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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2014

Where did the Irish Donnelly family come from? What is the Irish Donnelly family crest and coat of arms? When did the Donnelly family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Donnelly family history?

Today's Irish surnames are underpinned by a multitude of rich histories. The name Donnelly originally appeared in Gaelic as O Donnghaile, derived from the words "donn," which means brown, and "gal," which means valor.

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Within the archives researched, many different spelling variations of the surname Donnelly were found. These included One reason for the many variations is that scribes and church officials often spelled an individual's name as it sounded. This imprecise method often led to many versions. Donnely, Donnelly, Donelly, O'Donnelly, O'Donelly, Donnolly, Donnally, Donolly, Donnilly, Donnelie, Donneley, O'Donnally and many more.

First found in County Donegal. Later, the sept expanded eastward and became based at Ballydonnelly in the county of Tyrone. The name continues to be common in this area of Ireland today. The name is believed to be directly descended from King Niall of the Nine Hostages, the great Irish general/king who died by the River Seine in France about 365 A.D., after soundly defeating the Romans and being instrumental in their return to the south. Niall made King Arthur's exploits seem rather small by comparison. The Donnelly chief was always elected Chief Marshall of the O'Neill forces and their exploits have filled the pages of Irish history compiled by the Four Masters. They are a part of the great Clann Eoghan(Owen). They claim to be seventeenth in descent from the great King Niall, and their territories were at Ballydonnelly in County Tyrone.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Donnelly research. Another 221 words(16 lines of text) covering the years 1603, 1641, 1650 and 1716 are included under the topic Early Donnelly History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 39 words(3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Donnelly Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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A massive amount of Ireland's native population left the island in the 19th century for North America and Australia in hopes of finding more opportunities and an escape from discrimination and oppression. A great portion of these migrants arrived on the eastern shores of the North American continent. Although they were generally poor and destitute, and, therefore, again discriminated against, these Irish people were heartily welcomed for the hard labor involved in the construction of railroads, canals, roadways, and buildings. Many others were put to work in the newly established factories or agricultural projects that were so essential to the development of what would become two of the wealthiest nations in the world. The Great Potato Famine during the late 1840s initiated the largest wave of Iris immigration. Early North American immigration and passenger lists have revealed a number of people bearing the name Donnelly or a variant listed above:

Donnelly Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century


  • Peter Donnelly, who landed in America in 1760-1763
  • Bryan, Peter and Thomas Donnelly landed in America in 1763

Donnelly Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century


  • Catherine and Hugh Donnelly who settled in New York in 1803
  • Terrence Donnelly, who arrived in America in 1810
  • William Donnelly, who landed in New York, NY in 1811
  • Wm Donnelly, who landed in New York, NY in 1811
  • Hugh Donnelly, who landed in America in 1811


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  • Dorothy Donnelly (1880-1928), American musical actress
  • Ted Donnelly, American jazz artist
  • Ignatius Donnelly (1831-1901), American politician and writer
  • Donal Donnelly (b. 1931), Irish-American actor
  • Joseph Simon "Joe" Donnelly Sr. (b. 1955), American politician
  • Elaine Catherine Corrigan O'Brien Donnelly (1955-2014), American flight instructor and politician
  • Charles Donnelly (1914-1937), Irish poet and political activist
  • Eleanor Donnelly, noted author
  • Desmond Louis Donnelly (1920-1974), British politician and journalist
  • Elfie Donnelly (b. 1950), British- Austrian author

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  • Genealogy in Convenient Form Ralph W. Cathell.
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  1. Heraldic Scroll and Map of Family names and Origins of Ireland. Dublin: Mullins. Print.
  2. Chadwick, Nora Kershaw and J.X.W.P Corcoran. The Celts. London: Penguin, 1970. Print. (ISBN 0140212116).
  3. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  4. Woodham-Smith, Cecil. The Great Hunger Ireland 1845-1849. New York: Old Town Books, 1962. Print. (ISBN 0-88029-385-3).
  5. Kennedy, Patrick. Kennedy's Book of Arms. Canterbury: Achievements, 1967. Print.
  6. Fitzgerald, Thomas W. Ireland and Her People A Library of Irish Biography 5 Volumes. Chicago: Fitzgerald. Print.
  7. Tepper, Michael Ed & Elizabeth P. Bentley Transcriber. Passenger Arrivals at the Port of Philadelphia 1800-1819. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1986. Print.
  8. MacLysaght, Edward. Irish Families Their Names, Arms and Origins 4th Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2364-7).
  9. Magnusson, Magnus. Chambers Biographical Dictionary 5th edition. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers, 1990. Print.
  10. Best, Hugh. Debrett's Texas Peerage. New York: Coward-McCann, 1983. Print. (ISBN 069811244X).
  11. ...

The Donnelly Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Donnelly Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 14 June 2014 at 09:28.

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