Quigley Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Quigley Surname Meaning

Quigley is the anglicized form of the 12th century Gaelic O’Coigligh. O’Coigligh meant “‘descendant of Coigleach,” a nickname for an untidy person or possibly someone with long, flowing hair.

Quigley Surname Resources on The Internet

Quigley Surname Ancestry 

  • from Ireland (Donegal and Derry)
  • to Scotland, America and Australia

Ireland.  One Quigley sept were a branch of the Ii Fiachra clan of county Mayo which dispersed sometime in the 16th century. A possibly related sept was the Quigleys of Inishowen in Donegal. The name in fact is mainly to be found in Donegal and Derry and to some extent in Monaghan and Fermanagh where the Quigleys were the erenaghs at Clontivrin in Clones. 

Father James Quigley, a United Irishman executed by the English in 1798, was born in county Armagh from what was seen as “a respectable Northern farmer class.” His family had come from Derry. It was said that his great grandfather had been the maker of the Catholic barricading boom at Culmore fort during the seige of Derry town in 1689.

England and Scotland.  Quigleys crossed the Irish Sea in the 19th century in search of jobs. John Quigley from Monaghan, for instance, came to the Govan area of Glasgow in the 1870’s to work in the shipbuilding there.

America. Many Quigleys came to Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania.  In fact the Quigleys were among the first Scots and Irish settlers of the Cumberland valley in the 1730’s (as traced in Bella Swope’s 1905 book History of the McKinney-Brady-Quigley Families). James Quigley had settled there in frontier land in what is today Hopewell township. He built his wilderness home of logs close to the banks of Conodoguinet creek. A bridge later built there caused the location of the Quigley homestead on Conodoguinet creek to be later called Quigley’s Bridge which was where later generations of Quigleys grew up.

Other Quigleys in Pennsylvania were:

  • James Quigley, born in Pennsylvania in 1777, who moved to Barren county, Kentucky after the Revolutionary War was over.
  • while one Quigley family history began with Phillip Quigley who around 1790 immigrated to Philadelphia and Bucks county, an area where other Quigleys had already settled (a Quigley ran the ferry service which operated across the Delaware river).
  • John Quigley who was a forgeman at the local ironworks in Richmond township, Berks county in the early 1800’s.
  • and Michael Quigley of German parentage who was one of the founders of Beech Creek in central Pennsylvania after settling there in 1814.

Elsewhere. Andrew Quigley, escaping the famine in his native Tyrone, reached New York in 1849 and then headed west, enticed by the California gold rush. However, he met Mormons on the way and ended up in Salt Lake valley.

Australia. William Quigley came out to Australia from county Antrim as an assisted immigrant on the Devonport in 1868. In Sydney he got a job as coachman to a wealthy industrialist and married his daughter Margaret in 1870. They bought themselves a fine estate at Awaba Park on Macquarie Lake in 1878. Unfortunately a year later William, while riding home, was thrown from his horse, fracturing his skull and was found dead on the roadside.

Quigley Surname Miscellany

Quigleys at Inishowen in Donegal.  The Quigleys were at one time numerous on the Inishowen peninsula in county Donegal, reportedly the fifth most popular surname in the area.  One Quigley family has traced itself back to Robert Quigley who was born in Buncrana in 1801.  Another Quigley family, recorded in Clonmany in the 1820’s, may have subsequently emigrated to Canada.

Quigley’s Point (Rinn Ui Choigligh) is a village in Donegal on the eastern shores of Inishowen overlooking Lough Foyle.

Father James Quigley.  Father James Quigley (sometimes Coigley) was ordained as a Catholic priest in Armagh in 1785. A United Irishmen, he worked at improving Catholic and Presbyterian relations.  He traveled often to England and Paris where he was involved with a group called the United Britons.

While traveling to France, he narrowly escaped capture and execution by the French Revolutionaries.  He was, however, apprehended by the English alongside four other United Irishmen, one of them being Arthur O’Connor, a leader of the rebels of Leinster.  Upon his arrest, the English authorities discovered a letter by the United Britons, addressed to the French Revolutionary Government calling for an invasion of England, hidden in Quigley’s garments.

