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

Where did the Irish Kelly family come from? What is the Irish Kelly family crest and coat of arms? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Kelly family history?

The Irish name Kelly has a long Gaelic heritage to its credit. The original Gaelic form of the name Kelly is O Ceallaigh or Mac Ceallaigh. These names denote descendants of Ceallach. This personal name may be derived from the word "ceallach," which means "strife."

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Irish names were rarely spelled consistently in the Middle Ages. Spelling variations of the name Kelly dating from that time include Kelly, Kellie, O'Kelly, O'Killia and others.

First found in southwest Ireland, south of Dublin where they held a family seat from very ancient times. The Kelly surname is conjecturally descended from King Colla da Crioch, who died in 357 A.D.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Kelly research. Another 223 words(16 lines of text) covering the years 1518, 1238, 1253, 1555, 1597, 1621, 1695, 1701, 1690 and 1699 are included under the topic Early Kelly History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 233 words(17 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Kelly Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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To escape the religious and political discrimination they experienced primarily at the hands of the English, thousands of Irish left their homeland in the 19th century. These migrants typically settled in communities throughout the East Coast of North America, but also joined the wagon trains moving out to the Midwest. Ironically, when the American War of Independence began, many Irish settlers took the side of England, and at the war's conclusion moved north to Canada. These United Empire Loyalists, were granted land along the St. Lawrence River and the Niagara Peninsula. Other Irish immigrants settled in Newfoundland, the Ottawa Valley, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The greatest influx of Irish immigrants, however, came to North America during the Great Potato Famine of the late 1840s. Thousands left Ireland at this time for North America and Australia. Many of those numbers, however, did not live through the long sea passage. These Irish settlers to North America were immediately put to work building railroads, coal mines, bridges, and canals. Irish settlers made an inestimable contribution to the building of the New World. Early North American immigration records have revealed a number of people bearing the Irish name Kelly or a variant listed above, including:

Kelly Settlers in the 17th Century


  • Brian Kelly, who purchased land in Virginia in 1635
  • Bryan Kelly, who landed in Maryland in 1635
  • Abraham Kelly, who landed in Virginia in 1640
  • Abel Kelly, who was on record in Salem, Massachusetts in 1641
  • Abel Kelly, who arrived in Salem, Massachusetts in 1641


Kelly Settlers in the 18th Century


  • Edmond Kelly, who arrived in Virginia in 1704
  • Arthur Kelly, who arrived in Virginia in 1714
  • Katherine Kelly, who landed in Virginia in 1741
  • Luke Kelly, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1745
  • Martin Kelly, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1746


Kelly Settlers in the 19th Century


  • David Kelly and his wife Mary settled with their six children in New York in 1804
  • Mark Kelly, aged 30, landed in New York, NY in 1804
  • Anne Kelly, who landed in America in 1805
  • Walter Kelly settled in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1806
  • Darby Kelly, who landed in New York, NY in 1810


Kelly Settlers in the 20th Century


  • Barton Cain Kelly, who landed in Alabama in 1913
  • Mary Ann Kelly, who arrived in Alabama in 1929

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  • Rt. Hon. Basil Kelly (1920-2008), Judge of the High court of Justice in Northern Ireland
  • Able Seaman Thomas Raymond Kelly GC (1928-1947), posthumously awarded the George Cross for courage
  • Mr. James Kelly (d. 1912), aged 19, Irish Third Class passenger from Unknown who sailed aboard the RMS Titanic and died in the sinking and was recovered by CS Mackay-Bennett
  • Mr. James Kelly (d. 1912), aged 44, Irish Third Class passenger from Leixlip, Kildare who sailed aboard the RMS Titanic and died in the sinking
  • Miss Anna Katherine Kelly, aged 20, Irish Third Class passenger from Cuilmullagh, Co Mayo who sailed aboard the RMS Titanic and survived in the sinking in life boat 16
  • Miss Mary Kelly, aged 22, Irish Third Class passenger from Castlepollard, Westmeath who sailed aboard the RMS Titanic and survived the sinking in collapsible D
  • Mr. William Kelly (d. 1912), aged 23, Irish Assistant Electrician from Dublin, Ireland who worked aboard the RMS Titanic and died in the sinking
  • Myra Kelly (1875-1910), American (Irish-born) author
  • Sir John Kelly (1871-1936), British Admiral of the Fleet
  • Eugene Curran "Gene" Kelly (1912-1996), American dancer, choreographer and actor, best remembered for his performance in "Singin' in the Rain"

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The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Turris Fortis Mihi Deus
Motto Translation: God is a strong tower to me.

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  1. O'Hart, John. Irish Pedigress 5th Edition in 2 Volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1976. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0737-4).
  2. MacLysaght, Edward. Mores Irish Familes. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1982. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-0126-0).
  3. Bullock, L.G. Historical Map of Ireland. Edinburgh: Bartholomew and Son, 1969. Print.
  4. Hickey, D.J. and J.E. Doherty. A New Dictionary of Irish History form 1800 2nd Edition. Dublin: Gil & MacMillian, 2003. Print.
  5. Kennedy, Patrick. Kennedy's Book of Arms. Canterbury: Achievements, 1967. Print.
  6. Heraldic Scroll and Map of Family names and Origins of Ireland. Dublin: Mullins. Print.
  7. Vicars, Sir Arthur. Index to the Prerogative Wills of Ireland 1536-1810. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co. Print.
  8. Bell, Robert. The Book of Ulster Surnames. Belfast: Blackstaff, 1988. Print. (ISBN 10-0856404160).
  9. Burke, Sir Bernard. General Armory Of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Ramsbury: Heraldry Today. Print.
  10. MacLysaght, Edward. Irish Families Their Names, Arms and Origins 4th Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2364-7).
  11. ...

The Kelly Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Kelly 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 20 September 2014 at 12:59.

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