This programme, which has recently been repeated, began in 2017 with the duo meeting the legendary Borders historian Alistair Moffat, who just happens to be the uncle of a friend of theirs. Following DNA tests, it was revealed that McPartlin’s great-grandfather, Peter, had joined the 103rd (Tyneside Irish) Brigade and fought at the Battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916, having won the Military Medal on a previous occasion. One of Donnelly’s male line ancestors, James, had fought in the Crimea but had a more chequered career. He was court-martialled for desertion and habitual drunkenness and eventually discharged as his sight faded.
The viewer is introduced to a series of the duo’s new cousins. Dixie Carter, related to Donnelly, is a Texan businesswoman involved in wrestling and we see her being thrown through a table. We also see the ruins of the Draperstown church in which James Donnelly was christened. Also in Ireland, a County Leitrim village (Drumkeeran) is shown to have a large contingent, over a hundred indeed, of McPartlins, McPartlands and other spellings, but all with the correct DNA and who meet Ant in a pub next to a garage. As the first part drew to a close, the pair were travelling to New York to meet more relatives, whilst they address McPartlin’s personal problems that delayed the series.
In the second programme, they explored their maternal lines. In 1922, Joseph McAllister, first cousin of McPartlin’s grandfather, sailed on the SS Colombia from Londonderry to arrive at Ellis Island. The duo met Joseph’s granddaughter Janet in Philadelphia, along with several other relatives. At the headquarters of the United Nations in New York, it was explained that his K1A DNA goes back to Mesopotamia, thousands of years ago. Donnelly’s HI marker makes him a descendant of the more recent Beaker Folk. They are introduced to another of his cousins and her family.
They then returned to Ireland, firstly Fermoy, from which railway station McPartlin’s grandmother left for Newcastle as a child, sailing from Rosslare after losing her mother at two. They find yet another cousin, Barbara Llewellyn, there.
Alistair Moffat (left) and Professor Jim Wilson from Edinburgh University now reappear to reveal that the McPartlins are part of the McGowan clan, descended from Ui Briuin, a king of Connacht and contemporary of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy. Donnelly, however can claim descent from Aed Findliath, ninth century High King of Ireland, through the Donnelly descent from the McLauglins. Both are revealed to carry the S660 marker, as did a Viking from the same era found near Dublin, thus being distant cousins to each other.
In fact, a Mail on Sunday article, via Robert Barrett suggested that McPartlin is also descended from Elizabeth Wydville, but I can find no more evidence of this.
This programme has inspired the subsequent DNA Journey with various other celebrities, to which we may return.