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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2015

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

The Irish name Kelley has a long Gaelic heritage to its credit. The original Gaelic form of the name Kelley 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."


Within the archives researched, many different spelling variations of the surname Kelley 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. 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 Kelley 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 Kelley History in all our PDF Extended History products.


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


The 19th century saw a great wave of Irish families leaving Ireland for the distant shores of North America and Australia. These families often left their homeland hungry, penniless, and destitute do to the policies of England. Those Irish immigrants that survived the long sea passage initially settled on the eastern seaboard of the continent. Some, however, moved north to a then infant Canada as United Empire Loyalists after ironically serving with the English in the American War of Independence. Others that remained in America later joined the westward migration in search of land. The greatest influx of Irish immigrants, though, came to North America during the Great Potato Famine of the late 1840s. Thousands left Ireland at this time for North America, and those who arrived were immediately put to work building railroads, coal mines, bridges, and canals. In fact, the foundations of today's powerful nations of the United Sates and Canada were to a larger degree built by the Irish. Archival documents indicate that members of the Kelley family relocated to North American shores quite early:

Kelley Settlers in United States in the 17th Century

  • Brian Kelley, aged 20, arrived in Virginia in 1635
  • Bryan Kelley, who landed in Maryland in 1635
  • Ailce Kelley, who landed in Virginia in 1651
  • Elizabeth Kelley, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1683

Kelley Settlers in United States in the 18th Century

  • David Kelley, who arrived in Virginia in 1703
  • Owen Kelley, who landed in Virginia in 1703
  • Morris Kelley, who landed in Virginia in 1714
  • Neile Kelley, who arrived in Virginia in 1723
  • William Kelley, who arrived in Boston, Massachusetts in 1763

Kelley Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • Walter Kelley, who landed in America in 1801
  • Phillip Kelley, who arrived in New York, NY in 1811
  • Catherine Kelley, who arrived in New York, NY in 1811
  • Andrew Kelley, aged 25, landed in Massachusetts in 1812
  • John Kelley, who landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1812

Kelley Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century

  • Eunice Kelley, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1750
  • Mary Kelley, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1750

Kelley Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century

  • John Kelley, aged 24, a labourer, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1834 aboard the brig "Breeze" from Dublin

Kelley Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century

  • Ann Kelley, English convict from York, who was transported aboard the "America" on December 30, 1830, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Australia
  • James Kelley arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Navarino" in 1837
  • Joseph Kelley arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Theresa" in 1847


  • DeForest Kelley (1920-1999), American actor, who starred in "Star Trek" as "Bones", appeared in "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" (1957) a role he later reprised in a Star Trek adventure
  • David Edward Kelley (b. 1956), multi-Emmy award winning American writer and executive producer
  • Nancy Kelley (1921-1995), American actress, who was a major movie leading lady in the 1930s
  • Mike Kelley (b. 1959), former player in the National Football League
  • David Kelley (b. 1949), American philosopher and author
  • Robin D.G. Kelley (b. 1962), professor of history and American studies at the University of Southern California
  • Staff Sergeant Jonah Edward Kelley (1923-1945), American Army soldier awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1945
  • Private Ova A Kelley (1914-1944), American soldier awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1944
  • John F. "Jeff" Kelley (b. 1951), American Adjunct Professor at the Georgia Tech Department of Psychology and President of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society
  • Florence Kelley (1859-1932), American social and civil rights activist



  • The History of Five Southern Families by Ethal Evans Albert.
  • History of James and Catherine Kelly by Richard Thomas Kelly.

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. Hanks, Patricia and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print. (ISBN 0-19-211592-8).
  2. Donovan, George Francis. The Pre-Revolutionary Irish in Massachusetts 1620-1775. Menasha, WI: Geroge Banta Publsihing Co., 1932. Print.
  3. Kennedy, Patrick. Kennedy's Book of Arms. Canterbury: Achievements, 1967. Print.
  4. 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).
  5. Leyburn, James Graham. The Scotch-Irish A Social History. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1962. Print. (ISBN 0807842591).
  6. Robb H. Amanda and Andrew Chesler. Encyclopedia of American Family Names. New York: Haper Collins, 1995. Print. (ISBN 0-06-270075-8).
  7. 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).
  8. Sullivan, Sir Edward. The Book of Kells 3rd Edition. New York: Crescent Books, 1986. Print. (ISBN 0-517-61987-3).
  9. Crozier, William Armstrong Edition. Crozier's General Armory A Registry of American Families Entitled to Coat Armor. New York: Fox, Duffield, 1904. Print.
  10. 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).
  11. ...

The Kelley Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Kelley 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 February 2015 at 13:12.

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