Children’s Book About Irish King Inspired by DNA Research

Ireland Map

I wish history had been taught differently when I was a child.

History was dry and boring and consisted of rote memorization of dates of disconnected events.  At least, those events were entirely disconnected from me.  It would only be years later that I understood their relevance and that many of those events were NOT disconnected from me.  My ancestors took part in or many times suffered from those events.

Some of those events directly affect the me I’ve become – where I was born – which was predicated on which ancestors immigrated, and when.  All of the circumstances of today were built on the decisions of our ancestors in the past, and their decisions revolved around those dry and boring events, like war, pestilence and famine…for starters…that were anything but dry and boring if you were living through them.

I needed a different perspective, so I am very glad to see that Lance McNeill has written a children’s book about Niall of the Nine Hostages, a man who is also my ancestor.

Lance sent me the following press release:

DNA Discovery Inspires Fully Illustrated Children’s Book about Irish King, Niall of the Nine Hostages

Austin, Texas March 7, 2016:

Niall and the Stone of Destiny is the first ever fully-illustrated children’s book about the journey of renowned Celtic High King, Niall of the Nine Hostages.

Inspired by his Family Tree DNA test results linking him to Niall, author Lance MacNeill embarked upon months of research to uncover the legend of King Niall. Combining the historical evidence with Celtic mythology and a bit of MacNeill’s own imagination, Niall and the Stone of Destiny was conceived. The book will be available in both e-book and hardcover formats. You can reserve your copy of Niall and the Stone of Destiny now on Kickstarter.

Niall Stone of Destiny

For more than 1,500 years, the story of King Niall was thought to be pure Celtic mythology. According to legend, Niall was born in the late fourth century AD and reigned as the High King of Ireland until sometime in the early fifth century. In 2006, an article was published by a research team at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. Their research provided DNA evidence that a common lineage from the Irish Dynasty UÍ Néill, which translated literally means “descendants of Niall,” did in fact originate sometime during the fifth Century AD. They also estimate that nearly 3 million people worldwide are likely descended from Niall. Surnames commonly believed to be linked with the Niall’s family tree include the following: Donnelly, McLoughlin, McManus, Connor, Gormley, McMenamin, Flynn, O’Rourke, Devlin, Hynes, McCaul, McGovern, Molloy, O’Kane, Quinn, Cannon, Bradley, Egan, O’Reilly, Mc(Kee), Campbell, O’Gallagher, O’Boyle, O’Doherty, O’Donnell, O’Neill and MacNeill.

Niall Surnames

Figure 1: Surnames Commonly Believed to be Linked to Niall of the Nine Hostages

With this discovery, Niall is being propelled from the annals of folklore into the books of Irish history.

MacNeill says, “My hope is that this story captures the interest of the next young generation of Niall’s descendants and engages them in their Irish heritage and genealogy.” The book is great for all ages to enjoy, especially for children ages 6 – 10. To learn more, visit the book’s Facebook page or support the Kickstarter project.

Contact: Lance McNeill


As you can see, Lance’s book has been written, but not yet published. Lance sent me a sample page.

Niall page

Lance is funding the publication of this book through Kickstarter.

I have never worked with Kickstarter before, so I needed to know how it works before pledging funds. According to Kickstarter, the credit cards of the people who pledge are not charged until the funding goal is reached. If the project goal is not reached, then no one is charged.  If the funding goal is reached, then Lance will publish the book.

Here’s what Lance has to say about risks and challenges:

This isn’t my first rodeo. I authored and self-published the Comprehensive Crowdfunding Guide on two years ago, so I understand the process of editing, printing and self-publishing.

I’m also mitigating risk with a lean approach to this project. The story of Niall is really 3 times longer than this first book, but by breaking the story up into an iterative series, I can keep overall costs down and receive much needed feedback from early adopters. I’m aiming for a limited printing run of 200 books for this launch, a realistic and achievable goal. I’ve done the research on printing and shipping costs and have certainty that if the funding goal is reached, I will have sufficient funding to deliver as promised.

To learn more about me and the successful projects I’ve been a part of, please visit my LinkedIn profile:

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

There are various options, and the e-version is as little as $3. I would personally want the hardcover version for $20.  In my family, this would be an heirloom item because we are descendants of Niall of the 9 Hostages, along with a couple of million other cousins!

