Paul McMonagle was shocked by the results from his Y-37 test when he discovered his Irish roots. From there he went on an adventure to Ireland where he connected with matches, explored the Donegal region, and learned more about his Irish heritage.

Unveiling the mysteries of one’s ancestry has always been a captivating pursuit for those eager to connect with their roots. Paul McMonagle, a devoted family man and author of the book “Malformation: When Bad Things Happen to the Right Kind of People,” found himself on a quest to uncover his own heritage. Little did he know that his journey with FamilyTreeDNA would lead him on an unexpected path, transforming his understanding of his origins.

In this exclusive interview, Paul shares his remarkable experience, from the initial pursuit of his Scottish lineage to the revelation that his true heritage lay in the enchanting lands of Ireland.

The Quest for Identity

Paul McMonagle had long believed that his ancestral roots could be traced back to Scotland. However, like many others seeking answers, he yearned for a definitive confirmation. When he embarked on his genetic journey with FamilyTreeDNA, he had one primary goal in mind: discovering his true origins.

The Path Unveiled

Through the Y-37 DNA test, Paul delved into the intricate realm of his genetic makeup. As he eagerly awaited the results, his expectations were high. Paul explains, “I wanted to find out where I was from, and I was thinking that I was from Scotland based on some preliminary records that we had in our family, our own writings and what have you.” However, the revelations that awaited him would shatter his preconceived notions and open up a whole new world of possibilities.

A Surprising Discovery: Ireland Beckons

To Paul’s astonishment, his genetic analysis pointed him toward the lush landscapes of Ireland rather than the rugged hills of Scotland. As he traced his lineage back, he discovered that he hailed from the Donegal region, a captivating place steeped in Irish history. Visiting the region, Paul stumbled upon the remarkable McMonagle stone, an emblem of his newfound connection to his Irish heritage.

Donegal Bay - A Surprising Discovery Ireland Beckons
Donegal Bay - Carrick-A-Rede

Overcoming Brick Walls and Unearthing History

Paul’s journey was not without its challenges. The initial obstacle was discerning his true ancestral origins, which required meticulous research and exploration. He describes his breakthrough, saying, “When we actually were able to trace it back, going through the Irish archives on, we found a whole list of information. And it was intriguing and interesting.”

Armed with determination and a thirst for knowledge, Paul delved into Gaelic manuscripts and the annals of Irish history. The meticulous study led him to the name of the individual who fought for and renamed the Donegal region. His passion for uncovering his family’s past became an all-consuming endeavor, intertwining personal connections with the rich tapestry of Irish history.

Family Connections and Legacy

The significance of Paul’s discoveries reverberated not only through his own life but also through the lives of his loved ones. Sharing his journey with his father and uncle, Paul bridged the gap between generations. He recalls their trip to Ireland, where they experienced the joy of uncovering countless ties and connections to their newfound ancestral home.

Donegal Town Anglican Church - Family Connections and Legacy
Donegal Town Anglican Church

Furthermore, Paul’s interactions with fellow McMonagles in Ireland forged lasting bonds. Corresponding with the employees of McMonagle Stone and a local rector in Donegal, Paul formed genuine connections that transcended mere genealogical exploration.

Four McMonagles - Family Connections and Legacy
Four McMonagle’s from right to left: Paul, his father, his uncle, and their new relative from McMonagle Stone

Empowering Others: Paul’s Advice

Paul’s arduous journey offers invaluable insights for those embarking on their own genetic exploration. He advises fellow enthusiasts to allocate ample time and commitment to thoroughly explore the treasures awaiting them. Paul emphasizes, “I hope you have a lot of time on your hands because I was interested in it, but I didn’t realize that really the legwork is going to be done by the person that’s interested.”

Moreover, Paul’s experience underscores the importance of delving into historical records, manuscripts, and archives relevant to one’s ancestry. While the endeavor may require dedication and, at times, professional assistance, the rewards of uncovering one’s heritage can be immeasurable.


Paul McMonagle’s remarkable journey with FamilyTreeDNA serves as an inspiring testament to the transformative power of genetic testing. What began as a quest to confirm his Scottish heritage led Paul to an unexpected destination—his ancestral home of Ireland.

With dedication, meticulous research, and a passion for unearthing his past, Paul discovered the vibrant tapestry of his Irish lineage. His story stands as a testament to the ability of genetic testing to unravel the mysteries of one’s ancestry and bring people closer to their roots.