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

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

The Riley surname originally appeared in Gaelic as O Raghailligh, which means descendant of Raghallach.


A name was often recorded during the Middle Ages under several different spelling variations during the life of its bearer because literacy was rare there was no real push to clearly define any of the languages found in the British Isles at that time. Variations found of the name Riley include O'Reilly, O'Reilley, O'Reily, O'Rielly, O'Riely, O'Riley, O'Rilley, Reel and many more.

First found in County Cavan, where they held a family seat from very ancient times.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Riley research. Another 233 words(17 lines of text) covering the years 1172, 1598, 1669, 1630, 1695, 1689, 1640, 1703, 1689, 1646 and 1691 are included under the topic Early Riley History in all our PDF Extended History products.


Another 123 words(9 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Riley Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


Death and immigration greatly reduced Ireland's population in the 19th century. For the native Irish people poverty, hunger, and racial prejudice was common. Therefore, thousands left their homeland to seek opportunity in North America. Those who survived the journey and the quarantine camps to which they arrived, were instrumental towards building the strong developing nations of the United States and the future Canada. By far, the largest influx of Irish settlers occurred with Great Potato Famine during the late 1840s. These were employed as construction or factory workers. An examination of passenger and immigration lists has shown early immigrants bearing the name Riley:

Riley Settlers in the United States in the 17th Century

  • Elizabeth Riley, aged 18, arrived in Virginia in 1635
  • Garrett Riley, aged 24, landed in Virginia in 1635
  • Miles Riley, aged 20, landed in Virginia in 1635
  • Richard Riley, who arrived in Virginia in 1649

Riley Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century

  • Henry Riley, who landed in Rowley, Massachusetts in 1710
  • Terence Riley, who arrived in Pennsylvania, Virginia or Maryland in 1773

Riley Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century

  • Johan Riley, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1803
  • Nancy Riley, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1811
  • Hugh Riley, aged 26, arrived in New York in 1812
  • Edward Cost Riley, who landed in New York in 1820
  • Martin Riley, who landed in New York in 1822

Riley Settlers in the United States in the 20th Century

  • Anthony Riley, who arrived in Wisconsin in 1922


  • Bennett C. Riley (1790-1853), American military governor of California before it became a US state
  • Bernard Riley (b. 1981), American football player
  • Chris Riley (b. 1973), professional American golfer
  • Dorothy Comstock Riley (1924-2004), American lawyer and judge
  • Terry Riley (b. 1935), American composer
  • Herbert Douglas Riley (1904-1973), American vice admiral of the United States Navy
  • James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916), American writer, poet, and best selling author, best known for his works "Little Orphant Annie" and "The Raggedy Man"
  • Steve Riley (b. 1956), American rock drummer for Roadmaster, Steppenwolf, and more recently L.A. Guns
  • Bridget Louise Riley (b. 1931), famous British Artist
  • Arthur Riley (b. 1903), South African footballer



  • Reilly of Ballintlea by Joseph F. Reilly.
  • Petty, Of England & Virginia; Wright of Virginia, Kentucky, & Missouri by Gerald McKinney Petty.
  • Indiana Kindred: A Record of the Riley Family and their Kinfolk of Boone & Switzerland Counties, Indiana by Frederick Glenn Riley.

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  1. Filby, P. William and Mary K Meyer. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index in Four Volumes. Detroit: Gale Research, 1985. Print. (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8).
  2. Bell, Robert. The Book of Ulster Surnames. Belfast: Blackstaff, 1988. Print. (ISBN 10-0856404160).
  3. MacLysaght, Edward. Irish Families Their Names, Arms and Origins 4th Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2364-7).
  4. Woodham-Smith, Cecil. The Great Hunger Ireland 1845-1849. New York: Old Town Books, 1962. Print. (ISBN 0-88029-385-3).
  5. Bullock, L.G. Historical Map of Ireland. Edinburgh: Bartholomew and Son, 1969. Print.
  6. The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States Of America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0636-X).
  7. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Bolton's American Armory. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1964. Print.
  8. Heraldic Scroll and Map of Family names and Origins of Ireland. Dublin: Mullins. Print.
  9. Burke, Sir Bernard. General Armory Of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Ramsbury: Heraldry Today. Print.
  10. Weis, Frederick Lewis, Walter Lee Sheppard and David Faris. Ancestral Roots of Sixty Colonists Who Came to New England Between 1623 and 1650 7th Edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0806313676).
  11. ...

The Riley Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Riley 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 19 October 2014 at 00:15.

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