The Rest of the Story  

Now, for the rest of the story – I descend from the Reverend George McNiel from Wilkes County, NC. One of my cousins has tested to represent my McNiel line.  I checked my cousins results as I was writing this article, and guess who appears in his match list.  None other than Lance McNeill, previously unknown to me, but who I now know is my 6th cousin once removed, also descending from the good Reverend.  So, you can bet that I’ll be ordering one of these books for my granddaughters and one for myself too!  I hope he’ll autograph them!

The world gets smaller every day with DNA!



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27 thoughts on “Children’s Book About Irish King Inspired by DNA Research

  1. Graphic media are also powerful for history. My first school had a series of graphic histories of early explorers. The obvious focus on adventure for young males was something that engaged that part of the population that needs adventure and few words to tell a story. At the same time, the US Scout magazine, Boy’s Own, told American history in a similar way. Those are stories I remember well. But hey, that was 50 years ago, what did they know then! “Now, how can we engage young males in history?” is a frequent question from people who should try these approaches.
    Good for Lance McNeill for this initiative. Now, where are the graphic novelist historians?

  2. Looks like a good book but I’m confused…is the author fundraising for a cause? If so, what is it?

    • Kickstarter is a site where artists can raise money to fund their ventures or productions or books. He is raising the funds to print the book since he is self-publishing. You have to have a minimum run with printing presses or they won’t print, and you have to pay for the entire run at the time.

    • Good topic for an ancient DNA genealogists vs. archaeologists bar fight.
      The real question is “Who were the Celts?”, and the common understanding is usually a mythic construct from the late 1800s. Jean Manco’s recent book “The Blood of the Celts” is a good place to start to comprehend what we know and what is still being explored. With many ancient DNA results due in the next year or two, this will be an exciting area for those who are interested.
      One ongoing problem is that ordinary journalists often misunderstand the nature of new discoveries. If you can find a science journalist or can bear reading the original academic paper (much better than they used to be) the story is often clearer without the hype.
      Now, back to my more recent cousins.

  3. I’m “sorry” that your experience / memory of history was ‘…dry…rote…morization of dates’. And I rather imagine I am even older than you — but my remembrances could not be more different. Although I wasn’t in a private or prep school-type environment, our teachers helped us to make that learning come alive – truly alive, so that we often sought out other sources (as the ‘history’ time was closer to our own) to augment the text and the class discussions — like newspaper and magazine articles. And this 50+ years before the advent of the internet. Sounds to me like you may have been the victim of a lazy school system curriculum and possibly teachers who really were more interested in some subject other than education.

  4. A G Hudgens, there’s no ancient DNA from European Iron age context, so we can’t make any statements about what “Celtic DNA” (continental Celtic speakers) was/is.

    Leaving that aside it’s probable that Celtic languages differenated from Indo-European during the Bronze age.

    One problem I see with above is it’s mixing in surnames which are clearly Uí Briúin with the Uí Néill. For example

    There’s even a Uí Fiachrach surname in form of Hynes.

    Uí Briúin and Uí Fiachrach are two of three Connachta — who descend in the genealogical narrative from supposed half-brothers of Niall, namely Brion and Fiachrae.

  5. I want to thank Roberta and all the readers who have shown interest by supporting the Kickstarter campaign and/or shared this article with friends and family. Together, you’ve all helped us surpass 25% of our goal and we’re well on our way to getting to 100% with just 24 days left in the campaign.
    I welcome your questions and comments about the book and/or the research I’ve done on Niall.

  6. I found this very interesting as I live in Wilkes Co., NC and am a direct descendant of the Rev. George McNeil. There have been lots of research done locally on the Rev. coming to Wilkes County, NC and his descendants, but I know very little of him back to Scotland. This book will be interesting to read.

    • Hi Patricia,

      Thank you for your comment. I’d love to connect with you more about Elder George, as I’m also his descendant through his son James, then Benjamin Larkin > Cornelious Washington > Franklin Pierce > Thomas Ora > Guy Ernest > Duane McNeill > me. What is your line?

      I’m curious, do you have any information about his involvement with the Battle of King’s Mountain? I started doing a bit of research there too and feel confident that he began marching with the men who did battle there, but didn’t actually make it all the way to the battle site. Maybe that’s another illustrated story for another time. I hope that you will check out the Kickstarter project and please share with others in Wilkes County who you believe might be interested.

