:
– S971 (includes the Three Collas)
– Z30233 (includes Rathlin1 Man, Seven Septs of Laois, Isle of Man, and a NE Irish Scottish Cluster)
– FGC3213 (includes S5456 Galway Bay Cluster, S190 Little Scottish Cluster, and P314)
– S5488, which includes the Ely O Carroll Cluster

Z30233 MAN
2025 BC – 1885 BC
Rathlin1 Man was Z30233+, but S971- and FGC3213-, and a likely predecessor to those men in the Galway Bay and Little Scottish Clusters and the Three Collas. He lived on Rathlin Island during the early Bronze Age


FAMILY TREE DNA – R-DF21 and Subclades Project Admin: Rory Cain

[READ REPORT] Cassidy, Laura M. “Neolithic and Bronze Age Migration to ireland and establishment of the insular Atlantic genome.” PNAS, vol. 113 no.2, dos:10.1073/pnas.1518445113

[READ REPORT] Keith, Arthur. “77. Report on Human Remains from Cist Graves, Rathlin Island.” Man, vol. 29, 1929, pp. 98–100., http://www.jstor.org/stable/2789039.

[READ REPORT] Tildesley, M. L. “78. Archaeological Evidence for the Date of Cist Graves, Rathlin Island.” Man, vol. 29, 1929, pp. 100–104., http://www.jstor.org/stable/2789040.

This one has nothing to do with Rathlin1, but it does have to do with Robert the Bruce and Rathlin Island. [ARTICLE]


  1. Hi. My name is Hollie. I have just discovered I am related to a Rathilin Male 1b. Would you mind corresponding with about him?

    Hollie Nichols

    • Hi there cousin many, many times removed! When it comes to Rathlin descendants surnames don’t count for much since they were not really in use back in the Irish Bronze Age. Many of the people matching the Rathlin skeletons are doing so by their Autosomal DNA tests, which means you could be related to either Rathlin Man’s paternal or maternal side and descend from either a son or daughter. In the case of Guthrie Family Group 2A, our match originates from his YDNA, which means we descend from a direct paternal line male. So, we’re related to his father’s side via a son. It’s just interesting to see how someone who lived so long ago is still represented in our genetic make up even if it is through a small percentage.

      • Thank you! On GEDMatch I compared my DNA kit to Rathlin1 and it gave me a surprisingly decent sized match. My Dorris ancestors were indeed from Northern Ireland, having come to the USA from County Down in the 1750s.

  2. Hi Everyone …I have a high DNA match to Rathlin 1 on GED match archaic matches. We have multiple matching segments all over 4cm so from what I understand that’s pretty good for how long ago he lived…Does anyone have more information on R1? Also its nice to meet possible distant relatives😊

  3. Ancient DNA is fascinating, but it would be better to say “ancient relative” rather than “ancestor”. 99.9% of beings that ever existed don’t have descendants that live today, and the Rathlins are statistically there.

  4. Hi, my highest match is to Rathlin 1 on GEDMatch. My direct paternal line is Taylor and from Northern Ireland. Is there a GedMatch group to join for Rathlin 1? I also match Rathlin 2 and 3, just not as high a match as to Rathlin 1.

    Thank you,
    Amy H.

    • I am unfamiliar with the GedMatch Tiers and their discussion groups. The Guthrie (GFG2A) results come through Big-Y and Haplogroup / SNP testing from FTDNA and were included in the R-DF21 and Subclades Project. Keep in mind that the Rathlin skeletons were Irish Bronze Age men and predated the surnames we all use today.

      • My brother tested on ftdna Y 111, which has helped me on my paternal line and Haplogroup group. Haplogroup M269, R1b, L2.

  5. Interesting work! I am a Rathlin1 cousin, falling into the UiMaine Irish FGC6545 Y-DNA clade (although my mother ‘s K1C2 mtDNA might well have been part of the same clade. We are doing research into the Treinfhir branch of the UiMaine and mapping the Y-DNA tree of the Kelly and Treinfhir UiMaine clade. Feel free to visit us at treinfhir dot org slash Treinfhir_DNA

  6. I recently discovered I am 7% Irish, which was a surprise, ever since I’ve been wondering who and where in Ireland I’m connected to, now I know! I have dna shared with rathlin 1, 2 and 3, but mostly with 1. I stumbled across this page by accident while searching for info about my archaic dna matches on gedmatch. So hello !

  7. I share 19.1 cM of DNA with the largest being 5.5 cM, with Rathlin1. I would love to correspond with anyone, in order to try to solidify this connection. Thanks!

    • Our Guthrie family connection with Raithlin1 is via a Y-DNA results. We do not have Autosomal DNA results associated with official testing of the Raitlin skeletons.

  8. Hello all,

    I personally seem to match with Rathlin 1 & the Ballynahatty Women – honestly don’t know want it all mean or the significance of it all, being born in England I do have Irish & Welsh on my fathers side, no idea on my mother’s.

    None the less very interesting & am proud of my Irish & British Isles heritage.