Critique of Irish Origenes' Bowes Case Study


[Update - University College London's Molecular and Cultural Evolution Lab has included the Origenes business in its page titled Dubious Commercial Claims.]

A business called Irish Origenes has produced a case study of the Irish Bowe(s)* surname called "Pinpointing the Bowes Paternal Ancestral Genetic Homeland (using commercial ancestral Y-DNA testing)". [1] Although it's written by Tyrone Bowes who owns Irish Origenes, he doesn't administer any part of the Bowes One-Name Study or DNA Project and his businesses are unrelated to this volunteer effort.

Origenes' Bowe(s) study stems from Tyrone's thinking about his own yDNA results. Indisputably, his yDNA matches surnames — including Carroll and Flanagan — that are historically associated with the Ely Carroll place and people of Offaly and Tipperary. Among the matching Carrolls is a documented, modern descendent of the territory's O Carroll chiefs. Consequently I've called this the "Ely Carroll" subgroup in the Bowes DNA Project. Research into Ely Carroll yDNA continues.

Origenes includes its Bowe(s) case study material in numerous articles and presentations, from Seattle to London and many places in between, as an example of how it uses Y chromosome DNA (yDNA) to study surname origins. These Bowe(s) materials are often posted online. Because I think almost all of the Bowe(s) case study is misleading, the more widely it's disseminated the more important it becomes to offer my perspective.

Generally, this review provides:
  • Context that's necessary to better understand Irish Bowe(s) history.
  • Concepts useful to those interpreting other Origenes case studies.
  • Material to show that while Origenes repeatedly relies on the notion that "DNA doesn't lie", DNA can be and often is misinterpreted.
Specifically, this review addresses the following inaccurate claims made by Origenes:
  • One can "pinpoint" the Bowe(s) "genetic homeland" within a five-mile radius near Abbeyleix, Laois, using yDNA results, surname mapping, placenames and other material.
  • Subsequent yDNA testing of Bowe(s) has confirmed the "pinpointed" homeland.
Since my own research into the Irish Bowe(s) continues, it will be a while before I complete it and write up my findings on their surname origins. The length of this limited overview belies the complexity and time-consuming nature of thorough research into Irish surnames.

In the south of Ireland Bowes is a variant of Bowe, so I use Bowe(s) to refer to them.


Origenes' Bowe(s) case study, along with all its other ones, incorporates genetics, genealogy, cartography, placenames and history, just as this and many other one-name studies do. Adequate treatment of such diverse fields requires consultation with experts specialized in each of them. 

I'm grateful for all the valuable input provided from:
  • David Bachinsky, PhD, Co-Admin of the Bowe(s) DNA Project (David has an academic and career background in human genetics and is also a member of the Ely Carroll yDNA subgroup through his cousin.)
  • Highly credentialed and qualified members of the Guild of One-Name Studies (founded 1979)
  • Placename scholars with the Placenames Branch in Ireland
  • Other recognized experts from documentary research


Of course any errors here of fact, interpretation, inclusion or exclusion are mine alone. My study of Irish Bowe(s) continues to progress and I often readjust my thinking as new information arises. I'll revise this review as needed, so please feel free to correct or question this analysis. Doing so at the Anthrogenica forum will help consolidate commentary on Origenes' studies in one online location. I have linked to this page from there.

May 21, 2014

[1] Bowes, Tyrone, "Pinpointing the Bowes Paternal Ancestral Genetic Homeland (using commercial ancestral Y-DNA testing)", Irish Origenes (Updated Oct 2013). (URL:; accessed 25 Apr 2014)