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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright © 2000 - 2016


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

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The surname Reilly was first found in County Cavan. They were known as the Princes of East Breffny, descended from Raghallaigh, Prince of Breffny in 981. They maintained their territory during the Anglo/ Norman invasion of Strongbow, Earl of Pembroke, in 1172, but Sir John O'Reilly, Prince of Breffny surrendered the principality to Queen Elizabeth I thereby ensuring that his territories remained intact.

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 Reilly revealed spelling variations, including O'Reilly, O'Reilley, O'Reily, O'Rielly, O'Riely, O'Riley, O'Rilley, Reel and many more.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Reilly research. Another 189 words (14 lines of text) covering the years 1598, 1669, 1630, 1695, 1689, 1640, 1703, 1689, 1646 and 1691 are included under the topic Early Reilly History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 123 words (9 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Reilly 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 Reilly family came to North America quite early:

Reilly Settlers in United States in the 18th Century


  • Christopher Reilly, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1773

Reilly Settlers in United States in the 19th Century


  • Richard Reilly, who landed in New York in 1801
  • Francis Reilly, aged 35, landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1805
  • Catherine Reilly, aged 8, landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1805
  • Brien Reilly, who landed in New York, NY in 1811
  • Hugh Reilly, aged 19, arrived in New York in 1812


Reilly Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century


  • Mr. John Reilly U.E. who settled in Canada c. 1784

Reilly Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century


  • Thomas Reilly, aged 24, a labourer, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1834 aboard the ship "Edwin" from Dublin
  • Margaret Reilly, aged 23, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1834 aboard the ship "Edwin" from Dublin
  • John Reilly, aged 26, a labourer, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1834 aboard the ship "Edwin" from Dublin
  • John Reilly, aged 30, a labourer, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1834 aboard the ship "Edwin" from Dublin
  • Patrick Reilly, aged 25, a labourer, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1834 aboard the brig "Breeze" from Dublin


Reilly Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century


  • Owen Reilly, a carpenter, arrived in Van Diemenís Land (now Tasmania) sometime between 1825 and 1832
  • Bartholomew Reilly arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Trafalgar" in 1847
  • Bryan Reilly arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Trafalgar" in 1847
  • Matthew Reilly arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Trafalgar" in 1847


Reilly Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century


  • James Reilly, aged 38, a bricklayer, arrived in Nelson aboard the ship "London" in 1842
  • Elizabeth Reilly, aged 34, arrived in Nelson aboard the ship "London" in 1842
  • William Reilly, aged 18, a bricklayer, arrived in Nelson aboard the ship "London" in 1842
  • George Reilly, aged 15, a bricklayer, arrived in Nelson aboard the ship "London" in 1842
  • Edward Reilly, aged 13, arrived in Nelson aboard the ship "London" in 1842


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  • Thomas F. Reilly (b. 1942), American attorney and politician, 45th Massachusetts Attorney General
  • Michael Eugene Reilly (b. 1949), American Major League Baseball umpire
  • John Good "Long John" Reilly (1858-1937), American Major League Baseball first baseman
  • Kevin P. Reilly (b. 1949), American academic, 6th President of the University of Wisconsin System
  • John Christopher Reilly (b. 1965), American film and theatre actor, nominee of an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
  • Bill Reilly, American politician, Candidate for U.S. Senator from Arizona, 1998
  • Bernard Reilly, American politician, Member of Pennsylvania State House of Representatives from Wayne County, 1881-84
  • Bernard Reilly, American Democrat politician, Member of Pennsylvania State Senate 7th District, 1862-64
  • Arthur P. Reilly, American Republican politician, Alternate Delegate to Republican National Convention from Illinois, 1944
  • C. V. Reilly, American Republican politician, Candidate in primary for U.S. Representative from Michigan 17th District, 1932

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  • Reilly of Ballintlea by Joseph F. Reilly.
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  1. Burke, Sir Bernard. General Armory Of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Ramsbury: Heraldry Today. Print.
  2. Heraldic Scroll and Map of Family names and Origins of Ireland. Dublin: Mullins. Print.
  3. Kennedy, Patrick. Kennedy's Book of Arms. Canterbury: Achievements, 1967. Print.
  4. Leyburn, James Graham. The Scotch-Irish A Social History. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1962. Print. (ISBN 0807842591).
  5. Robb H. Amanda and Andrew Chesler. Encyclopedia of American Family Names. New York: Haper Collins, 1995. Print. (ISBN 0-06-270075-8).
  6. Bowman, George Ernest. The Mayflower Reader A Selection of Articales from The Mayflower Descendent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  7. Crozier, William Armstrong Edition. Crozier's General Armory A Registry of American Families Entitled to Coat Armor. New York: Fox, Duffield, 1904. Print.
  8. Zieber, Eugene. Heraldry in America. Philadelphia: Genealogical Publishing Co. Print.
  9. Woodham-Smith, Cecil. The Great Hunger Ireland 1845-1849. New York: Old Town Books, 1962. Print. (ISBN 0-88029-385-3).
  10. 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.
  11. ...

The Reilly Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Reilly 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 April 2016 at 10:13.

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