by Phillip G. Goff, GGFA Director of Genetic Genealogy

With a tip of the hat to Big Y 700, the GGFA has now identified 40 genetically distinct Gough/Gough/McGough/etc. families. “Genetically distinct” means that the family arose came into being independently of all other families with a variant of the surname. Since hereditary surnames have been used for 700+ years, well beyond the reach of autosomal DNA, YDNA testing is necessary to determine that two Gough families are genetically distinct. Big Y 700 is the gold standard YDNA test and it’s about as lucky as finding a four-leaf clover!

Of the 40 genetically distinct Goff/Gough/McGough families, six have paper trails or genetic footprints that place their origins back to Ireland. Here are the genetic families that have a little extra Irish charm:

🍀 1550 (MC)G(E)OUGH/O’GARA (IE-MOG & DL) R-FGC37618

Lineages with surnames Gough, McGough and McGeough have paper trails tracing to Co. Monaghan, Ireland. Intriguingly, there is a genetic match to the surname O’Gara, which some sources say is an earlier Gaelic version of the anglicized Gough surname in Ireland.


Like a genealogical jig across the British Isles, a Gough family in Lancashire County, England shares its Y-chromosome with descendants of McGuff, MacGough and Gough families in Co. Galway, Ireland.

🍀 1745 GOFF (US-VA-WAS) R-Y41456

This Goff family, first identified in Virginia, US in the mid-18th century likely originated in Ireland, based on Big Y 700 matching. Finding the origin in Ireland, however, is as elusive as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

🍀 1830 GOFF (US-KY-CAW / US-AR-VBR) R-BY183163

This Goff family with an earliest proven location of Kentucky, US, likely has deeper origins in Ireland, based on Big Y 700 results.

🍀 1858 GOUGH (GB-DOW) R-FGC66893

This Gough family has a lineage that traces to County Down in Northern Ireland.

🍀 1850 MCGOFF/GOFF (GB-SCT-LK / IE) I-Y67553

This genetic family consists of two lineages that have not been connected: a McGoff tracing to mid-19th century Ireland and a Goff family found in mid-19th century Scotland. Pre-surname matches in Big Y 700 are to a mix of families from Ireland and Scotland, like a friendly tug of war between Celtic nations!

For genetic trees, narrative discussion and GGFA member descendant lists, please visit, then click on Archives & Research>> DNA Survey Study>> Current GGFA DNA Family Groups. Other Big Y 700 participants have lineages or matches that point to Irish origins. However, lacking confirming second Big Y 700 matching participants, these families have not yet been added to the list of genetically distinct GGFA families.

If you have a male in your family with any variant of Goff or Gough, please contact about reconstructing your lineage with Big Y 700. May the luck of the Irish be with you on your genealogical journey! 🍀

Phillip Goff is the co-author, along with Roy L. Lockhart, of The Four Goff Brothers of Western Virginia. Since 2004, he has run the Goff/Gough Surname DNA Study, which today has about 500 participants.

One thought on “Luck of the Irish: GGFA Genetic Families!

  1. I look forward to hearing more.

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