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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? When did the Kelly family first arrive in the United States? 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."


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.


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.


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


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 United States 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 United States 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 United States 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
  • Darby Kelly, who landed in New York, NY in 1810
  • Bartholomew Kelly, who arrived in America in 1811

Kelly Settlers in the United States in the 20th Century

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


  • Myra Kelly (1875-1910), American (Irish-born) author
  • Eugene Curran "Gene" Kelly (1912-1996), American dancer, choreographer and actor, best remembered for his performance in "Singin' in the Rain"
  • Ellsworth Kelly (b. 1923), American painter and sculptor
  • Grace Patricia Kelly (1929-1982), American film and stage actress and fashion icon who later became Princess Grace of Monaco
  • Wynton Kelly (1931-1971), American jazz pianist perhaps best known for working with trumpeter Miles Davis in the '50s
  • Colin Purdie Kelly DSC (1915-1941), American World War II B-17 Flying Fortress pilot called the first American hero of the Second World War
  • Technical Sergeant Charles E. Kelly (1920-1985), American officer awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1944
  • Technical Sergeant John D. Kelly (1923-1944), American Army soldier awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor
  • Sergeant Thomas J Kelly (1923-1988), American soldier awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1945
  • Major Charles L. Kelly (1925-1964), American helicopter pilot posthumously awarded the US Army's Distinguished Service Cross for his actions in Vietnam as well as the National Order of Vietnam, Fifth Class, South Vietnam's highest award



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. Tepper, Michael Ed & Elizabeth P. Bentley Transcriber. Passenger Arrivals at the Port of Philadelphia 1800-1819. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1986. Print.
  2. Harris, Ruth-Ann and B. Emer O'Keefe. The Search for Missing Friends Irish Immigrant Advertisements Placed in the Boston Pilot Volume II 1851-1853. Boston, MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1991. Print.
  3. Hanks, Patricia and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print. (ISBN 0-19-211592-8).
  4. McDonnell, Frances. Emigrants from Ireland to America 1735-1743 A Transcription of the report of the Irish House of Commons into Enforced emigration to America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-1331-5).
  5. Woodham-Smith, Cecil. The Great Hunger Ireland 1845-1849. New York: Old Town Books, 1962. Print. (ISBN 0-88029-385-3).
  6. Land Owners in Ireland. Genealogical Publishing. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-1203-3).
  7. Shaw, William A. Knights of England A Complete Record from the Earliest Time to the Present Day of the Knights of all the Orders of Chivalry in England, Scotland, Ireland and Knights Bachelors 2 Volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print. (ISBN 080630443X).
  8. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Bolton's American Armory. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1964. Print.
  9. Zieber, Eugene. Heraldry in America. Philadelphia: Genealogical Publishing Co. Print.
  10. MacLysaght, Edward. The Surnames of Ireland 3rd Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1978. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2278-0).
  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 26 October 2014 at 18:27.

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