Kelly Surname Genealogy

Kelly is an Irish origin given name and surname.
Etymologically, it originated as a patronymic surname, with the prefix Ó
and the suffix Ceallach (“strife”, or “contention”),
the Old Gaelic clan name of Ó Ceallaigh which was anglicized as

Kelly has been adapted to mean “brave
warrior” in many English-speaking armies and as “warrior
princess” in American popular culture
Kelly Resources on

There are said to be possibly ten different Kelly septs in Ireland and
unsurprisingly Kelly is, after Murphy, the second most common name in
Ireland. Generally the “O” was dropped from O’Kelly during the
17th and 18th centuries.

The main O”Kellys have been the Ui Maine O’Kellys in mid
Galway and south Roscommon in the western province of Connacht.
forebear is considered to be Teigh Mor O’Ceallaigh who died at the
Battle of
Clontarf in 1014. The 14th century Book of Ui Maine
charted their
pedigree. There were 39 O’Ceallaighs
until the last King of Ui Maine in the 16th century.
Their successors, the O’Kellys of Gallagh, are
recognized as the overall O’Kelly chiefs.

There were also the O’Kellys of Breagh
in Meath, dispersed at the time of the Anglo-Norman invasion, and other
families originating in Sligo, Cork, and Laois plus the Kellys from
Loughinsholin in county Derry.

The Kellys in Antrim and Down in
east Ulster may
either be the Cinel Eachrach of Irish origin or Scots Kellys from
Galloway who
arrived during the Ulster plantations.

of Man
Kelly, from
MacCaellaigh or MacKelly, is the most common surname on the Isle of Man. The MacKelly name first appeared in 1429 and
John McKelly, first recorded in 1511, was the forebear of the Kellys of Ballabrew.

The Kelly spelling
came in the 17th century. John Kelly, born at Peel in 1699, was
from an
old Manx family. Dr. John Kelly, born in
Braddan in 1750, was the author of the well-used Manx
which came out in 1780

Has Anyone Seen Kelly?
was a popular music hall song from the early
1900’s. The chorus went as follows:

“Has anybody here seen Kelly?
Has anybody here seen Kelly?
Find him if you

He’s as bad as old Antonio,
Left me on my own-ee-o,
Has anybody here seen

Kelly from the Isle of Man!”

England. The Kelly name in
England can derive from the
place-name Kelli in Devon, reflected as the Welsh/Cornish celli
(“grove”) in public records dating as far back as 1194. Kelly House near Lifton has
inhabited by Kellys since the 1500’s and probably much earlier.
Benedictus Kelly was a Royal Navy officer from Devon who fought in the
Napoleonic wars.

However, most Kellys in England are of Irish
origin. One of the earliest was Denis O’Kelly who departed
Ireland for London
in the 1750’s. He started out there as a billiard-marker and
ended up a
colonel and part-owner of the famous Derby winner Eclipse.
Festus Kelly
came to London from Galway around 1800.
His son Frederick, who worked for the Post Office, put his name
to Kelly’s Directory, the Victorian trade

Scotland. The
Kelly name in Scotland may derive from the place-name Kelly near
Arbroath in
Angus, reflected as the Gaelic coille (“wood” or
“grove”), in public records dating as far back as 1373. There
was also another grouping of Kellys, originally McKelly, from Galloway. As in England, most Kellys in Scotland are of
Irish origin.

One of the first Kelly arrivals in America was Giles
Kelly who
departed Laios (then Leix) in 1677 for Maryland in 1677.
His descendants became Protestant and settled
in Brunswick county, Virginia. William Kelly, also Protestant,
came to Virginia in 1746. His descendants were the O’Kelleys.

Eugene Kelly arrived in 1830. He was from
distinguished old Galway family
of Mullaghmore which, however, had been dispossessed of most of its
in 1680. Starting with little, he
prospered as a merchant banker and was a strong supporter of the Irish
nationalist cause.

Kelly, an Irish immigrant from county Mayo in 1869, spawned a famous
family. One son Jack Kelly was an Olympic gold
medallist in rowing three times and self-made millionaire, another son
George a
Pulitzer Prize winner. Grace Kelly, the
film star who became Princess of Monaco, was Jack’s daughter

The Kelly and Kelley spelling are found in America.

Australia. Red
Kelly was transported from Tipperary to Australia
in 1841 for stealing two pigs. After
obtaining his release in 1848 he married and settled down in Victoria. His son was the famous Australian bushranger
Ned Kelly who was executed after a shoot-out at Glenrowan in 1880.

Kelly Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Select Kelly Names

Michael Kelly, an Irish actor and theatrical manager, was one of
the leadfing figures in British musical theater at the turn of the 19th
Ned Kelly was the 19th century
Australian bushranger and folk hero.
John J. O’Kelly was President
of Sinn Fein from 1926 to 1931.
Grace Kelly was the American
actress later Princess Grace of Monaco.
Gene Kelly was the American
actor and dancer most remembered for Singin’
in the Rain

Select Kellys Today

  • 102,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Glasgow)
  • 120,000 in America (most numerous in Florida)
  • 147,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)

Kelly is the #2 ranked surname in Ireland.




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