      • Hello Lance,

        Good to hear from you. I have a book that a local Judge wrote on the decendants of the Rev. George McNeil, mostly because he was a decendant.. The book mostly refers to his ministry in Wilkes County. If I had your email address I can send a copy of the book. There is a present day George McNiel living in Wilkes that has done quiet a bit if research on the McNeils and he probably knows about the Battle of Kings Mountain. I don’t have an email address for him, but if you should be interested I could probably send a phone number. I personally am not well acquainted with him, but I’m sure he would be willing to talk to anyone about his ancestors.

        My lineage is through the Rev. George’s son Joseph, then William, James Oliver, James Carey (my grandfather), and then my Dad, Edgon Hoke McNeil. This direct line was close to being lost because my granddad only had two sons and from those two sons there are three sons, but only one of the three has children, my brother, and he had only one son and that son until recently had three daughters and no sons, BUT his son’s wife is expecting to deliver a boy most any day now, or at least it is supposed to be a boy.

        I noticed the name Larkin in your lineage, were you related to James Larkin Pearson by any chance? He was the Poet Laureate for many years in North Carolina and is also a relative through another branch and he used to publish a ancestry type newsletter.

        Just looking at the book I notice where James, sone of George, was the third child born to him, whereas Joseph, my line, was the brother born next. Our line has always been in Wilkes County, but my granddad had a brother that traveled West to Montana, I think it was, but then returned. I want to find out about his family as I met a person last October from Alberta, Canada with the name MCNeil and she didn’t know much about her background except a grandfather had part of the name this brother that went to Montana had, so makes me wonder if there is something there.

        Let me know if you are interested in a copy of this book. It isn’t copyrighted so there would be no problem with sending to to you.

        • Cousin George in Wilkes County doesn’t have e-mail but he LOVES to talk to people about the McNiel history and would be glad to do so, so yes, please send his contact information to Lance. He is so very knowledgeable.

        • Yes, I’d really be interested in a copy of that book. I have been in touch with our distant cousin, George and he has been very helpful. However, I think I stumped him on the question of whether Elder George was actually at the Battle of Kings Mountain. I have detailed accounts of the battle that explains how many men made the long hike, but offered up their horses to soldiers so that they could expeditiously engage the enemy. Being a chaplain, I believe that George would have offered up his horse, thus he wouldn’t have been at the battle, but would have stayed behind with the wounded and others not directly engaged in combat roles.

          My email is if you don’t mind following up with me there.


      • Just thought of something after sending message…..did you know the McNeil Clan Association meeting is usually held every year in Banner Elk, NC (not far from here) before the Highland games at Grandfather Mt? I used to attend with my Dad…..very interesting meeting.

          • There is a website,, where you can get information about the association, the date, the meeting place which has been the Prsybeterian Church in Banner Elk the past few years, the dues for belonging to the association, etc. I need to start going back to the meetings, I haven’t been since my Dad died, but the commissioners from all over the us are usually there, electing new people, business of the clan. You meet people from all over the us and some from other countries.

  7. I thought I’d mention that the correct spelling (in your sample page) is LeinstEr (not LeinstAr). Probably not too late to fix that? Wondering if you have an illustrator? A children’s book is a great idea! but it needs lots of color and fact-based illustrations in order to live up to your hoped-for goal, to appeal to young persons in the 6-10 year age group. Good luck to you!

    • Thank you for the comment Kate and for catching the spelling error. The book hasn’t gone through the editing process yet (that’s part of what the Kickstarter funding will go toward), so I’m confident we’ll catch these small things before we publish.
      We do have some illustrations, but not all of them. Again, part of the Kickstarter funding will go to finish the illustrations. If you watch the Kickstarter video you’ll see a few examples of the illustrations we’ve got so far:

      If you’re an editor or illustrator or just interested in the story, I’d love to talk to you more about it. Feel free to shoot me a message on Facebook or LinkedIn:

  8. Just a quick update on the Kickstarter campaign. We’ve got three full days left and we’re so close to reaching our goal with 68 backers pledging their support from all over the world: UK, Australia, Canada and the U.S! This is your last chance to join the dozens of people who’ve reserved a copy of Niall and the Stone of Destiny, so make your pledge today and continue to spread the word throughout the weekend:

  9. Niall and the Stone of Destiny is now available on audiobook and in paperback. The audiobook is FREE to the first 5 people who write a review of the book on Amazon and like our Facebook page. Just click the link below, leave a review and post a link to your review in the comments of our Facebook page. You will receive a promotional code for the new audiobook, for FREE, through Audible!

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