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

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.

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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.


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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.

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

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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 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 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 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 United States in the 20th Century


  • Anthony Riley, who arrived in Wisconsin in 1922

Riley Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century


  • Corns Riley, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1750

Riley Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century


  • Margaret Riley, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1828
  • Catherine Riley, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1832
  • Samuel Riley, aged 48, a farmer, arrived in Saint John, NB aboard the ship "Edward Reid" in 1833
  • Bartholomew Riley, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1840
  • Bernard Riley, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1841


Riley Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century


  • Thomas Riley, English convict from London, who was transported aboard the "Albion" on September 21, 1826, settling in New South Wales, Australia
  • James Riley, English convict from Chester, who was transported aboard the "America" on April 4, 1829, settling in New South Wales, Australia
  • William Riley, English convict from London, who was transported aboard the "Argyle" on March 5th, 1831, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Austraila
  • Ezra Riley arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Navarino" in 1837
  • Patrick Riley, English convict from Liverpool, Lancaster, who was transported aboard the "Anson" on September 23, 1843, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Australia


Riley Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century


  • John Riley, aged 28, arrived in Nelson aboard the ship "Thomas Harrison" in 1842
  • Mary Riley, aged 36, arrived in Nelson aboard the ship "Thomas Harrison" in 1842
  • William Riley, aged 9, arrived in Nelson aboard the ship "Thomas Harrison" in 1842
  • Mary Ann Riley, aged 5, arrived in Nelson aboard the ship "Thomas Harrison" in 1842
  • John Riley, aged 1, arrived in Nelson aboard the ship "Thomas Harrison" in 1842


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  • 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
  • Miss Ethel Riley, American 3rd Class passenger from Boston, Massachusetts, USA, who sailed aboard the RMS Lusitania and survived the sinking by escaping in life boat 13
  • Miss Sutcliffe Riley, American 3rd Class passenger from Boston, Massachusetts, USA, who sailed aboard the RMS Lusitania and survived the sinking by escaping in life boat 13

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  • 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. Sullivan, Sir Edward. The Book of Kells 3rd Edition. New York: Crescent Books, 1986. Print. (ISBN 0-517-61987-3).
  2. Woulfe, Rev. Patrick. Irish Names and Surnames Collected and Edited with Explanatory and Historical Notes. Kansas City: Genealogical Foundation, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-940134-403).
  3. Bell, Robert. The Book of Ulster Surnames. Belfast: Blackstaff, 1988. Print. (ISBN 10-0856404160).
  4. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  5. Tepper, Michael Ed & Elizabeth P. Bentley Transcriber. Passenger Arrivals at the Port of Philadelphia 1800-1819. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1986. Print.
  6. Vicars, Sir Arthur. Index to the Prerogative Wills of Ireland 1536-1810. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co. Print.
  7. O'Hart, John. Irish Pedigress 5th Edition in 2 Volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1976. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0737-4).
  8. Hanks, Patricia and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print. (ISBN 0-19-211592-8).
  9. Bullock, L.G. Historical Map of Ireland. Edinburgh: Bartholomew and Son, 1969. Print.
  10. Matthews, John. Matthews' American Armoury and Blue Book. London: John Matthews, 1911. Print.
  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 12 March 2015 at 12:23.

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