THERE are 5000 miles and 1000 years between Saratoga, California, and the ancient kingdom of the Isles and Lorn – but a DNA test has helped one man bridge both those gaps and learn more about his birth family than he ever dreamed.

Eddie Sweeney is, according to genealogists, a living link to Dougall, King of the Isle of Man and founder of the kingdom of the Isles and Lorn.

The eldest son of ancient warrior sea-king Somerled, Dougall was the progenitor of three different Scots clans – MacDonald, MacAlister and MacDougall.

Now scientists have identified the genetic marker that distinguishes the MacDougall bloodline from any other.

It’s all down to the YP5543 gene, a mutation of a “signature” gene carried by Somerled.

That’s carried by Sweeney, a retired human resources professional whose career took him from Inverclyde to the USA more than 30 years ago.

The father-of-three was adopted as a baby and had no idea he was a MacDougall descendent until he convinced the order of nuns involved in his adoption to give him access to his papers.

The connection’s been confirmed thanks to cutting-edge work by Strathclyde University, making Sweeney one of 20 men known to have it in his genetic code.

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The MacDougall DNA Research Project is now reaching out for more MacDougall men.

Sweeney told the Sunday National it’s changed his life: “It’s been fascinating.

“It’s overwhelming and very emotional and unbelievable. For many years I had tried to build up my family tree after finding my birth parents’ identities, but family trees are always fraught with inconsistencies. DNA doesn’t lie. And it’s taking me back to 1000 years ago to my 32nd great-grandfather.”

Sweeney was “always terrible at history” and “didn’t learn much about Scottish history” at school, but he’s making up for it now.

The MacDougalls were once amongst Western Scotland’s most powerful and influential families, but their fortunes fell in the early 1300s when the fourth clan chief Alexander MacDougall backed John Balliol against Robert the Bruce as both vied for the Scottish crown.

The MacDougalls then lost much of their land and assets, but some like Dunollie Castle near Oban were restored several generations later. MacDougalls can now be found all over the world, and many of those identified through the DNA work are now in Canada.

Sweeney has made contact with many of them, as he has with the half-brothers and sister he found while researching his birth parents. Adopted into a “beautiful family”, Sweeney was raised in Shotts, North Lanarkshire, before later moving to England.

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He sought details about his birth parents through St Margaret’s Adoption Society, but they were not married and his father’s name was not included in the paperwork. Further information was unlocked through National Records of Scotland and by speaking with his half-siblings.

As well as them, he now feels connected to the other carriers of the Dougall gene found through the project. “They’re just blown away that they are able to connect to the bloodline,” he says. “We now want to reach out to find other MacDougall men to come forward and connect with them too and make that clan line stronger.”

For more details or to apply for a free test, visit