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

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

As a native Irish surname, Lees is derived from the Gaelic name Mac Laoidhigh, which comes from the word "laoidh," which means "a poem;" or from Mac Giolla Iosa, which means "son of the devotee of Jesus." However, Lee is also a common indigenous name in England, many families of which have been established in Ireland since at least the 17th century.

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The recording of names in Ireland during the Middle Ages was an inconsistent endeavor at best. Since the general population did not know how to read or write, they could only specify how their names should be recorded orally. Research into the name Lees revealed spelling variations, including McAlea, McAlee, MacAlee, MacAlea, MacLee, McLee, MacLees, McLees, MacLeas, McLeas, O'Lees, O'Leas, Lee and many more.

First found in Connacht (Irish: Connachta, (land of the) descendants of Conn), where they were prominent in the west being anciently associated as hereditary physicians to the O'Flahertys. The McLees or McAlees were traditionally doctors or physicians. By the 16th century different branches had developed in Galway, in Leix, and in Munster at Cork and Limerick. The name in Gaelic was O'Laidhigh.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Lees research. Another 438 words(31 lines of text) covering the years 1253, 1600, 1650, and 1734 are included under the topic Early Lees History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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More information is included under the topic Early Lees Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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In the 19th century, thousands of Irish left their English-occupied homeland for North America. Like most new world settlers, the Irish initially settled on the eastern shores of the continent but began to move westward with the promise of owning land. The height of this Irish migration came during the Great Potato Famine of the late 1840s. With apparently nothing to lose, Irish people left on ships bound for North America and Australia. Unfortunately a great many of these passengers lost their lives - the only thing many had left - to disease, starvation, and accidents during the long and dangerous journey. Those who did safely arrive in "the land of opportunities" were often used for the hard labor of building railroads, coal mines, bridges, and canals. The Irish were critical to the quick development of the infrastructure of the United States and Canada. Passenger and immigration lists indicate that members of the Lees family came to North America quite early:

Lees Settlers in the United States in the 17th Century


  • Anne Lees, who landed in Virginia in 1656
  • Richd Lees, who landed in Virginia in 1656
  • Ann Lees, who arrived in Virginia in 1658
  • Eliz Lees, who landed in Virginia in 1665
  • Thomas Lees, who arrived in Maryland in 1679

Lees Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century


  • Margt Lees, who arrived in Virginia in 1702
  • Lorentz Lees, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1741
  • Johannes Lees, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1743
  • Georg Lees, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1750

Lees Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century


  • David Lees, aged 20, arrived in Delaware in 1812
  • Randall Lees, aged 21, landed in New York in 1812
  • Robert Lees, who arrived in Connecticut in 1812
  • J Lees, who landed in San Francisco, California in 1851
  • Joseph Lees, who came to Philadelphia in 1852


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  • Robert Lees (1912-2004), American television and film screenwriter
  • Frederick Eugene John "Gene" Lees (1928-2010), Canadian music critic, biographer and lyricist
  • Arthur Lees (1908-1992), English professional golfer
  • Thomas James "Tom" Lees (b. 1990), English professional footballer
  • Geoffrey Lees (b. 1951), English former Formula One racing driver
  • Meg Heather Lees (b. 1948), Australian politician, member of the Australian Senate from 1990 to 2005
  • John Lees (1740-1807), Lower Canada businessman and politician
  • Nathaniel Lees, New Zealand actor, best known for his role in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • Robert James Lees (1849-1931), British spiritualist, medium and preacher who claimed he knew the identity of Jack the Ripper


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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: Fide et fortitudine
Motto Translation: By fidelity and fortitude.

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  1. Hanks, Patricia and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print. (ISBN 0-19-211592-8).
  2. 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).
  3. Best, Hugh. Debrett's Texas Peerage. New York: Coward-McCann, 1983. Print. (ISBN 069811244X).
  4. Grehan, Ida. Dictionary of Irish Family Names. Boulder: Roberts Rinehart, 1997. Print. (ISBN 1-57098-137-X).
  5. 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).
  6. 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.
  7. Magnusson, Magnus. Chambers Biographical Dictionary 5th edition. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers, 1990. Print.
  8. Sullivan, Sir Edward. The Book of Kells 3rd Edition. New York: Crescent Books, 1986. Print. (ISBN 0-517-61987-3).
  9. Skordas, Guest. Ed. The Early Settlers of Maryland an Index to Names or Immigrants Complied from Records of Land Patents 1633-1680 in the Hall of Records Annapolis, Maryland. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1992. Print.
  10. 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).
  11. ...

The Lees Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Lees 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 15 January 2014 at 20:40.

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