Clan Gathering 2017
Clan Macfie
Clan History
(Download Dr Earle's
history of the clan)

Clan News

Office Holders &
Commitee Members

Clan Researchers
Clan Societies Worldwide
Past Clan Gatherings

McDuffie DNA Surname Project Report

11 May 2013 webpage now archived at


Current McDuffie DNA research continues at:

http://www.familytreedna.com/public/McDuff/ (about this group)


The McDuffie DNA Surname Project was started just over 5 years ago by Rod Macduff, and Australian radio engineer who wished to trace his ancestry. He has organized and funded this independently of Clan MacFie but has cooperated closely with the clan and is a member.

Using paper records such as birth death and marriage certificates, there is a limit to how far back we can trace our ancestors. Scottish records get patchy before 1700 and it is often difficult for USA and Canadian families to establish links back to their Scottish ancestors. However Y-chromosome DNA testing will accurately identify male bloodlines. Using a simple cheek swab, living males can have their DNA tested. From the Y chromosome marker results produced, they will find that their results will match almost exactly all males with the same surname as themselves who are descended from a common male ancestor as many as 10 generations ago and beyond. This makes it possible to link distant cousins and bridge gaps in the paper record where there is either no data or unclear data.

The project was set up in 2004 and in five years has had 136 people join the project.

The McDuffie DNA Surname Project was set up with the following objectives:

To determine if the clan is of Celtic or Norse origin.
To determine how many separate bloodlines there are
To determine if McDuffies, MacFies, McPhees and McAfees have a common ancestor
To determine if MacFies etc have their origins in Argyllshire

There is now sufficient data to draw firm conclusions and issue a final report.

Main Bloodline Group 1

This is the dominant bloodline, containing a total of 33 members. Fascinatingly, it contains all main surname spelling variants, namely: McDuffie, McDuffee, McAfee, McPhee, McPhie, McFee and McFie and all of the Mac variants thereof, thus absolutely and conclusively proving that all were once the same name. One Duffie and three Catheys have matched Group 1.

This Group 1 bloodline is that of the immediate past Clan Commander, Sandy MacPhie who has so encouraged this project. It is also the bloodline of the new Clan Commander Iain Morris McFie.  Additionally, it contains the line of the last McPhee on Colonsay, the ancestral home of the McDuffies. There are also those in this line, descended from ancestors on Mull and on Skye, thus confirming the history that MacPhies were dispersed all over the Inner Hebridies. The history linking McDuffies with Antrim is also confirmed, as there are those in Group 1 who can trace their ancestry to Londonderry. Several in Group 1 have descendants who migrated to the USA or Canada. One of the lines on Prince Edward Island is in this line. Clearly they would have come from the Inner Hebrides originally.

Finally in group 1 (and in others) the spelling McAfee is invariably connected with clan members who are Scots Irish who arrived in the New World from Ireland where the name McDuffie took on the spelling McAfee. By the same token MacDonald is rendered as McDonnell in Ireland. In earlier times movement back and forth between the Inner Hebridies and Antrim was commonplace. The McDuffie common ancestor in Group 1 may go back as much as 1000 years to the advent of surnames. It seems likely that the clan chiefs would have been of this line.

Other bloodlines

Now in common with all other DNA Surname projects, there are many different bloodlines bearing the family name. This can arise for many different reasons. At the time of origin of the surname around 1000 years ago, the surname would be a mark of affiliation to a group or clan of families living in close proximity with a common destiny. There would be a clan chief and a number of other males in the group. Not all these males would necessarily have shared the same male ancestor at the time of surname adoption. Clans often absorbed other non-genetically linked groups as they expanded. Adoption of orphaned offspring of a sister was common, and if there was no heir it may also occur. Infidelity was a fact of life then as it is now. Over the years this leads to many genetically separate lines with a common surname. This can be seen in all other projects including the Campbell and McGregor DNA Projects. Consequently, different bloodline does not mean “not of the MacFie Clan”.

Some of the other Groups have clear evidence that they have had the MacFie name for many hundreds of years. Having more than one member, and surname spelling diversity points to this. In particular, Groups 3, 4, 5, 5a, 9, 10, 14, 20, 24 and 34 show this.

Group 9 is interesting, as these are the “Glen Urquart McFees”. This group of 14 members have almost identical DNA and all hail from Lochaber, Glen Urquhart and in some cases can trace ancestors back to the early 1700s. In all probability all these members have a common ancestor within the last 400 years. This is supported by less spelling diversity, being confined to McPhee with two McPhies.

Group 3 has McPhees and McAfees in it indicating that one group were Scots Irish at one point.

Group 5 contains most of the McDuffs and Duffs. This is the Clan MacDuff bloodline. There is now sufficient data to show quite clearly that McDuffs and McDuffies are not the same bloodline. Earle Douglas MacPhie asserted this in his genealogies and has proved to be quite correct. McDuff Group 5 is a very “old” line too, again radiating from a common ancestor. The origins in Scotland of this line seem to be in the county of Perth and adjoining areas. A 100% match between MacDuffs who now live overseas and a family who are still living in the area that their ancestors lived in, has supported this theory. Both Duff and McDuff surnames appear in this group and there is significant genetic spread, evidence which supports the antiquity of this line.

Group 5a should be entirely independent from Group 5 as this group contains McAfees, a Duffy and a McDuffey.
Group 15 contains McFee and McAfee surnames.
Group 20 has four McAfees whose descendents are all in USA
Group 24 has two McAfees.
Group 34 contains four McHaffeys

Celtic and Viking Origins

Of the 40 separate bloodlines most are R1b Haplogroup, which in layman's terms means Celtic origin.  Other McPhees of I Haplogroup are of Norse origin. In common with most other Scottish clans the Celtic bloodlines are very strong.


The project has been able to answer all the questions set at its instigation and in doing so confirmed much which is in the history books, regarding clan origins. There is probably not much more to be learned historically from the project, however individuals who have not yet joined will be able to establish their bloodline by joining. At some point in the future the Clan may want to consider taking over maintenance and running of the project, however for the time being Rod Macduff is happy to continue as McDuffie DNA Surname Project Coordinator.

for website problems contact web@clanmacfie.co.uk last updated 27th October 2019 copyright © Clan Macfie.