Quigley asked permission for a Catholic priest.  His jailers delivered a ‘Castle-Catholic’ reverend, one loyal to the British Crown.  They ordered him to refuse the last sacraments to Quigley unless the rebel priest would give details concerning the United Irishmen. Father Quigley would not talk and the visiting priest left with no sacraments dispensed. Quigley was hanged on Penenden Heath in Maidstone on June 7, 1798.

Quigleys in Monaghan and Fermanagh.  The small town and parish of Clones spans western Monaghan and county Fermanagh in what is now Northern Ireland.  The Quigleys were at one time the erenaghs at Clontivrin in Clones. But there has been no substantial recent Quigley presence in the town.

One family history began in the early 19th century with Michael and Jane Quigley of nearby Roslea (meaning territory of the Rooneys) in Fermanagh.  Their son John, born around 1825, was recorded as the head of a Quigley family there in the 1901 and 1911 censuses.  Seamus Quigley is now a star turn with the Roslea Shamrocks and two of his brothers also play for this Gaelic football team.

Robert Quigley of Quigley’s Bridge.  From infancy Robert the son was the companion of his father James Quigley.  Born fourteen years after his parents had settled on a wild tract of land along Condoguinet Creek in Pennsylvania, he soon learned to wield the axe, fell the forest trees, and follow his father with the plow.  In the summer he harvested the grain, ranked the wood in stacks for winter use, cleared the land of brush and stubble, and built fences, bridges, and laid out roads.

His boyhood days were also days of peril.  Year after year he heard of blood-thirsty advances in the valley, hundreds falling beneath the blow of the tomahawk, and learned with infant lips to raise the cry of danger, and with the eye of infancy to pick the trail of the Indian.

His encounters with the Indians and practice in the shooting of game made him a skilled marksman.  During the Revolutionary War many a redcoat fell beneath his unfaltering aim and steady nerve.

He was a large, powerfully built man.  Among the early generations of the family, blue eyes, brown hair, and strong vigorous constitutions predominated.  A mixture of red hair and brown eyes was noticeable in some of his children and is seen in descendants until the present day.

Captain Aaron Quigley in the Revolutionary War.  The Pennsylvania Gazette recorded this incident on June 5, 1782 during the Revolutionary War.

“Captain Aaron Quigley, in a small boat, with three men, left Elizabethtown on Wednesday evening, the 22nd May. and, after landing on Staten Island and carrying their boat across it (near four miles) about two the next morning, in sight of a 20 gun ship and a fort on the island, boarded and took a brig, lying at anchor, bound to Halifax, laden with salt, pepper, tobacco, china, queenware, &c.  After securing three people (all on board) and cutting her cable, they brought her off and conducted her into Egg Harbor.  This prize is said to be worth near four thousand pounds.”

Captain Aaron Quigley came from a Quigley family which had settled in Burlington, New Jersey in the 1730’s. Philip Quigley, described as a stave-getter (converting timber into barrel staves), had married Mary Pearson there in 1733.

The Quigleys of Beech Creek.  Johann Michael Quickel and his wife Fronica had come to Pennsylvania from Germany in 1736.  They took the Irish name Quigley in America, maybe because of the existing Quigley presence in Pennsylvania.  However, the name often came out Quigle or Quiggle.

Their son Michael was born in Lancaster county in 1777.  He married a local girl, Mary Clark, and settled in Bald Eagle township in what was to become Clinton county.  In 1814 he built a grist mill nearby, which his son Cline took over after Michael’s death in 1839.  The small town that sprung up around the grist mill was first called Quigley Mills and then in 1850 became Beech Creek.  As a result, Michael Quigley is usually credited with being the founder of Beech Creek.

Possibly related to Michael were John and Nicholas Quigley, likely father and son tailors in the area in the early 1800’s.  By the 1870’s there were numerous Quigleys in the town, enough to provide five players to the local baseball team.  However, few Quigleys have remained there.

Quigley Names

  • Father James Quigley, born in Armagh, was a United Irishman executed by the English in 1798.
  • James Quigley, Canadian born, served as the Catholic Archbishop of Chicago from 1903 to 1915.
  • Eddie Quigley was an English footballer who was transferred in 1949 from Sheffield Wednesday to Preston at the then English record transfer fee of £26,500.

Quigley Numbers Today

  • 5,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 5,000 in America (most numerous in Pennsylvania)
  • 10,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)


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Written by Colin Shelley

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